Drip coffee makers are one of the simplest ways to prepare coffee at home. You don’t need to be an experienced barista to make drip coffee; they’re easy to use and clean. Keep reading to learn how to use a drip coffee maker and get a delicious cup with every brew.
What is a Drip Coffee Maker?
No matter what kind of coffee maker you own, it will have the same basic components. Get familiar with all of them so that you can make coffee at its best.
First, there’s the machine itself. Some drip coffee makers only have one or two buttons. Others come with a host of programmable features and may even have a clock. Check your instruction manual to find out how each of these features works. In particular, look for how to turn the coffee maker on and how to start the brewing cycle.
All drip coffee makers also include a carafe. Glass carafes are the most common, but thermal carafes are also available. Your carafe is heat-resistant, but it is not safe to use on the stove or in the microwave. Only use a carafe with the coffee maker that it came with.
Warmer plate is the place where your carafe sits. This area heats up during the brewing process and keeps your coffee warm until you’re ready to drink it. Warmer plates aren’t hot enough to cook anything, but they can still burn if touched directly. Most warmer plates will automatically shut off after they’ve been on for a few hours.
If you open the lid of your coffee maker, you’ll see a filter basket. The basket is meant to hold a coffee filter and can be removed for cleaning. Some coffee makers come with a reusable filter that you can rinse between cycles.
Finally, find out where the water chamber is located on your machine. Some water chambers are removable, but most are simply part of the machine base. glass window that lets you see how much water is in the chamber at any given time. Never add water past the fill line – this will cause your coffee maker to overflow.
Your Coffee Supply List
Your coffee maker is ready to go a soon as you pull it out of the box. But to make a delicious cup of coffee, you’ll need a few other things.
- Beans – Coffee loses its flavor as soon as its ground, so whole beans are the best choice. Still, there’s nothing wrong with using pre-ground coffee in a pinch.
- Filters – Some coffee makers come with a reusable filter, but most require a disposable one. Regular-sized filters work for most coffee makers, but small filters are needed for single-serving coffee pots.
- Grinder – Electric blade grinders are the most popular and the easiest to use. Burr grinders create a different bean texture that some people greatly prefer.
- Water – Tap water works fine for drip coffee, but filtered water has the best taste. Some coffee aficionados recommend pre-boiling your water before you put it in the chamber; you can also let the coffee maker do the work.
- Add-Ins – Some people like their coffee straight, but other people prefer to add milk, cream, or sugar. You can also get flavored coffee creamers at most grocery stores.
How to Use a Drip Coffee Maker
Almost every drip coffee maker works the same way. Double-check the instruction manual for your model before you get started; there might be special steps you need to follow to get the best results.
- Fill up the water chamber. Most drip coffee makers have a clearly visible line to mark the maximum water capacity, but the easiest way to measure is to use your carafe. Add water corresponding to the amount of coffee that you’d like to make, and include just a tiny bit more to account for steam.
- Turn the coffee maker on. The best drip coffee comes from the hottest water, so go ahead and let it bubble and steam while you work on the next few steps.
- Place a filter in the basket. Make sure that the edges of the filter are aligned with the edges of the basket. If the filter folds over while your coffee is brewing, your coffee maker could overflow.
- Grind your beans. Fresh-ground beans are always best. For your first brew, measure out roughly 1 tablespoon of beans for every half a cup of water. You can adjust the amount based on how strong you’d like the coffee to be.
- Pour the ground coffee into the filter. Spread the coffee along the bottom of the filter so that it brews at an even rate. Be careful to make sure that no coffee grounds get into your filter basket, or they’ll end up in your coffee.
- Close the lid of your coffee maker. Make sure that your carafe is in its place. The coffee may start to brew as soon as you close the lid. If you have a more complicated machine, you may need to press the “start” button. It can take a few minutes for the drip to start, but you should be able to hear the machine working almost right away.
- Finish the brewing cycle. Resist the temptation to sample the coffee before the cycle is complete. Drip coffee comes out at different concentrations over the brewing process; let the entire pot mix together to get the best flavor.
The brewing process can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Larger coffee makers take longer to complete their cycle. While you’re waiting, get your mugs and add-ins ready to go.
If you’re looking for a more detailed tutorial, this guide by Transcend Coffee offers excellent instructions.
