Are you someone who just can't seem to work right until you've had your daily caffeine hit? If so, then this is the article for you! In this article, I will show you the best ways to make coffee and turn those beans into "black gold." You will learn everything you need to know to get your daily caffeine fix. Learning these 10 coffee preparation techniques is a first-class ticket to enter the glorious, flavorful realm of coffeetown! (The following video is only available in German.)
Are you someone who just can’t seem to work right until you’ve had your daily caffeine hit? If so, then this is the article for you! In this article, I will show you the best ways to make coffee and turn those beans into “black gold.” You will learn everything you need to know to get your daily caffeine fix. Learning these 10 coffee preparation techniques is a first-class ticket to enter the glorious, flavorful realm of coffeetown! (The following video is only available in German.)
Table of Contents
- Coffee Made With a Pour-Over Dripper
- Coffee Made With an AeroPress
- Making Coffee With a Moka Pot
- Cold Brew Coffee
- Coffee Made With a French Press
- Café Americano With an Espresso Machine
- Coffee Made With a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
- Coffee Made With a Drip Coffee Machine
- Siphon Coffee Maker
- Cowboy Coffee
- How About You?
Making Coffee With a Pour-Over Dripper
Pour-over drippers are a classic and classy way to make coffee. They turn the act of making coffee into a sensory, tactile experience because you do everything by hand. If you use a ceramic dripper, you will immediately appreciate its heft and gravitas. Pour-over drippers are all about making coffee with substance.
Here’s How You Do It:
You will need:
- Good coffee (obviously)
- Pour-over dripper
- Paper filter
You should always wait until right before you make your coffee to grind your coffee beans. That’s because good coffee is fresh coffee. Fresh coffee not only perks up your adenosine receptors, but it also awakens your senses of taste and smell. When grinding beans for a pour-over, use a medium coarseness setting.
I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad idea to also have a bit of hot water, right? So, boil some water. However, boiling water is too hot for making coffee, so it is best to let it cool down for about a minute after boiling. Meanwhile, you can get everything else ready.
Next step: Fold the paper filter along the seam and place it in the pour-over dripper. Now, pour in some hot water to soak it completely and make it more permeable for the next step. I describe this process in more detail in my guide to pour-over coffee.
Coffee ground? Check. Filter ready? Check. Water ready? Check. Now we can put it all together in an act of coffee synergy. Place the dripper on top of your mug. Pour in the ground coffee, then the water. Careful! Don’t just dump the water in like you are trying to put out a fire!
Instead, making pour-over coffee should be a kind of ceremony. As they say, good things take time, and that is definitely true when it comes to making coffee. Therefore, first gently pour a small amount of water onto the ground coffee, making sure that all the grounds are evenly moistened. This is called “pre-infusion.” Then you should evenly, gently and slowly pour the rest of the water over the surface of the ground coffee, using a circular motion.
Why Use a Pour-Over Dripper?
Coffee made with a pour-over dripper is true, authentic coffee. You also don’t even need to buy a ton of expensive gear to make it. The equipment is easy to clean, and the coffee grounds and filter are biodegradable. What’s more, using a manual dripper can give you a warm feeling of nostalgia to accompany your caffeine kick. If that’s not a good reason to try it out, I don’t know what is!
Making Coffee With an AeroPress
I will admit that the AeroPress design takes a bit of getting used to. However, once you get past its appearance (somewhere between a syringe and something you would find in a high school chemistry lab), you will have to admit that the AeroPress is a guaranteed way to make awesome coffee. Well, as long as you use the right kind of coffee, that is. The AeroPress is a coffee maker that can awaken your inner inventor. It is just begging for you to change things up, experiment with new variations, and try out new things.
How to Use the AeroPress
If you have been paying attention, you can probably already guess the first ingredients:
- Coffee (kind of a “must have” when making coffee)
- AeroPress, including its filter
- Hot water
One special thing about the AeroPress is that there is more than one way to use it when making coffee. I discuss the different AeroPress techniques in my AeroPress guide, so for this article, I will just stick to the “classic” method. Let’s leave the experiments for another time.
