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20 Coffee Brewing Methods & Their Differences (With Pictures)

coffee brewing methods infographic

If you’re a coffee lover, you probably already have a favorite brewing method or two. Even so, maybe you’d like to shake things up and try a new variety. We’ve gathered all of the best coffee brewing methods here with pictures, descriptions, directions, and pros and cons, so you can easily find your new favorite method.

There are a lot of brewing methods out there. To make things simpler, we’ve organized them by how they work: boiling, steeping, dripping, and pressure. We’ve also added a few lesser-known methods at the end.

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Boiling Methods

Boiling coffee is a simple, old-fashioned method that will produce a good, strong brew. It may not be the most impressive method, but it is easy to learn.

1. Cowboy coffee

cowboy coffee on the campfire
Image: Jarno Holappa, Shutterstock

Cowboy coffee is a very simple, low-cost method of coffee making. You can do this using any pot and almost any heat source, including a campfire.

To brew cowboy coffee, add very coarse grounds to a pot of boiling water. Boil for a couple of minutes, and then take the pot off the heat and let it sit for a few seconds. This will let the grounds fall to the bottom. Then you can pour it into your cup and enjoy!

Grind size: Very coarse

Pros
  • Easy to brew
  • Low cost
  • Very portable
Cons
  • May end up with grounds in your cup
  • Not the best flavor

2. Turkish coffee

briki cezve turkish coffee pot

Turkish coffee is a Middle Eastern brewing method that uses very fine grounds. This method produces a drink that’s strong, flavorful, and very frothy.

To make it, combine powdered coffee grounds with sugar in a special long-handled pot called a “cezve.” Boil this mixture to the point of frothing, then remove it from the heat. Repeat this process several times until the mixture is very frothy.

Grind size: Very fine

Pros
  • Strong and dark with an interesting texture
Cons
  • Flavor may be too intense
  • Requires special equipment
  • Not very portable

Steeping Methods

Steeping your beans will allow you to extract plenty of flavor and caffeine. If you’re looking for strong, dark flavor, you may want to try one of these full-immersion methods, which put your beans in direct contact with water for at least a few minutes.

3. French press

French press

French press coffee is easy to make and fairly fast. It produces rich, somewhat textured coffee and can be a good way to produce several cups at once.

To make French press coffee, add medium-coarse coffee to the press. Pour in boiling water and it steep for three to four minutes. Then press down the filter and serve.

Grind size: Medium-coarse

Pros
Cons
  • Generally highly textured with sediment
  • Can be bitter if left to steep for too long
  • Not very portable

4. Cold brew coffee

Cold brew
Cold brew | Image: New Africa, Shutterstock

Because it’s never heated, cold brew coffee is low in acidity and slightly sweet. It’s very easy to make but does require more time.

To make cold brew coffee, combine coarsely ground coffee beans with room-temperature water. Let the mixture brew for several hours or overnight, depending on how strong you like your coffee. Strain the grounds out and serve as-is or over ice.

Grind size: Coarse

Pros
  • Strong in flavor
  • Low acidity and slightly sweet
  • Easy to brew
  • Doesn’t require special equipment
Cons
  • Takes a long time to brew

5. Coffee bags

Coffee Drip Bag
Image Credit By: kimminhyeok1, pixabay

If you’re looking to make your coffee brewing experience as easy as brewing tea, you may be interested in the coffee bag method. This method uses coffee grounds inside of soft pouches similar to tea bags.

Pour boiling water over the coffee bag and let it steep for three or four minutes. Remove the bag and enjoy!

Grind size: Medium-fine

Pros
  • Very easy to brew
  • Low cost
Cons
  • Less flavorful
  • Doesn’t produce the highest-quality coffee
  • Not customizable

6. Siphon brewers

siphon brewer with coffee

Siphon brewers are some of the most complicated, impressive brewers available. They can be difficult to use, but when done correctly, can produce clear, smooth, and flavorful coffee.

Siphon brewers use a heat-induced vacuum to pull water up into the coffee grounds. Once steeped, the brewed coffee is pulled back into the siphon’s lower chamber.

Grind size: Medium-coarse

Pros
  • Very impressive
  • Produces clear, smooth, flavorful coffee
Cons
  • Difficult to brew
  • Requires expensive, unique equipment
  • Difficult to clean

7. Instant coffee/espresso

Instant Coffee

Probably the easiest brewing method on this list, instant coffee is straightforward and low-cost. However, it doesn’t produce the most flavorful or complex coffee.

Instant coffee or espresso is made by dissolving dehydrated coffee granules in hot water. As the name suggests, this process is instant and uncomplicated.

Grind size: Instant coffee granules

Pros
  • Very fast and easy
  • Low cost
  • Doesn’t require special equipment
Cons
  • Not very flavorful or complex

Dripping Methods

The drip brewing method is very common. You’ll see it everywhere from diners to offices because it’s simple and straightforward.

