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Choosing the Best Brew Coffee Machine

Updated on January 7, 2012
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Keith Schroeder writes The Wealthy Accountant blog with 30 years experience in the tax field. He is the tax adviser of Mr. Money Mustache.

Price is only one consideration when picking the best coffee machine for your needs. Your goal is to prepare a good cup of coffee for the lowest cost. In this article I will outline tips in preparing coffee for best flavor, storage of coffee grounds, and the coffee machine best suited to your situation.

Before I start, let me point out the worst way to prepare coffee: the percolator. Percolators are great for brewing a large amount of coffee for social events, but the brewing process guarantees a bitter beverage. The reason a percolator does such a terrible job is because it pours boiling water on the coffee grounds, pulling out the bitterness and acid. Perked coffee is preferred by some. However, coffee got a reputation as an “adults” drink from percolators.

If you are interested in a smooth brew at home or the office, read on. I don’t care for bitter coffee and will not recommend preparing it in such a way.

Brewing Coffee

Before you can choose the best coffee machine for your needs you must first understand how the most flavorful coffee is brewed.

  • Contrary to some old-timers, a dirty coffee pot does not make better coffee. Residue coffee oils will stale a fresh brewed pot of coffee.
  • Start with fresh coffee. Opened packages should be stored in an airtight container.
  • Use one tablespoon per 6 ounce cup brewed.
  • Fresh, cold water will keep your coffee crisp. If you have bad-tasting tap water, consider filtered water. Many new refrigerators come with a filtered water dispenser.
  • Coffee should be brewed at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is boiling, a bitter edge and acidity will develop in the brew.
  • Coffee is best served within 30 minutes of brewing for the best flavor and aroma.
  • Reheated coffee will taste stale and is never recommended.
  • Coffee will turn stale and possibly bitter after only 20 minutes on a heater. You can make the office staff happier by putting fresh brewed coffee is an insulated carafe where the coffee will remain fresh much longer and will lose little temperature.

Manual Drip
Manual Drip
Electric Drip
Electric Drip
Plunge Pot
Plunge Pot
Vacuum Pot
Vacuum Pot
Cold Brew
Cold Brew

The Best Coffee Machine

The four best brewing methods for rich flavored coffee are: manual drip, electric drip, plunge pot, and vacuum pot. I will review each.

  • Manual drip: Campers will love this if they have uses a percolator in the past. A manual drip system has the coffee grounds in a basket over the pot. Water just off the boil is poured onto the grounds. Four to five minutes is an optimal brewing time. You can enjoy coffeehouse quality while out in the backwoods with a manual drip system.
  • Electric drip: Or sometimes called the automatic drip, is the most common coffee machine on the market. Read the manual before you buy. Some electric drip machines brew too cold and a few virtually pour boiling water on the grounds. To avoid the too hot or too cold machine, stay away from the cheapest of the cheap. An upfront investment will last longer than a cheapo model and brew excellent coffee day after day.
  • Plunge Pot: The plunge pot is also called the French Press or press pot. I know you did not care for the manual drip method. The plunge pot is a better deal and does not require a filter. You pour water just off the boil into the pot with the grounds. Stir. Wait 4-5 minutes, press the plunger down slow, until firm. Pour the best coffeehouse brew ever served on a camping trip.
  • Vacuum pot: In a vacuum pot system, water vapor presses the water up a tube to drip over the coffee grounds. It should be noted that the water is not boiling, like in a percolator.
  • Bonus: Cold brew: Most coffee-lovers never consider cold brewed coffee and that is a shame. Cold brew is ideal for folks that can not tolerate coffee’s acidity. In the cold brew process, coffee concentrate is made and can be stored in the refrigerator up to two weeks without deterioration in the quality. You add hot water to a shot of the concentrate for a perfect cup anytime. Cold brew is about 67% lower in acid than traditional hot brewed coffee. The best thing about a cold brew system is the cost. A cold brew machine can be had for under $50.

The Most Important Point

Temperature. Nothing will ruin coffee faster than brewing with water under 190 degrees or boiling. Look for a coffee machine that brews at 190 to 200 degrees. Coffeehouse quality is not attained by this one single point in 99% of home brew problems. It is all about temperature. Remember this and you will enjoy your coffee every day without spending a fortune at a coffee shop.

Vacuum Pot

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