Coffee Brewing Guide – How To Brew The Best Coffee

It seems like you’ve tried every which way to brew your coffee, and you still can’t brew that perfect cup of joe. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. I’ve been there, and I know how frustrating it is!

But don’t worry. I’ve put together a list of different brewing methods and how to use them correctly. Not only that, but there are some universal tips and tricks you can adopt to improve the quality of your brew and its freshness.

These are the different brewing processes we’ll be covering:

  • French Press
  • Siphon Coffee
  • Moka Pot
  • Espresso Machine
  • Aeropress
  • Electric Percolator
  • Cold Drip brewing
  • Hario V60

different coffee brewing method infographic

Brewing Via Steeping

Steeping was the original way to brew a coffee. It’s the most straightforward and obvious way of making a cuppa. You simply mix the ground coffee beans with hot water, let them sit for a while as they do their thing, and then finally separate them leaving behind a fresh brew.

It’s simple. But you have to be careful as it’s very easy to under or over steep your coffee. Either one will result in poor quality cup of joe. Under steeping will mean you’re drinking dishwasher water and over steeping means you’re going to have a bitter brew.

After a couple of times, you’ll start to get the hang of how long you should steep for. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll consistently produce flavourful coffee, with minimal effort.

You’ve probably heard a French press before, but we’ll also talk about the less popular Siphon.

French Press

The French press is the classic steeping method and has been around since 1929. If our grandparents ever had coffee from home, chances are they used a French press.

Despite its simplicity, it can be deceptively difficult to brew a perfect coffee. No worries though, we’ll run you through it. The most important thing to remember is to not leave the coffee in the French press for too long after you’ve finished the brewing process. You should move it to a carafe or pour it straight in your cup.

Firstly, you’ll want to pre-heat the French press. This is so that the temperature doesn’t start to fluctuate as the hot water and cold equipment reach a balance. Measure your coffee beans and grind them up. How much depends on how much coffee you want to brew or how strong you want it.

When you pour the water in, you’re going to be aiming for a 1:15 coffee to water ratio. Again, you can adjust next time to get the strength you want. Make sure all your coffee grounds are immersed in the water and give it a good stir. Leave for 4 minutes as a benchmark.

French press with mug and grinder

What grind size do I need? You want to make sure your grind isn’t too fine, as they will escape through the plunger and end up back in your brew. Go for a medium-coarse grind to play it safe. They often sell pre-ground coffee in the supermarkets that’s specifically for a French press if you don’t have your own grinder (which you should)

How long does it take to brew a coffee? This method isn’t the fastest, but is by no means slow. It’s faster than a Moka Pot, and you don’t have that anticipation of waiting for the coffee to flow out of the funnel.

Depending on how you like your coffee you can decrease or increase the brew time. For example those who like a stronger coffee should let the coffee steep for a minute or so more. But be careful not to over steep your coffee. It’s very easily done and will make a super bitter brew. Alternatively, go the opposite direction if you prefer your coffee on the weaker side.

From getting your French press out of the cupboard, to enjoying a cuppa, you’ll need no more than 10 minutes.

Who is this method for? This method really doesn’t take a lot of skill and is rather easy. It may take you a few attempts to get your perfect brew, but once you’ve mastered it you’ll be drinking good coffee every morning.

If you’re on the road a lot, I’d probably opt for something else, or at least have an alternative brew method in your reserve. The French press is often made out of glass and doesn’t take a lot to crack. You can get plastic or stainless steel options, but the quality of the build is often sacrificed.

Also, the clean up is pretty simple. So if you’re not one that likes cleaning, this is a good method!

Siphon Brewing/Vacuum Pot Coffee

A sophisticated and uniquely brilliant way of brewing coffee. The first time I saw the apparatus that’s involved to make a brew this way, I thought it had come straight out of a science lab.

It’s probably not a method that you’re going to use every single day as it does require a lot of effort. However it is fantastic to have in your house for when your friends come round. It makes coffee interesting, even for those that don’t already love coffee.

It does brew amazing coffee. Honestly it’s up there with the best coffee i’ve tried from home. It works by using two beakers and a gas bottle. I was going to write a step by step guide on how to brew the perfect Siphon coffee, but it’s a little complicated to explain with just words. I thought you’d follow easier with a video.

What grind size do I need? Look for a grind size that’s around fine to medium-fine. You want it to be somewhere between sea salt and table salt.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? The brew time takes around two and a half, to three minutes, which doesn’t sound long at all. However, it takes a while to prepare everything like waiting for the water to boil in the bottom beaker and then the drawdown stage.

Also, cleaning the Siphon is awkward and certainly something to take into consideration. The beakers can be hard to get inside to clean properly, but definitely doable. Some Siphons you can put in the dishwasher, but be careful you don’t knock the beakers as they’re made out of thin glass.

