Coffee Maker Style Guide

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According to some statistics, 52 percent of Americans are coffee drinkers. This translates to more than 100 million people who drink coffee daily. Americans are a diverse population and far from unanimously agreeing on what makes a good cup of coffee. Fortunately, there are several different styles of coffee makers available today.

Coffee lovers can choose the brewing machine that fits their preferences. Common coffee maker styles include Automatic Drip, Automatic Espresso, French Press, Percolator, Stovetop Espresso, and Vacuum style. Each has its own pros and cons and gives the user varying control over the end result.

Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

Automatic drip coffee makers are probably the most popular choice for Americans. They are easy to use and are inexpensive to purchase. Most operate on the same principle. Inside the coffee pot is a filter basket where a paper filter holds the coffee grounds. Cold water is poured into the reservoir where it is heated before being poured over the grounds. The resulting coffee flows into a carafe. The brewed coffee is kept warm by the hot surface beneath the carafe.

Those who don’t like to use automatic drip coffee makers complain that they do not make a good cup of coffee. Keeping the coffee maker and carafe clean, using quality coffee and disposable paper filters will help ensure a better result.


Automatic Espresso Coffee Maker

Automatic espresso coffee makers come in semi-automatic, fully automatic and super automatic versions. Semi-automatic models tamp the coffee grounds, brew the coffee, fill the cup and eject grounds. Fully automatic models also grind the coffee. Super models offer a wide variety of features, including built in water filters.


French Press Coffee Maker

French Press coffee makers are also known as press pots or plunger pots. The pot is a glass or porcelain cylinder which contains a stainless, mesh plunger that works as a filter.

The user measures coffee grounds into the pot and adds nearly boiling water. The plunger is put in place but not pushed until the coffee has steeped a few minutes. After steeping, the plunger is pushed and the coffee is ready.

There is no hot surface to maintain coffee temperature so the coffee must be served immediately or placed into a thermal carafe of some sort.


Percolator Coffee Maker

Percolator coffee makers are available in stove top styles and in electric styles. Most modern ones are both electric and can be programmed. Some models make only one cup of coffee, others can make 12 cups at a time. The large coffee urns used by many organizations work on the percolation principle but brew more than 100 cups of coffee at a time.

Percolator coffee makers are not used as often as they used to be. These machines continuously run the water over the grounds and the water is boiled. Many coffee lovers claim that both actions violate the laws of making good coffee.

Coffee made via percolator tends to be stronger and often bitter tasting than coffee made with other brewing methods.

Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker

Stovetop espresso coffee makers are simple to use and can be made anywhere there is heat, whether on a stove or over a campfire. Water is put inside the bottom boiler. The funnel filter is then placed in the boiler and filled with coffee. The top is screwed on lightly and the unit is placed over the heat source.

Once the top of the boiler is filled with brewed coffee, the coffee maker is removed from the heat source and the coffee is served.


Vacuum Coffee Maker

Vacuum coffee makers look more like chemistry lab equipment than coffee machines. This type consists of two overlapped containers that are connected by a syphon tube. There is a filter in the bottom of the upper container.

The user places water in the lower container and coffee grounds in the upper container. The machine is then put on top of the stove where the heated water vaporizes and passes through the syphon tube into the upper container.

A brewing cycle lasts approximately three minutes. When the unit is removed from heat, the vapor turns back to water and is forced through the filter and back into the lower container. Farberware created the first automatic vacuum coffee maker model while Sunbeam made the first truly automatic modern one.

There are few companies making vacuum coffee makers these days. Antique stores and auction sites such as eBay carry the traditional Silex and Sunbeam machines.


Coffee lovers can choose from a wide variety of coffee makers. From inexpensive stove top coffee pots to high end super automated coffee makers, there’s a coffee maker for every preference as well as every budget.

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