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Know Your Coffee Brewers

Brewing is a science of variables. The grind size, coffee-to-water ratio and contact time will each impact the final flavor. Under-extracted coffee can taste weak and sour, while over-extracted coffee might be bitter and astringent. Hitting the sweet spot is all about precision, but that doesn’t need to be difficult. Emily Davis, national education manager for North Carolina–based Counter Culture Coffee, says a simple way to start is with a scale, which will allow you to weigh your beans and water for consistent ratios every time.

Brewers like the French press, AeroPress, siphon and Clever dripper are all full-immersion methods, meaning the grounds are fully submerged in water and allowed to steep, similar to tea. Manual pour-overs like Chemex, Kalita and most automatic machines use drip brewing, where the water simply passes through the ground coffee. The primary difference between the two styles will be the body of the coffee. “Some people love the oil-rich grittiness of a French press, while others prefer the clean, filter-drip brews that a pour-over can provide,” says Brian W. Jones, author of Brew: Better Coffee at Home.

Other factors to consider include time, cost and quantity. Looking for a quick, single cup in the morning? Try a simple pour-over method like the budget-friendly Melitta, or the quick immersion of an AeroPress. Serving a larger group? A Chemex or French press can easily make larger quantities, while still being affordable. As for espresso, plenty of home options exist, but be prepared to make an investment. “Espresso requires a grinder that’s typically around $400 to get a decent result, along with enough attention to the variables,” says Mark Hellweg, founder of equipment retailers Clive Coffee and Ratio. The single-boiler Casa V by ECM ($999) is a solid, compact option, while something like the Linea Mini by La Marzocco will bring pro-quality espresso to your countertop for around $5,400.

Whichever brewing method you choose, the benefit of accuracy is consistency. “When you find the perfect recipe, you can easily repeat it every morning,” says Jones. “Once you make it that far, it’ll be hard to drink bad coffee ever again.”


FRENCH PRESS A French press is one of the easiest, most cost-efficient ways to make a full-bodied cup of coffee. Coarse-ground coffee is soaked in boiling water, and the grounds are then plunged to the bottom using a metal filter. Remember to immediately remove the finished coffee from the press, as over-extraction will result in bitterness.

AEROPRESS The affordable and transportable AeroPress works like a giant plunger, using pres- sure to push coffee through a filtered chamber and into your cup.

SIPHON (OR VACUUM BREWING) An expensive and relatively involved manual-brewing method, the siphon is a show-stopping process that delivers a delicate cup. Heated water climbs from the bottom of the apparatus to the top, where it meets the ground coffee. Once removed from heat, the brewed coffee filters down to the base.


CHEMEX The Chemex’s iconic hourglass design has become a favorite of coffee enthusiasts and pros. Though its drip process requires a more hands-on approach, a bit of practice goes a long way and ultimately yields delicious coffee.

MELITTA Affordable and simple to use, the Melitta is the perfect introduction to pour-over brewing. Set it on top of a cup or pot, then pour water in a spiral pattern over the ground coffee.

HARIO V60 An updated take on the classic dripper, Hario’s V60 is easy to find but requires some skill to use. With the V60 set over a mug, water is continuously poured in a slow spiral every 10 to 15 seconds.

coffee brewers


MOKA POT This pressurized stovetop coffee maker is easy to use and affordable. When the pot’s placed on a burner, heated water is forced upward through the ground coffee before being filtered into the upper chamber for an espresso-like brew.

ESPRESSO MACHINE Undoubtedly the priciest option for at-home coffee, a worthy espresso maker can easily cost thousands of dollars. A fine grind is crucial for a balanced shot as water is forced through the fille portafilter and into the awaiting cup, so budget for a quality grinder as well as necessary tools like a tamper, scale, milk pitcher, knock box, thermometer and cleaning kit.

This story features reporting from Penelope Bass and Emma Mannheimer.

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