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What Is Drip Coffee? Origins, Types, and How To Brew

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Drip coffee, sometimes called filter coffee more generally, is one of the most popular coffee brewing methods.

But even if you have heard of it, you might not know precisely what it is and how it differs from other popular brewing methods.

Drip coffee is a consistent and delicious way to brew coffee and get your much-needed caffeine.

Drip is also one of the simplest methods to learn.

So if you are interested in getting the full details on the details behind drip coffee and the steps for how to brew it, keep reading to learn everything!

What is Drip Coffee?

Put simply, drip coffee is the coffee that you brew on the standard drip coffee machine that you have probably seen in almost every household.

Within just a few minutes, a drip machine can brew up to 12 cups of coffee by boiling water and letting it fall through the coffee grounds.

What Is the “Drip” in Drip Coffee?

The drip method has its name because hot water flows through the coffee grounds and drips into the carafe below the brewing basket.

At first, the coffee falls through one drip at a time, but by the middle of brewing, the drips often turn into a connected stream.

Origins of Drip Coffee

Throughout most of coffee history, popular brewing methods usually involved full immersion brewing.

One of the first drip coffee makers was a stovetop device that dates back to 1939.

But it was not until the 1950s that an electric drip machine came out.

By the 1970s, coffee had earned its place in American culture, and Mr Coffee made automatic drip machines the most popular way of brewing in American households.

What Is So Special About Drip Coffee?

Every method of brewing coffee has its unique qualities and flavor profile, along with other more practical benefits.

And one of the most special benefits of drip coffee is how easy it is to brew.

In terms of coffee preparation, there is almost none.

With almost any drip coffee brewer, it is as easy as hitting a button to get your morning dose of caffeine.

And despite this ease, a good drip coffee maker is similar in quality to a pour over.

The primary difference between a pour over and a drip coffee maker is that a pour over is completely manual—you have to stand there and pour hot water slowly for several minutes.

The drip coffee maker removes this burden, and you can brew several cups in just minutes.  

Benefits of Drip Coffee

If you are a hardcore coffee lover—someone, for example, who would say they are into specialty coffee—you might find that manual pour over coffee gets you a much better flavor.

Compared to an automatic drip coffee maker, the pour over coffee brewing method usually gives a more sophisticated coffee taste and flavor profile.

But there are many benefits to the drip brewing process, including:

  • A coffee maker can brew large amounts at once.
  • The process is as easy as hitting a button.
  • A pot of coffee can stay hot for many hours

Drip Coffee vs Others

Now that you have a basic understanding of how drip coffee machines work, let’s compare this method with other popular ways of consuming coffee.

Is Drip Coffee the Same as Black Coffee?

Whether you brew a pour over, french press, or any other brewed coffee method, black coffee simply refers to coffee that has nothing added to it.

So drip coffee can be black coffee if you do not add cream or milk, but not all black coffee has to be drip coffee.

Drip Coffee vs Espresso

Maybe you are just a casual coffee drinker, and you are unsure what espresso coffee is.

So keep reading to get a basic understanding of some of the differences between espresso and drip coffee.

What Is the Difference Between Espresso and Drip Coffee?

An espresso machine is necessary for making espresso, and high pressure forces a small amount of water through a tightly packed and finely ground coffee.

Drip coffee relies on gravity as you pour the water (instead of high pressure), and the taste of espresso is usually much more intense.

Is Drip Coffee Better than Espresso?

Espresso has the benefit of making delicious drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos, which combine steamed milk with concentrated espresso.

But when comparing espresso to drip, it mostly comes down to preference.

If your main goal is a caffeine hit in the morning (and you do not have money for the best coffee machine), regular drip coffee is probably your best option.

Drip Coffee vs Pour Over

As mentioned, drip coffee is similar in concept to a pour over.

But some crucial differences are worth learning.

What’s the Difference Between Pour-Over and Drip Coffee?

The main difference is that a pour over is a manual process.

By using pour over brewers, such as the Chemex or the V60, you can slowly pour hot water over the coffee grounds and let it drip through a paper filter.

Drip coffee is a similar process.

But the machine heats the water and pours it for you.

Once you fill the reservoir, your job is complete.