8. Electric/stovetop percolators

Moka pot coffee pouring

Percolators have been a popular brewing method for many years. Electric models plug into the wall and don’t require you to use a stove. Stovetop models are great for camping or home use because they can be used on stoves and open fires alike.

Percolators work by moving boiling water through coarse coffee grounds in cycles. Brewing takes about 10 minutes, though you can do it for less if you prefer your coffee less strong.

Grind size: Coarse

Pros
  • Easy to brew
  • Fairly portable
Cons
  • May produce overly bitter or strong coffee


9. Auto-drip machines

Mr. Coffee 12-cup drip machine

Simple to use and great if you’re brewing for a crowd, auto-drip machines are a popular and low-cost option.

To brew using a drip machine, you typically add medium coffee grounds and water. The machine does the rest of the brewing work, heating the water and dripping it through the grounds into a pot or carafe.

Grind size: Medium

Pros
  • Easy to use and generally automated
  • Brews several cups at once
  • Typically will stay warm for an hour or two
Cons
  • Hard to brew small amounts
  • Not the most exciting flavor

10. Pour-overs

Pour over coffee

Basic pour-overs come in a range of sizes and designs but generally brew directly into your mug through a paper filter. The most popular brand is the Melitta.

To brew pour-over coffee, set up the pour-over on top of a mug and add a paper filter. The medium grounds go inside the filter, and then you pour boiling water on top.

Grind size: Medium

Pros
  • Produces clear coffee without sediment or natural oils
  • Easy to make just one cup
  • Low cost
  • Fast brew time
Cons
  • Generally have to buy paper filters
  • Can’t make multiple cups at a time
  • Paper filters may alter the flavor

11. Specialty pour-overs

Hario V60 specialty pour over coffee maker
The Hario V60 coffee maker | Image: Olgierd Rudak, Flickr, CC 2.0

Many companies produce their own designs of the pour-over. The best-known brands include Hario V60, Kalita Wave, and Bee House, all of which produce slightly different coffee.

These brands vary in exact design but work generally as all pour-overs do. Place the pour-over on top of a mug, add an appropriate paper filter, and fill it with medium-grind coffee beans. Add water on top and allow it to drip through into the mug.

Grind size: Medium

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Produces clear, strong coffee without sediment or oils
  • Quickly makes one cup
Cons
  • Have to buy paper filters
  • Only makes one cup at a time
  • Paper filters may alter the taste

12. Chemex

coffee scale with Chemex brewing

If you like the flavor and texture of pour-over coffee but want to produce more than one cup at a time, the Chemex could be a good option. This pour-over brews right into an attractive carafe.

To make Chemex coffee, add one of Chemex’s thick filters to the top of the brewer. Fill it with medium-coarse coffee beans and add hot water.

Grind size: Medium-coarse

Pros
  • Attractive design
  • Brews multiple cups at a time
  • Removes sediments and oils for a clear cup
  • Fast brewing time
Cons
  • Requires special equipment
  • Dedicated paper filters are more expensive
  • Glass brewer is less portable

13. Clever Dripper

Clever Dripper specialty coffee pour over
Image: Joseph Robertson, Flickr, CC 2.0

Though it looks like a typical pour-over, the Clever Dripper combines elements of pour-overs and steeping methods. It has a valve at the bottom to allow you to steep your water with coffee grounds and then release the brewed coffee into your cup.

The set-up is similar to that of a regular pour-over. Put the Clever Dripper on the counter, add a paper filter, and fill it with coffee grounds. After three or four minutes, move it onto a mug, which will open the valve and let your brewed coffee drip out.

Grind size: Medium-fine

Pros
  • Combines steeping and dripping methods
  • Gives you more control over your brew
  • Pretty simple to operate
  • Portable and low cost
Cons
  • Requires special equipment

Pressure Methods

Pressure-based methods typically require a little more machinery to work well. Most use pressure to move water quickly through grounds.

14. Espresso machines

commercial espresso machines

Espresso machines can be expensive and complicated to operate, but they’re indispensable if you’re looking for a great shot of espresso. You’ll also need to clean and descale them frequently to keep everything working properly.

Espresso machines work by pushing highly pressurized hot water through grounds that have been tightly packed into a portafilter. You can find espresso machines with varying levels of automation, but you’ll generally need to know or learn something about the process in order to pull a great shot.

Grind size: Fine

Pros
  • Produce excellent, strong espresso
  • Have varying levels of automation
  • Allow control over the brewing process
Cons
  • Requires very specialized equipment
  • More expensive
  • More difficult to operate
  • Require frequent cleaning and descaling

15. Moka pot

stovetop Moka pot

Moka pots produce coffee that is similar to espresso. Concentrated and rich, with a light texture, Moka pot coffee is delicious and fairly quick to brew.

To brew using a Moka pot, add fine grounds and water to the brewer and place it on the stovetop. The water will heat up and turn into steam, passing through the grounds and condensing into brewed coffee on the top.