The first step is to grind your coffee. If it is too fine, the plunger will be harder to press. It can also affect the interplay between water temperature and brewing time. Without getting into a bunch of details, it is best to use a medium coarseness.
You can heat up your water in the meantime. After it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool for about two minutes. While you are waiting, place the paper filter into the filter cap. As is the case with a pour-over filter, I recommend quickly rinsing the filter with water. Then, screw the filter cap into the brew chamber and set it all on top of the mug.
Next, pour the ground coffee into the cylinder, then pour in your now-slightly-cooled water. Fill the brew chamber up to the desired mark on the side. Give it a stir (or swirl) so that the grounds evenly disperse into the water. If you like your coffee a bit stronger, let it brew a few seconds longer.
Either way, the next step is to place the plunger into the top of the brew chamber. Once the coffee is finished brewing, slowly and steadily press the plunger down. Your coffee is now ready!
Advantages of the AeroPress
The AeroPress is a modern variation on a coffee maker. It’s also quite affordable and ideal for people who live alone (or at least drink coffee alone). It’s quick, uncomplicated and a cinch to use. The parts are easy to clean, and there is little waste left over. Plus, it is perfect for carrying in your bag when traveling or camping.
It is an “espresso ex presso” – from a press, in other words.
Making Coffee With a Moka Pot
In Italy, espresso is “normal” coffee, which is a good tip if you plan to visit the country. Every coffee bar has its own espresso machine. When it comes to home use, though, stove-top moka pots, like the ones made by Bialetti, are much more common and easy to use. However, in contrast to a barista’s espresso machine, these stove-top espresso makers don’t actually make espresso, but rather your run-of-the-mill coffee.
To make good coffee using a moka pot, you will need:
- Coffee (Most of our coffee-making techniques might call for this ingredient)
- Moka pot (I advise against an aluminum moka pot because this metal can affect the coffee’s taste)
This is one of the easiest ways to make coffee. However, it is important to use the right quality moka pot, especially if you have something other than a gas stove. If you get a cheap aluminum moka pot, the handle can melt easily. Additionally, its rubber gasket rings are usually not very high quality, and they quickly become porous if you use the pot frequently.
Lastly, aluminum moka pots don’t really smell good, which can sometimes affect your coffee’s taste. In fact, the first few times you make coffee with a new cheapo pot, the coffee might be undrinkable. In other words, get a high-quality pot. You will be glad you did.
Once you have your moka pot, make sure to freshly grind your coffee beans. People also tend to grind the beans too fine. Just because moka pots are sometimes called “espresso makers” – remember, they don’t actually make espresso! – people often think they should use a fine grinder setting, like they would with a real espresso machine. Don’t. If you use a finer grind, you won’t get more flavor, you will just burn your coffee.
After grinding the coffee, fill the water compartment with lukewarm water. If you are not sure how much water to put in, there is usually a mark near the top of the water chamber. Otherwise, simply fill it up until the water is just under the ventilation valve.
Next, fit the funnel filter on top of the water chamber. Then pour in the ground coffee. It should sit loosely in the filter, but you should smooth and level the grounds with a spoon. Screw the moka pot’s top section onto the bottom section. Make sure it’s tight. Really tight. Otherwise, the moka pot won’t build up enough pressure, and you will get bad results.
The coffee is ready when it makes a spurting, whistling sound. However, it’s even better to remove the moka pot from the heat just before it reaches that point. If you don’t, the coffee can burn. Admittedly, your apartment might get that tasty coffee smell, but the coffee won’t taste good.
Using a moka pot is a quick, easy way to make coffee, but I can’t really give it my wholehearted recommendation. Still, there are a few good things about these pots.
