I love coffee, which doesn’t make me unique, but does make me warm and happy in the mornings as I enjoy a hot cup of home-roasted goodness. My days in college as a Starbucks barista gave me a head start on coffee snobbery, and now that I’m several years older and a few hundred cups of coffee wiser, here are my thoughts for you on the various ways to brew it.
First off, I wouldn’t say there’s one best way to brew coffee. It’s more about what you’re in the mood for. I’ll be strict and say that good coffee with a good roast and a fresh grind will go a long way to making your coffee awesome, but most methods will get the job done if you do it right.
Drip machine: classic. These are the ones you can get at any thrift store, or see tucked away in the corner of a teacher’s lounge or a car mechanic’s desk. They usually have half an inch of black sludge on the bottom, waiting to punch someone awake, but I honestly am still a big fan of these. The paper filter supposedly strains some of the flavorful oils from the beans, and the bottom heating element tends to cook the flavor flat after awhile, but in the end they’re fast, convenient, and still make great coffee if you put great coffee into them.
My rating: B+
K-cup/single serving machines: These are very appealing if you are trying to run a dentist’s waiting room, but I’ve become pretty disenchanted with them overall. At the moment they’re pretty wasteful since the cups aren’t recyclable. Beyond that, I think what they gain in consistency and convenience, they seem to lose in flavor and personality. It’s not awful coffee, but you can do a lot better.
My rating: C+
French press: At the moment, this is my favorite way to make coffee. It’s quick, simple, hands-on, and generally delicious. Use a large-ish grind, mix in boiling water, strain and enjoy. They also have kind of an indie appeal, and are a good way to set yourself apart as a real coffee person if you’re trying to set yourself apart. Downsides are a tendency to still get some leftover silt in the bottom of your cup from the small grinds that slip through the screen, and it takes a little trial and error to find what works the best for your preferences. At the same time, that level of quality control is part of what makes french presses so appealing.
My rating: A
Moka/stovetop pots: I think these are kinda cool. They’re basically a poor man’s espresso, but they’re pretty bangin’ and they make a strong cup. You need to make sure you can get a really fine and consistent grind– they’re not as picky as espresso machines, but get as close as you can. The main downside, which isn’t much, is that they make a set amount of coffee, so you may have too much or too little depending on your craving or your company.
My rating: A-
Gas station: sometimes one of the more convenient ways to brew your coffee is to have a large gas station’s food mart do it for you, an hour before you get there and with plenty of confusing cup sizes. Although a true coffee snob looks down on the desperate cup o’ joe hastily paid for with loose change off the floor of your currently-refueling vehicle, it’s a good way to stay in touch with your working-class coffee roots. Perfect for early mornings or late nights, or if you have a lonely doughnut.
My rating: B