The Most Common Types of Coffee Makers, Explained
From French presses and Moka pots to AeroPressed coffee and single-serve specialty coffee pods, coffee makers have come a long way from the standard pots of automated drip coffee. While choosing the type of coffee maker that's right for your home can seem like a daunting task, knowing the differences between the main brewing methods — dripping, steeping, and pressure — makes the process much easier.
Keep reading to see the most common types of coffee makers on the market, and the best ones in each category.
Drip Coffee Makers
1. Pour-Over Coffee Makers
Traditional pour-over coffee makers like the Hario V60 ($23; Amazon) and the Kalita Wave ($31; Amazon) are designed to sit right over your coffee cup. Boiling water is poured onto medium coffee grounds that sit inside a paper filter, and the resulting concentrate filters through.
If you're looking to brew more than one cup at a time, the Chemex is a popular option. Designed in 1941 by Peter J. Schlumbohm, a German chemist, the Chemex is made of borosilicate glass and uses a thick paper filter, which keeps out the suspended oils and bitterness in the grounds, resulting in a smooth, low-acidity brew that's ready in under five minutes.
2. Auto-Drip Coffee Maker
This type of coffee maker is about as hands-off as you're going to get when it comes to your daily brew. Just add your water and grounds, and let the machine take care of the rest. Using a similar method of brewing coffee as a percolator, drip coffee makers use steam from boiling water to steep coffee grounds. The only difference is that the coffee concentrate filters down into a coffee carafe, which results in a smoother coffee that's not bitter or overcooked.
So, if you're looking to make better tasting coffee in large batches, skip the percolator and opt for an auto-drip coffee maker. They're affordable, can brew multiple cups at a time, and newer models even offer programmable features like timed-brewing and automatic shutoff.
3. Stovetop and Electric Percolators
Coffee percolators have been mainstays in the brewing process dating as far back as the late 19th century. Percolating is a cyclic process where the boiling water evaporates up a filtered chamber where the coarse coffee grounds rest. For stovetop percolators, the process ends when it's removed from the gas, while electric models like the Presto 6-cup stainless-steel coffee percolator ($40; Amazon) automatically shut off when the pot has reached a certain temperature.
Unlike other methods like the AeroPress and Chemex, which offer flavorful, nuanced cups of coffee, percolators have an inconsistent brewing process largely in part by how they're built. As a result, they're best suited for when you need to make large batches of coffee — most percolators on the market make anywhere from six to 12 cups of coffee.
RELATED: How to Make Coffee
Steeping Coffee Makers
4. Cold Brew Coffee Maker
If you love a coffee that's low in acidity (and don't mind waiting a while before it's ready to drink), a cold brew coffee maker may be the one for you. Made by steeping coarse coffee grounds with room temperature water for anywhere from several hours to overnight, cold-brewed coffee has taken the coffee world by storm. And, it's not just a popular order in coffee shops; you'll find canned versions of this smooth brew sold in grocery stores — Trader Joe's even makes their own line of canned coconut cold brew lattes.
However, if you want to save on your daily coffee routine, then learning how to make your own cold brew at home is the way to go. The resulting concentrate is not only stronger than other hot-brewed coffee methods, but its flavor doesn't change, allowing it to last in the fridge for up to two weeks.
While you can easily steep your coarse grounds in a French press overnight, automatic and manual cold brew coffee makers now exist to make things easier. According to last year's Consumer Reports review, both the Cuisinart Automatic Cold Brew Coffeemaker and Primula Burke Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker scored highest for making that cafe-worthy cup of cold brew.
RELATED: What is Nitro Cold Brew?
5. French Press
French press coffee makers are one of the most popular in-home ways of manually brewing coffee, and given its ability to make several servings at once and how simple it is to use, it's not hard to see why. This full-immersion method steeps coffee grounds in hot water for a few minutes before plunging to extract as much flavor and caffeine without overheating the coffee beans in the process.
For an ideal cup of strong French press brew, it's best to grind your coffee beans using a Burr Coffee Grinder ($70; Amazon) to reach the right grind size. A medium-coarse grind is recommended to prevent any sediment from ending up in your cup when filtered.
6. Siphon Coffee Maker
Though vacuum pressure brewing methods have existed for years, it wasn't until 1840 when Marie Fanny Amelne Massot, a French woman, developed and patented the first commercial siphon brewer. Today, two of the most popular siphon coffee makers are produced by Japanese brands Hario and Yama. Definitely intended for the serious coffee enthusiast, you'll often find siphon brewers in coffee shops more than most households.
Comprised of two glass bowls that look more like lab equipment than coffee makers, siphon brewers function by using a heat-induced vacuum to move hot water up into the coffee grounds. Once all the water has risen up into the upper bowl, the mixture is stirred and steeped for about a minute before the vacuum of negative pressure in the lower bowl pulls the brew down through the filter and back into the lower bowl.
Pressure Coffee Makers
Using air pressure to create up to three cups of concentrated coffee that are both smooth and low in acidity, the AeroPress has been a cult favorite among coffee aficionados ever since its maker and retired Stanford professor, Alan Adler, debuted the gadget in 2005. Today, you'll find hundreds of AeroPress recipes that experiment with the temperature, coffee grind size, and method (inverting your AeroPress allows for the coffee grounds to steep in hot water for longer) for the perfect cup of AeroPress coffee — there's even an annual championship where baristas from around the world compete for the tastiest cup of AeroPress brew.
For everyday use, the standard AeroPress set has all you need. But if you want to experiment with the brewing process, a digital food scale like the Hario V60 drip coffee scale and timer ($100; Amazon) and burr grinder are ideal accompanying gadgets.
8. Moka Pot
Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, the Moka Pot is a popular stovetop coffee maker that revolutionized coffee culture in Italy. Making coffee similar in concentration and texture to an espresso (which at the time was only made and sold in coffee shops), the Moka pot allowed everyday Italian to consume espresso-style coffee at home.
Water is added and boiled over the stove in the bottom chamber, which quickly turns into steam and passes through fine coffee grounds before condensing into concentrate in the top compartment. If you prefer espresso but don't want to shell out on a professional espresso machine, then buying a Moka pot might be the way to go. All you need for this fuss-free method of making espresso-style coffee is your favorite fine coffee grounds, water, and a stove.
9. Single-Serve Coffee Machines
Single-serve coffee machines like the Keurig offers a convenient, fast, and high-quality way to brew your daily cup of coffee. If you like the convenience of an auto-drip device but are only looking to brew one serving, then single-serve pod machines are the way to go. Just insert a coffee pod, add water, and press start — your mug will be filled in no less than two minutes.
While there are hundreds of options for single-use coffee pods depending on roast and flavor, it's also possible to grind your own coffee and brew it in your single-serve coffee machine using reusable coffee pods. Not only is it eco-friendly, but you can brew grinds from your favorite coffee shop in the comfort of your own home.
Buy it: Keurig K-Classic, $80; Amazon
10. Espresso Machines
Using high pressure, espresso machines make strong black coffee concentrate, popularly known as espresso, by forcing steam through espresso or dark-roasted coffee beans. Cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and Americanos all use espresso as the starting ingredient.
Though expensive and more high maintenance than the other coffee makers listed, if you're looking to add a daily shot of espresso to your morning routine, consider investing in a semi-automatic espresso machine like the Breville BES870XL. It comes with a built-in grinder, digital temperature control, and milk frother, so you can easily switch it up and make a variety of cafe-style coffees.