Coffee brewing is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Some coffees and roasts work better in a French press, others in an AeroPress. No coffee’s flavor, however, can fully come out through just one of the coffee brewing methods. For many coffee lovers, the brewing method is what sparks half of the joy associated with the beloved brew.
Overview of Brewing Methods
As much as the coffee itself impacts flavor and body, the way you make it has nearly as big an influence. In the same way a cook could roast, boil, or bake a potato, and all methods would influence how it looks, tastes, smells, and feels, the same is true of brewing coffee. That’s why there are so many options–and opinions–that relate to making a seemingly simple cup of Joe.
Here, we compare three coffee brewing methods and weigh in on the pros and cons of each brewing process.
Best Methods for Home Coffee Brewing
To start, identify which of the different coffee brewing methods seems best-suited to your taste. Also consider what beans you have on hand and your willingness to devote brew and cleaning time to your day. These are essential elements to consider when comparing coffee brewing methods. A Keurig, for example, will be a near-instant process. A French press will be easy, but will take a few minutes. The AeroPress, while perhaps the most nuanced brewing option that provides a unique result, will take longer than the four-minute brew time of a French press and stretch into five-minute-plus territory. All will require water and coffee, of course, but an AeroPress and French press will also require a stirrer and, depending on your setup, a kettle, grinder, and scale (for measuring coffee in grams).
The last two methods also require one very important skill: patience.
AeroPress Coffee Brewing
The AeroPress is a visually perplexing piece of coffee equipment. It’s tall, plastic, and comes in parts like a toy, but it’s an immensely dazzling contraption. It brews a concentrated cup of coffee that’s about six ounces in size and draws out many of the nascent flavors in light, medium, or dark roasts. It’s versatile and, after some time with it, easy to use. It’s a strong and relatively new alternative for coffee brewing methods.
AeroPress Coffee Brewing Pros and Cons
- Pro: Compact espresso-like brew. Coffee brewed with an AeroPress will pack a lot of caffeine in a small quantity of coffee, making it perfect for espresso lovers who tend to crave just a bit more.
- Con: Only makes small quantities. Two cups is the maximum you’ll squeeze out of an AeroPress.
- Pro: Travels well. The tradeoff with the maker only making two cups: It’s small and travels better than any other coffee maker. It’s also plastic, so it won’t crack in your suitcase. It comes apart, so you can store the pieces in separate compartments.
- Con: Easy to lose parts. Because the device has detachable parts, it’s also easy for an AeroPress to get lost in a kitchen in the cleanup process or in transit if you bring it with you when you travel.
- Pro: Cleans well. The coffee grinds can be pushed right out of the device with the plunger and plopped into a trash can, seamlessly. To make cleanup even easier, it’s dishwasher safe and rinses quickly in a sink, with little need for deep cleans.
- Con: Can feel a little complicated. The AeroPress is, admittedly, a more daunting brew option–at first. Once you get the hang of the process, with its multiple parts and tower-esque setup, the brewing can take as little as four minutes.
French Press Coffee Brewing
The French press is a do-no-wrong approach to making coffee. With its immersion-style brew method, it’s perfect for coffee-making beginners and continues to be a valuable machine once you’ve developed a more sophisticated palate or knack for other brew methods. It’s one of the traditional coffee brewing methods. The device makes coffee in about four minutes and produces a slightly more oily cup with some heft to it.
French Press Coffee Brewing Pros and Cons
- Pro: A unique result. The oils in the coffee will remind some of what can get lost in the paper-filtration process. Medium and dark roasts with chocolate or nutty notes taste especially indulgent made with a French press.
- Con: Limits results. Because this is an immersion method, with the grounds evenly steeped in hot water, there’s not much variation from brew to brew. This is ideal if your prefer consistency, but perhaps a bit boring if you want to really draw the variety of flavors out of their coffee beans.
- Pro: Balanced brew. A cup of French press coffee will have a consistent body with weight to it.
- Con: Less ‘clean’ cup that’s not for everyone. That balanced brew comes at a cost: a coffee “slurry” that will sink to the bottom of your cup, even after it has been filtered with the device’s metal mesh filter.
- Pro: Easy setup and process. Dump the grinds in a clean French press, pour the water, stir, let sit, and plunge. It’s truly that simple. For that reason, it might be the best home coffee brewing method–or a strong contender.
- Con: Not the easiest to clean. Make sure to clean your French press immediately after brewing; otherwise, coffee grounds will dry and stick to the bottom and sides of the pot and are not the most fun to scrape into a trash can, compost bin, or garbage disposal.
Percolator Coffee Brewing
The percolator excels at making strong, enjoyably bitter cups of coffee in larger batches. The device is popular as a camping device, but can also be made on a stovetop–or can be purchased in an electric form akin to an electric tea kettle.
Percolator Coffee Brewing Pros and Cons
- Pro: Makes a fantastic dark roast. Because the coffee is typically brewed longer and with a less controlled temperature in a percolator, this brewer excels with darker roasts that target a bitter taste.
- Con: Light roasts are difficult. Light roasts, to summon all their delicate and acidic flavors, require careful control of temperature. Percolators are not typically set up for this.
- Pro: No filter necessary. While some percolators do come with filters, they largely don’t have nor need one. The coffee that sits in the top chamber does not sneak through the metal strainer.
- Con: Difficult to precisely brew. Particularly when camping, there’s no easy way to brew the cup of coffee you have in mind. Brew times can take anywhere from seven to 10 minutes, and a single minute can make all the difference in taste.
- Pro: Fun to make. Once you do start to control all the variables specific to your setup–the water you’re using, stovetop temperature, etc.–there is a certain charm to coming out with a perfect brew. Not to mention, it’s a delight to peek at the brewing action through the pot’s transparent glass lid, and it fills the room with a coffee scent that smells like the perfect morning.
- Con: Messy cleanup. There are several parts that you need to clean, and they’re not always dishwasher safe.
Keurig Coffee Brewing
The Keurig brewing method is a go-to in offices and waiting rooms across the U.S. for good reason: It’s easily the most convenient of the methods. The one-touch nature of the device is alluring for people on the move or even just as a fall-back option when you’re crunch for time and the French press is suddenly looking more painstaking to use than it does on a Sunday morning.
Keurig Coffee Brewing Pros and Cons
- Pro: Convenience. Pop a pod inside, pick a size, and the machine does all the work. Really.
- Con: Limited options. There’s an incredible lineup of pods available on the market today, but even with that in mind, the machine is still not designed to brew the immeasurable number of bagged or boxed coffee beans produced for other brewing methods.
- Pro: Consistency. Provided you’re using quality, filtered water every time, each cup will emerge looking like it just came from a job interview.
- Con: Predictability. Just as the consistency can be refreshing, the automated nature of the device spoils the fun of experimentation–the serendipity–that’s a true delight for coffee brewers.
- Pro: No cleanup. Aside from occasionally needing to descale or clean the tray, there’s no daily cleanup required.
- Con: Limited brew sizes. Some Keurig models will only brew up to 10 ounces of coffee at a time, and even the premium machines cap out at 12 ounces. (Though, it is possible to buy Keurig models that brew a carafe with bigger-sized pods.)
Brewing coffee is a challenge, yes, but often a rewarding one. Every coffee drinker will have their method they swear on their grandma’s vintage Folgers can is the best. Start with these three to find yours.