The Perfect Grind for Coffee Beans
It’s a well-known fact that fresh coffee beans taste better. This is because coffee beans start to release their aroma as soon as they are ground. Most of the flavor is in this aroma, so you want to make sure that as much of it gets into your carafe as possible.
Pre-ground coffee is convenient, but it doesn’t have nearly as much flavor. Another major downside is that most coffee makers grind the beans exceptionally fine. The thinner the grind, the more likely that the beans will sift through the filter and end up in your carafe.
In general, there are three levels of grind that you can achieve with a normal grinder:
What size grind for drip coffee?
- Fine: Finely-ground coffee feels like soft and fluffy powder. This method extracts the most flavor, but it can also make the coffee taste bitter. This bitterness comes from the outer layer of the beans, which has been mixed in by the grinder’s blades.
- Medium: If you don’t know where to start, go for a medium texture. Grind the beans until you have a rough consistency with noticeable granules. This method creates a nice balance of flavor and bitterness, but no coffee grounds end up in your cup.
- Coarse: A coarse grind has visible pieces of coffee bean mixed in with the grounds. This method creates a coffee that isn’t as bitter, but it’s also more acidic.
Everyone has different tastes, so play around with your grinder until you find the perfect texture for your beans. Some bean varieties naturally lend themselves to different textures; for example, espresso beans taste best with a medium-coarse grind.
It’s important to clean your drip coffee maker regularly. This will ensure that your coffee tastes delicious and that your machine stays as clean as possible.
Although you can purchase cleaning agents, the simplest way to clean a drip coffee maker is with vinegar and water. The vinegar will clean out any mineral deposits that have built up from the water that you use, and the freshwater will clean out the vinegar.
- Rinse the filter basket and dump out any old coffee or water before you begin. You will need to empty the carafe and use fresh water for every cycle.
- Run a plain water cycle through your coffee maker. This will remove any grounds that have gotten caught in the spout.
- Fill the water chamber with a vinegar solution. Try adding one part vinegar to every three parts water.
- Run the vinegar cycle. Wait until the coffee maker has stopped completely before continuing.
- Run two more water cycles. If your coffee maker still smells like vinegar, keep brewing plain water until it comes out clean.
Never submerge your coffee maker in the sink. You can clean smudges off the exterior with a damp cloth. Your glass carafe should be washed in the sink by hand and rinsed between uses.
Determining the Best Drip Coffee Maker 2020
There are many factors to consider when you’re purchasing a new drip coffee maker. Read plenty of customer reviews on Amazon and other consumer sites, and make a decision based on the features that you find the most convenient.
The most important feature of a new coffee maker is the size. Drip coffee makers work best when they’re filled to their recommended capacity. If you only want to drink one or two cups at a time, you won’t enjoy the coffee made with a 12-cup machine. As a rule of thumb, get a 5-cup machine for one or two people, an 8-cup for a family of three, and a 12-cup for a family of four or five.
Next, think about whether you would like a programmable coffee maker. There’s something magical about waking up to coffee that’s already been made. On the other hand, grinding your beans the night before will greatly reduce the flavor. It’s up to you to decide which priority is more important.
Some drip coffee makers come with additional gadgets. On the cheaper side of things, you might be able to get a coffee maker with a clock and a few interesting settings. If you’re willing to spend more money, you can get a self-cleaning machine, a thermal carafe, or even an attached espresso maker.
Different coffee makers will use different mechanisms for the heating element and the brewing process. You want to find a coffee maker that heats up quickly and brews at a steady pace.
Finally, think about the lifespan of the coffee maker. If treated properly, a quality coffee maker should last for two or more years. Avoid coffee makers that are known to break down in under a year.
Pour Over or Drip Coffee Maker
While it’s true that pour-over coffee uses a dripping process, pour-over coffee makers and drip coffee makers are considered to be different items. The main difference is that pour-over coffee makers do not use any heat or electricity. Instead, water is poured into a container full of coffee grounds and allowed to drip down into a carafe.
Pour-over coffee is actually quite similar to the coffee made with a french press. Both of these brewing methods require that the beans be submerged fully in water, much like a cup of tea. Both methods require that the grounds be removed or separated after one or two minutes of brewing time.