13 Different Types of Coffee Makers: Something for Everyone
There is an overwhelming number of different types of coffee makers. And within each broad category, there are even more variations! So it’s no surprise that it feels impossible to select just one, or even several, as the perfect type of coffee maker for you.
In this article, we’ll list the most common types of coffee makers, including how they work and the style of coffee they brew. So keep reading, and we promise you’ll find the right one for your morning cuppa joe.
Automatic Drip Coffee Machines
The automatic coffee machine is a widespread brew method in North America. They come in all shapes and sizes and vary widely in quality and price. As a result, you can come across them in everyone’s home or office.
In general, they have a basket lined with a filter (either paper, cloth, or metal mesh) where you add medium-coarse ground coffee. When you start the automatic brewing cycle, hot water goes to this brewing chamber.
The coffee is extracted and drips into a carafe below.
The carafe itself can be glass, in which case the machine is usually equipped with a hot plate to keep the coffee warm. Or it can be an insulated stainless steel thermal carafe. Those with thermal carafe are great because they are more durable, and there’s no need for a hot plate.
At one end of the drip coffee makers spectrum, you’ll find essential and affordable models from companies specializing in small household appliances — brands like Cuisinart, Black + Decker, Mr. Coffee, and so on. At the other end are the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certified coffee machines, which have been rigorously tested to meet high brewing standards. Admittedly, they are far more expensive, but they deliver coffee like a professional barista who knows how to make coffee taste good might prepare. Definitely worth the money if you have an interest in specialty coffee.
There are so many types of espresso makers that they could easily fill their own article, but we’ll do a brief summary here. There are four main categories depending on the degree of automation. In general, more automated machines are easier to use but deliver poorer quality espresso. Though this also depends on machine price and quality.
- Super-automatic espresso machines are like a small cafe in your home. They do everything for you, including grinding, tamping, pulling the shot, and more often than not, frothing the milk. For this reason, they are often called bean-to-cup machines. They require no skill to operate, with many drinks available at the press of a button.
- Fully automatic espresso machines require a bit more know-how. Typically, you will have to prepare the portafilter by adding ground coffee and tamping. However, once you lock the portafilter in the machine and start the shot, it takes over. These machines might have a manual steam wand or an automatic frothing system.
- Semi-automatic espresso machines are almost the same as fully automatic, but the key difference is that you need to both start and stop the shot. The timing is not automated, so these machines require your full attention while in use.
- Manual espresso machines are the hardest to master but can deliver uniquely exceptional results. With these machines, the barista uses a lever to pressure and pull the shot rather than relying on a mechanical pump. Some manual machines still use electricity to heat up or pump water into a boiler, while others need only the addition of hot water, making them fully portable.
Another category to consider is prosumer espresso machines.
Prosumer machines get their name by combining “professional” and “consumer.”
These expensive machines are designed for keen home users but rely on commercial-grade components. Some are even NSF rated and find use in small cafes. Most prosumer machines are semi-automatic, though there are examples of automatic and manual models as well.
Pod Coffee Machines
Pod coffee machines, usually single-serve coffee makers, brew using sealed capsules of pre-ground coffee. During brewing, the capsules are punctured to allow hot water to flow through and extract the coffee. While many brands make capsule-compatible machines, we tend to classify these machines as either Keurig style or Nespresso style, the two biggest companies in the space.
Nespresso machines use small, hermetically sealed aluminum capsules. When brewing, they puncture the capsule and pump highly pressurized water into it until coffee bursts out. Because it’s a pressure-based brewing system, Nespresso machines make something similar to espresso.
In contrast, Keurig machines use larger plastic capsules in which water flows through gently, more like an automatic coffee machine. So the coffee they make is similar to drip coffee, though often with a more watered-down taste.
Coffee from pod brewers is rarely as good as the other methods simply because it is never as fresh.
Not to mention the environmental implications of the single-use pods (1). However, the advantage of capsule coffee is its convenience. Brewing is quick and easy, often taking under two minutes, including heat-up time, and clean-up is even quicker and easier.
The French Press coffee maker is a fantastic brewer that is a worthy addition to any home arsenal. However, if you are just learning to make coffee at home for the first time, it’s a perfect first purchase. It’s inexpensive, simple to use, and works well with any roast level of coffee. It even works well with pre-ground coffee if you haven’t invested in a grinder yet.
Costa Rican barista Fabiola Solano is a big fan of the forgiving nature of French Press brewing, saying (2):
With some pouring methods, you have to be much more careful about how you pour water and not to do it too fast. With the French press there’s no such risk. It’s almost infallible.
Most French Presses have a glass body, but there are also metal options if you’re looking for something a little more durable to take on the road.
A French Press is an immersion brewer, which means that the grounds are left to steep in hot water before being strained out (3). This is opposed to a drip coffee maker where you continually pour the water through. In general, immersion brewing gives a bolder flavor profile and greater body.
To brew using a French press, you add coffee grounds to the body, followed by hot water. The ground coffee is left to extract in the water for a time, typically 3 to 5 minutes, before being strained using a metal filter attached to a plunger.
