From percolators, French presses and traditional drip coffee makers to espresso machines, Keurig K-Cups and Aeropress coffee presses, there are many different ways to brew a cup of coffee. I’ll review them all and determine once and for all, which method brews the best tasting cup of coffee (at least in my opinion)!
When it comes to running a blog (personal finance or otherwise), the experts say you should stick with what you know. So in addition to my regular blog articles about paying down debt and investing, I thought it would be fun to spend a little time talking about the best way to brew a great tasting cup of coffee.
After all, you can save a ton of money if you learn how to make a quality cup of coffee yourself (see David Bach’s Latte Factor).
So what makes me an expert on brewing a cup of coffee you ask?
Well, as a commercial ship captain, coffee has become a very essential part of my professional life. Anyone who’s ever spent time working aboard a ship will tell you that there’s two things you should never run out of at sea; the first being toilet paper and the second being COFFEE.
Working long and odd hours tends to grow a person’s dependence on coffee, and with little other recreation at sea, there always tends to be some lively discussions about the various methods of brewing the best tasting cup of coffee.
Here’s a photo of my ship docking for supplies in Curacao on October 31st, 2013.
Combine this with the persnickety captains I’ve had the “pleasure” of working with over the last two decades (who get really upset if their coffee isn’t prepared “just the right way”), and you’ve got a ripe environment for developing an informed opinion and pallet for the perfect cup of coffee (and the best way to brew it).
1st Place: French Press Coffee Brewers
My favorite methods of brewing coffee is via a “French Press” coffee pot. There are many coffee snobs, coffee purist and coffee aficionados who contend that French Press pots are the best way to brew coffee. Based on my own experiences (and those of my shipmates) we agree that the French Press method of brewing coffee is an excellent way to brew a rich, smooth and full bodied cup of coffee.
How to brew coffee with a French Press:
Advantages of French Press Coffee Pots: French Press coffee pots always receive the best reviews. While a lot of this has to do with tradition and the long standing use of French Presses in high end coffee shops, the truth is you get a consistent full bodied and rich cup of coffee (if you know what you’re doing). French Press coffee makers also give the user complete control over the coffee process from ensuring the water is the correct temperature to making sure the coffee grounds are steeped (brewed) the correct amount of time in the brewing water. If you know what you’re doing, you simply can’t beat a fresh cup of coffee brewed in a French Press. Another great “perk” of a French Press is they are relatively inexpensive (less than $40 for a high quality one) and don’t require any electricity (provided you have access to hot water).
Disadvantages of Brewing Coffee with a French Press: The biggest disadvantage of brewing coffee with a French Press is that it takes a little practice to get used to. Like the Aerobie AeroPress (in second place below), there are a lot of variables that go into making a consistent cup of delicious full bodied coffee when made in such a “hands on” way. There is a lot of work that goes into making a cup of coffee brewed with a French Press the results are definitely worth it.
Where to Buy a French Press Pot: We’ve found Bodum French press coffee brewers to offer the best value and quality, you can order Bodum French press brews through Peet’s Coffee & Tea Website. While you’re buying things from Peet’s website, you might as well order some of their amazing Major Dickason’s roasted coffee (Major Dickason is one of our crews’ favorite coffee).
2nd Place: AeroPress Coffee Press and Espresso Brewing System
Remember how awesome and revolutionary those Aerobie Flying Rings were when they came out in the 1980’s? They were far superior to other flying disks and Frisbees available and they totally disrupted the market for outdoor throwing sports. Believe it or not, this same company “Aerobie” is at it again with the introduction of their Aerobie AeroPress coffee brewer and espresso maker (I know, it’s super weird, right?). One of the officers on my ship introduced me to the Aeropress coffee brewing system a year or so ago and it has quickly become one of my favorite ways to brew coffee.
Advantages of the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker: Reviews for the AeroPress coffee have been very positive. Overall, you’re simply not going to find a better value in terms of being able to brew a high quality cup of coffee. For less than $30 the AeroPress offers its user a very intimate connection to the coffee brewing process allowing for a very strong and rich cup of coffee (like a percolator) but creating a very smooth finish that stays true to the nuances found in different types of coffee beans and coffee roasts. It may not be the best method for busy parents rushing to get ready for work and get the kids off to school, but if you have a few extra minutes in your day (and you really enjoy coffee) I bet you’re going to love the Aeropress system from Aerobie.
