Auto-Drip vs. Manual: Which Is Right for You?
Earlier this week, we talked about trying different brewing methods for your coffee to broaden your appreciation for the different flavors and the ways that various techniques affect those flavors in your coffee. Drip coffee brewing is one of the three basic brewing methods, drip (filtered), immersion and espresso. Generally, drip coffee is lighter in mouthfeel and highlights brighter flavors -- particularly fruit and floral flavors -- than the other two methods. If that's the flavor profile you prefer, you've got a choice between automatic drip coffee makers and manual coffee drippers.
Drip Coffee Makers - The Basics
The basic principles of drip coffee brewing are the same whether you choose a manual drip setup or an automatic drip coffee maker. You place ground coffee into a filter basket or cone and shower it with hot water. The hot water makes its way through the coffee and drips through a filter and into a carafe or cup. Despite the simplicity of the process, there are dozens of ways to accomplish it, both automatic and manual. The coffee brewer that works best for you will depend upon three factors.
While the brewing process sounds simple, the results you get using the exact amount of the exact same coffee in the exact same drip coffee maker can range from ahhh to ewww. The results you get depend on how close you can get to ideal on three important variables:
- Water Temperature (195 to 205 F. is ideal)
- Surface Contact between water and coffee grounds
- Brewing Time
Different types of drip coffee brewers give you varying amounts of control over those three factors. Most automatic drip coffee brewers give you little control over temperature and pourover pattern, though some higher-end ADCs allow you to set the temperature, and a few give you the option of fiddling with the brewing time and surface contact with settings for bold or strong coffee.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has certified several automatic drip coffee makers
that meet the standards for water temperature, contact time and other important factors.We offer several, including the Technivorm Moccamaster KBGT-741
and the Bonavita BV1800TH Coffee Maker (Thermal)
If control -- and the pride of getting technique just right -- are important to you, or if you really like to experiment, then you may be happier with a manual coffee brewer. As a general rule, manual coffee drippers give you the most control over all three of these variables. You can measure the water temperature before pouring, and control both the surface contact and brewing time by varying your pouring pattern and technique. The importance of your technique varies with different styles of manual pourover brewers. We offer a variety of manual cofffee brewers
for both single cups and full pots.
When it comes to convenience, you can't beat automatic drip coffee makers. All you have to do is measure the coffee into the basket, pour water into the machine and press a button. At that point, you can walk away to shower, visit with your guests or get on with your routine, and know that your coffee will be ready when you return.
Your manual drip coffee brewer, on the other hand, needs your attention throughout the brewing process. You can't just set it up and walk away. If spending an extra five minutes tending your coffee feels like an imposition, then you'll probably be happier with an automatic drip machine. If, on the other hand, you'd welcome the five minutes of focus and concentration as a welcome part of your routine, manual drip is for you.
If you're on a tight budget, manual drip coffee makers are an incredible bargain. Many of the best cost less than $20 and make far better coffee than the typical automatic drip coffee maker that costs far more. Do keep in mind when making your cost calculations, however, that some coffee drippers require specific coffee filters, which will be an ongoing expense. On the other hand, you can buy a manual dripper and a permanent filter -- and throw in a good coffee grinder -- for less than the cost of a good automatic drip coffee maker.
Most manual coffee pourover methods will make one to two cups of coffee at a time, though there are some, like the Chemex, that will make up to eight cups. Most automatic drip coffee makers brew eight to twelve cups at once, though many can brew as few as four cups without compromising quality.
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