Are you not sure how to make good coffee with a drip coffee maker? Here’s how you do it step-by-step. And even if you know how to make coffee with a coffee maker, you can find some tips here to make it better.
Drip coffee makers do most things for you but there are still a few things you can do to improve the coffee from them. Pre-heating the machine, carefully following and/or adjusting the recipe and using good, freshly ground beans can dramatically improve the taste of your coffee.
Let’s get into the what you need, how to use those things properly and some of the best tips to make better coffee with a drip machine.
- 1 What Do You Need?
- 2 How To Make Good Coffee With a Drip Machine
- 3 Simple Tips To Improve Drip Machine Coffee
What Do You Need?
Here’s what you need to make good coffee in a drip coffee maker.
- Coffee maker: Any coffee maker will do but some are better than others.
- Coffee: Use the best coffee you can afford. You can’t make great coffee with bad grounds. Whole beans produce better coffee but you’ll also need a grinder to use them. Try some different beans and roasts to see what you like. Tastes are different after all. You’ll need about 10 grams of grounds for every 6 oz/177 ml of water.
- Filter: Either a reusable or paper filter.
- Water: Tap water is fine. If your area has very hard water, try some normal bottled water (non-mineral), it can make a difference.
- Scale: A scale is going to be the most consistent and precise. You can get exactly the same amount of water and grounds every time. This makes it easier to follow a recipe and get the same cup every time. It also gets easier to adjust recipes. However, it’s possible to use scoops and the cups on the reservoir but this is less precise and you’ll get less consistent coffee. If you want to improve your coffee making skills, using a scale is a great tool.
How To Make Good Coffee With a Drip Machine
With a drip coffee maker, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change the coffee. The machine does a lot of things for you. However, that does mean that the few things you CAN influence do make a big impact and it’s important to get them right. Let’s go over the process of making coffee in a drip machine and how you can make it better.
1. Pre-heat The Machine
Here’s a trick most people don’t do but does make an impact on your coffee. Pre-heating the machine can help you extract more from the coffee and have a better balanced tasting cup.
Just let the machine run for a minute without grounds in the filter. Of course you should put some water in the reservoir. Throw out the water that got into the carafe after doing this.
What this does is heat up all the components of the coffee maker. While the boiler in a coffee maker probably puts out boiling water, all the tubes and components on the way to the shower head are still cold and will cool down the water before it hits the grounds, especially for the first +- 30 seconds. Cold water doesn’t extract the grounds very well and this can lead to sour tasting coffee.
It’s an easy step that costs about a minute of your time but does significantly impact the taste of your coffee. Especially with machines that have more metal parts in them. Metal is not a bad thing because it lasts longer but it soaks up a lot of heat from the water as well.
After pre-heating the machine, move quickly so it doesn’t cool down too much before actually brewing your coffee.
Yes, this uses a bit more energy and water but improves your coffee. Read more about coffeemaker energy usage in this article.
2. Decide How Much Coffee You Need
The most important step is deciding how much coffee you’re going to make. This dictates how much grounds and water you need and getting that ratio right is one of the most important keys to brewing good coffee.
Suggested: Why is my coffee maker brewing weak and watery coffee?
Most people go off the cups on the reservoir and then add one scoop of ground coffee per cup. This does work to some degree but it’s not very accurate and doesn’t help you if you lose the scoop that came with the machine. Since both the scoop and cup size can differ from machine to machine it becomes unclear what to do. If you have the scoop from the machine, using one scoop per cup usually works well.
Deciding how much coffee you want in milliliters is going to be more consistent. Usually you’ll be making the same amount of coffee every day. So once you decide you want 500 ml of coffee, you can pour 500ml of water into the reservoir and see how many cups this is on your machine. From then on, you can easily fill the reservoir to that level without measuring.
3. Weigh Your Coffee
During the pre-heat cycle, you’ve got some time to weigh out your coffee. There is an easy way get the right amount of grounds or a more complicated way.
A 1:17 ratio is what you’re shooting for in this case. That means 1 gram of grounds for 17 grams of coffee. The cups indicated on the reservoir usually measure 6 oz/177 ml. (But double check with a measuring cup since machines are different.)
That means you need about 10 grams per cup. A leveled coffee scoop will often get you 10 grams of grounds. So simply adding a single scoop for every cup of water in the reservoir will get you very close to an ideal 1:17 ratio.
However, it’s not perfect. Scoops are not the most consistent and different scoops have different sizes. If you want to be more precise, keep reading.
The amount of ground coffee you need can also easily be deducted from the amount of milliliters. A 1:17 ratio is the most common for drip coffee. That means you simply divide 500 (or however many ml you want to brew) by 17 which gives 29.4. Now put a bowl on a scale, set it to zero and pour grounds/beans in until you hit the correct number.
Of course if 1:17 is too weak or strong, you can adjust from there but 1:17 is what most people like.
