Stacy Talks & Reviews: 8 Different Types of Coffee Machines & Who They Appeal To

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8 Different Types of Coffee Machines & Who They Appeal To

Making coffee used to be a simple thing. You’d take your percolator, fill it with grounds and water, put it over heat, and let it do its thing. It was a simple process that produced simple results.

With people’s tastes being different, our desire for a cup that suits what we like has grown, and in some cases, gotten downright complicated. There is now a wide range of coffee makers to suit different tastes, from ones that use pressure to shoot scalding water over tightly packed grounds to ones that are brewed in the refrigerator. Each has a different kind of appeal, so if you’re looking to expand your coffee maker inventory, it’s great to know what they are and who might best like them.

1. Percolators

If you’ve seen an old Western film, you’ve no doubt seen a bunch of cowboys sitting around a campfire with their blue ceramic percolator. The water boils up a central cylinder and squirts out over grounds in a receiving cup for a simple cup of joe best enjoyed in the outdoors. People eventually figured out how to add a heating coil and power cord for an electric percolator. Those have a great retro feel to them, although they tend to make coffee with a lot of bitterness.

2. Drip coffee makers

Starting in the 1970's, automatic drip coffee makers took over as everyone’s coffee maker of choice. They don’t heat the water to quite the temperature a percolator does, so the coffee was less bitter. By the turn of the century, they started to become pretty sophisticated machines with features like digital timers, built-in bean grinders, and pause-and-pour clips that would let you get a cup of coffee while it still brewed. These remain the most popular coffee makers today and are great for people who just want a basic cup of coffee.

3. French press

For a whiff of sophistication but still a pretty simple brewing process, there is the French press. It comes with a carafe in which you mix hot water with coarsely ground coffee beans, let it sit for a few minutes, and press down on a central plunger. This moves a filter through the water, collecting the coffee grounds. It’s not a very complicated process, but because there’s no power cord, it’s a very mobile way to make coffee.

4. Pour-over makers 

Perhaps the simplest coffee maker is the pour-over maker. It’s just a cone filter that sits in either a basket above your coffee cup or a sophisticated urn. Brewing starts with a medium grind of beans. Place them in the filter in your pour-over maker. Pour in a little water and let it sit a few minutes. The beans will absorb the water and expand, allowing the rest of the water to extract the coffee from the grounds more fully. The process delivers rich, flavorful coffee, but it is also one of the most labor-intensive ways to make coffee.

5. Espresso machine

As an upgunned cousin to the simple drip coffee maker, an espresso machine is built solidly because it relies on pressure. Take super-fine grounds, place them in a filter cup, and fill the machine with the water. One trick is making sure everything is locked into place before turning it on, because as the machine heats the water, it’ll also build up pressure. The water is less spritzed over the grounds (as it is in a drip maker) than it is injected into the grounds. The result is one of the richest, most concentrated cups of coffee you’ll find.

Most espresso makers come with features that allow you to add milk to froth for lattes and cappuccinos. These are great for an afternoon pick-me-up or after a satisfying meal. The machines do require power, and some of them can be quite large.

Myfriendscoffee founder John Beans recalls that any espresso machine requires manual cooking. You grind the grounds yourself (or buy already ground coffee), put coffee in the filter, set the horn, start it (and stop if there is no automatic dosing), distribute the used cake, and finally wash the horn.

6. Espresso press

A relatively new twist on an espresso maker is the press. This is a manual method of making coffee that relies on filling a central cylinder with finely ground coffee and adding water just below boiling. Mix it and let it sit a few seconds before pushing down on a plunger. Usually, it’s enough coffee for a decent cup. You can also add some more hot water to dilute it into regular coffee. It’s great to take on vacations and camping, and it’s pretty inexpensive. It’s also pretty labor-intensive.

7. Cold brew

Cold brew lets your refrigerator do all the work and lets you wake to an entire morning’s coffee with very little labor. It’s also pretty simple to set up. Place coarsely ground coffee into a filter of some kind. Most cold brew makers have cylinders that you slip down into a carafe of water, but you could use something as simple as fine cheesecloth. Fill the carafe with water and place it in your refrigerator overnight.

One thing to like about this method is that because it relies on cold water to brew, it is clean and without any of the bitterness associated with methods that use really hot water. If it’s cold outside, you might find this method less attractive. Also, if you drink all your coffee and decide you want more, you’re out of luck.

8. Pod coffee maker 

The single-cup or pod coffee maker is among the most versatile of coffee makers. It involves taking pre-mixed coffee and tea beverages and condensing them into cups that you pop into your coffee maker. Turn it on, and you have a hot drink. These appeal to people who don’t want a complicated brewing process with a lot of steps. They’re also great for people who like to experiment with different hot drinks or who aren’t married to one specific way of making coffee.

They do take up space, and they all come with an electric cord. Plus, traditionalists might not like the lack of process they can tweak to try something different. Makers of these machines have also taken steps in recent years to address complaints about their environmental footprint.


There is a different kind of coffee maker to suit just about everyone’s taste. They range from the simple to the complicated and produce coffee drinks just as varied. On the simpler side are the old-style percolators and drip coffee makers. They produce uncomplicated drinks that can also come out bitter. The most sophisticated machines can produce a wide variety of smooth flavored drinks, but they can also cost a lot of money. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses and appeals to a different kind of person. The question is just which one appeals to you.
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