Skip to content

Coffee decoded: Coffee-making methods explained

College. Coffee. They’re basically joined at the hip on campus – not to mention at nearly every hour of the day. Coffee keeps you awake, yes, but it is also an art form for many, and often, coffee has a place of cultural significance. Today, Kit McDonnell explains to us the different methods of coffee-making.


Drip Method. This is your most basic type of coffee. Hot water drips through a filter paper. ‘Nuff said.


French Press. This is most similar to making loose leaf tea. Boiling water is poured over coffee grounds and steeped together for 3-5 minutes. Then a plunger strains the coffee grounds to the bottom and coffee is poured straight from the carafe.


Espresso. Personally, I think that espresso makers are some of the coolest looking kitchen accessories (next to the toaster and egg poacher all-in one, of course). They come in so many eclectic shapes and colors. But regardless of their many designs, they perform nearly the same function. Water is transfused through tightly packed, finely ground coffee at a really high pressure. That stereotypical steaming “hiss” associated with cafes can be attributed to these things.


Old-fashioned Percolators. The dinosaur of coffee makers. These appliances were replaced by the drip method, but I prefer their finished product. Plus, the concept behind their operation is cool in itself: Ground coffee is suspended above (but not touching) water in the percolator. As the water begins to heat up, it is forced upwards through a tube in the center, and it diffuses over the grounds and seeps back down to the water below. This cycle continues until the water reaches boiling point and the contraption “perks” (its characteristic steaming sound).


Single Serve. Your typical Keurig that uses those little pods filled with coffee grounds. The appliance punctures two holes – one on top and one on the bottom – and hot water is forced through. It is the mess-free equivalent of an espresso maker… minus the “experience” of operating an espresso maker (ok, so I’m a little biased).



Turkish/Arabic Coffee. This one is definitely the most specialized procedure – and I’m dying to try making it myself. Coffee beans must be ground into a very fine powder in order for this to work. The powder is boiled quickly (sometimes in multiple sessions) to reduce the icky burnt taste sometimes associated with over-handled beans. The mixture is minimally stirred and develops a thick layer of foam on the top. It is drunk at an extremely hot temperature yet slowly enough to let the grounds settle to the bottom. Interestingly, there are four names for the various levels of increasing “sweetness”: awha sada, ahwa ariha, ahwa mazboot, and ahwaziyada. Sugar and occasionally spices are boiled with the coffee at the beginning, so each drink is prepared specially from the start.



Instant/Soluble Coffee. Instant coffee has experienced a bit of a revival since Starbucks launched its private line, Starbucks Via. Many other brands too sell instant coffee in a variety of flavors and seasonal specials. But the bottom line is that these dehydrated coffee bean granules dissolve readily in water and are easy for those on-the-go mornings. Because many would argue that this type of coffee is – to put it nicely – a last resort, I have a few suggestions that may make it a bit more appealing. The key is to change the medium in which it is dissolved. Try mixing it with hot chocolate (like a mocha, but heavier on the chocolate), in a milkshake or smoothie, or in hot milk for a creamier taste.

Stay tuned for Part 2. Kit will decode coffee drinks and explain how to interpret café menus to distinguish lattes from cappuccinos, ristrettos, macchiatos, and more. 

-Kit McDonnell

(Cover photo source)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: