Choosing a Coffee Maker

Techniques for brewing coffee range from the practical to the artful. When purchasing a coffee maker for your home, you'll want to select a machine that matches your own coffee brewing style.

Is drinking coffee a languid morning ritual or something you do on-the-go? Do you prefer an uncomplicated cup of black coffee or an espresso with a light crema layer? To help you decide on the ideal brewer for your lifestyle, here is a rundown of popular coffee machines, from single cup Keurig coffee makers to the more elaborate espresso makers:

Drip Coffee Maker

You can't get more traditional in your approach to coffee brewing than by using a drip coffee maker. Introduced for home use in the 1970s, these machines work by letting water pass through coffee grounds held in a paper filter or plastic filter. The clear, light-bodied coffee then collects in a brew pot.

Drip coffee machines range in size, but typically brew eight to twelve cups at a time. Many models have a heating element which keeps the pot warm. Coffee left sitting in the heated pot for too long may develop a burnt or bitter taste.

Benefits: Ease of use. Brew multiple cups in a single pot.

Drawbacks: Moderate brewing time. Need to clean up used grounds and coffee pot.

Single Cup Coffee Maker

Single cup coffee machines are among the newest trends in coffee brewing. These machines use individual portion packs of coffee to brew one cup at a time. Simply fill the water reservoir, pop a portion pack of your favorite coffee in the holding chamber, and press the brew button. In under a minute, you'll have a fresh cup of gourmet coffee.

While the most common type of portion pack is the coffee pod - a paper filter containing coffee grounds - some brands of single cup coffee maker call for the use of their own proprietary portion packs. For instance, single cup brewing systems from Keurig use K Cups and those from Tassimo use T-Discs.

Prices for single cup coffee makers range from less than $50 to more than $300, depending on the size and model. Many models can brew tea and hot cocoa as well as coffee. Some high-end models are capable of producing coffee with a cr?ma layer. A single cup coffee maker is a great choice for someone who's always on the go.

Benefits: Quick brewing time. Minimal clean up.

Drawbacks: With the exception of some high-end models that take loose ground coffee, you must use portion packs.


Coffee percolators are a type of drip brew coffee maker. Highly popular in the early twentieth century, percolators have resurfaced as a nostalgia item in many homes.

What distinguishes percolators from standard drip brewers is the way water moves through the percolator chambers - boiling first in the lower chamber, bubbling up through a vertical tube, then percolating down through the coffee grounds before re-circulating. This process gives percolated coffee a unique taste. If heated for too long after the percolating process completes, the coffee may develop a bitter taste.

Benefits: Characteristic "perking" action. Non-electric and electric versions available.

Drawbacks: Slow brewing time. Diminishes natural flavor of coffee beans.

Espresso Machine

Espresso machines offer coffee with a more European flair. The machines operate by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. This process results in espresso's characteristic crema layer. Espresso typically has a thicker consistency than drip brewed coffee and contains more sediment from the coffee grounds.

The flavor of espresso is much more concentrated than drip brewed coffee, making it the perfect base for lattes, mochas, macchiato, and cappuccinos when mixed with varying amounts of frothed milk. While espresso is higher by volume in caffeine than drip brewed coffee, the customary small serving size means that most espresso drinks contain less caffeine than a mug of coffee. This is a true luxury item.

Benefits: Trendy. Quick brewing time. Produces a variety of espresso drinks.

Drawbacks: More complicated to operate. Espresso flavor degrades quickly after brewing.

Remember, not all coffee makers are created equal. Once you've decided which type of coffee machine best suits your lifestyle, making a purchase becomes a matter of deciding your price range and desired features. It helps to read consumer reviews posted on the Internet before choosing a particular model. If you take your time and research all the options, you're sure to find a coffee maker that will perk up your mornings for years to come.

About R.L. Fielding

R.L. Fielding has been a freelance writer for 10 years, offering her expertise and skills to a variety of major organizations in the education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing industries. She lives in New Jersey with her dog and two cats and enjoys rock climbing and ornamental gardening.

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