Advantages of Stove-Top Coffee Pots
Moka pots come in several sizes, making them good options regardless of whether you are making coffee for several people or whether you are flying solo. They are also really quick, so you won’t have to wait long to get your caffeine fix. There’s no waste besides coffee grounds. Also, if you regularly clean your moka pot with water, it should last for a long time. You can also buy replacement parts in case anything gets worn out.
Cold Brew – Chill Out, Now With Caffeine!
You might say, “Oh, cold brew is just cold coffee!” I’m here to tell you how wrong you are. The difference between cold coffee and cold brew coffee is that cold brew coffee actually tastes good. In contrast to hot-brewed coffee that later becomes cold, cold brew coffee doesn’t release bitter components during the brewing process. On the contrary: Cold brew will give you mild, tasty and fresh coffee. (The following video is only available in German.)
Try Taking It Easy: Make Cold Brew Coffee
If you are looking for a quick fix, cold brew is not for you. You will need:
- Patience and time
- Coarsely-ground coffee
- A brewing container
- Room-temperature water (not cold water)
- A filter or a very fine strainer
- Plastic wrap
As you can see from the list of ingredients, making cold brew coffee will take a bit more time. To be more precise, about a day. If you are impatient or can’t wait for your coffee fix, then you are better off choosing a different preparation method. However, you would also be missing something special.
If you are a coffee drinker who is good at planning, you can still get a quick fix from cold brew coffee. You just have to think ahead and prepare it the day before. Here’s how you do it:
Grind your coffee. For this method, it should be really coarse. Then put the ground coffee into the brewing container of your choice. Pour in the water and give it all a good stir. Your coffee is ready. Almost. You just need to cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit.
Your coffee will need to “brew” for about 10 to 12 hours. Like I said, you will need patience and planning.
Assuming you can keep your cool and make it through the whole waiting time, you can get your caffeine fix the next day. You will just need to strain the grounds from your lovely cold brew coffee.
What you now have is a kind of coffee concentrate. You can dilute it with ice cubes or cold water, depending on how strong you like your cold brew coffee.
Cold Brew Pro Tip
Even though it takes a bit of patience, there’s nothing better than a nice glass of cold brew to give you your coffee fix on a hot summer day. You can also use cold brew coffee as a base ingredient for different cold coffee drinks and desserts. It’s a great addition to your coffee toolbox. You can find all of my favorite Coffeeness recipes here.
Making Coffee With a French Press
Voulez-vous un café? Oui! The French press is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a quick, uncomplicated way to make coffee. On the other hand, it’s a huge pain in the – press, let’s say – to clean. However, since you’ve journeyed here in search of the ultimate ways to get your caffeine fix, you should know that one clear advantage of French presses is that they are fast. (The following video is only available in German.)
Here’s What You Need to Make Coffee With a French Press:
- Coffee (crazy, right?)
- French press
Wait, that’s it? It sure is, assuming that you have already assembled and readied your press. If not, do that now. The only other things you will need are coffee and water.
Use a coarser setting on your grinder when making coffee with a French press. The grounds will come into direct contact with hot water for a short period of time, and the strainer on the press will filter out whatever it can.
If your ground coffee is too fine, sediment can pass right through the strainer. However, I suppose that there are some people out there who aren’t content with just drinking their coffee and who insist on chewing it, as well.
Once your coffee is ground, pour it into the container. Then, add the hot water. I recommend only filling it up about a third of the way, then letting it sit for a few seconds so the grounds can get evenly dispersed. Then, pour the rest of the water, stir it once, and place the press on top of the watery grounds. Wait about three minutes.
(Use this as an opportunity to hum the theme of “Jeopardy” to yourself as you wait…)
When the coffee grounds begin to sink, slowly push down on the press’ handle. When it reaches the bottom, you should remove the coffee from the French press and into your mug (and bloodstream) as quickly as possible. The longer it sits in the press, the colder and more bitter it will become. (The following video is only available in German.)