Disadvantages of the AeroPess Coffee and Espresso System: While the AeroPress scores high reviews all the way around, it is a little more labor intensive than some of the other methods of brewing coffee. From ensuring you have properly grounded beans and heating up the water, to stirring in the coffee grounds and pressing the brewed coffee through the filter, the average cup takes around 8 minutes to brew properly. Also, if you’re not paying close attention, it is relatively easy to side load the AeroPress as you’re pressing it through and spilling the hot coffee all over the place (I’ve done this on more than one occasion and it wasn’t pretty!).
How to Make Amazing Iced Coffee at Home: With the AeroPress coffee brewer you can make an exceptionally tasty cup of iced coffee by doubling the coffee you put in the Aeropress brewer and then squeezing the coffee out over a full glass of ice. The concentrated coffee melts the ice and dilutes out the beverage to a very delicious and smooth iced coffee!
Best Place to Buy the AeroPress Coffee System: Not only does Peet’s Coffee & Tea Website have great deals on the best rated French Press coffee brewers, they also have exclusive deals and pricing on AeroPress Coffee Brewers too! (YES, YES, we love our Pete’s coffee around here!). While you’re buying things from Peet’s website, you might as well order some of their amazing Major Dickason’s roasted coffee (Major Dickason is one of our crews’ favorite coffee). If you really want to impress your friends you can buy some Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee at $44.95 per 1/2 Pound.
3rd Place: Brewing Coffee in a Percolator:
Coffee perculators have been my parents preferred method of brewing coffee since long before I was born. As a matter of fact, they received two identical coffee perculators as wedding gifts nearly 45 years ago and it wasn’t until just recently that the first of the two coffee perculators failed. Fortunately, my grandmother had carefully stored the second perculator in her home and after presenting it to my parents as a replacement it fired right up after 4 decades laying dormant!
Advantages of Brewing Coffee in a Percualtor: In addition to making a very cool noise as the coffee is brewing and completely inundating the house with a fragrant coffee smell, coffee perculators brew a very strong and rich cup of coffee compared to standard drip coffee machines. If my parent’s experience is any indication, coffee perculators seem to have an incredibly long service life as well.
Disadvantages of Brewing Coffee in a Perculator: My biggest complaint about brewing coffee in a perculator is the fact that the coffee is super hot (near boiling) when it is poured. If you’re a wimp like me this means waiting a while for the coffee to cool off before enjoying. Another issue I’ve noticed brewing coffee with a perculator is that it masks the nuances between different types of coffee. What I mean by this is that even though perculators brew a great cup of coffee, the perculation process makes the differences between a dark Italian vs a more medium roast less perceptible.
Where to Buy Coffee Perculators: It’s not very often that you’ll see coffee percolators for sale in department stores anymore, however, you can still order them online through most major on line retailers. Buy a top rated Presto Percolator at Walmart.com!
4th Place: Traditional Style Drip Coffee Machines
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a cup of coffee (especially in the USA) has almost certainly had coffee brewed using the method. In fact, there is more coffee brewed in the US using standard drip style coffee machines than all other coffee brewing methods combined.
Advantages of Drip Coffee Machines: The biggest advantage of drip style coffee machines is their convenience and ease of use and the overall quality of the coffee’s flavor (much smoother than a percolator style coffee brewer). If you buy a drip coffee machine with a timer, you can literally set it and forget it and wake up the next morning to a fresh pot of coffee. Another advantages of drip coffee machines is that you can easily adjust the strength of the coffee by adding more or less coffee to the coffee filter. Drip coffee machines are also very inexpensive compared to some of the more exotic methods for brewing coffee.
Disadvantage of Drip Coffee Machines: One disadvantages of Drip Coffee Machines (whether you’re using a cheap Black and Decker Model or a Commercial Grade “Bunn” Model) is that it can very hard to brew a consistent cup of coffee. Even if you measure out the coffee exactly the same every time, you have no control how the actual hot water interfaces with the coffee in the filter chamber which helps create these flavor inconsistencies. Although drip coffee machines also allow users to brew up to 12 cups of coffee or more, the “shelf life” of the coffee is very short (especially sitting on a hot burner) and quickly starts to degrade the quality and flavor of the coffee after 10 or 15 minutes (you might not be able to tell, but I can).
Where to Buy the Best Drip Coffee Machines: I recommend the Hamilton Beach BrewStation Summit Available at Walmart.com today at a Special Roll Back Price!
5th Place: Keurig K-Cup Single Serve Coffee Brewing Machines
Introduced over 10 years ago, Keurig K-Cup single serve coffee brewers gained wide acceptance as a quick and convenient way to brew a high quality single serving of coffee. Although they originally showed up in commercial applications (such as office building break rooms, convenience stores and waiting rooms) as the price came down more Keurig K-Cup coffee brewers were purchased for individual use in homes and apartments across the country.
