Do you know how your coffee is made?
There are many different ways to make that delicious brew. Generally, any brewing method will fall into one of these five categories:
Immersion: When coffee and water are mixed together and allowed to "steep" before straining out the grounds. A French Press is one of the most common immersion brew methods. Or perhaps you've heard of "cowboy coffee" where coffee and water are boiled together in a kettle over a fire (sure this works, but you may end up chewing your coffee).
Pour-Over: Coffee that sits in a filter with water being "poured over" it. Chemex is a popular pour over brewer, although it does take some technique and patience.
Vacuum: Ever seen one of those toys that sucks the fluid up into the top and lets the fluid slowly go down into the bottom? This is similar. A vacuum brewer takes the water from the bottom up into the top and steeps the coffee. When it's done steeping, the coffee trickles down into the bottom.
Hybrid: These machines are a combination of different brew methods. Common hybrids are the Clever or the Trifecta. Hybrids can offer the best of both worlds.
Batch: These large brewers are seen in coffee shops or businesses that make large volumes of coffee all at once. Chances are if you've seen one of these large metal contraptions with a server underneath the brew head catching the coffee as it rains out of the brew basket. These are also used common for home use, made by manufacturers such as Sunbeam, Mr. Coffee, and Cuisinart (to name a few) and come in 4-12 cup models.
It is important to note however, while these methods all work, not all are equal. You may wonder why the Whole Bean French Roast you purchased from your favorite coffee shop just doesn't taste the same once you make it at home. The main reason is temperature. Due to legal reasons, batch coffee makers for your home (like those mentioned above) are set to allow the water heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. A commercial brewer, or a brewer that allows users to heat their own water can use water at the SCAA suggested brewing temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
The moral to this story? Traditional home coffee brewers are easy and convenient, but if you're looking for coffee shop quality brew, try out methods like the French Press or Chemex (and others like them). These will yield a cup much closer to that coffee shop taste we all love.
SCAA: Introduction to Coffee Brewing & Extraction CP 151-152
PRIMA Beginner's Guide to Immersion Coffee Brewing
BuddyBrew Coffee French Press Driections
Chemex Brewing Instructions
STUMPTOWN Coffee Roasters Vacuum Pot
PRIMA Clever Coffee Dripper
Bunn at Home Trifecta
Bunn Commercial Thermal Brewers