This may be everything you need to know about filter coffee, unless of course there is something you wanted to know that I’ve not answered, in which case I’m a liar ;-). If there are any questions you had which aren’t answered below, please drop me an email, and I’ll add your question.
What is Filter Coffee?
Drip filter coffee or just ‘filter’, or ‘drip’ coffee is made by hot (usually just below boiling) water, pouring either manually (pourover) or via an electric filter machine, through ground coffee beans which is then filtered usually via a paper filter.
It’s called drip filter of course because a filter is used and the coffee drips from the filter into the cup or jug.
What is the difference between Cafetiere or French Press coffee Vs. Filter Coffee?
Cafetiere / french press pot is a ‘full immersion’ filter coffee process. The grounds are fully immersed in water for a while, before being separated by plunging the filter.
The filter in a cafetiere is a metal coarse mesh filter, which separates the grounds from the extracted coffee, but allows a lot of the coffee solids into the resulting cup of coffee. This leads to a coffee with a heavier mouthfeel than with filter coffee with a paper filter, as the coffee slowly drips though leaving the majority of the coffee solids behind.
What is the difference between pourover drip filter and automated electric drip filter?
There is actually little difference in process, both manual and electric work by hot water pouring over ground coffee beans sitting in a filter. The difference is that with a machine, the machine controls the brew, you have very little to do with it other than the grind size and the coffee you’re putting in.
With manual pourover, you have more control, you can bloom you grounds if you like (pouring a small amount of water over the grounds, just to cover them, and leaving for 30 seconds or so before continuing to pour), you can pour your water in stages, you can pour your water at a specific temperature. This control is taken away from you to a large degree when you use an electric filter machine.
Many baristas prefer the manual method vs. electric as it gives them complete control over the process, although it is easier and less labour intensive to brew via an automatic electric filter machine.
Just keep in mind that most of the electric filter coffee machines have a jug with a hot plate to keep the coffee warm, and the longer it sits on the hot plate, the worse the taste will be. I know this from experience, several years ago I had an electric filter coffee machine in my office, it was just me in the office, so there would be a big jug of filter coffee on the hot plate for quite a while, and it would taste really crappy after a bit! It was commodity pre-ground coffee that I was using back then though, so it wasn’t as good to start with.
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What is the difference between filter coffee vs. espresso?
Espresso is coffee which is extracted from ground coffee beans by pushing water through the ground coffee beans under high pressure. Espresso is a very small shot (one ounce for a single shot, 2 ounces for a double shot) of very strong coffee, with a characteristic ‘crema’ on the top which looks a bit like the head on a pint of guinness.
Some people will read this and say ‘no sh1t sherlock’, but not everyone knows this. I was in a cafe a while ago, down in Cornwall on holiday, in a lovely place called St Agnes, and I nearly laughed out loud when the guy in front of me looked into the take away cup at his small shot of espresso, and then looked at the Barista with a completely vacant expression, and asked ‘is that all I get?’.
The Barista explained to him that this is what he’s asked for, an espresso. The customer explained that he thought an espresso was a large coffee, and it became apparent that he was actually wanting an Americano, so I’m not surprised he was confused when he looked down at his tiny Espresso ;-).
Espresso is the base Americano (mixed with water), and Cappuccino (mixed with steamed, frothed milk with most of the froth on the top), Flat White (mixed with steamed frothed milk but a more fine micro foam texture distributed throughout the cup, with less foam on the top, giving the entire cup a texture) and other coffee drinks.
What does filter coffee taste like?
It depends on the coffee you’re using, but generally speaking filter coffee has a cleaner taste and mouthfeel than other brewing methods. It’s finely filtered, so it is more like tea in mouthfeel than cafetiere coffee which goes through a much less fine mesh and contains more solids.
What about caffeine content?
Espresso expert Michael York covers this in depth in his post Caffeine Content: Espresso Vs Drip Coffee, and the short answer is that it’s about volume. Espresso is intense, and packs a high caffeine punch, but a double espresso is roughly five times smaller in volume than a cup of filter coffee, so there’s more caffeine in a 10 ounce cup of filter coffee than in a 2 ounce double espresso.
What are the popular manual pour over filter methods?
This is one of my favourite brewing methods.
It’s a small plastic filter device with a handle, which looks like a conical shaped cup, but it sits on top of a cup, and holds a paper filter.
You simply put the ground coffee into the filter, and pour your hot water over the top. They’re around a fiver, and they’re brilliant, in my opinion. Don’t forget – you can get a free V60 start up kit from Pact Coffee.
Similar to V60, slightly different shape, and work in the same way. A bit more pricey.
This works in a very similar way to V60 and Kalita Wave, the difference is that instead of the coffee filtering into your cup, it filters into the chemex jug, and this is a good way to make larger volumes of coffee.
What about Aeropress, is that a filter coffee maker?
Well, kind of.
Aeropress uses pressure, and a filter (either a paper filter, or a fine mesh metal filter), and when used via the inverted method that many people favour, it’s also a full immersion filter process. It’s kind of a hybrid brewing method which shares similarities with various other more traditional processes.
The Oomph is also a full immersion filter brewer, which also uses pressure – and it doubles as a travel cup, meaning you can brew and go. Just brew your coffee, and take it with you.
Many people became aware of this coffee maker via Dragon’s Den, however it had been available for a year or so before that. I ordered mine when they first started the kickstarter campaign, and I received my first one at the beginning of 2017 (along with a second one which was given to a lucky coffee blog reader who’s name was pulled out of the hat (actually it wasn’t a hat, it was a coffee cup, of course).