Advantages of Brewing Coffee with a Keurig K-Cup Machine: Keurig K-Cup coffee brewers are known for brewing a very consistent cup of coffee. In addition to being super convenient (i.e. quick and easy), almost all the major coffee companies and coffee brands offer their coffee in K-Cup compatible packaging. In fact, Keurig’s patent on their K-Cup technology expired in 2012 which made it possible for virtually any company to package and sell Keurig compatible coffee packs that will work in Keurig brewing machines. This has also led to a slight decrease in price for Keurig compatible coffee (although you’re still looking at between $0.60 and $1.00 per cup when brewed at home).
Disadvantages of Brewing Coffee with a Keurig K-Cup Machine: There are several cons against the Keurig K-Cup coffee brewing system that has prevented it from scoring higher on my list. First, the coffee comes out a little bit too weak for my taste. Second, although the expired patent and increased competition for Keurig K-Cup brewers market have lowered prices a little bit, at nearly $1.00 a cup for brewing at home, the Keurig system for brewing coffee is one of the most expensive ways to brew your own cup of coffee. Finally, but no less important, Keurig K-Cups have the perception of creating an unnecessary amount of waste in the form of the one time use cups (although the introduction of reusable K-Cup containers has helped reduce this negative association).
Best Place to Buy Keurig K-Cup Coffee Brewers: Order the highly reviewed Keurig Elite K40 at Walmart.com Today!
6th Place: Brewing Coffee Using an Espresso Machine
Perhaps the most “hardcore” way of making a cup of great coffee is by using an espresso machine. Although espresso machines are a little bit of an overkill when it comes to making a simple straightforward cup of coffee (espresso machines are really only needed when making fancy European coffee drinks like Lattes and Cappuccinos) , they can be used to brew a great tasting cup of coffee.
Advantages of Brewing Coffee with an Espresso Machine: Assuming you have access to a quality espresso machine, the actual process of brewing a cup of coffee using an espresso machine is actually very easy. The process actually looks and sounds very cool too and is a great way to “impress” your friends and/or coworkers. The flavor of coffee “brewed” with an espresso machine (after it has been diluted down to the consistency of coffee) is very “creamy” and smooth although not as rich and strong as with a French Press or AeroPress.
Disadvantages of Brewing Coffee with an Espresso Machine: Because you’re using an espresso maker (high pressure steam is forced through a “puck” of compacted coffee and filtered out) what you end up with is not a cup of coffee but a shot highly concentrated coffee (i.e. espresso). In order to tone the mixture down so it is more consistent with a traditional cup of coffee, it will need to be “diluted” with water. Some espresso machines will actually do this for you (the one we have on our ship will), but most of the time you’ll need to adjust the additional water content yourself. Not only does this defeat the whole purpose of having an espresso machine to begin with (in my opinion) but it also gives the coffee a slightly diluted taste no matter how much or how little water you used to dilute it.
Where to Buy an Espresso Machine: Buy the highly rated Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker at Walmart.com!
More Tips for Brewing the Best Cup of Coffee: Grinding Coffee
I think we all agree that nothing beats brewing coffee with freshly ground coffee beans. But did you know the type of grinder you use can significantly affect the taste and quality of your coffee?
That’s right! If you do grind your own coffee, here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the best cup of coffee and the best value for your money.
Coffee Grinders: Blade vs. Burr:
Most coffee experts (including myself) agree that Burr coffee grinders are the best grinders for grinding coffee. Coffee snobs are quick to point out that blade style coffee grinders simply cut the same beans over and over again and create a very inconsistent blend of coffee grinds (from course coffee grinds to powdery coffee grinds).
TIP for Grinding Coffee: Try experimenting with different coffee grind settings to see if you can tell the difference!
Blade coffee grinds also generate a lot of static electricity which can affect the brewing process and flavor of your coffee not to mention that blade grinders are very load and will wake up your kids early in the morning (not fun, trust me!).
Burr coffee grinders are better than blade grinders because they grind out more consistent coffee grounds. A good quality Burr grinder also offers multiple grind settings to adjust the size of the coffee grounds. Burr coffee grinders are also much quieter vs blade coffee grinders and are less likely to wake up your kids or your wife or girlfriend (or both!!!). Burr coffee grinders also produce less static electricity in the grinding process.
Where to Buy a Good Quality Burr Grinder: The Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Coffee Grinder is an excellent choice at only $59 order today through Peet’s Coffee & Tea Website!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my comparison tests of the best way to make a cup of coffee, and yes, please feel free to visit our sponsor (Pete’s Coffee) below!