6 steps to get the best coffee from your drip coffee maker
PurelyCoffeeBeans knows it should not be difficult to use a Drip or Filter Coffee Maker for the first time. But looking at all the parts on the table, you would be forgiven for thinking it's a bloody jigsaw puzzle. Now I'd know... so learn from my experience: I've made all kinds of mistakes using coffee machines like this.
Simple Philips Drip Coffee Maker (as used by yours truly!)
So what can I learn about using a drip coffee maker?
Personal Experience: Coffee Disasters
Well, last week's disaster... not adding enough water to the chamber resulted in very small cups of coffee for all 'n' sundry. So to remedy the situation, he puts cold water into the water unit... now remember it's still piping hot. Guess what happens?
... Clouds of pressurised hot water burst out of the dripper sending the coffee grounds from the coffee basket EVERYWHERE. I was still wiping up the coffee for several days afterwards. Given the number, range and frequency of his troubles with his various drip coffee makers, he reminds himself to take it easy.
So he reminds everyone to make sure that you have read the instructions for your machine and checking you have everything you need before you TRY to make coffee! After all, he wouldn't want you repeating his list of mistakes now... flooded machines, watery coffee, NO coffee in the basket, NO water in the tank, coffee that tastes like bilge water...
So LEARN from my mistakes and do a proper inventory first!
When unpacking, your unit should have:
- the main heating unit (left),
- a drip unit with filter basket (front center), and
- a jug (mid-right).
- You should also find an instruction manual (right) to help you get set up.
For making coffee, you need: coffee powder, filter papers (perhaps), cold fresh water, a measuring spoon, cups, a power socket, and about 30 minutes to get the machine prepared.
How do I get a coffee maker like this?
How does a drip coffee maker work?
If you are using a drip coffee machine with a filter cone, you will certainly need an unused paper filter or a cleaned gold filter. For other supplies, check the coffee supplies page, first! Once done, come right back!
Step 1: Measure once, measure twice
Measure the cold water into the pot and pour it into the coffee maker container; you will also need to measure carefully the coffee. For water, always include about 10% more to account for water loss and absorption. The coffee spoon should be a standard size, though you could also use an electronic scale.
The general rule I use: Using too much water is a much bigger mistake than using too much coffee. So load up the coffee, about one large coffee spoon per cup of coffee. The usual rate works out about 10~12g for 180~200ml of water.
Most mugs can accommodate about 360ml of water or slightly more, so you'd be looking at about 20g ~ 24g per larger mug. Don't forget that coffee absorbs water, so you might need a little extra (about 10% is a good guesstimate, though absorption varies depending on bean and grind)
Step 2: Grind the coffee right
Put the coffee in your grinder, and set to medium fine to ensure a better quality flavor. If you grind the coffee too coarsely, you'll find the extraction quite weak and watery. The grounds were just too big to absorb the water quickly, so the water flowed right on through without making adequate contact with the coffee grounds. It might take you a couple of experiments to get the grind of your coffee just right.
Also note that in this method, the coffee grounds are finer than a French Press. They will absorb more water, as will a paper filter. This means some of the water in the container will not result in any drink. Do experiment.
Step 3: Set up the drip coffee maker
Open the coffee maker, place the filter cone (with the paper filter, if needed) in the container, and add the coffee grounds to the filter. Close the filter securely.
Make sure the jug is placed beneath the filter cone as required or coffee will spill out everywhere over the counter (I also found that out from experience!). Then double check that everything is set.
Step 4: Turn on – watchful waiting
Turn on the drip coffee maker and wait. You may find that it takes a couple of minutes before water starts dripping into the jug, that's okay. Don't be tempted to move the jug or open the filter at this point – you might burn yourself.
Once the machine has heated the water to the appropriate temperature, the coffee will drip regularly until nearly the end of the process when the machine may start to make a little more noise as the water chamber and steam pipe are emptied of water.
The drip coffee maker will start heating the water and piping it through the coffee grounds. It will take a couple of minutes before you see much coffee in the jug. The later coffee coming through will be weaker than the initial coffee, but overall the flavor will balance well.
Step 5: Finished Dripping – Wait a little more
When the drip coffee maker is finished dripping, you will recognize this by several ways: the jug is NEARLY full, the sound has stopped, and the water tank is empty. There may still be some water in the filter cone, so don't remove the cone until the machine has cooled.
Wait until you are satisfied the drip coffee maker has stopped brewing before you remove the jug. Don't leave the jug sitting on the hot plate too long, either. Why?
A common mistake of many restaurants is leaving the coffee jug ON the hotplate for too long, sometimes even hours. This absolutely kills all of the flavor, and returns the most awful bitter drink imaginable. So, don't forget to turn off the coffee maker!
But my coffee goes cold so fast, I hear you say! Well, in colder climes this may be true, but applying too much heat will destroy the valuable flavors in your second cup. My only suggestion is to use a vacuum drip coffee maker, not a glass version. The vacuum should preserve the heat even after you pour it. Let me know how that works for you in the comments!
Step 6: Serve Immediately
When you're ready to drink the coffee, pour out the coffee into cups. Serve as you like, adding milk/cream or sugar. And enjoy the flavor. Do serve the coffee immediately, and you should have a flavorful cup of coffee, perfectly brewed.
Don't forget to rinse the pots out, remove the filters and clean out the cones. Old coffee grounds can be thrown down the sink or in the kitchen waste garbage.
Because of the delicate flavor of brewed coffee, the longer you leave the coffee pot on the hot plate, the more the flavor will spoil. I usually turn it off within one or two minutes of finishing the process because even after ten minutes the flavor becomes 'stewed' and 'bitter', spoiled by the prolonged and excessive heat.
If you don't drink the coffee immediately, pour the coffee into a vacuum flask that keeps the heat, excludes the oxygen as much as possible, and you should have a potable cup of coffee even several hours later.
If you can't drink it immediately or keep it appropriately, resort to making it as you need so that you always have the best tasting coffee. You can also experiment with brewing smaller batches. I've had success brewing half pots, but I do tend to use a little more ground coffee proportionally.
Video Tutorial: Using a Drip Coffee Maker
After Use: Simple Steps to Look After Your Drip Coffee Maker
Once you empty the coffee pot, don't forget to put it back on the hotplate (so you don't break it!), and TURN OFF the machine so the coffee dregs don't burn into the drip coffee maker pot. If you forget, and leave the coffee pot on, you'll have a very hard time trying to clean your coffeemaker, that's for sure!
Also, keep the hotplate clean otherwise if you burn the spilled coffee on to the hotplate, cleaning the hotplate will remove the non-stick surface and make it harder to remove the pot - this typically happens on older machines, anyway.
Should you burn the coffee jug/pot, and the coffee is black and stuck to the bottom of the jug. First, don't use a rough cloth or scouring pad to clean it off because you will also shave or scratch the glass. Also, don't use unnecessary pressure on the base of the pot. Both of these steps may cause you to break the jug!
You should turn off the heat, and remove the jug from the hotplate. Fill the jug with clean cold water and let it soak. Most of the dried coffee will rehydrate, and a gentle wash/rinse will remove it. A light 3M cleaning pad will help remove any remaining dross, if you are careful!
Suggested Tips & Makers
The drip coffee machines make a decent cup of great coffee, doesn't need much supervision, and is one of the most common methods of making coffee today in homes, offices and restaurants all over the world.
A little terminology note: in the USA what is referred to as a drip coffee maker is called filter coffee maker in other parts of the world. I use the term synonymously.
Looking for new equipment, check out the coffee makers, coffee grinders, and bean roasters page.