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Coffee is a complex beverage - and the proper brewing of coffee reflects that complexity. The multi-faceted flavors and aromas of coffee are influenced not only by the choice of bean, but also, significantly, by the process through which the coffee was brewed. As such, it is important to understand the various coffee brewing methods at a glance to appreciate the method that best suits your particular business’s needs.
Drip Coffee Makers
Drip coffee makers are perhaps the most popular coffee brewing machines, and are often chosen for their ease-of-use as most automatic drip coffee machines can simply be set and left to brew with minimal interference required. The drip process is fairly straightforward: ground coffee beans are contained in a filter, and boiling water is dripped from the top. The boiling water eventually pushes through the coffee grounds and the filter, resulting in filtered coffee. As a result of the filter, the coffee tends to be lighter (the natural oils form the grounds are blocked by the filter), which may or may not be desirable, depending on the demands of your customer base. Generally, drip coffee is perceived as “functional,” which suits casual diners or restaurants, and some lower-end coffeeshops, but will likely not meet the demands of coffee aficionados. Of note is that drip coffee makers tend to come equipped with warming plates, which keeps the coffee pot warm until serving. In a particularly busy kitchen where coffee cannot be made-to-order, this is a well-loved feature.
French press brewing involves a glass cylinder with a mesh filter which separates the coffee grounds from the boiling water. A lever is then pushed down, separating the brewed coffee and leaving the coffee grounds at the bottom. This coffee is popular among aficionados, who value the fact that french press coffee tends to be stronger, more accurate in flavor and aroma, and preserves the natural oils of the grounds. The french press allows a barista to more precisely control the temperature at which the coffee is brewed, ensuring that the grounds are brewed to their full potential (and thus avoiding the issue of lighter flavored coffee that comes with a drip coffee maker), and the fact that the barista can control the amount of time that the grounds are suspended in hot water means that the flavor extraction can be precisely controlled as well. As a minor benefit, the in-built mesh filter means that you don’t have to purchase separate filters for each brew cycle, thus saving money. On the negative side, french press coffee requires more care and training than drip coffee making, which may not be an option if your business does not have a dedicated barista or an employee who is willing and able to learn how to brew coffee using a french press. Further, coffee cannot be allowed to sit for too long in the french press lest the grounds steep in water for too long and change the flavor (there is also no independent heat source to keep the coffee warm).
Pour Over Coffee
There are a multitude of pour over coffee methods used by various baristas to impart certain qualities to a cup of coffee, but what they share is that they are manual and lo-fi, involving the use of a simple filter, a carafe, and gravity. Depending on the filter and the quantity of water/style of pour, the qualities of the coffee grounds and the filter should coalesce to create a unique cup of coffee that suits a specific flavor profile desired by the barista. Pour over coffee is quite labor intensive, however, so unless your customer base particularly demands this style of coffee, and unless your prices reflect this level of attention, it is best to stick to a machine.
In an espresso machine, fine coffee grounds are placed in a filter and blasted with hot, pressurized water to produce the brewed espresso. Espresso is, of course, a very specific flavor profile, so this cannot necessarily take the place of a coffee machine unless you purchase an espresso machine that comes with a combined drip coffee making function (ask your supplier for options). One benefit to brewing espresso over regular coffee, however, is that espresso is much faster to brew, taking as little as thirty seconds. Because of this efficiency, you may want to incorporate more espresso-based drinks into your menu to encourage espresso machine use.