Advantages of the French Press
The best thing about a French press is that it is fast. Another advantage is that, because the water and ground coffee come into direct contact for a longer time, your coffee will taste very intense. If you don’t want to wait forever to get your coffee, as you would with cold brew, you can get a quick fix with a French press.
You could even combine the best of both worlds and use a French press to make cold brew coffee.
Using an Espresso Machine to Make a Cafe Americano
Wait, didn’t we already talk about espresso? Well, the world of espresso is full of misunderstandings. Yes, we mentioned espresso machines before. However, remember that they are different from those stove-top moka pots that are sometimes called “espresso makers.” Also remember that, despite their name, those stove-top moka pots don’t actually make espresso. They just make regular coffee.
Here’s why: Moka pots only use 1.5 bars of pressure. Compared to a true espresso, that’s weak sauce. Even though this article is about coffee, as opposed to espresso, we don’t want to leave out traditional espresso machines or super-automatic espresso machines. That’s because you can use both kinds of machines to make a cafe americano – also called simply an “americano” – which is pretty close to a cup of black coffee.
Making Espresso With an Espresso Machine
To make a good espresso, the most important components and ingredients are:
- Coffee grinder
Using a real espresso machine is the ultimate – and basically only – way to make a good espresso. That’s because an espresso machine gives you the correct amount of pressure. You don’t need to worry about boiling the water because the machine takes care of that. However, learning how to optimize all the variables and actually use the machine is a much more complicated process. A lot of your success will come down to learning how to use the portafilter. There are some easy-to-use, entry level machines, like the Delonghi Dedica EC 680. Still, the rule for all espresso machines is that if you want to make good espresso, you need to learn how to use your machine.
First step: Finely grind your coffee and fill the portafilter. Use the tamper to press it down tightly to compact the grounds. Attach the portafilter to the machine. The machine will heat the water and use pressure to push it through the coffee. A delicious espresso with a lovely crema will flow out of the spout.
Why Use a Traditional Espresso Machine?
Of course, espresso machines aren’t exactly cheap. However, they make up for it by opening up the world of wonderful, aromatic espresso. They are also flexible. They quickly make single portions of coffee and let you adjust the pressure and temperature. The home models are the little sisters of the big espresso machines found in restaurants or coffee bars, but they still make espresso that tastes just as good. If you want to celebrate coffee as a ritual, then an espresso machine is the thing for you.
Making Coffee With a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
Opinions differ when it comes to super-automatic espresso machines. However, if you don’t have a lot of time to make coffee, or if you frequently like to switch things up, then they can be a good option. A good super-automatic espresso machine will not only save you a lot of work, it will also give you the exact kind of coffee you crave.
However, they also require regular upkeep and care, both of which can add up. As you know, I’ve worked with super-automatic espresso machines for a long time. It’s important to mention that I generally advise against using them to make drinks described as “black coffee,” “cafe crema” or “cafe creme.” In these cases, I find that it is best to make a Cafe Americano by simply adding hot water to the espresso.
How to Make Coffee With a Super-Automatic Espresso Machine
You only need very few things:
- Whole espresso beans
- Your machine
Voila! You don’t even need to grind the coffee beans because the machine does that for you. Many people forget how many variables they can change and adjust on their machine. This includes the grind coarseness, the amount of water, the temperature, the amount of milk, and many more settings. It’s definitely worth it to play around and find out what works!
Nevertheless, the only things you actually need to do are put water into the tank, put coffee beans into the bean compartment, and turn on the machine. You can get your caffeine fix at the touch of a button.
As long as you have beans and water in the machine, just press the button you want. Latte macchiato or espresso? It all depends on your mood and whim. Super-automatic espresso machines are always ready to serve you and work fine with just a bit of care. (The following video is only available in German.)
Advantages of Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
Above all, super-automatic espresso machines are incredibly handy. They work well for people in apartments, offices, single-family homes – or even people who just never seem to have enough time. They work for everyone. Sure, not all of them make really good coffee, but that’s why I’m here.
