Generally, there are three basic coffee brewing methods: espresso, drip, and immersion. Espresso and immersion are pretty straightforward.
Drip coffee on the other hand is fairly ambiguous as it encompasses tens or even hundreds of different types of coffee makers.
Pour-over coffee makers are popular with coffee snobs as they give unrivaled control over the brewing process and are more affordable than auto-drip coffee makers.
What is auto drip coffee?
Auto-drip coffee is the coffee that you make in a homebrewer that automatically controls the brewing duration and the amount and temperature of the water. To make auto-drip coffee, you just add ground coffee and water and push a button. Homebrewers can use mesh or paper filters subject to compatibility.
How an Auto-Drip Coffee Machine Works
Automatic coffee makers usually have a water tank, coffee filter assembly, and a dripper for the coffee. Some may include an inbuilt coffee grinder or milk frother.
The coffee maker can be a single-serve, carafe only, or a hybrid that can make both single cups and carafes.
The carafes can be glass carafes or thermal carafes. An automatic coffee maker that uses a glass carafe will have an inbuilt heat plate for the carafe.
An automatic drip coffee maker heats up water and pumps it to the ground coffee in the filter basket where the water dissolves some coffee compounds to make coffee. The extracted coffee drips through the filter to the receptacle (cup or carafe) underneath.
Auto-drip coffee machines provide convenience at the expense of control over the coffee-making process. They are the go-to machines for most homes, offices, and even some cafes.
Premium auto-drip coffee makers allow limited control over the temperature, boldness, and duration of the brew. Popular brands include Keurig, Ninja, Moccamaster, Cuisinart, Bunn, Kitchen Aid, and Bonavita
How to Make Auto-Drip Coffee Taste Better
Most people use a homebrewer for their Java whether at home or in the office. Despite the limited control that an auto drip coffee maker offers, you can still get superb coffee from your homebrewer.
Here are the ways to make your auto-drip coffee taste better.
- Use high-quality coffee beans that are fresh. Coffee beans from your local grocery store are likely stale due to over-exposure to air. Have you seen the open sacks of roasted coffee beans in the coffee stands in most supermarkets? You are better off buying coffee beans from a roaster or roasting green coffee at home.
- Use the right grind size for the type of filter that you are using. Buying a good coffee grinder and grinding your own coffee can improve the taste of your coffee as you can grind a small amount and adjust the grind size to suit your choice of intensity and flavor.
- Brew with filtered water. See this in-depth post that explains the importance of a water filter and how water affects your coffee.
- Clean and maintain your coffee maker. Although most coffee makers do not mention this in their manuals, a water-only flushing cycle after brewing or at the close of business, especially after making large amounts of coffee removes coffee oil residues. These oils are likely to cause a funky taste if they sit there over time. Also regularly clean the carafe. Run a consistent descaling schedule, for example, every 60 days.
- Avoid the Heating Plate. You do not want to continuously heat your coffee on the heating plate as it will lose aroma and flavor. You would rather let the coffee cool and reheat it when you are ready to drink it.
Auto-Drip Coffee Grind Size
When using an auto-drip coffee maker with a reusable filter, use a medium-coarse grind. When using a paper filter, use a medium to medium-fine grind.
The metallic filter yields full-bodied coffee with some sediments whereas a paper filter gives clear light-bodied coffee.
You may want to consider using paper filters if you have cholesterol problems as the diterpenes (cafestol and kahweol) in coffee oils may exacerbate the problems.
See how auto-drip compares to filter coffee.
Auto-Drip Coffee Maker Certification
Do you know that out of thousands of automatic drip coffee makers in the market, only a few are golden cup certified by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)?
Moreover, some SCA-certified coffee machines provide separate settings for brewing coffee within the golden cup standards alongside settings for regular cups.
For example, the Braun Multiserve coffee maker has regular settings as well as a dedicated “gold” button.
The golden cup certification means that a homebrewer has satisfied SCA’s minimum standards such as brewing time, temperature, and other brewing conditions.
The SCA conducts voluntary rigorous tests on homebrewers to recognize coffee makers that meet its technical requirements. The SCAA merged with the SCAE in 2017 to form the SCA.
The body collaborates with the European Coffee Brewing Center which performs golden cup certification in Europe using similar criteria. The SCA tests the following seven parameters for brewer certification:
- Coffee volume. The brew basket must be able to hold enough ground coffee to brew the maximum volume of coffee that the coffee maker is capable of brewing in line with the coffee golden ratio of 55 grams per liter without overflowing. The basket should accommodate the swelling of the wet grounds when brewing.