The metal filter is another essential feature of the French press. In contrast with a paper filter, the metal filter leaves the coffee oils in the cup.
Metal filter contributes to a more prominent flavor and richer mouthfeel.
Another cool feature of the French press is that you can use it to froth milk just by adding warmed milk to the chamber and moving the plunger rapidly up and down. This is an excellent hack for making lattes at home.
The Aeropress is another example of an immersion brewer. This popular device, which is especially beloved by hikers and campers for its lightweight and sturdy construction, allows coffee to steep in a small chamber before a plunger is used to force the coffee out through a paper filter.
Because of the pressure involved, Aeropress coffee tends to be very strong, like a pseudo-espresso. As a result, people often dilute it with hot water for a more Americano style drink.
The Aeropress coffee maker yields a cleaner cup than the French press.
This is thanks to the paper filter, though there are metal filter options available for the Aeropress should you desire a richer brew.
Pour-over brewing is considered by many to be a more advanced technique, and while it does have some room for error, there’s no reason anyone can’t master it.
Typically, pour over coffee makers are cone-shaped devices with a paper filter inside that you set on top of a mug or carafe. You add ground coffee to the filter then pour water over it, hence the name. However, within this simple set-up are plenty of variables — and thus plenty of different pour-over brewers.
For starters, a pour-over brewer can be made from different materials, the most popular of which are ceramic, plastic, and metal. Each yields a slightly different brew, thanks to its different heat properties. They can also be different shapes, with some slightly oblong and others perfectly round. Some pour-over cones have flat bottoms, and some go to a point. They can also have different numbers of holes at the bottom of the brewer. Even your choice of filter has an impact (4).
How you pour your pour-over is where skill is required, with different baristas espousing different techniques. Generally, you add a small amount of water first to let the coffee bloom before continuing with a more consistent pour, often in a spiral pattern.
We strongly recommended a gooseneck kettle for pour-over brewing, to facilitate precise pouring.
The coffee you can expect from a pour-over is at the opposite end from a French Press. It tends to have a light body and very clean flavors. It’s a suitable method for highlighting more subtle and complex tasting notes, so it’s popular with lighter roasts.
There are hundreds of pour-over brewers on the market, but some of the most popular are the Kalita Wave, Melitta cones, the Hario V60, and the Chemex.
The Clever Dripper
An unusual brewing device worth mentioning here is the Clever Dripper, a hybrid between pour-over and immersion brew. It looks like a pour-over brewer in that it has the classic cone shape, sits on top of a mug, and uses a paper filter. However, it has a unique locking valve that keeps water from dripping through, brewing immersion-style like a French press.
This system takes a lot of the skill out of pour-over brewing.
It’s an ideal entry point to the pour-over method.
If you want to transition to a true pour-over, you can leave the valve in the open position, so it’s almost like two brewers in one.
A Moka Pot is often known as a stovetop espresso maker because it uses pressure to brew coffee. However, the pressure in a Moka Pot only reaches about 2 bar, rather than the 9 bar of an espresso machine. So it doesn’t make true espresso. Instead, it produces a powerfully strong cup of coffee. For anyone who isn’t a severe caffeine fiend, standard practice with a Moka Pot dilutes the resultant brew into something akin to an Americano.
A Moka Pot consists of an upper and a lower chamber, with a filter basket full of finely ground coffee in between. First, the lower chamber is filled with water. When placed on a stove, the water turns to steam, and the pressure forces the water up through the filter basket, where it extracts the coffee. The upper chamber then fills with delicious java. The brewing continues until the lower chamber is out of water.
Moka Pots have a lot of advantages. They are inexpensive, durable, and straightforward to use.
They’re as great on camping trips as they are at home.
The most popular brand is Bialetti, which made the original Moka Pot way back in 1933 (5).
While they have a reputation for brewing burnt or bitter tasting coffee, that is only a result of poor brewing technique. Instead, they yield a rich and delicious brew similar to the Aeropress but with more body with the correct method.
Moka Pots are often called percolators, but this is a misnomer. As you will see in the next section, Percolators brew using a different method and yield a different style of coffee.
People frequently confuse the percolator with a Moka Pot, presumably because both brew on a stovetop. Despite this fun fact, the percolator is a unique brewing method. And even the stovetop similarity is no longer strictly true as many percolators are now electric.
The advantage of an electric percolator is that it requires less attention, usually shutting off automatically or switching to a “keep warm” mode after brewing. On the other hand, stovetop percolators have greater longevity because there is nothing to break.
They are often passed down through families for generations.
From the outside, a percolator looks like a kettle. But inside, it has a tube running up its center and a filter basket near the top. To brew, you fill the filter basket with ground coffee, coarser than what you’d use for a Moka pot, and the main chamber is filled with water. The kettle is then heated until the water comes to a slow boil. This is known as percolation.
The water then travels up the central tube and showers over the coffee to extract it. The water continually cycles through this process as long as the heat is maintained. So the coffee gets stronger over time depending on how many times it has cycled through the ground coffee.
Percolators were far more prevalent in decades past but have become significantly less common as coffee tastes have refined. So this is almost certainly not the right brewer for a specialty light roast. But if you like a medium roast or darker, and you like it very strong and very hot, a percolator is the only tool for the job.
