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.

Making Arabic or Turkish Coffee

Patrick headshotIt is fairly common knowledge that coffee comes from Africa and Arabia. No one really knows how long it has been being consumed, but today it is the second most popular beverage in the world, behind water.

In Arabic nations, there is a method of making coffee that involves cooking it on the stove in a pot. If you have not had coffee this way, you really need to try it. It is an extraordinary experience that will change how you see coffee.

In the United States and much of the world, coffee is made by pushing water through it and drinking what you get. In Arabic coffee, you heat the water, add the coffee and spices, and drink the entire beverage unfiltered.

Recipes for this type of coffee vary by country, region, and even by family. If your family has a recipe, please add it in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

This is a Beginner’s Recipe for Arabic Coffee:

3 cups of water
Filtered, purified or spring water, please. (Your coffee is always over 95% water, so always make it good water.)

2 tablespoons of Arabica coffee
We can recommend a great source for gourmet coffee. J

3 tablespoons of ground cardamom
The fresher the spice the better the coffee. If all you can find is ground, use that.

Bring three cups of water to boil in a pot.

Add the coffee and then boil on low. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let the coffee grounds settle.

Now pour the coffee into a kettle or another pot. Add in the cardamom. Bring to a boil once again. Serve immediately in small cups.

As we said there are thousands of variations, including adding cinnamon (tastes a bit like chai) or saffron (delicious!).

If you would like a bit of sweetness, add some sugar at the second boil. You won’t want to add it as the table because, since the coffee is unfiltered, you will want the spices and remaining coffee to settle.

Traditionally, the coffee is boiled in a long handle pot. Then it is transferred to a kettle, called a dallah, for service. It is poured into small, handle-less coffee cups for drinking.

You don’t need all of that traditional equipment to make great Arabic coffee. All you need is great coffee to start and a desire to try something new. Enjoy, and please, comment below to tell us how your family makes Arabic coffee.

The Difference in Coffee Roasts

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The Difference in Coffee Roasts

French, dark, light, green, medium-dark, medium, and about a hundred other names are given to the different roasts of coffee. Each of them is a measure of how hot and how long a coffee bean has been roasted or subjected to heat.

All coffee beans start inside a small berry. In the middle of the berry is a seed or bean. This is the coffee bean that we are all familiar with. First, the fruit portion is dried and taken off of the bean.

The bean at that point is green. In fact, from a distance, the look like a half of a pea. They will range in color from a bright green to a greenish-brown. While you can make coffee from them, it will not be what you are used to. It will have a relatively weak flavor, but it will be filled with anti-oxidants and caffeine.

This is the bean that is put into the roaster. While there are many different styles of roasters, the basic idea is the same. A coffee roaster heats up the beans while the beans are stirred, either by hand or mechanically. Of course, you can roast coffee beans over a fire, in a skillet and stir it with a spatula.

Modern coffee roasters are more like giant dryers that take the green beans, heat them and roll them in a drum. At large coffee roasters, this happens in a roaster the size of a small house and is all run by computer. At small, custom roasters, like Blackwelder Coffee, the coffee is watched over by master roaster and is guided with experience and keen eye. How long and how hot the beans are roasted will created the different flavors.

Light Roast
These are beans that have not been roasted long and not too hot. “Not too hot” is relative, since the internal temperature of the beans will reach between 356° and 401° Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the beans will pop and expand in size. This is call the “first crack.” (Bet you can guess: There is a second crack ahead.) Light roasts have no oil on the outside and tend to have a lighter, less acidic flavor. They are also higher in caffeine content.

Medium Roast
Medium brown in color, these roasts will tend to lose the “grassy” taste the light roasts have. Here the temperature is 410° to 428° F. (You can see from these numbers that the process is precise. It is also all about timing.) These are often labeled Regular Roast, Breakfast Roast, or American Roast.

Medium-Dark Roast
Here there is a bit of oil beginning to show. These coffees tend to taste more robust, with a decent hint of acid. At 437° to 446° F, the bean will begin the second crack. These beans will be roasted to the beginning or middle of the second crack.

Dark Roast
These beans will have a sheen of oil and will be dark brown to black in color. They are roasted to 464° F. Beyond that, the coffee will take on a charcoal or tar flavor. These roasts are known as Espresso Roast, Italian Roast, Spanish Roast, or French Roast. These beans have the lowest caffeine content, but since they are often brewed to be very thick, people tend to feel it more.

While this is general guide to roasts, every roaster will have their own methods and origin coffee. These will affect the flavors and create as unique a beverage as if were created by a master vintner.