Then it evenly sprays out through a showerhead

Is Drip Coffee Better than Pour Over?

Generally speaking, for a skilled brewer, a pour over will be superior.

You can ensure that the hot water is at the perfect temperature and that you have complete control over how you pour the water.

You can also put ice cubes in the bottom of a pour over brewer to make cold brew coffee (iced coffee) in a matter of minutes—cold drip coffee is a process that usually takes hours.

But a coffee maker, at least the simple drip machine that most houses have, often struggles to make the water hot enough.

And in terms of an even extraction, not being able to control the pour can lead to off-flavors.

Drip Coffee vs French Press Coffee

Another popular way to brew coffee at home is the French Press, and there are some notable differences to understand between that and drip coffee.  

What’s the Difference Between Drip Coffee and French Press?

The main difference between drip coffee and the French Press is that the latter is what you call immersion brewing.

During immersion brewing, hot water and coffee grounds interact for 3-4 minutes.

The ratio of coffee to water is about the same, but the immersion gives a French Press a much bolder flavor and mouthfeel.

In addition, drip coffee involves a filter, which removes many of the oils and fine particles from making it into your cup.

Filters make the mouthfeel of drip coffee much lighter.

French Press lovers prefer the bold flavor and heavy mouthfeel.

Is Drip Coffee Better than French Press?

In terms of flavor, determining whether drip of French Press is better is a matter of preference.

For those that prefer a clean taste, drip coffee is better.

And there is a possibility, suggested by one study out of Harvard, that filtered coffee might be slightly healthier than the unfiltered brew from full-immersion devices like the French Press.

How to Make Drip Coffee – Coffee Brewing Guide

Even though manufacturers design coffee machines to be as easy as possible, it is still worth reviewing a brew guide for drip coffee so that you can extract the most delicious flavor.

The Water

One basic rule to follow in all coffee brewing is to use filtered water.

Besides the taste of the water, filtered water will get you closer to the ideal water chemistry that is best suited for coffee extraction.

Being careful about the water is especially important if you live somewhere with high mineral content in the water.

The Grind

Many bags of coffee that you will find at the grocery store are pre-ground to the size meant for drip machines.

But while it might be convenient to skip grinding at home, it does take away some freshness of flavor.

The ideal method is to grind the beans just before brewing.

Coffee Grinder

Having any kind of coffee grinder at home allows you to grind whole beans just before brewing.

Coffee, like any perishable, succumbs to oxygen over time and loses its freshness and flavor.

But keeping your coffee whole-bean right up until brewing will make your coffee taste as fresh as possible.

Blade grinders are convenient, but they can sometimes lead to an uneven grind size (an uneven coffee extraction).

The best grinder style to buy is a burr grinder, which produces even particle sizes.

Brewing Temperature

One of the downsides to drip coffee is that it is harder to control the ideal brewing temperature.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, the perfect brewing temperature is 200 degrees Fahrenheit (plus or minus 5 degrees).

But many cheaper drip machines do not achieve this temperature, leading to less-than-ideal tasting coffee.

The Coffee Maker

For most coffee makers, brewing is as easy as putting in a filter, measuring in some coffee, and hitting a button.

If you want the best coffee maker, you might spend a few hundred dollars and have many more settings that allow you to control variables—having this control is helpful if you want to try different coffee recipes.

Alternative: Drip Coffee Bags

Drip coffee bags are a great way to enjoy the better taste of a pour over while also keeping the convenience of drip coffee.

What Are Drip Coffee Bags & What Do They Do?

Drip coffee bags are small pouches that hold pre-ground coffee.

When you unfold them and open the top, you can place the pouch over your cup and pour hot water as you would for any pour over.

Drip coffee bags stay remarkably fresh because they have a vacuum seal, and the convenience of an easy clean-up and being able to travel with them is a huge plus!

Why Should Roasters Offer Drip Coffee Bags?

Roasters who offer drip coffee bags give coffee drinkers a chance to try out the pour over coffee brewing method without needing fancy equipment.

All you need is hot water and a cup!

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have a much more thorough understanding of what drip coffee is and how it compares to many other brewing methods.

If you have multiple brewing devices at home, consider brewing on a few of them to see if you can notice the differences you read about above!

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