Drip, drip, drip… no, you’ve not left the tap running. You’re making drip coffee at home!
We don’t supply electric drip coffee makers here at Two Chimps because we like the quality of an espresso and the love and control that goes into manual brew methods like the cafetière and pour over. However, we totally get that some days just call for the push-of-a-button ease of an electric drip coffee machine. You’re probably quite partial to a drip coffee if you’ve got a drop (or drip) of American blood running in your veins – these devices are all the range stateside!
Drip drip: it’s hip!
The basic idea of drip coffee is simple: it’s coffee brewed by pouring hot water over ground coffee and through a filter, which separates the grounds from your lovely extracted coffee. You can brew this kind of coffee manually or with an electric drip machine. In Planet Coffee (book your flights – it’s a good place to be), ‘drip coffee’ usually refers to the electric machines, while ‘pour over’ or ‘filter’ are used to describe drip coffee brewed by hand, usually with a V60 or Chemex. The exception is America, where ‘drip coffee’ generally means ‘coffee’ – that’s how much the Americans love their drip machines!
History of the drip coffee maker
No prizes for guessing that electric drip machines are a more modern way of brewing coffee at home. They entered the coffee stage in 1954 with the invention of the Wigomat. If you’ve read our page about pour overs, you’ll know that coffee was mainly brewed by percolators until the 1950s. Coffee metamorphosis came when Melitta Benz invented paper filters in 1908, paving the way for filter methods and, a bit later, electric drip machines.
Drip machines became THE way to brew coffee in the 70s, especially in America, where the Mr Coffee brand brought these snazzy electric devices into vogue. Busy nine-till-fivers loved the ease and convenience of their drip machines. Top-tasting coffee at home was now a thing – even if you had to be out the door by 7.30.
Electric not hectic! So, how do they work?
The essential idea is very similar to pour over: a filter, some water and the best ground coffee you can get. You begin by weighing out your coffee and grinding your whole beans, if you need to. Not sure how much to use? We’d recommend a coffee-to-water ratio of 1:16, so 30g of coffee to 500ml of water (this will give you between two and three cups).
Then, place the filter into the filter basket and rinse it under the tap. Don’t skip this step; we need to flush away any papery taste that may alter the final flavour of your coffee. Add your ground coffee to the filter basket and pour the correct amount (no guessing, now…) of water into the machine’s reservoir.
Flick the switch to turn on the machine. The water moves upwards as it heats and will soon start to drip out of the showerhead onto the ground coffee. Then, lovely brewed coffee will trickle into the carafe that is waiting oh-so-patiently below.
Simple, see? Very little work is required. All you really have to do is add the water. And do a bit of weighing. We’re going to put our bossy head on for a minute and say that you really must weigh out your coffee and water to get a good brew.
Okay, bossy head off. Now go and jump on the sofa or lick all the jam out of the doughnuts!
What does drip coffee taste like?
If you like a rounded, clean-tasting coffee, we guess you’ll enjoy drip coffee. If your drip machine has a paper filter, you’ll find a coffee with a much lighter mouthfeel than espresso or cafetiere-brewed cups, which will be richer and more full-bodied. The paper filter traps most of the natural coffee oils and sediment, giving a lighter texture. Some people find this too weak and, well, drippy.
When it gets to roast types, we’d recommend giving all three a turn in your drip machine. We’re quite fond of medium roasts done in ‘da dripper. The acidity of a lighter roast can sometimes be a little overpowering in a drip machine, while darker roasts can taste too rich and strong. But our bossy head is still very much off, so feel free to brew whichever coffee you prefer!
Fancy a medium roast that’s smooth like chocolate? Try Have Faith in the Fairies! Your drip machine will be ever so chuffed…
Spellgrinding: drip coffee grind size
Getting the grind size right is key to good coffee. For a drip machine, we’d recommend the same grind size you would use when making a manual pour over coffee. So, medium-sized grounds are what you’re after. They should resemble caster sugar and be about 0.75 mm in diameter, if you want to get the ruler out.
Quick tip alert! You’ll need to grind slightly coarser if you’re brewing larger amounts of coffee and water.
Is pour over better than drip coffee?
Well now, there’s a million-dollar question! The best method is whatever is best for you, we think. So if quick coffee is on the cards, drip coffee might be the answer. However, if you want a really awesome cup, we’d suggest the pour over method. What makes pour over better? You!
Unlike the showerhead on a drip maker, which can splosh and spray water over your coffee, you have complete control over the water flow if you brew by hand. This is especially true if you use a swan neck kettle, which allows you to pour a steady rate of water and saturate all the grounds.
Water temperature is another difference. 90–96 degrees is perfect for brewing coffee, but most coffee makers don’t get the water up to these temperatures. They also have trouble keeping the temperature of the drip consistent, leaving your brew in danger of uneven extraction.
More brownie points for pour over: it has a slightly longer extraction time. This creates a complex brew with so much flavour it might actually start to sing. Seriously. In fact, speciality coffee shops see pour over as THE way to brew single origin coffee and draw out all the lovely flavour layers in good quality beans.
I’m going shopping… what is the best electric drip coffee maker to buy?
If you’re treating yourself to a new machine, you want to make sure you’re buying the best. Keep your eyes peeled for a machine approved by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). See their sticker, and you know you’re getting the best drip coffee maker on the market. It’s always a good idea to choose a machine with a thermal carafe rather than hot plates, too. Brewed coffee gets grumpy on hot plates as they overheat the coffee and make it taste sad (well, burnt).
Top machine recommendations? Go for a Moccamaster, Wilfa, Bonavita or a Ratio, and we think you’ll be in safe hands!
A machine is only as good as its beans, remember, so make sure your drip coffee maker stays topped up with freshly roasted speciality coffee!