Best Ways to Brew Coffee : Master the Art of Perfect Coffee

Today, there are hundreds of different devices available for brewing coffee. Each different variation claims its own superior features or methods. So, what are the best ways to brew coffee? The truth is, though, there are only three main categories of brewing method. And each way of brewing influence the flavor of your coffee differently.

What are the 3 Different Ways to Brew Coffee?

There are countless devices on the market for brewing coffee, but each of these devices roughly fits into one of three main categories of methods. Each of these methods approaches the coffee brewing process differently and influences the flavor of the coffee in your cup. If you brew three cups of the exact same coffee using these three different methods and taste them side-by-side, you will probably notice big differences in the flavor, texture, and aroma of each cup.

These 3 main categories are :

  • Drip Brewing
  • Immersion brewing ( more commonly seen in French press method), and
  • Pressure brewing ( or typically known as espresso brewing )

History of the 3 Ways of Brewing Coffee

So who came first? A quick history …

The first espresso machine was invented by Luigi Bezzera in 1904.

Melitta Bentz invented the Melitta dripper in 1908.

The press pot (also known as the French press, or cafetière) appeared around the late 1920s.

How does coffee brewing work?

To understand the brewing methods better, it’s helpful to know how coffee brewing work.

When you brew coffee, the goal is to get the tasty flavors out of the dry coffee grounds and into your cup. No matter what device or method you use to achieve this goal, the basic principle is simple. When hot water comes into contact with the coffee, chemical compounds in the ground coffee dissolve and migrate into solution in the water.

Things get more complicated when you start looking at what those flavoring compounds are.

What makes coffee taste like coffee?

The three basic tastes that we enjoy in coffee are sour, sweet, and bitter. When these three tastes are in the right balance in your cup, you will get a rich and satisfying coffee, with a hint of brightness to liven it up.

Sourness is the perception of acids in the coffee. The most important acids in terms of flavor are citric, malic, acetic, and phosphoric. Each of these contributes its own unique characteristics to the flavor of coffee, but they all contribute a generally bright and lively sourness to the cup.

Bitterness comes from a few different compounds including the products of the Maillard reactions that occur during roasting. A moderate amount of bitterness is important for adding complexity to the flavor of coffee.

Sweetness relates to the quantity of sugars in the coffee. Though it can be modulated somewhat in roasting, the sweetness of a coffee is determined by the quality of the green coffee before it is roasted.

Achieving the proper taste balance

When coffee is brewed, the chemicals that contribute to the basic tastes all dissolve at different rates. Sour acids are dissolved the quickest, then sugars, and finally the bitter Maillard compounds.

Because these three categories of flavor compounds dissolve (or extract, as coffee pros say) at different rates, you can easily use your tastebuds to determine the proper brewing method. Just taste your coffee and make adjustments until you find a desirable balance of bitter, sweet and sour.

  • Coffee that tastes unpleasantly sour is under-extracted. This means that the brewing process stopped too early, allowing all of the acidity to be extracted from the coffee grounds, but too little of the sweet and bitter flavors that would balance it out.
  • Coffee that tastes bitter is over-extracted. This means that, even though the sour acids and sweet sugars extracted, too much of the slower-dissolving bitter compounds made their way into the cup.

Brewing the perfect cup of coffee requires finding a brewing method that results in a balance of sour, bitter, and sweet. There are countless ways to achieve this, but there are three main categories of brewing method, each of which focuses on different flavors in the coffees.

Brewing methods Explained

Drip brewing

In the drip (or gravity) brewing method, hot water falls on the ground coffee from above and flows through the bed of coffee grounds and out the bottom. In drip devices, the water flows through relatively quickly, meaning that those bitter compounds, and some of the sweeter compounds as well, are less likely to be extracted. The result is a cup that tastes clean, bright, and medium bodied.

Examples of drip brewing devices include: your standard home drip coffee maker, Melitta drip cones, Chemex, Hario V60, and any other device where the water flows through the coffee bed and drips out the bottom.

Immersion brewing

Immersion brewing is most commonly seen in the French press. In this method, the coffee grounds are immersed (hence the name) in the water for the entire brewing cycle. This prolonged contact allows the coffee to be fully saturated by the water and lets the heavier compounds like caramelized sugars and Maillard compounds come out. The result is a rich and sweet coffee with a heavier texture than you will typically get from a drip brewer.

French press devices don’t filter the coffee after brewing, so you get all of the particulate matter (sediment) as well. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a matter of preference. Some people absolutely love it.

Popular immersion brewing methods include the French press and Aeropress (although the company claims it’s a pressure brewing device, spoiler: it’s not!). There are many variations on the French press, but most are different in style more than function.

Pressure brewing

The third and final brewing method is pressure. The only device that legitimately counts as a pressure brewing device is an espresso machine. In pressure brewing, hot water is forced through a tightly packed bed of finely ground coffee. The pressure used is many times the ambient atmospheric pressure (9-12 atmospheres of pressure to be exact). The result of pressure brewing is very different from drip or immersion. At this level of pressure, the oils and other substances in the coffee form into a foamy substance known as crema. The crema holds intense flavor and dramatically changes the texture of the brewed coffee.

Which is the Best Way to Brew Coffee?

By understanding how the different brewing methods affect the flavor of coffee, you can guarantee the best cup of coffee every time. By matching a specific coffee with the right brewing method, you will be able to feature the coffee’s specific flavor profile.

By keeping a drip brewer (like the Chemex), an immersion brewer (like the French press), and an espresso machine in your kitchen, you’ll be ready to accommodate the tastes of even the most demanding coffee connoisseur.

Whether which is the best way to brew coffee, it would ultimately depend on your taste preferences.

 

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