I’ve tested and reviewed many of these machines in my super-automatic espresso machine reviews. I put them through their paces so you don’t have to, and I let you know exactly what these machines can do. However, I can tell you one thing right now: If you just want black coffee, then you will definitely be better off with another machine or method.
Super-automatic espresso machines often get a bad reputation. However, I believe that it’s undeserved because they really do the most important thing: freshly grind the beans every time you use the machine.
Making Coffee With a Drip Machine
When most people think of ways to make coffee, they tend to still picture a drip coffee machine, even though other methods are continually gaining in popularity. I would guess that part of our love for drip coffee machines is rooted in nostalgia. Many of us remember our family’s coffee maker gurgling away in the kitchen. It’s also a much more enticing sound to wake up to than an alarm clock. Plus, drip coffee can be a truly refined experience, although that’s not always the case. Fortunately, the drip coffee machine industry has advanced since our childhoods. These days many drip coffee machines can brew perfectly acceptable filtered coffee.
(The following video is only available in German. You can find my English review that accompanies this video here: Moccamaster Review.)
Freshly Ground, Freshly Filtered
You don’t need much gear for this one, either:
- Fresh (and quality) coffee
- Water (preferably filtered)
- Your drip coffee machine (preferably a good one)
The coarseness of your coffee will determine how quickly the water flows through the filter. The finer the grind, the slower and more intensive the extraction will be. With this knowledge, you’ve just unlocked the “mystery” to drip coffee machines. Not so mysterious, eh?
Of course, you can also play with the amount of coffee you use, but there is no easier way to make coffee yourself. If the machine stops working or gets noticeably louder, it is probably time for descaling (also called “decalcifying”). You can find my reviews and many other tips about drip coffee machines here.
Drip Coffee Machines With Built-In Grinders
I’ve recently spent a lot of time with several drip coffee machines that have built-in grinders. If you have one, you won’t need a separate grinder. They also generally come with a useful timer. You just have to put in the right amount of beans and water, and place a filter in the filter holder. Does everything look good to go? Then just press the button, and you are all set. (The following video is only available in German.)
If you want to save time in the morning, many modern drip coffee machines let you set a timer so they can turn on automatically. This is another advantage of having a built-in grinder: once the coffee is ground, it quickly loses its flavor. However, if you have a built-in grinder, this loss of flavor won’t happen because the machine grinds the beans immediately before dispensing them into the filter.
You will probably be more likely to wake up to the grinder’s noise than by the wonderful smell of freshly brewed coffee. However, having a better-tasting cup of coffee as a result is worth it.
The biggest advantage of drip coffee machines is that they make fresh coffee. That’s especially useful for those of us who are not morning people and who don’t relish the idea of performing technically demanding miracles early in the morning. Like super-automatic espresso machines, these drip coffee machines eliminate the most complicated steps. Just remember that they only make drip coffee. However, if you are a purist who only wants drip coffee, then it’s just right for you.
Making Coffee With a Siphon Coffee Maker
A siphon (also spelled “syphon”) coffee maker is basically the opposite of a pour-over coffee maker. Sure, it’s also perfect for purists – in terms of both design and results – but it’s much more complicated to use. It looks like it came straight out of a chemistry lab. The trade-off, though, is that you can watch it make your coffee, and it’s an exciting show.
The Siphon: Where Coffee Meets “Breaking Bad”
Siphons (also called “vacuum pots”) can be rather delicate, so it’s best to have the following “ingredients” nearby before using one:
- Ointment for burns (better safe than sorry)
- Oven mitts or pot holders (to avoid having to use the bandages)
- A cell phone, with emergency services on speed-dial
All kidding aside, siphon coffee makers may look complicated, but they really are not. To use them, you will actually just need:
- Lighter (depending on your model)
- Patience, plus a spirit of discovery
First, fill the lower, pot-bellied bulb with water. Then put the heating element – gas or electric – below it. If you use gas, then light it first. Now place the upper chamber of the siphon on top of the lower one and wait for the water to warm.
