Different Types of Coffee Makers – So Many Choices

Patrick headshotThere are dozens, maybe hundreds of ways to make coffee. From the latest thing to ancient methods, each style provides you with a different flavor and texture of coffee. Below a short review of the different types of coffee makers available in the US.

This is the latest technology. The machine heats water and pushes it thorough a small cup. The cup contains a single serving of coffee suspended in a filter. The coffee that you receive is simply drip coffee. Perhaps the biggest difference for users is that, since they have it one cup at a time, it is fresher than if they brewed a whole pot.

Drip Coffee Maker
For many years, this has been the standard. A full pot of coffee is placed in a filter and hot water is run through it to make the coffee. The coffee is fine, but it tends to lose its subtle nuances quickly. The large surface exposed to air and the time between the first drip and the completion of the coffee allows the aromatics to evaporate. It has the advantage that it can make a great deal of coffee at a time.

This method runs water over coffee multiple times. Using some basic physics, boiling water is pushed up a small tube and washes over coffee dozens of times. The coffee that results tends to be fuller bodied and richer than a drip coffee maker. Percolators are making a comeback with good reason.

French Press
A French press can be an excellent way to make a rich, clean coffee. Boiling water is poured into a small pot and lid with a screen is placed on top. After a few minutes, the plunger is depressed, pushing the coffee grounds to the bottom. While the coffee tends to cool quickly (it doesn’t have its own heat source), this allows the aromatics from the coffee remain in the beverage, instead of evaporating. The result is nuanced coffee, rich in subtle flavors.

Moka Pot
This is a stove-top coffee maker the uses a steam pressure chamber to push boiling water through coffee. It was invented in 1933 for the Bialetti Corporation. Today, it is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. This is a great way to make an espresso-like coffee without needing an expensive espresso maker.

Espresso Machine
An espresso machine forces steam through an intensely roasted, ultra-finely ground coffee. The result is a beverage that is very dense and intense in flavor. It provides a big flavor in a very small quantity. The average espresso is only two ounces or so. Traditionally served with a lemon twist and a sugar cube, espresso is a cult favorite for coffee lovers, but leaves many people cringing at its bitterness. Espresso is the basis of the large, sugary drink that many coffee shops sell today. Very often, one can’t taste the espresso in the drink because of all of the other ingredients.

Turkish Long Handled Pot
In an early blog we talk about the Turkish/Arabic style of coffee. It involves boiling coffee with spices until you have a rich and flavorful blend. This is an extremely early method of making coffee that is still in use around the world today. Western society, always in a hurry and results-oriented, rarely takes the time to make their coffee this way, but it something one should do at least once per week.

Arabica vs. Robusta – What are the Differences?

Patrick headshotArabica and Robusta are two different species of coffee. Most coffees, including New Frontier and even many American supermarket brands, are made with 100% Arabica beans. Robusta coffee tends to be inferior in flavor and quality.

Arabica coffee has a wide range of flavors, from sweet and light to tangy and bold. There are fruity notes that one smell from the beans. Arabica coffees have a wide and comple range of flavors. Every conceivable style and flavor of coffee can be made from the Arabica species of coffee.

Robusta beans have a slightly grainy or grassy taste that can range from non-existent to bitter. The unroasted beans tend to have an earthy, peanutty scent. After roasting, they tend to have very little odor at all. There are high quality Robustas, but most are reserved for espresso.

The History
Robusta coffee beans grow at lower altitudes in larger crops. With a higher caffeine content, they are more disease and pest resistant. What the plants put into protecting themselves, they don’t put into creating flavor. That’s why the Arabica beans is superior.

After World War II, many companies began to blend Robusta beans into their coffees because they were cheaper and easier to produce. In France, they encouraged their format colonies to produce Robusta so that the French, who were devastated by the war, could still afford to drink coffee. They even imposed a special tax on Arabica beans.

Most instant coffees are made from Robusta beans and many supermarket brands are blends to make them less expensive. Most specialty coffees and even name brand store-bought coffees are 100% Arabica beans.

Important Notes
Just because they are Arabica beans does not mean that you are buying a quality coffee. There are plenty of low quality Arabica beans in the world and even the very best beans in the hands of a bad coffee roaster can turn to charcoal.

Some coffee roasters have begun to show the great qualities of Robusta coffees. Because great Robusta can be much harder to find, a high quality Robusta can be twice the price of good quality Arabica.

Robusta beans produce much more crema when used for espressos. Many espresso brands are mixed with 70% Robusta to provide a nice crema on the top of an espresso drink.

What’s Important
The most important thing to remember is that everyone has different tastes. There is nothing wrong with a great Robusta is that’s what you like. Try everything.

Also, coffee beans, like wines, are often better when blended. If you find that you have a strong Robusta, try blending it with a mild Arabica to create a wonderful beverage that no one else in the world has.