Grind size: Fine

Pros
  • Fairly easy to operate
  • Lower cost
  • Fast brewing
  • Produces flavorful coffee
Cons
  • Requires specialized equipment

16. AeroPress

Pour ground coffee into AeroPress

The AeroPress is a streamlined handheld coffee maker that produces excellent espresso-type coffee quickly. It’s simple to use (just push!) and highly customizable, so you can experiment to find your favorite method.

There are quite a few ways you can brew an AeroPress, but the general process involves adding coffee beans, a paper filter, and hot water. Let it steep for your desired number of minutes and then push the plunger to filter the coffee.

RELATED: Read our full review of the AeroPress.

Grind size: Up to you!

Pros
  • Very lightweight and portable
  • Produces smooth, rich coffee
  • Easy to use with a fast brew time
  • Very customizable
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Requires specialized equipment
  • Have to buy special paper filters

17. Single-serve pod machines

Rude Awakening in Keurig machine

Single-serve pod machines are easy to use and very convenient. They don’t require you to buy or grind coffee beans, but they also won’t allow you very much control over your coffee, and you’ll need to clean and descale frequently.

To brew, just insert a pre-packed coffee capsule, add water, and hit the start button. These highly-automated machines will do the rest for you in just a minute or two.

Grind size: Pre-packed pods

Pros
  • Very easy to use
  • Fast brewing time
Cons
  • Pods can be expensive
  • Must be cleaned and descaled regularly
  • Not very customizable

Lesser-Known Methods

You may be less familiar with these methods, which aren’t as common and use equipment that’s a little more difficult to find. If you’re looking to explore new coffee brewing territory, one of these methods could be your new favorite!

18. Vietnamese Phin

Vietnamese phin coffee maker
Image: HungryHuy, Wikimedia, CC 2.0 (cropped)

Small and inexpensive, these metal brewers are used in Vietnam to make cà phê sua dá (also called cafe sua da), dark coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. They brew one cup of dark, smooth coffee at a time.

Similarly to a pour-over, the phin brews directly into your cup. Add coarsely ground coffee to the phin, cover it with the perforated metal lid, and pour hot water on top. The brewed coffee will drip out over the course of about 10 minutes.

Grind size: Coarse, to avoid sediment in the bottom of your cup.

Pros
  • Easy to brew
  • Low cost
  • Produces dark, smooth coffee
  • Fairly portable
  • Reusable filters
Cons
  • Requires special equipment
  • May leave sediment in your cup
  • Brews only one cup at a time

19. Nitrous coffee

Nitro coffee cold brew
Image: Marco Verch, Flickr, CC 2.0

Nitrous coffee, more commonly called “nitro,” is cold brew coffee with added nitrogen. This affects the flavor and texture of the coffee, making it a little sweeter and crisper, and giving it light carbonation.

Making nitro at home is a more difficult process, so you may prefer to buy it at a coffee shop or grocery store. Some coffee shops offer nitro on tap, similar to a beer. Nitro is a fairly recent invention, so while there are a few machines available online, they’re very expensive and may be difficult to operate.

Grind size: Coarse

Pros
  • Flavorful with an interesting fizzy texture
  • Easy to find in coffee shops and grocery stores
Cons
  • Difficult to make at home
  • Can be expensive

20. Puerto Rican café con leche

Café con leche

Puerto Rican café con leche is made with espresso-ground coffee using a boiling method. This produces a sweet, creamy coffee with plenty of caffeine.

To make this delicious beverage, simmer finely ground coffee beans in water. Once your coffee has steeped, pour it through a “colador,” which is a triangle-shaped wooden holder draped with a cloth filter. To finish it off, add heated milk in a one to one ratio with the coffee.

Grind size: Fine

Pros
  • Produces sweet, creamy, and smooth coffee
  • Uses a unique but simple process
  • Fairly portable
  • Low cost
Cons
  • Requires special equipment

Frequently Asked Questions:

What’s the best way to make coffee?

The best way to make coffee depends on what kind of coffee you prefer. You might like the strong, easy-to-brew French press; the simple, clear flavor of a pour-over coffee; or the rich, full taste of espresso.

What’s the easiest coffee brewing method?

The most common and easiest coffee brewing methods are pour-overs, pod machines, and auto-drip machines. If you’d like cold coffee, you may want to make cold brew.

How do I make coffee while camping?

The easiest way to make coffee outside is brewing cowboy coffee or packing a lightweight pour-over. You can also try a stovetop percolator.

How do you make coffee cheaply?

Auto-drip machines can be very low cost and easy to use. You may also want a simple, cheap pour-over.

What’s the most impressive way to brew coffee?

You can impress your guests with a perfectly pulled shot of espresso or a complicated, beautiful siphon vacuum.

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Conclusion

There are quite a few coffee brewing methods. Which one is best for you will depend on how you like your coffee and how much time and money you’d like to invest. If you’re looking for a simple, low-cost method, give the pour-over, French press, or percolator a try. If you’d like something more automated, there are auto-drip machines, single-serve pod machines, and espresso machines. Whatever your favorite method is, we hope this guide has helped you understand your options.

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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