These drip maker tips are offered to assist in getting the perfect cup of coffee from your automatic drip maker and for evaluation for the next purchase. Even with the single serve brewers in the market, the automatic drip coffee maker is currently still the most popular brewing method.
The best tasting coffee starts with fresh roasted coffee beans ground immediately prior to brewing so that the aromatic compounds do not dissipate.
The purpose of any brewing method is to get the best tasting coffee possible from the grounds. Water acts as a solvent as it moves through the coffee grounds picking up the aromatic compounds that yield the fragrance and flavor of the ground beans. Infusion is the process that causes the proper extraction of the compounds.
In order to accomplish the proper extraction, there are three variables that need to be controlled:
If these are not properly controlled, the result will be either a strong, possibly bitter taste or a weak, watery taste. With pourover, Chemex, aeropress and french coffee press brewers, you are in control, but in automatic drip coffee makers the parameters are controlled in the design of the unit.
The correct water temperature is 195-205oF (91-96oC). Water is a better solvent in that range for extracting the flavor components. Very few home drip coffee makers reach it because the water is heated as it is being pushed through the tube and the temperature usually has trouble getting to 185oF.
The flow rate needs to match the brewing method. In a 10-12 cup drip coffee maker, the water should finish flowing through the grounds in 3-5 minutes. If it takes much longer, you may notice a stronger taste and possibly a little bitterness.
Turbulence is created by dispersing water over the grounds so that all the coffee is saturated. Many drip makers drop the water in the center and it channels through a small portion of the grounds resulting in over extraction of some grounds while those on the outer circumference are under-extracted. In this case, a weak, watery taste is the result.
If the brewer initially brewed a pot in 3-5 minutes, but doesn't any longer, the restriction comes from heat causing the hardness in the water (mainly calcium and magnesium minerals) to become insoluble; therefore, it adheres to the heating element and the tube. The minerals act as an insulator on the heating element and a restriction in the drip or spray tube. It is time to clean the coffee maker.
If the unit utilizes flat bottom filters, it should also utilize a spray head to ensure there is equal water/coffee contact throughout the whole bed. The spray heads will plug over time just like the drip tube.
Turbulence, as stated above, is also needed. It fluffs the bed, giving the water a chance to contact all of the grounds and, therefore extract the aromatic compounds needed for a great taste. The best drip makers are not actually drip makers because the water is sprayed over the grounds to cause turbulence. The pictures below are perfect examples of each end of the spectrum.
Dry grounds can be seen and a hole in the center shows the water path. The result is a very weak cup of coffee because there is not enough room in the filter holder to build the bed of grounds high enough to get the extraction required. If you buy a "true" drip coffee maker, it is best to buy one with a cone filter design since the cone tapers and more grounds are contacted by water, but realize it is still not the most efficient method.
It is a little hard to see, but there is a 2" diameter ring of coffee in the middle that is lower than the outer ring of the bed. This is due to the turbulence caused by the water spray over the grounds. It fluffs the bed aiding infusion. All of the grounds are wet and the coffee tastes great.
I drank coffee from both of these examples and the taste was as different as night and day!
Automatic drip coffee makers can be found in a wide price range from $25->$300 depending on the options. Many of the options incorporated on the costlier models are for convenience: they have no effect on the coffee's taste. Decide whether you want to pay for convenience adders or spend the extra money on a unit that meets the three criteria (water temperature, flow rate and turbulence) that yields a better tasting coffee.
The basic models have no options. The higher priced units come with timers, warming plates, built-in blade grinders and automatic cleaning cycles as well as other bells and whistles.
The auto drip coffee makers that enhance taste will come with few, if any, of these options, but will be in the same price range of the higher end "convenience" models because the design for properly controlling extraction costs more. The difference will be experienced in the cup.
There are some good "drip" makers in the market so do your homework if best tasting coffee is your goal. Two of the three coffee makers below are certified to meet the 3 criteria. They are in the elite class of making quality coffee.
Technivorm Moccamaster- This unit is certified by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) and the SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) for proper brewing techniques.
Bonavita- This unit is also certified by the SCAA for its brewing techniques:
BUNN- BUNN actually has 2 water tanks in their units, one that has pre-heated water for the purpose of getting it to ~200<sup>o</sup>F. It also will complete a 10 cup brew within 3-5 minutes.
Of course, don't forget the variables outside the control of the coffee maker:
We hope these drip maker tips have been helpful.
Enjoy a great cup of coffee!
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