It’s not surprising that many people are confused over which are the simplest coffee makers among the dozens on the market. Most people look at all the different styles, throw up their hands in confusion then buy one and hope for the best.
In this article I’d like to:
- Outline the simplest coffee making methods
- Look at the advantages, challenges & tips for each
- Help readers determine which is best for their own situation
Let’s get on and look at the coffee makers I’ve used over the years!
Plastic Drip Cone
One of my first simple coffee makers was actually the simplest of all, a plastic drip filter or drip cone, rather like the Melitta Filter Cone which you see here. There are other models of coffee filter conesavailable, too.
The coffee cones are very affordable. For little more than $10, you could purchase a cone, some papers and then make some great coffee by buying a quarter pound of coffee from your local coffee roasters.
The coffee is quick to make and you can make a variety of coffee types from light to espresso, just by making sure that the grind is appropriate.
Overall, this device is a great coffee making entry point for beginners, those on the go, and travelers who like to make their own coffee rather than drink the instant coffee available in the hotel rooms. It’s also extremely light! Better yet, you can buy small single cup cones for travel.
Room for Improvement
The only real problems are that, balanced on top of a cup or small jug, they are prone to being knocked over and spilling messy coffee, hot water & coffee grounds everywhere. They also drip, so having a sink nearby is a solution, or at least an extra cup to put it on when it’s done; that they are (obviously!) limited in their capacity; and you have to dispose of the paper filter & grounds, causing unnecessary garbage.
Tips On Using Coffee Cones
Just remember two things: use a tablespoon or coffee spoon to measure your coffee, and DON’T use boiling water! Try to keep the water about 85C or 90C, otherwise you risk cooking the grounds, and having a tasteless cup of coffee! And buy the bigger size for use at home or office, not the single cup model or the size 2, so you can treat your friends to some great coffee, too!
The French Press
Really the most elegant of all the simple coffee makers I ever owned, nice gleaming glass wrapped in gold plated metal, sitting on the work surface and begging me just to use it one more time!
I have always loved French presses, even though the more modern ones no longer look like that. Perhaps not as convenient to use as a Drip Coffee Maker, they make a great coffee in small amounts; just add hot water, stir, wait, then plunge!
Like the other simple coffee makers listed here, the french press can really handle any roast of coffee, any blend, too; just make sure that the grind isn’t too fine, otherwise you’ll end up with brown sludge at the bottom of your cup! The metal mesh is more effective if the grounds are slightly larger. Obviously this means you need to spend a little more time waiting for the infusion to work! They can be a little pricey to buy or replace. But buying a good one is highly recommended.
Room for Improvement
If you live in a cold climate or make your coffee outdoors, you may find the resulting drink gets just a bit too cold before you add the milk. Also, the jugs (esp. if they are glass) are easy to break or crack rendering them useless.
Tips for the French press
Use a larger ground than fine ground. And let the water steep for a little while, too. When pressing the plunger, a gentle even pressure is needed. Don’t use too much force! And serve the coffee immediately to prevent the remainder becoming too strong.
I love the French press, it really is a simple coffee maker to use, quick to make coffee (as quick as a hot water jug or kettle), and very easy to clean. It’s long been my simple coffee maker of the year.
The Drip Coffee Maker
Pretty quickly, I got tired boiling the water, waiting and then manually filling the cone. It could be messy, time consuming and I was always looking for filter papers for the cone (and when you run out, and some substitutes – say, ahem, kitchen roll – just don’t work). Then I broke one or two too many French press jugs, and it was time for a new coffee maker. Enter the drip coffee maker.
Admittedly more expensive than the cone or French press, it heated the right amount of water to the optimum temperature, then dripped the water through the coffee grounds into the jug. No waiting around, the coffee could be ready just before you left for work, within a few minutes, and you could make extra for the friend, the second cup or for the fridge!
I went through several models of those, and found that the cheapest just didn’t last. Most prone to problems, the glass jug. I broke quite a few; so finding a replacement meant that I had to replace the entire unit. But I eventually bought two Braun coffee makers that lasted years, without a jug breakage! I still use one at home.
You can set up the machine and leave it while you get dressed in the morning or make breakfast for the kids, as it doesn’t need much watching over. You can even buy models that have their own internal clock to get the coffee ready for you first thing! You just have to add the milk & sugar! They are affordable, and you can go forgo the paper filters for a gold drip filter cone (it’s not really gold!) which will last ages, fit many models, and save you money, too!
Room for Improvement
There is always room for improvement with these machines: they do need cleaning regularly; they may not get the water temperature right; and the hot plate may get the coffee too hot, spoiling the delicate flavors of the coffee, if it is left too long. Also, the jugs are unique, so finding a replacement glass carafe can be a challenge, if it is broken or cracked.
Tips for Using Drip Coffee Makers
Most tips are similar for the coffee cones about grinding & preparation. Be careful of the glass jug or carafe, they should not be knocked or dropped (even slightly); and if you wash them by hand, don’t let them jostle against metal cutlery or other heavy crockery. If your hot plate overheats the coffee after a few minutes, then when the machine stops, just turn it off! I’m fussy, and I find that stewed coffee tastes much worse than warm coffee. Overall, the drip coffee maker is the most convenient of these simple coffee makers, decidedly low tech and reliable.
As you see, I have had a long affair with simple coffee makers, and even now I haven’t persuaded myself that buying an expensive one makes much practical sense.
Which one do you have? What did you find to be the best coffee maker? What problems did you have?