When the water begins to heat up, it will rise upward into the top part. Once all the water has risen, add your ground coffee – medium grind – to the water and stir it. The grounds should be evenly spread throughout the water.
Next, remove the heating element from below the bottom beaker. The coffee will now flow downward into the bottom “pot.” The coffee grounds will remain in the upper chamber.
Advantages of Using a Coffee Siphon
In terms of taste and generally making a grand spectacle out of a cup of coffee, the coffee siphon holds all the cards. Even a pour-over dripper has got nothing on the siphon when it comes to nostalgia or looking like it came out of a steampunk fantasy. If you quickly chug your coffee, or if you’re lazy in the cleaning department, you might not want to get the siphon. However, it absolutely shines if you feel like putting on a show of your home barista skills. (The following video is by Elemental Coffee – in English!)
Cowboy Coffee – Bare Bones and Rustic
Sure, I’ve heard stories of soldiers who would eat spoonfuls of pure coffee so that they could stay awake. I’ll admit that you would probably get a pretty decent caffeine buzz that way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound terribly elegant. If you wouldn’t be giving away your position to the enemy by lighting a fire (or if you just like a fire to help you relax), then you should consider using those flames to make a hearty cup of cowboy coffee.
Cowboy coffee is, of course, not just for cowboys (or just for soldiers, for that matter). Even my own brother is a big fan. Actually, he still owes me an article reporting his trip around the world. Anyhow, cowboy coffee is a perfect way for travelers and backpackers to make coffee.
What You Will Need for Cowboy Coffee
Be sure you have:
- Ground coffee (unless you also packed a portable grinder – if so: respect)
- Lighter or matches
- Anything else you need to make a campfire
By the way, the “campfire” part is why I wouldn’t suggest you try this experiment inside your house. Although I suppose it might work indoors if you have an open fireplace. It’s worth a try, at least.
I guess you could also use a gas stove. Maybe ask your local cowboy and see what he has to say about that. However, I just get the feeling that using a wood fire is somehow more authentic.
Let’s get to it, then. First of all, use kindling to start your fire. The flames shouldn’t flare up too high or else you might have some unfortunate results (namely burns). Now that the fire is going, there are – count ’em – one, two, three ways to go about making cowboy coffee.
The first option is to heat the water first, then later add ground coffee and stir it up. With this technique, once the water comes into contact with the coffee, you shouldn’t boil it anymore. A second way is to add the coffee to the water first, then stir it, and then finally heat it all up.
You should be careful that the coffee doesn’t boil over and possibly even extinguish your fire before it extinguishes your thirst for caffeine. You should stir it gently while it heats, and possibly even put a lid on the pot.
After it has cooked for a few minutes, you can remove the pot from the flames. Let it rest a few minutes. That’s not only so that it can cool down, but also so the grounds will sink to the bottom of the pot. A third variation on this technique is to pour a cup of cold water into the pot to help the grounds sink to the bottom.
The trick to this whole technique is to learn how to pour the coffee so that the grounds really do stay in the pot. You will have to be very careful, obviously, and you might have to live with leaving a little bit of coffee at the bottom of the pot. You might not get every last drop – unless you want to feel the grounds crunching between your teeth.
Mount Up! A Summary of Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee is clearly a great option for backpackers, fans of the outdoors and anyone else who likes frolicking about in nature but forgot to bring along their AeroPress. It’s not really a good way to make coffee at home, though, since most of us don’t have open fires in our houses or apartments. If you have no other way to make coffee, then the question of whether cowboy coffee tastes good is basically irrelevant. It’s better than no coffee, of course. However, if you are a hearty person who has access to spring water and firewood, and if you have brought some decent coffee with you into the jungle, then you should be able to whip up a tasty pot of cowboy coffee to get your caffeine fix.
How About You?
What is your favorite way to make coffee?