- Brewing time. The coffee maker must be able to pump its full water capacity through the coffee grounds within the stipulated time. At full water and ground coffee capacity, the total brewing time should be between 4 and 8 minutes. Brewing time is counted from the moment the first drop of coffee hits the bottom of the carafe and ends when the flow of coffee changes from a stream to a dribble
- Brewing Temperature. The machine must be able to cycle its maximum water capacity through the grounds within the recommended temperature range. Water should achieve at least 92°C within a minute of the first drop hitting the grounds. The brewing temperature should not exceed 96 degrees Celcius.
- Beverage Preparation. Coffee is tested at full and half capacity for concentration and yield of solubles. The tests take into account the 55g/L ratio with the relevant adjustments for the grind size and water contact time.
- Uniform Extraction. Brewers are tested for the uniformity of extracted and they are rated numerically based on the SCA procedures. For proper extraction, all the grounds in the brew basket should be soaked within the first minute of brewing.
- Clarity. The SCA tests the sediments in brewed coffee and brewer with sediments above 75mg per 100ml of coffee are denied certification
- Receptacle. The coffee receptacle, usually a carafe, is tested for capacity and thermal qualities. The receptacle should hold the maximum volume that the coffee maker is designed to brew at maximum water capacity. The receptacle should maintain the temperature of the brew between 80 and 85°C within the first 30 minutes of brewing without using a hot plate.
- Manuals and Instructional Materials. All manuals as well as promotional and instructional materials must be provided with the brewer. The instructions must include clear operation and cleaning guides. They should also suggest a specific coffee ratio that adheres to the golden ratio. The SCA recommends revisions where necessary and certification is not granted until the revisions are resolved.
As you can see from the tests that the SCA does, a certified coffee maker is likely to make the best cup of Java.
Most of the SCA-certified home brewers are premium brands where the manufacturers have not spared costs to achieve a confluence of all the technical requirements to make great coffee.
Advantages of Auto-Drip Coffee Makers
- Easy to use. An auto-drip coffee maker is essentially a “plug and brew” machine. You do not have to stop what you are doing to make coffee
- Beginner-friendly. You do not require prior experience to use an auto brew coffee maker. All you need is to add the right amount of water and ground coffee to brew. Auto-brew coffee makers with an attached grinder will grind and dose the grounds for you. Those with an inbuilt frother, foam the milk with the pressing of a button.
- Carafe coffee makers brew large amounts of coffee in one cycle hassle-free. This makes them suitable for offices and large families
- Convenience. Programmable auto-drip coffee makers can be set to make coffee at a specific time by themselves.
- Versatility. With a battery-operated drip coffee maker. you can make coffee during a power outage or when you can’t make a fire to brew coffee. Imagine you are camping without fire and you need to make coffee.
Disadvantages of Auto-Drip Coffee Makers
- Entry-level auto-drip coffee makers provide little or no control over the brewing process. You are unable to adjust the strength or the temperature of the brew
- Weak coffee. Auto-drip coffee makers are synonymous with weak coffee
- Frequent breakdowns. Most auto-drip users complain about frequent problems such as clogging, pumping issues, and heating problems. Some users have had to frequently replace their machines or shift between brands
- Cost. Decent auto-brew coffee makers are relatively costly. Premium brands are unaffordable for most people as compared to pour-over coffee makers. The costs can easily shoot through the roof when you take into account maintenance and replacement costs due to frequent breakdowns
- Cleaning. Cleaning can be laborious and time-consuming especially when descaling as you have to thoroughly rinse the coffee maker. The process can take up to over an hour
- Bulky. They are immense in size as compared to manual drip coffee makers. You need to take the available space into account when buying automatic drip coffee machines
- Energy consumption. They add to your utility bills, especially if you brew frequently
Auto Drip Coffee Recap
Auto drip coffee is easy to make as you simply add water and coffee grounds to an automatic coffee maker which brews the coffee for you.
Premium auto-drip coffee makers have advanced features that allow you to regulate brewing temperature and the strength of the brew. Multifunction premium auto-drip coffee machines have an inbuilt frother or grinder.
Whether you are making coffee using an entry-level or a premium coffee maker, you can improve the taste of your auto-drip coffee using the tips that we have outlined above.