Who is this method good for? For someone who has a lot of time in their morning routine. If you do have time to fit it in, and making coffee is a somewhat ritual to you, then by all means go for using the Siphon.

It makes incredible coffee, and it’s satisfying to drink due to the amount of effort you put into making it.

I’d say don’t try this method if all you want to do is push a button and drink coffee. Also if you’re on the move a lot i’d go for something a little more compact, durable and easy to use.

Brewing Via Pressure

Although the most common and popular method is espresso, it’s not exclusive. There are many other methods that use pressure also too.

Pressure brewed coffee describes a cup of coffee that is extracted using, you guessed it, pressure, resulting in a super fast extraction time and an intensely flavoured cuppa.

Moka Pot

I personally love using Moka Pots. They’re incredibly cheap compared to other methods of brewing coffee. Plus you still get that espresso like consistency, along with an intense flavour.

It works by using three chambers. The bottom chamber is where you initially pour the water where it then boils. The steam produced creates pressure, which forces the water up into the second chamber, or coffee basket where your ground coffee sits. Make sure the coffee is level when sitting in the basket and there are no grounds sat on the edge as this can mess with the seal.

The water continues its journey up into the third chamber, where your freshly brewed coffee will arrive.

WIth a little practice, you can achieve a coffee that’s close enough to an espresso to satisfy anyone who can’t fork out the cash for an espresso machine.

Moka pot being prepared to make a coffee

What grind size do I need? You’re going to want a finer grind than what you use for a drip coffee, but coarser than what you use for an espresso machine. You’ll have to experiment a little.

Start off with a slightly coarse grind. If your coffee is too weak and tasteless, then you should go more fine. If your coffee becomes bitter and makes you scrunch up your face like you’ve bitten into a lemon, try a slightly more coarse grind.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? It’s quick. From the moment you have the Moka Pot ready and it’s on the stove, it takes about 5 or 6 minutes. Slightly longer if you’re using an induction stove.

It’s fantastic if your mornings are busy. You can simply put it on the stove while you get your breakfast ready, and in a few minutes you can be enjoying your coffee.

It’s also great if you want to make a cuppa for a couple of people. Some Moka Pots can hold up to 16oz of water, which is enough for 3 people.

Who’s this method good for? If you’re not wanting to fork out hundreds for a decent coffee maker, or you want something that’s compact for you to take away on a weekend, a Moka Pot is perfect.

If you don’t like strong brews or if you’re expecting a perfect espresso, then you should probably look for something else.

Espresso Machine

You don’t have to know anything about coffee to have heard of an espresso. Espresso machines have been around for well over a century now.

There are many variations of espresso machines today. You’re probably picturing those big, bulky, expensive looking coffee machines in cafes, but don’t let them put you off. You can get some at home espresso machines that are much smaller, and much cheaper, that do exactly the same thing. They force water through ground coffee beans at high pressure to make a shot.

It all depends on what your needs are as to which one is ‘best’. For example, if you’re wanting to get involved and produce the espresso yourself, go for a lever espresso that you pump manually. If you just want a coffee made for you each morning without thinking about anything, opt for a super automatic espresso machine. These are super convenient, but a little pricey.

You can even get an espresso machine with a steam wand on the side. These are a lot of fun, as you can create lattes, cappuccinos and even flat whites. Speciality coffee is gaining popularity across the world, so why not have the option to make it from your own home.

Frothing milk to the right consistency takes practice though, so unless you’re willing to improve your barista skills and master this craft, it’s probably not worth the expense.

espresso being brewed

What grind size do I need? An espresso ideally needs a fine grind. Because the extraction time is very quick, you need a large surface area exposed to the passing water so it can pick up all the flavour compounds. Again if it’s too bitter, then you’ve gone too fine.

Lucky for you we have an article on the best coffee beans out there for espresso.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? An espresso shot is exceptionally fast. First thing on a morning the machine will have to warm up, which can take up to half an hour for commercial machines, or a couple of minutes for the ones at home. Once it’s at optimal temperature though, you’ll have your espresso within 30 seconds.

Who’s this method good for? If you enjoy milk drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos or if you like the unique taste of an espresso then a good at-home machine is the way to go. If you truly love your espresso, then it may be worth forking out the money for a good espresso machine. You can get close with other methods, but nothing compares to the real thing.

Aeropress

The Aeropress brewing method has boomed in popularity recently. It’s become especially popular with the travelling coffee lovers, because of how compact, durable and easy it is to make coffee on the road.

Once you have the perfect temperature of water, the right level of air pressure and optimum grind size, you’ll produce a brew in a couple of minutes. And not just any old tasting brew, a pretty darn good one. For such a simple design, it’s crazy how tasty a brew from this method can be.

