One of the beauties of coffee is the multiplicity of ways to prepare the drink.
There are some older, more rustic methods, there are some elegant, painstaking processes and there are modern ways that require expensive machines.
If you’ve ever wondered about all the different types of coffee makers and how to use them, we have the answers here. How many can you think of before we begin?
For many years, the percolator, known to some simply as a “coffee pot”, was probably the most popular way of making coffee in the US until it was displaced by the invention of drip coffee machines in the 70s.
It consists of a pot, a funnel and a basket. The hot water is forced up the funnel and into the basket from where it percolates back down into the pot and the process is repeated.
These coffee makers are extremely simple to use but since the water is constantly recycled through the coffee grounds until you remove it from the heat, it is easy to over-extract the coffee, making a bitter brew.
Check out this video to see one in action.
#2 Moka Pot
The Moka pot, the traditional way of making coffee in Italy and also very popular in Spain, is sometimes mistakenly called a “stovetop espresso maker” – although it does not produce true espresso.
In some ways it is similar to the percolator in that water is forced up through the grounds from the pot below. However, the coffee is collected above the grounds and is not recycled back through the pot.
Since the water is forced through the coffee under pressure, some crema can be produced, as with espresso, hence the misconception that this kind of coffee is espresso. The coffee it makes is rich and dark, although not quite like a true espresso.
Check out this video to see how to use one.
#3 Neapolitan coffee maker
Now quite an unusual way of making coffee, this was the traditional method used in the city of Naples. The bottom section is filled with hot water and coffee is placed in a basket in the center of the pot. The whole thing is then turned upside down and gravity is allowed to do the rest.
This iconic pot has largely gone out of fashion and has been replaced by more modern methods of brewing.
Check out this video to see one in use.
#4 Electric drip machine
Decades ago, the coffee commonly consumed in the US was not generally of a particularly high quality. Percolators were used with inferior grade beans to produce a bitter drink that needed to be sweetened with sugar.
Then, in the 1970s, the Mr. Coffee machine appeared and revolutionized coffee making across the country.
The design is simple. Heated water is pumped up a funnel and dripped down into a basket of ground coffee. The water passes through the coffee and collects in a jug on a hotplate below, extracting the coffee by the percolation method.
These coffee machines became ubiquitous in homes and offices alike until they began to be supplanted by Keurig machines and other single-dose coffee makers from the early 2010s.
Check out this video that explains how they work.
Pour-over coffee is the coffee enthusiast’s delight. The principle is the same as the electric drip machine but preparing a cup of coffee in this way is a charming ritual that only adds to the enjoyment of preparing and tasting the brew.
This method is something of an art that requires more skill than just heaping a few scoops of coffee into the filter and hitting the “on” button as with an electric drip machine.
However, in the hands of a properly trained barista, this method can produce a delicate and exquisite drink. For many Third Wave coffee aficionados, this is one of the preferred ways of bringing out the complex and subtle flavors of expensive specialty coffee.
Check out this video of a pour-over master making the perfect cup of coffee using this method.
#6 French press
Brewing coffee using the infusion method is the oldest way of preparing the drink, and the French press is a refinement of this.
The French press consists of three main elements, the jug or carafe, the plunger and the filter. The ground coffee is placed in the jug and hot water is poured in and stirred. The coffee is left to brew for around four minutes or so and then the plunger is pressed down.
The coffee should be served at once or it will continue to brew and will become over-extracted and bitter.
French presses are known as cafetières in Britain and are sometimes referred to as plunger coffee makers.
Check out this video on how to make perfect French press coffee.
This is one of the coolest-looking ways of making coffee and it’s actually one of the oldest. The siphon coffee maker was invented sometime around 1840 and has been in use ever since.
It looks like a chemistry experiment and the process is a joy to perform. The coffee it produces is delicate and refined, although fans of espresso might find it too weak.
Water is heated by placing a flame beneath a bulb. The water then rises through the funnel into the jug above. At this point, you add your ground coffee and stir. When the coffee has brewed, remove the heat and the liquid will drop back down into the jug below and is ready to serve.
Check out this well-made video that shows you exactly how to do it.
#8 Turkish or Greek coffee
As the name suggests, this is a brewing method popular in Turkey and Greece as well as the Middle East and some other countries.
This preparation method requires the finest grind of coffee available as well as a special pot known as a cezve. The coffee is placed in the cezve and water is added. The water is brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. The grounds settle at the bottom and the coffee is ready to drink.
This coffee is dark and thick and is commonly served with sugar which is added during the brewing process.
Check out this video on how to make Turkish coffee.
The AeroPress is a modern invention that has been in existence only since 2005. It was created as a manual way to make espresso-type drinks but in reality, the coffee produced in this way is not a true espresso and is closer to drip coffee.
Ground coffee, somewhere between espresso grind and a grind suitable for drip coffee, is placed in a cylinder on a filter. Hot water is poured in and the coffee is left to brew for between 10 and 50 seconds. The plunger is then pressed, forcing the water through the grounds and into the cup.
Check out this video that shows you how to use an AeroPress.
#10 Cold brew tower
Cold brew coffee is coffee brewed using the infusion method of extraction, but unlike other brewing methods, it uses cold water and is left to steep for anything between 12 and 48 hours.
Coffee produced this way is noticeably less bitter than coffee made using hot-brew methods and is ideal for making iced coffees. The advantage that cold brew has over hot-brewed coffee poured over ice is that it doesn’t melt the ice, becoming highly diluted in the process.
You can make cold brew coffee using simple items you probably have at home – but if you want to spend money on an admittedly cool-looking gadget, you can invest in a cold brew tower.
Check out this video on how to brew using a Yama tower, one of the most famous brands.
#11 Keurig or other pod-based coffee makers
As drip machines once replaced percolators, Keurig machines and their imitators have replaced the drip machine in many homes.
These machines use single-use pods to make a fresh, steaming brew every time with a minimum of fuss. Simply pop in a pod, press “go” and the machine does the rest.
While these machines are the ultimate in coffee convenience, they also have their drawbacks. They cost much more than regular coffee makers, the pods cost more than beans or grounds, and if you buy a Keurig 2.0, you will find yourself “locked in” to buying only Keurig-approved K-Cups.
K-Cup pods are also hugely detrimental to the environment. They are non-recyclable, and every year literally billions of plastic K-Cup pods end up in landfill sites.
You don’t need a video on how to use a Keurig because it’s so easy – so here’s a video of K-Cup tips instead.
#12 Espresso machine
For many coffee lovers, the espresso is king of them all. Water is forced through a small amount of finely ground coffee under pressure, resulting in a rich and strong aromatic brew topped with a delicious crema.
In the hands of an expert barista, an espresso machine can be used to pull a truly delectable coffee. However, it is a fine art that takes much practice to master.
Espresso machines can be expensive, too – while you can pick up an inexpensive one for $100 or less, professional grade machines can cost upwards of $3000. The espresso you pull at home on a cheap machine will be no match for the coffee made on one of the expensive models.
Check out this video about the art of espresso.
Not an exhaustive list
This list doesn’t contain every way there is to make coffee – if it did, it would be far too long. This is simply a list of most of the popular ways of doing it, plus a few of our quirky favorites.
Which methods do you have at home? Which is your favorite? Which one would you like to try after reading our article? Did we miss any out? If you have anything to add, please leave us a comment – we love hearing from you. And if you enjoyed reading, please give us a share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.