6 Unexpected Ways to Brew Coffee at Home (Plus 5 Standbys)
Remember when drip coffee was the standard and all other brewing techniques seemed a bit high-brow? Don’t get us wrong—we like a nice, diner-style mug of drip coffee as much as the next guy. But now, with advanced brewing technology (and step-by-step instructions courtesy of the web), coffee brewing–no matter how you do it—never seemed so simple. Whether you’re looking for something rich and full-bodied or mild and simple, there’s a coffee brewing method that allows you to get your ideal cup.
Standard Drip Coffee
Buy pre-ground coffee or really earn your morning joe by grinding your own whole beans. Throw a scoop in the filter, and push the button. Step away to lace up your boots and throw on your favorite t-shirt and next thing you know, you’ve got coffee. Some drip coffee makers are the real deal—with brew strength technology to control the intensity of flavor and timed-start to ensure you have coffee as soon as your feet hit the floor in the a.m. Others simply get the job done. For those with a simpler taste looking for a classic cup, drip coffee doesn’t disappoint.
Time required: 5-10 minutes, depending on the machine.
Flavor: Compared to other brewing techniques, drip coffee is far less concentrated, meaning the flavors are simpler and milder.
What you’ll need: Machine, coffee filters, and medium-ground coffee.
If you’re looking to indulge for your morning brew, French press is the way to go. Rich and smooth, the product is a cup you could easily pair with a chocolate croissant (it’s called “French” for a reason). For the most comprehensive experience, you’ll want a grinder, a kettle and scale to go with your press. The perfect French-press cup requires careful measuring and excellent timing. We like to start with a weight ratio of 17:1, so 17g of water for every gram of beans. Grinding your own beans is the best way to go because you can get the coarse grind needed for the best taste and filtration. If that sounds like a lot of work, you can always eyeball it—or even better—check out the Gina, a smart coffee maker that brews three ways (french press, pour-over, and cold drip) and leaves nothing to chance.
Time required: 5-10 minutes.
Flavor: The flavor intensity depends on how coarse or fine your grounds are.
What you’ll need: French press, kettle, timer, scale, whole coffee beans (grind coarsely) and grinder.
Technically, pour-over is a type of drip coffee (as in you’re pouring water over coffee grounds), but really pour over is like if drip coffee had a top hat, cane, and monocle. Master the technicalities of pour-over—the grind of the beans, the timing and steady spiral of the pour—and you’ve got yourself a perfect cup. We like the California-made Snow Creek Pour Over from Uzumati Ceramics, hand-dipped and inspired by Yosemite’s snow-capped peaks.
Time required: 3 minutes.
Flavor: Bright, clean, highlights the nuances in different beans.
What you’ll need: Coffee dripper, filter, kettle, timer, scale, whole coffee beans (grind medium-finely), and grinder.
Difficulty: Intermediate to learn. Easy to master.
Photo: Cookie Named Desire
Like the French press method, cold brew uses an immersion technique. Coffee steeps in cold water for an extended period of time—like, a really long time—so it’s best to plan ahead for when you might want a chilly beverage. Make cold brew in bulk and store it in the fridge, saving yourself time and money not having to stop at a cafe on the way to work.
Time required: 24-48 hours.
Flavor: Light, often floral.
What you’ll need: Mesh sieve, jar, ice, whole coffee beans (grind extra coarse), and grinder.
Photo: Chevanon Photography
Fit for royalty, a proper in-home espresso machine will set you back a couple thousand bucks but is essential if you prefer the highest quality flavor, texture, and strength an espresso can get. You’ve seen your local barista weighing fresh grounds, applying pound-perfect pressure, and pulling the shot at just the right moment to get the best taste possible—these are all essential for getting the right flavor and not spoiling the shot. While not the most accessible of home brewing methods, an espresso machine will bring the coffee bar to you. Master this and the days of the $6 latte are well behind you.
Time required: 5 minutes.
Flavor: Rich, maybe even bitter to certain taste buds. High risk, high reward.
What you’ll need: Espresso machine, portafilter, tamper, scale, whole coffee beans (grind finely), and grinder.
Difficulty: Difficult. You don’t have to be a world-renowned barista, but it does take some practice.