It’s so easy to use. Simply make sure the plunger is as far out as it can be, turn it upside down and remove the cap. Fill it with hot water from the kettle and let it sit for a minute or two to heat the Aeropress. Add your coffee and let it brew for a couple of minutes and put the lid back on, which is also the filter. Turn it the right way around in one quick and controlled motion and hold over your cup, finally plunge. Voila, a cuppa joe.

Your options for what sort of coffee you want to brew are also not limited. For example you can make your regular cuppa joe, or a cold brew. If you like espressos, the Aeropress can also make a close match, similar to a Moka Pot.

Aeropress coffee

What grind size do I need? With an Aeropress, there’s no specific grind which works best. It all depends on how strong you like your coffee and how much bitterness you enjoy. However, a general rule of thumb is if the aeropress is too hard to push down, chances are your grind is too fine. If there is no resistance and goes down super easy, then chances are your grind is too coarse.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? Once you have your water up to temperature and coffee beans ground (if you’re grinding your own), then you can be sipping your brew in a minute. It’s seriously quick. Plus the clean up is super easy too.

Who’s this method good for? If you’re on a road trip, camping overnight somewhere, or travelling some place, an aeropress is ideal for those who still want their coffee fix. It’s compact, easy portable and hassle free.

One downside is that you have to use a paper filter which is no good for your waste levels. Hopefully there will be a reusable filter option available in the future. Also, if you’re wanting to make brews for a few people, the aeropress might not be your best option. It’s certainly good to have in your coffee brewing arsenal.

Brewing Via Filtration or Dripping

Drip coffee is a very common way of brewing coffee at home these days. There is a new pour over coffee maker coming out every other week with some new upgrade or innovative way to maximise the quality of your brew.

The basic concept is that using gravity, the water passes through the grounds which are prevented from ending up in your brew because of some sort of filter (hence the name), and end up in your carafe or beaker.

Most of the apparatus used for drip coffee are small and inexpensive, and produce a light bodied and smooth brew. If you don’t have the budget for an expensive coffee maker, then have a look at some of these methods.

Electric Percolator

You’ve most probably heard of an electric percolator before, although maybe not for positive reasons. A lot of coffee lovers out there can’t stand coffee brewed with a percolator due to the lack of respect it has for the coffee bean.

If you insist on using this method, then here’s how you do it. Start off by filling the percolator with cold water but making sure you don’t pass the line level. Take the coffee that you’ve just freshly ground and place it into the coffee basket.

Take the stem and place it in the middle of the percolator, and place the coffee basket onto the top of the stem. Replace the lid on top, switch on, and wait for the percolator to do its thing.

Depending on how strong you want your brew, you can leave the percolator brewing for longer. The water will continue to boil up and spill over the coffee beans and fall back into the bottom chamber over and over again until you’re ready to drink.

What grind size do I need? You want a coarse grind for this. If your grind is too fine, it will seep into your finished brew through the filter, similar to how it would with the French press. You’ll also over extract your coffee if it’s too fine.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? As a baseline, try brewing your coffee for 5 minutes. Some people recommend brewing for as long as 10 minutes, but I feel this is way too long and will ruin your coffee.

If after 5 minutes your brew is too strong, then next time you can brew it for less time, and for more time if you found your brew too weak.

Who’s this method good for? There is no skill required at all to make this style of coffee. You simply fill it up with water, put in some ground coffee and switch it on. If you aren’t bothered about drinking a super flavourful cuppa, and you just want a caffeine kick, then percolator coffee is the one for you.

Cold Drip Brewing

Don’t mistake this brew for iced coffee, it’s anything but. This method is arguably the greatest coffee innovation of our generation so far.

Basically, you slowly drip cold, filtered water through freshly ground coffee beans for a long period of time. By long period of time, I mean at least 10 hours.

That’s not a typo, it actually takes at least 10 hours to brew this coffee. However it stays fresh for up to two weeks, so you can be brewing your coffee throughout the day while you’re at work, or over night, and have cold coffee in the fridge ready for when you fancy it.

Also don’t think this cold coffee is just like a hot coffee that’s been sitting at room temperature for too long either. Once it’s finished, you’re rewarded with a unique tasting brew, that’s strong, intense and without the acidity or bitterness.

You’ll need to buy a cold brew maker which consists of a stand, a top beaker and bottom beaker or carafe.

a cold brewed coffee

What grind size do I need? Because this brewing method takes such a long time, you’re going to need a coarse grind. You’re wanting the consistency to be something thicker than sand.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? Anywhere between 10 to 24 hours, depending on how much you want to make. If you make a big batch that will last for the next week or so, then yeah it’s going to be around 24 hours.

If you’re after a quick caffeine fix, the cold brew method certainly isn’t for you!

Who is this method good for? People that are wanting to try something new. If you’re wanting to expand the flavour profiles of your coffee, and also willing to be quite patient for the process to happen, then go for it.