I’ve written a more in-depth article about how much coffee to use in a drip coffee maker. You can find it here.
4. Grind The Beans
If you’re using whole beans, they’ll have to be ground after weighing. With pre-ground coffee this not necessary of course.
Just fill the grinder with as much coffee as necessary, this way you always get the right amount. Some grinders can be filled more but this makes getting the right amount more difficult and the beans get stale faster in the hopper than in the bag.
There are two big benefits to grinding fresh beans:
- Freshly ground coffee is much more fragrant and produces more fragrant and deeply tasting coffee.
- You can adjust the grind size. This has an impact on the taste balance of the coffee. Read more about adjusting grind size here.
If you choose to grind your own beans, getting a good adjustable grinder is necessary. You can find good electric grinders that don’t break the bank in this article. However, with hand grinders you get a lot more bang for your buck. Find my favorite here.
5. Fill The Reservoir
Fill the reservoir with the amount of water you need for the intended amount of coffee. There are no tricks here.
You can either use a measuring cup or scale to get the right amount of water or you can use the cup indicators on the reservoir. If you measured your coffee in grams in the last step, you’ll get the best results by doing the same for the water but it’s also the most complicated.
Alternatively, you can figure out how many ml a cup on the reservoir is. Then you’ll know exactly how many ml you put in the reservoir without having to measure every time.
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6. Prepare The Filter
Depending on the machine, you’ll have to use a paper filter or there is a reusable mesh filter. You can always put a paper filter in a mesh basket if you’d like.
When using a mesh filter, just make sure it’s clean. There isn’t much else you can do with it. Be careful, if you pre-heated the machine before this, it can be hot.
When using a paper filter, rinse it under some fresh water first. This gets rid of any dirt and the paper taste of the filter. This is not necessary but an extra step you can take for a small improvement in taste. It’s not going to be a dramatic difference but especially with light roasted coffees there can be a noticeable improvement in taste by doing this.
Should you use the mesh or paper filter? A paper filter will get rid of all the oils and sediment in the coffee. This results in a cleaner tasting cup with less body and no residue at the bottom. A mesh filter can give a fuller tasting cup but you’ll have some residue at the bottom. I wrote a whole article about the differences here.
7. Put Grounds In The Filter
Once the filter is in place, pour the grounds into the filter. After pouring it in, just even out the layer of coffee by tapping or shaking the filter. Just 2-3 taps should be enough to create a pretty flat layer of coffee. It doesn’t have to be perfectly flat, just get rid of the little mountain of grounds.
8. Turn On The Machine
Now turn on the machine. Most coffee makers just have an on/off button so there is absolutely nothing you can do except flip the switch and wait.
Some fancier coffee makers do have some settings. However most of those settings have to do with setting a timer and cleaning. Some coffee makers do have a strength setting. Usually the strength settings change the amount of water used and/or the brew speed to make stronger or weaker coffee.
If your machine has this feature, play around with it to see what you like. There is no blanket recommendation to give here because every machine is different and does different things when changing the brew strength.
Some coffee makers have a timer function which allows you to start brewing coffee at any time you want. You can find the best coffeemakers with timer here.
9. Don’t Leave The Carafe On The Hot Plate
After the coffee is done brewing, don’t leave the carafe on the hot plate. Keeping coffee hot changes the chemical composition of some compounds over time which creates an acidic taste. This is not something that most people like.
It’s much better to brew coffee in batches that can be finished quickly to keep it as fresh as possible. If you can choose a coffee maker, pick one with a thermal carafe instead of a glass one. Thermal carafes keep coffee hot for quite a while without the need for it to be on a hot plate. This is better for the taste.
Simple Tips To Improve Drip Machine Coffee
Here are some tips you can use to make better coffee in a drip coffee maker. These are already mentioned or alluded to above but I’ll quickly mention them here again because they are what can make the difference.
- Use good coffee: The absolute biggest impact you can have on the taste of your coffee with any brew method is the coffee you use. And since you have fewer ways to impact the taste with a drip machine than most other brew methods, using good coffee makes a big difference.
- Grind fresh beans: Using good coffee is one thing but grinding it fresh takes things to another level. Freshly ground beans produce much more fragrant and deeper tasting coffee.
- Pre heat the machine: Pre-heating the machine by letting it run without grounds for a minute will increase the extraction and produce stronger, better balanced coffee.
- Use the right ratio: Using the right ratio of grounds to water is essential.
- Keep the machine clean: Sometimes you’ll have to clean the machine thoroughly. This helps the machine to be consistent and increases lifespan. A dirty machine can sometimes produce different amounts of water which means your recipe be off. Dirty machines can also become way less efficient because of sediment on the heating element. Some machines have clean cycles but even if yours doesn’t, you can simply fill the reservoir with water and a few tablespoons of white vinegar and let the machine run. Then run one or two reservoirs with pure water through to flush out the vinegar and any sediment the vinegar loosened up.