Knowing how to make filter coffee is an important skill for any coffee enthusiast. Whether you love to bask in the ritual of pour-over or you need the convenience of a drip coffee machine, there’s a filter method for everyone. But how do you know which one is best for you?
Here, we’ll walk you through the different methods and give you expert advice on each one, so you can make a great cup of filter coffee every time.
Filter, pour-over, and drip: what’s the difference?
First, let’s define some key terms. Filter coffee is made by pouring hot water through ground coffee beans, which sit in a filter (these can be disposable or reusable, depending on the material they’re made from). As gravity pulls the water through the ground coffee and the filter, the oils and flavour compounds of the coffee are extracted and create an aromatic brew.
Pour-over and drip are two methods of making filter coffee. With pour-over, the hint is in the name: you pour the water over the coffee beans manually. Meanwhile, drip often involves a machine that does the entire process for you.
How to use a filter coffee machine (drip method)
Electric coffee makers may vary slightly from brand to brand, but the general method for making coffee in a drip machine is consistent.
1. Measure the water and pour it into the reservoir.
Your coffee maker’s reservoir probably has markings on it that indicate how much water you’ll need, but you can also measure the water using a digital scale for accuracy. Make sure the water is clean (filtered water is ideal).
2. Put in the filter.
Place the filter in the filter chamber. Disposable paper filters are fine to use, but most coffee makers come with a reusable stainless steel filter – better for the environment!
3. Measure and grind the coffee and add it to the filter.
You can, of course, use pre-ground coffee, but we always recommend grinding your coffee fresh. A medium grind size is best for filter purposes. You’ll need around 10g of ground coffee per 180ml of water. Add the ground coffee to the filter in the chamber.
4. Plug the machine in and turn it on.
This one’s self-explanatory. The beauty of an automatic coffee maker is that once you’ve done a bit of prep, the machine does all the hard work!
How to make filter coffee without a machine (pour-over method)?
Three of the most popular pieces of equipment for making filter coffee manually are the Chemex, Hario V60, and Aeropress. Here’s a rundown of each:
Invented in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbom, the Chemex is an aesthetically pleasing, hourglass-shaped glass carafe. Aside from its striking appearance, it’s known for its excellent paper filters. These filters are heavier than most and leave behind undesirable oils and fats, so the resulting cup is smooth and light. It comes in a variety of sizes, from a three-cup capacity to a 13-cup capacity.
How to use it: First, you fold the filter into a cone shape and place it inside the Chemex dripper.
Next, grind and weigh the appropriate amount of coffee and heat your water. You can experiment with ratios yourself, but start with 10g of coffee per 180ml of water. You want your water at a temperature just below boiling, around 90°C-95°C.
Then, wet your filter with hot water – this is an important part of knowing how to use coffee filter paper in any pour-over method, as a quick rinse can eliminate any paper flavours within the filter and stop them from tainting your coffee.
It’s time to pour! In a circular motion, pour the water over the grounds just until they’re saturated. Wait about 30 seconds for the coffee to expand and bloom, then pour the rest of your water in that same circular motion. The brewed coffee will drip through the filter into the chamber below.
Hario is a Japanese company that makes products for labs and kitchens, but it’s become known for its V60 pour-over kit. The V60 consists of a cone-shaped chamber with a ribbed surface that sits on top of a serving vessel. It comes in different sizes, and can be used to make a single cup of coffee. Its design is subtly different from the Chemex, but this can result in vastly varied flavours in finished brew.
How to use it: The method for brewing coffee in a HarioV60 is fundamentally the same as the Chemex.
Created by Stanford engineering professor Alan Adler, the Aeropress is a handy device that allows you to make a single cup of coffee.
How to use it: While the Chemex and the Hario V60 work in similar ways, the AeroPress is a little different. It has four main parts: a circular filter, a filter basket, a chamber that holds the ground coffee and water, and a plunger. First you place a filter in the basket, screw the basket into the chamber, and place it over your serving vessel.
Next you fill the chamber with enough ground coffee for a single cup, pour in the hot water and stir. Then you place the plunger on top of the chamber, which forms an airtight seal. As you slowly press the plunger down, the pressure forces the water through the coffee and the filter, leaving you with a great cup of coffee in about two minutes.
Which brewing method is best?
Each method has its unique benefits, so the best brewing method for you is a matter of personal preference. If you frequently make large amounts of coffee at a time and value ease and speed, an electric coffee maker is a good choice.
However, if you have a bit more time on your hands, really value the flavour of your coffee, and want to make multiple cups at once, go for the Chemex.
If you like brewing a single cup of delicious-tasting coffee at a time, the HarioV60 or AeroPress are your best bets. Ultimately, we recommend heading to a cafe to try out brews made using each of the three pour-over methods above, so you can discover which one you prefer before you invest in the kit.
How to make coffee without a filter
Your best alternative for brewing coffee without a filter is, of course, a method that doesn’t involve paper filters at all, like a French press.
There’s really no replacement for the specially designed Chemex and HarioV60 filters, but if you’ve run out and simply can’t wait for your next cup, you can try using clean cheesecloth (folded over several times to create a finer strain) or a clean sock (very, very, very clean!). Unfortunately, we don’t recommend using paper towels, as they’ll give your coffee a paper-y flavour and are often treated with chemicals.
Getting a perfect cup every time
When you’re learning how to make perfect filter coffee, there are a few key points to keep in mind, no matter which brewing method you use.
- Use filtered water: Clean filtered water will allow the complex flavour of the coffee beans to shine through.
- Weigh your coffee beans and water using a scale: Digital measurements allow for more precision in brewing, resulting in a balanced cup.
- Grind your beans fresh: Oxygen degrades the quality of coffee beans, and grinding coffee beans increases their surface area, thus exposing them to more oxygen. Therefore, grinding your beans as you need them will deliver more of their aromas and flavours to the finished brew.
- Bloom your paper filter: As we mentioned earlier, pouring hot water over your paper filter before you fill it with coffee helps to eliminate its paper-y flavours.
Q. What’s the difference between filter, drip, and pour-over coffee?
A. Filter coffee is made by pouring hot water through ground coffee beans, which sit in – you guessed it – a filter. The water flows through the grounds and the filter thanks to gravity, extracting the flavour compounds from the coffee to make the final cup.
Pour-over and drip are two methods of making filter coffee. For pour-over, you pour the water over the coffee beans manually, while drip often involves an electric coffee maker that does the entire process for you.
Q. What’s a Chemex?
A. The Chemex is a pour-over coffee setup that consists of an hourglass-shaped carafe and specially designed filters, which produce a smooth brew. It comes in a variety of sizes, from a three-cup capacity to a 13-cup capacity.
Q. What’s a Hario V60?
A. The Hario V60 is another piece of pour-over kit, frequently used to make a single cup of coffee. It has a cone-shaped chamber with a ribbed surface that sits on top of a serving vessel, and these design differences result in different flavours compared to the Chemex.
Q. What’s an AeroPress?
A. The AeroPress is technically a piece of pour-over equipment, though it looks different than most. It has four main parts: a circular filter, a filter basket, a chamber that holds the ground coffee and water, and a plunger. It uses an airtight seal and pressure to force water through the coffee grounds, and makes a single cup of coffee.
Q. I ran out of paper filters! What are some substitutes I can use?
A. While we don’t recommend using paper towels due to the paper-y, chemical flavour they can impart in the coffee, you might try a piece of cheesecloth or a clean sock.