Vacuum brewers, also known as siphon brewers, definitely come with an eye-catching aesthetic. Some look like something out of a mad scientist’s lab, while others have a real steampunk vibe.
No matter which style you choose, you’re buying a conversation piece as well as a coffee maker.
But don’t worry, they aren’t just for show; vacuum coffee brewers also make darn tasty coffee.
A siphon brewer consists of an upper and a lower chamber with a hollow stem connecting the two at its most basic. You fill the lower section with water and add ground coffee to the upper. When you place the lower chamber on a heat source, the water rises the steam to saturate the grounds above. This is when the extraction occurs.
You will then remove the brewer from heat, which drops the pressure in the lower chamber. This move produces a siphon that sucks the brewed coffee down into the lower chamber while leaving the coffee grounds behind in the chamber above.
Much like the Clever Dripper, an immersion brewing method yields a cleaner cup than a French Press. And as a nice bonus, because the brewing water is sucked out of the grounds, they are drier and easier to clean up than the typical sloppy mess left behind in a French Press.
Unique Brewers from Specific Regions
Certain regions of the world are known for their unique coffee makers and distinctive coffee styles. While these brewers might not be familiar at your local coffee shop, they are easily acquired online if you are keen to test them out for yourself.
The Vietnamese Phin
In Vietnam, people traditionally brew coffee using a device called a phin. It consists of a round, perforated plate topped with a brewing chamber. A second perforated insert sits inside the chamber under which the ground coffee is compressed, and a lid keeps the heat in.
The whole setup is designed to sit atop a mug during brewing.
To brew, you add hot water to the top chamber a bit at a time to avoid overflowing. Once all the water has been added and filtered through, you’re left with a mug of rich coffee. Check out this video for a detailed look:
Vietnamese coffee brewed this way tends to have a very thick, syrupy body. Robusta beans are common in Vietnam, as are darker roasts, so the result is a highly intense brew. Sometimes additional water is added to make a sort of Americano, but more commonly, sweetened condensed milk and ice are added for a delicious iced coffee (6).
The Turkish Cezve
The Turkish Cezve is one of the oldest and simplest coffee brewing methods.
It is known by many other names across eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Cezve is no more than a small pot, usually made of brass or copper, with a long handle and a pouring spout.
To brew Turkish coffee, ground coffee and water, and often sugar, are added to the pot and brought to a boil. As soon as the mixture begins to froth, it is removed from the heat and poured into cups. The coffee isn’t filtered, but the grounds are left to settle to the bottom of the cup.
The brewing method is very similar to what is known in the Americas as “cowboy coffee,” but the vessel itself is strictly regional. The coffee tends to take on a bit of a bitter or burnt edge due to the boiling, so sugar is a common additive. Occasionally spices native to the region, like cinnamon and cardamom, are added as well.
Costa Rican Chorreador
The Costa Rican chorreador is a traditional method of brewing coffee still commonly used in the tiny roadside cafes frequented by older generations. It’s a basic design in which a simple wooden scaffold is used to suspend a cloth filter resembling a sock over a waiting mug. Ground coffee is added to the filter, followed by hot water, resulting in a basic pour-over brew.
It’s a simple but effective way to brew coffee.
The cloth filter provides a nice balance between the rich mouthfeel of a metal filtered coffee and the clean cup of paper filtered coffee.
There are dozens of types of coffee makers and probably thousands of different models, each with its pros and cons. With so much variety, it’s no wonder it feels overwhelming choosing the right one to meet your needs. However, we hope this article has provided some much-needed guidance.
What do you think? Did we miss any popular brew methods? How do you brew your coffee? Leave us a note in the comments. If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to share it with family and friends or on social media.
The difference between cheap and expensive drip coffee makers comes down to the build quality and the brewing technology. Expensive coffee makers tend to have higher quality components, for example, stainless steel in place of plastic and will last longer as a result. They also use better brewing technology to mirror a professional barista. That means a more precise water temperature and an improved water shower.
The difference between coffee and espresso is in how each is brewed. For espresso, high pressure of 9 bar is required. This pressure gives the unique crema layer and full body. Drip coffee makers rely on atmospheric pressure, which is 1 bar.
Like the Aeropress and the Moka Pot, some coffee makers use pressure, but it is closer to 2 bar and thus does not qualify as espresso.
An ESE pod is an Easy Serve Espresso pod. It is a pre-measured dose of finely ground coffee for espresso encapsulated in a soft fabric pod that looks like a teabag. They are designed to make it easier to brew espresso by removing the grinding, dosing, and tamping steps consistently. They are designed to brew using regular espresso machines and don’t have their type of brewer.
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- SanMax, I. M. (2021, June 23). Choosing the best paper filter for your pour over coffee. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/06/choosing-the-best-paper-filter-for-your-pour-over-coffee/
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- Truong, P. (2019, June 20). The Vietnamese Coffee Tool That Lets You Take a Breather. Retrieved from https://www.eater.com/22262801/phin-vietnamese-coffee-filter-tool