It’s also good for people that live in hotter climates. You’ll not taste a better quality coffee that’s going to satisfy those tastebuds but also cool you down, that’s for certain.

Hario V60

The Hario V60 looks like any other drip coffee maker, but with one subtle but crucial difference. The innovation happens at the uniquely designed cone dripping system, which has a large hole at the bottom funneled by spiral ribs on the side.

The large hole means the drawdown process is super fast which helps reduce the bitterness and acidity of the coffee. If the water sits in the coffee grind for too long it can become over extracted and bitter. The spiral grooves also help speed up the process too.

You simply put your paper filter into the funnel, fill up with your grounds, pour your hot water in and wait for the magic to happen.

Hario V60 brewing method

What grind size do I need? A medium-fine grind will do perfectly, just like in a Moka Pot.

How long does it take to brew a coffee? You should be drinking your coffee within 5 minutes of starting the process. Once your kettle has boiled and you’ve set up everything, the extraction process takes no more than 3 minutes.

Who is this method good for? The good thing with the Hario V60, is that you can place it on top of whatever you want to drink your coffee out of. If you’re camping, on the road or visiting friends or family, it’s small enough to put in your backpack.

This method does take a little bit of effort, but barely. If you truly want an automatic coffee machine, I wouldn’t go for the V60.

Universal Coffee Making Tips and Tricks

So we’ve covered some of the various methods for brewing a cuppa and instructions on how to use them. Whatever method you decided to go for, there are a few things you can do regardless to improve the quality and freshness of your brew.

Buy Fresh Whole Beans and Grind Them Yourself

I cannot stress how much this will change the flavour and quality of your brew. Coffee is best brewed within days of being roasted and is the number one thing you can do to get everything out of your beans.

As soon as coffee beans are ground up, there is more surface area exposed to the oxygen in the atmosphere. The moisture in the coffee beans will be absorbed by the air and will create stale and dry coffee, making it bland and tasteless.

Yes you can keep the ground coffee sealed, but the minute it’s ground, the quality and freshness starts to decrease.

There are some amazingly good grind and brew coffee makers on the market today. You can even get manual Burr grinders for pretty cheap these days. It’s a fast and cheap alternative to buying ground coffee with a payoff in flavour you’re without a doubt going to notice.

Keep The Beans Fresh

Once you’ve bought your coffee beans, opened the bag and made your first brew, don’t just put the bag back in the cupboard. You’re going to let the air get to them that way and they’ll also go dry and stale. I always put my coffee in glass jars with that rubber seal on the lid, that way it keeps the air out.

Keeping the beans fresh also means buying in small batches, instead of bulk buying for the month. Buy a five to seven day supply and store the beans at room temperature. Flavour experts all agree to avoid putting coffee beans in the fridge.

Use Mineral Water

The coffee connoisseurs of the world will argue that to get the most flavourful coffee from your beans you need to use mineral water, or tap water that has been through a charcoal filter.

Water with a high chlorine content or off flavours is the quickest way to ruin a good brew. You don’t want off tasting water to mix with the flavour compounds of the coffee to create a bad cuppa. First, you’ll question whether the coffee beans are good, and secondly you’ve just wasted some perfectly good coffee. Criminal.

Make Sure You Add Enough Coffee

We all get it, coffee is a precious commodity. It’s certainly a sad time when it gets to the point in the week where you’re running low on coffee. But that doesn’t mean you should put half a tablespoon of coffee grind with each brew.

Make sure you’re following the ‘golden rule’, which is about two tablespoons of coffee for every six ounces of water. Ensuring you have enough coffee in whatever brewing method you’re using is key to getting all those flavours and notes into your cup.

Don’t skimp on the coffee!

The Water Temperature Matters Too

The optimum temperature for brewing coffee is anywhere between 195F (90C) to 205F (96C). Make sure the water that you’re using to make your brew starts off somewhere between this temperature.

Anything lower, and the extraction process won’t be optimum. Anything higher and you run the risk of burning your coffee.

It’s probably worth buying a temperature gauge to measure the temperature. You can pick them up pretty cheap.

Clean Your Equipment

An important, yet under performed task. Keeping all your coffee making equipment clean is key to making consistently high quality coffee. Especially if you’re using a coffee maker that’s prone to developing limescale.

This can seriously affect the way your coffee tastes. If you know you’re a little lazy with cleaning, go for a method that requires minimum maintenance, or has an easy cleanup process, like an aeropress or French press.

Final Words

There are many ways to brew your coffee, even more than what we had time to cover in this article. You are spoilt for choice in this modern world for the different processes available. Whatever sort of lifestyle you live, and however much effort you want to put into making coffee, there’s a method for you.

Make sure you follow the rules we pointed out above to achieve coffee that’s suitable for a god. Because why do you deserve anything less?

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Tom Bolland

Tom Bolland

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