Allora. It’s time to dip into the coffee archives for this one. A vintage method that will instill a heavy Italian vibe to your day, the stovetop Moka pot is an easy way to make a small cup that packs a mean punch. Moka pot brewing requires close attention and more time to prepare than more modern approaches, but this might just be the method you fire up for slow Sunday mornings. Keep it clean, always use fresh ground coffee beans, use filtered or distilled water, and you’ll have a classic brew that will have your nonna shouting and throwing her hands up with joy. With a hardy construction and no filter necessary, this is also an eco-friendly option that we love to toss in our packs to take camping or leave at the cabin for brisk mornings.
Time required: 5-8 minutes. Not too much longer, not too much shorter, otherwise you risk burning your coffee.
Flavor: Very rich and similar to espresso when brewed at the optimal interval.
What you’ll need: Percolator, whole coffee beans (grind finely), and grinder.
Often confused with cold brew, cold drip is quite different—in preparation, flavor, and strength. Whereas cold brew uses an immersion technique, cold drip uses a slow and timed, well, drip. While cold brew is sure to give you a big buzz, cold drip is even more concentrated and can be prepared in less time, so despite its complexity, you get more with less. Standard cold drip equipment can be pricey and fragile, but it is worth it if you love a cold glass of coffee on a warm summer morning. This is an especially great method if you’re an iced latte kind of person—the cold drip functions similar to espresso with heavy amounts of caffeine in a small package. Check out the Gina Smart Coffee Maker for this method as well—it is one of the few machines that has this capability and ease of use.
Time required: 1-12 hours, depending on your strength preference.
Flavor: Flavorful, more concentrated than cold brew.
What you’ll need: Cold drip machine, paper filter, ice, whole coffee beans (grind extra coarse), and grinder.
Difficulty: Easy. It’s all about patience with this one since you’ll need to continuously add ice to keep the water cold.
Photo: Nocobe Coffee Co.
This one is like the cool kid in school. At first glance, the contraption looks like a time capsule had a night with a Bullet blender. But its conspicuous appearance has done nothing to stop its cult-like following or the annual national and international competition surrounding it. Invented by a Stanford professor in 2005, the futuristic device uses air and pressure to filter the coffee. It makes a single cup of coffee, it’s easy to clean, it’s compact, and it’s plastic, so it won’t break easily.
Time required: 5 minutes.
Flavor: Depending whether you use a paper or metal filter, your coffee will range from a clean, light-bodied cup to bold, full-bodied flavors.
What you’ll need: Aeropress, filter, time, scale, 2hole coffee beans (grind finely), and grinder.
The name doesn’t lie: Instant coffee is quick and pretty effective. But believe it or not, the stuff might just be the most controversial coffee on this list. In terms of flavor and caffeine, it has its critics. But in terms of ease, instant coffee can’t be beat. What’s so unexpected about this method is that some of the best coffee roasters in the game are even getting involved and elevating the instant coffee experience. We like these instant packs from Verve.
Time required: How fast can you mix grounds with hot water?
Flavor: You get what you pay for—it’s not always the best, but it does the trick. Add a shot of whiskey—you won’t be able to tell the difference.
What you’ll need: As long as you’re able to heat up your water, you only need the instant coffee, your favorite mug and a spoon to mix it up.
Difficulty: The easiest. Mix a pack with hot water and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Photo: Major Myk’s
If you’re after a more sustainable way to get your daily dose of caffeine, look no further than the sock filter. That’s right, we’re recommending you brew your coffee in a sock—but not to worry, it’s not the sweaty ones you wore to the gym. This method, common in many countries including Cuba, Costa Rica, and Malaysia, relies on a reusable cotton sock designed specifically to filter coffee, but unlike your standard paper filter, these are reusable—just remember to let them dry between each use.
Time Required: 5-10 minutes.
Flavor: Rich and full-bodied. Bonus: A cotton sock filter typically doesn’t impart much of flavor in the final product like a paper filter might.
What You’ll Need: Sock filter (with handle), optional stand, kettle, whole coffee beans (grind coarsely), and grinder.
Photo: Boredom Therapy
Scandinavian Egg Coffee
Coffee and eggs have always been an iconic breakfast duo, but unless you’re Norwegian, you’d probably never think (or want) to blend them together. It might not sound appetizing, but the Scandanavians are onto something. By mixing an egg (shell and all) and cold water in your grounds before boiling until the foam disappears, you come away with a super smooth, clean-tasting brew.
Time Required: 5-10 minutes.
Flavor: Smooth, Crisp, Clean.
What You’ll Need: One raw egg, small mixing bowl, kettle, whole coffee beans (grind finely), and grinder.
Difficulty: Intermediate—because this method uses no filter, the trickiest part is settling the grounds.