Coffee Makers - Come In Several Shapes And Sizes

Dec 12


Ian Whyte

Ian Whyte

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There are a number of different coffee makers on the market. Each having their own characteristics and performance capabilities. This article covers some of these features and endeavors to give enough information for you to make a reasoned choice

We Drink A Lot Of Coffee
Statistics indicate that some 52 percent of US citizens are regular coffee drinkers. And with the current population number just short of 313 million (December 2011) it means that in excess of 160 million people in the US alone drink this fine beverage. So you would think that by now they would have settled on some reasonably basic means of brewing their coffee.

But Our Preferences Can Differ
But the facts are somewhat different to this. Because of the the diversity of the population there is not a lot of agreement as to what makes a good cup of coffee. Or how best to make one. However to everyone'' benefit there are a quite a number of different ways that this special beverage can be brewed. Each method usually having its own type of coffee maker to suit the drinkers' preferences.

There Are A Range Of Coffee Makers
Some of the more frequently used coffee makers are Automatic Drip, Coffee Makers - Come In Several Shapes And Sizes Articles French Press, Automatic Espresso, Stove top Espresso, Vacuum Style and Percolator. Now there are pros and cons for each of these and it is planned that we make a selection for the best. Rather that we outline the characteristics of each and let you decide for yourself. Different methods have different levels of control so the end result will vary. But by and large each of the means nominated will, under normal circumstances, produce a reasonable cup of coffee. Of course one of the real secrets, apart form the method, is the coffee used. If the coffee is mediocre or has not been well kept then you must of necessity expect a mediocre cup of that magic brew.

So without further ado we will look at the characteristics of the nominated coffee makers.

Drip Coffee Maker - Automatic
It would seem that these are probably the most popular choice in the market. Many Americans choose to use this device on a daily basis. They nearly all work on the same principle of passing hot water through ground coffee that is held in place with a filter paper - often in a cone shaped holder. There is a water reservoir which needs to be topped up before starting. The unit heats the water before forcing it out so that it runs or drip onto the ground coffee in the filter paper.
This hot water then filters through both the coffee and paper with the resultant brewed coffee 'dripping' into a collection container under the filter. The container is normally a 'Pyrex'  glass unit with a handle and spout to facilitate pouring. It sits on a small heated plate which then keeps the coffee hot as long as the unit is switched on.

Coffee drinkers that do not like the drip type unit say that they just do not make a good cup of coffee. But for normal daily use they certainly have their place. If the coffee maker and container are kept clean and good quality coffee is used then there is little cause for complaint. However if the brewed coffee is left to stand for any length of time then it can get 'stewed' - and that will spoil any cup of coffee.

And there are two other factors that make this unit attractive - price and automatic function. Normally they are relatively cheap so most folk can afford them. And once they are set up they function unattended until the coffee is brewed which is a time saver - especially in the morning which is often a busy time in many households.

French Press or Bodum
The French Press coffee maker comes with a variety of names such as  plunger pots, a press pot or Bodum (which is really a make). They are almost invariably consist of a glass 'jug' like container with a handle and small spout or lip that has a constant cross section - like a tube. And there is a close fitting plunger head on a rod that fits inside the tube and has a very fine mesh attached to the bottom end.

Operation is very simple. The chosen quantity of ground coffee is placed into the container without the plunger fitted. Almost boiling water is then poured over the coffee until the container is nearly full. Generally some of the coffee floats to the surface while some remains suspended in the hot water. After the desired brewing time has passed the plunger is slowly and carefully pushed to the bottom of the container. It needs to be slow and careful because of the resistance created by the coffee grounds building up against the filter mesh. Once fully pushed to the bottom of the container the coffee grounds are trapped under the filter and the brewed coffee can be poured.

It is a quick, easy and simple means of brewing several cups of coffee for immediate consumption. Cleaning up the coffee grounds is sometimes a bit of a fiddle. And of course there is no means of keeping the brewed coffee hot.

Espresso Coffee Maker - Automatic
These units come is several versions. Depending on whether they are semi-automatic or fully automatic really determines what they are capable of. Most semi-automatic units tamp the ground coffee before brewing , filling the cup and ejecting the coffee grounds. In addition to this fully automatic models normally grind the coffee as well as doing all the previous tasks. And top of the line units in this group have a wide variety of features including built in water filters.
Essentially once you have primed the unit it pretty much does it all itself.

Coffee Percolators do just that -they percolate boiling water over ground coffee held in a filter cage in the top of the unit which has a close fitting lid. The cage is normally supported on a small hollow central tube which sits in the water in the bottom of the percolator when it is primed. This water is then heated either electrically or on a stove top until it boils, forcing the water up the tube so that it spurts out the top and percolates over the ground coffee and back into the body of the unit.  Some percolators are single cup models while others can make 10 or more cups. Large coffee urns used at functions often work on the percolation principle.

Percolators are not so common these days as there are what are considered better alternatives. And for the coffee purist they violate two fundamental principles - they boil the water and pass it over the ground coffee multiple times.

Percolated coffee tends to be stronger and often more bitter tasting than coffee made by other methods.

Espresso Coffee Maker - Stove Top
These are essentially very simple but effective units. They can be used anywhere there is a good heat source - like a gas cook top or even a hot camp fire. They generally consist of three parts. A bottom water boiler, a ground coffee container with filter holes and the top container pot. The boiler and top container screw together with the coffee container sealed in the middle. Water is put into the bottom boiler, the coffee container sits on top and the top container is screwed down tight. The unit is now a pressure tight whole and is place on the heat. Water in the bottom boiler gets close to boiling point and the internal pressure forces the hot water through the ground coffee up a tube into the top container. A single pass of hot water making it better than a percolator. Once most of the water in the bottom boiler has been displaced the unit is removed from the heat. Clever design normally ensures that the top container never receives more hot coffee than it can hold.

Vacuum Coffee Maker
There are not many of these units about today.And they look more like chemistry equipment than a coffee machines. There are two overlapped glass containers connected by a siphon tube with a filter in the bottom of the upper container.

Water is placed in the lower container and the ground coffee in the upper container. The whole arrangement is then put on the stove top. When the heated water boils the steam pressure forces through the siphon tube into the upper container. The brewing cycle lasts approximately three minutes after which the unit is removed from heat.

Then as the water vapor in the lower unit condenses to from a partial vacuum water in the top chamber and is forced through the filter and back into the lower container. The first automatic vacuum coffee maker was a Farberware model. Sunbeam made the first truly modern automatic one. But these days they are essentially in the antique class. Some auction sites such as eBay may still carry the traditional Silex and Sunbeam machines.

While there is a wide range of coffee makers to choose from there is one vital point that must never be over looked - your brew is only as good as the coffee bean grind that you use.
Choose poor coffee beans and you will get poor coffee.
Choose great beans and the results can be magic
Poor brewing will still ruin the best of beans