Choosing Coffee Makers and Espresso Machines
Whether you're regular or decaffeinated, go for latte or a plain cup of Joe, coffee is a daily treat for many and a way of life for some. Coffee has evolved over the last thousand or so years to become the most popular beverage on the planet. Even if you don't drink it, you probably love the smell of roast coffee. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.
Since the earliest incarnations, the quest to build a better coffee maker has never ended. The major initiative at first was to find an effective way to separate the grounds from the brewed liquid. Getting the most flavor from the bean was the other passion.
Types of Coffee Makers
For the real coffee hound, the next best thing to living in a coffeehouse is a home coffee or espresso maker.
Since it's invention in the early 1900's the drip brewing system has grown to be the most widely used method of brewing. Prior to that, ground coffee was boiled or brewed in a percolator. Here's how the drip system works:
- 1. Ground coffee is placed in a filter.
- 2. Hot water is poured over the ground beans.
- 3. As the water moves through the filter, the water becomes coffee.
Drip coffee can be made with a simple manual coffee maker where hot water is poured over the filter. The automatic drip coffee maker, developed and refined in the 1960's and 1970's, heats the water and pumps it up and over the grounds.
Drip coffee is made by moving water around a basket of ground coffee beans. Espresso is different - water is forced under pressure through the ground beans. The highly flavored extracted oils give espresso its intense flavor. In simple terms, the water is heated by the machine to produce steam. The steam brews espresso in the same way a regular drip coffee maker operates. A frothing wand is attached to the unit for topping espresso with cream or whipping milk for cappuccino.
Coffee Maker Features and Things to Consider
- • Capacity — The standard carafe sizes are four or twelve cup. Cups usually mean five ounces, so if you're a mug user, divide the capacity by two to determine how many ten-ounce mugs you'll get per pot. Demitasse cups for espresso hold about three ounces.
- • Space — Countertop units are the most common, however under-the-cabinet models are available.
- • Timer — You can pre-set the unit to begin brewing at a specific time (great for early morning risers who like a steaming cup waiting for them when they get up). Some models add the feature of Auto-off. With this feature, an unattended coffee maker shuts off a short while after the brew cycle.
- • Pause and Serve — If you just can't wait for the carafe to fill, you can grab a cup if your model has this feature. When the carafe is removed the drip action is stopped. Replacing the carafe resumes the cycle.
- • Plate warmer — Most drip coffee makers have a heated metal plate to keep the carafe warm. Some models have adjustable temperatures.
- • Thermal carafe— As an alternative to the plate warmer, some coffee makers brew directly into a thermal carafe that can be taken to the table.
- • Water Filtration — Good water is a key ingredient in good coffee. If your tap water leaves something to be desired, a model with a built-in water filter is an alternative to bottled water.
- • Coffee Filtration — Drip coffee makers require a filter of some sort. Paper is the most common, available in bleached or unbleached versions. Permanent filters made from gold mesh, stainless steel or plastic are available as alternatives.
Grinding your own beans is more than chic, it's actually a way to get the best flavor from a coffee bean. It takes a little practice to get the right consistency for the brew you're after (for example, espresso is very finely ground). Also remember that grinding will not make inferior beans better, so buy quality roast coffee. There are two types of coffee grinders:
- • Burr grinder — uses the same principle as an old-fashioned gristmill. You get a consistent grind, a few beans at a time. The finer grind is best for espresso. They are more expensive than a blade grinder
- • Blade grinder — has container for beans on top of a motor. Fill with beans and press on switch. Stainless steel blades chop the beans to the desired consistency.
Your grinder should hold enough beans for a full pot. Because oils are released when grinding coffee, look for a grinder that cleans easily. Grinders can also grind nuts or spices. To avoid imparting coffee taste to these, you may want to own two grinders.
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