Italians may have invented coffee and the French may have perfected it, but the Americans have streamlined the brewing process with the automatic drip machine.
The ingenious process of heating the water, pouring it over the coffee grounds and filtering it to create a delicious cup of coffee can be attributed to the US.
With an easy brewing process, it’s no wonder that the US leads the world in coffee importation and consumption. The US also leads the world in drip coffee maker sales.
How Drip Coffee Makers Work
There are three basic principals at work with all brewing methods – heat, time and grind.
With a drip coffee maker, the heat and grind do most of the work, saving on time.
All home drip coffee makers have a water reservoir somewhere, usually opening on the top of the maker. Using the ceramic or glass coffee pot as a measuring cup (see header image above), you fill the pot with water equal to the amount of coffee you would like. Pour the cold (and filtered, if you are a purist) water from the pot into the reservoir.
Next, you look for the filter basket and place a filter in it. There are two basic filter shapes, a cone and a bowl. Within each shape there are sizes and material variances as well.
Once the basket and filter are loaded, add fresh coffee grounds.
In a perfect world, you will use beans roasted within the last 48 hours and grind them just before placing into the filter. If you don’t live in a perfect world, buy just enough fresh roasted beans to last you until your next trip to the store and grind enough for one pot just before you begin brewing.
You can usually buy a blade grinder for $20 or so from discount and department stores. The least preferred grounds are those that are sold in gallon tubs, but even these will make a cup of coffee far superior to instant granules.
Place the filter and basket into the coffee maker and replace the carafe or pot under the drip hole.
Finally, press the ON or BREW button. This begins the internal machinery to begin heating the water by running it over hot, electric coils. The nearly boiling water is then sucked up through tubes and over the grounds held in place by the filter and basket.
Gravity pulls the water through the grounds and down into the coffee pot. Many coffee makers include a heating element under the carafe to keep the coffee warm. Be careful, though, this element can cause the coffee to get too hot and burn – a very unsavory cup indeed.
Drip Coffee Maker Options
Walk down the coffee maker aisle of any discount or department store in the United States of America and you’ll find a ton of different options to choose from with price tags to match. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best and the cheapest isn’t necessarily the worse one for you. It all depends on how often and how much you will use your coffee maker.
You can usually find a dumbed-down coffee maker that does nothing more than brew java for about USD$20. Add a clock and heating plate, you can find a few for less than USD$30. Throw a timer, heating plate shut-off or an insulated carafe and you’ll find the price tags reach USD$50 or more.
There are some coffee makers that do far more than prepare a cup of coffee for you first thing in the morning. Some have integrated espresso makers, bean grinders and milk heating reservoirs for those of you that like that sort of thing.
Before shelling out a bunch of money on a drip coffee maker, look for product reviews online to find out the ups and downs other users have reported.
You can do this by using a search engine to look for “MANUFACTURER MODEL user reviews”, replacing the words in capitals with the appropriate maker and model.
But, even better, because we are a travel site, you may be better off getting a portable coffee maker and leaving the drip-style coffee for when you are staying in decent hotels–most rooms have them available for free.