According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), roughly 50 percent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. A large majority of the coffee that is consumed is brewed using the drip method.
Consumers buy more of these dependable, simple-to-operate machines than any other small kitchen appliances –at a rate of 17 million per year. However, many consumers are not using these coffee makers to their full potential. To produce a full-bodied cup of coffee, pay attention to the ingredients you put into the machine and how they are combined. You also need to be careful about how the coffee is kept after it is brewed.
Setting Up Your Machine
Water is the first ingredient that you should place into your new coffee maker. Running water through the system first will flush out any dust particles that may have dropped into the machine during shipping.
There is no other machine preparation needed before brewing that first cup of coffee, unless you have a drip coffee maker that uses a pour over system for brewing. (See Bunn coffee makers.) Pour over systems function like a water heater and hold a full tank of hot water at all times. So initially, the tank needs to be filled with a full pot of water and left to heat up. This process usually takes around 15 minutes, but once it is complete, you can brew a full pot of coffee in three minutes.
Also, there is no need to worry about keeping the pour over system coffee makers on all the time. These machines are designed to do this, and you must keep them turned on in order to maintain their proper brewing temperature.
Ways To Enhance Your Coffee Making Experience
If you are going to brew smaller pots of coffee, you might consider purchasing a coffee maker that allows you to control the speed at which the water is applied to the coffee. There are also a few machines that allow you to adjust the strength of your coffee by altering the amount of water that flows over the grounds.
Using the right type of filter is another key to making a great cup of coffee, so consult your user’s manual to determine what kind to purchase. You can choose to use either paper or permanent filters. Paper filters allow you to use a finer grind of coffee, while permanent filters, which are more porous, will allow more of the oils to escape, producing a more well-rounded cup of coffee. Permanent filters are also economical in that they can be used over and over again. However, make sure they are cleaned after every use.
If you are someone who is on the go most of the time, you may want to consider purchasing a coffee maker with a programmable brewing option. With some machines, you can set a brew time up to 24 hours in advance. There are also machines that have LCD and LED displays installed to make programming the machine a bit easier.
Another feature available on many machines allows you to pause the brewing so you can remove the carafe for a few seconds and pour a cup of coffee before the brewing is totally completed.
Coffee will taste its best within the first hour after brewing. However, for those who don’t have the time to make fresh coffee every hour or so, thermal carafes and hotplates are available. The best way to use a thermal carafe is to brew the coffee directly into one. If this option is not practical, you may want to pour the coffee into a thermal carafe immediately after it is brewed. Running hot water though the carafe just prior to using it will also help the coffee retain its heat and flavor for a longer period of time.
As far as machines with hotplates, many of these devices take awhile to kick in and they either do not shut off automatically or the heat source runs for up to 4 hours. To better control the heat generated by these hotplates, consider purchasing one of the machines that has a programmable shut-off option.
The way the water is distributed over the coffee grounds also influences the quality of the final product. Drip coffee machines have either a single hole or a showerhead design to dispense hot water onto the coffee grounds. The single hole design results in a very concentrated area of extracted grounds in the center of the filter, while the coffee brewed using a showerhead design will distribute the water more evenly over the grounds. This kind of design provides an even extraction and results in a more flavorful, balanced cup of coffee.
Nearly Care-free Cleaning and Maintenance
With very little time and effort, you can keep your drip coffee maker in top working order. Paper filters and their contents need to be removed and disposed of, while permanent filters must be emptied and rinsed out. The filter holder should also be removed and rinsed regularly, and the carafe should be cleaned after every use with warm, soapy water. It is also a good idea to wipe the hotplate with a sponge once it is turned off to remove any coffee residue.
Once every three months, it is a good idea to decalcify your machine. For this process, mix a decalcifying agent with a full pot of water and run it through the machine. Then you will need to run one or two more pots of clean water through the machine to make sure that the cleaner has been fully removed. (Check your user’s manual to see if a decalcifying agent or a mixture of white vinegar and water is recommended for use in your coffee maker. Either way we’ve found a commercial decalcifier is the best product for all machines.)
Find A Coffee Maker That’s Right For You
Drip machines are simple to use, but before you press the button to start the brewing process, consider some of the factors that will enable you to make the best cup of coffee possible.
Determine how many cups you normally brew at a time and what type of coffee you prefer to use. If you brew small batches, you may want to consider some of the flavor-enhancing features mentioned above. Also, if you decide to always use pre-ground coffee, you will not need to purchase a machine with a grinder.
Also consider the various features that will make your coffee maker a versatile and practical addition to your kitchen. For example, if it is important to have your coffee ready as soon as you stumble into the kitchen, consider buying a unit that allows you to program your machine to start brewing as soon as your alarm clock rings.
By taking some time to choose the right machine for you, and then using the right ingredients in your drip coffee maker, you will produce a fresh-tasting, flavorful cup of java every time you press the button.