The Oomph has fast become my favourite manual brewer, mainly because of the full flavour I find I get from The Oomph, and the fact that I can re-brew if required, and that it keeps my coffee hot for ages!
What are the popular electric filter brewers?
There are many! Russell hobbs do some of the best selling filter coffee machines in the UK, and they’re fairly inexpensive. Melitta do some popular ones too, Morphy Richards do some nice looking machines. Some of the the Andrew James filter machines are very popular, and again they’re fairly inexpensive.
The Ninja Coffee Bar Auto-iQ Brewer filter coffee brew bar machine looks interesting, I’ve not tried it so I can’t say that it’s worth the extra cash, but it does look interesting in terms of some of the features it promises.
What is the best coffee for filter?
Well first of all, speciality coffee is always the best coffee! There’s a world of difference between commodity coffee and speciality coffee.
Other than that, while you will find that some coffee is described as being better for certain brewing methods, mainly it comes down to the grind. The grind size for Turkish coffee for instance is incredibly fine, Espresso grind is fine, filter is medium coarse, and cafetiere is coarse. It’s different with each bean though, and there is something Baristas call ‘dialing in’ which refers to finding the right grind for each bean.
If you go to one of the many UK coffee roasters websites, you will find that they usually offer ground beans, and they will ask what brewing method you will be using.
The best option though without a doubt, is to buy speciality coffee beans whole from coffee roasters, and grind them yourself. The reason for this is that coffee is at its most fresh when ground, and starts to lose it’s taste and aroma within minutes of grinding, so the best coffee is freshly roasted, freshly ground, freshly brewed coffee.
You will need a coffee grinder, but you don’t need to spend a fortune. I started out with a manual Hario Skerton grinder, I the got fed up of grinding by hand so I hacked it by attaching a cordless drill to the top ;-), it worked – I kept the handle on so I could keep an eye on how fast I was grinding it, and not go overboard.
After a while I upgraded to the Sage Smart Grinder Pro, which I’ve had for a year or so, and it’s great!! See my post coffee grinder, which one for more info on picking the right coffee grinder for you.
Filter coffee is more healthy, is that right?
There are a couple of lipids (fats) found in coffee, called cafestol and kahweol, and these are filtered out to a large degree with manual and electric filter coffee brewing, and other processes that use paper filters such as Aeropress.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad things depends really, on which study you look at. there are studies which seem to point to cafestol and kahweol having a negative effect, and there are also studies which seem to show that these fats are actually partly responsible for the positive effects of coffee that have been reported in recent years in terms of potentially helping to prevent serious medical problems, so who knows?
Who invented filter coffee?
I did. Just kidding. It was a German woman by the name of Melitta Bentz who invented the paper coffee filter, waaaaay back in 1908.
Back then there were two main ways to brew, one a full immersion brewing process, in which coffee grounds were mixed with water in a pan and then the lid filtered out the grounds. The other was an early filter method involving putting the grounds in a linen bag, an pouring hot water over it.
There were already ceramic and metal filters being used at this time, but they didn’t do it for Melitta. She wanted to find a way to brew coffee without getting so much of the grounds in the cup, and a method which produced a less bitter taste – and she did!
She invented paper filters, and patented her invention, and then put her husband and sons to work to sell them. I mentioned Melitta earlier when I was talking about filter machines – this is the very same company, it’s still going strong!
Pod and disc machines such as Nespresso and Tassimo, is that filter coffee too?
No, single pod machines like Nespresso, Tassimo, Dolce Gusto etc., work in a similar way to espresso machines, in that they force hot water at pressure through the coffee grounds. The pods are filtered in that the grounds are kept separate from the extracted coffee of course, but it’s not filter coffee. If you’re thinking of Nespresso, see best Nespresso machines 2017.
Is instant coffee filter coffee?
No. Speed is the name of the game when you’re producing zillions of kilos of instant coffee per second (OK I’m exaggerating again, slightly), and as far as I’m able to tell, instant coffee is usually brewed under pressure, so the brewing aspect of instant has more in common with espresso and coffee pod machines than it does with drip filter. They brew it in big volumes, into a thick concentrated sludge, and then freeze dry or spray dry it see difference between ground coffee and instant for more.
Is Americano the same as filter coffee?
No. Americano is a shot of espresso diluted with hot water. Americano should have some crema if it’s been made well with a decent espresso, and the mouthfeel is different, plus espresso is usually made with different beans, often a Robusta and Arabica blend. Most would choose a different bean for drip than for espresso, not that this is a rule, you can do what you like ;-). If you go into a speciality coffee shop that serves espresso and drip, they will usually select different beans specifically for each.
How should I know what a great drip coffee should taste like?
That’s a very good question, well of course it is, I asked it ;-). As with all brewing methods, I believe that the very best way to experience how it should be done, to gauge how well you’re doing when you brew at home, is to go to a well respected speciality coffee shop that serves filter. As a coffee lover, trips to coffee shops can be educational as well as enjoyable, as you can get an idea of how different coffees should look and taste, when you’re being served by a professional skilled Barista.
Don’t be afraid to ask your Barista about the coffee either, most will be flattered if you tell them that you want to know how the heck they made it taste so good, and many will offer you advice about making better coffee yourself, although I wouldn’t advise trying to pick their brains too much if it’s particularly busy. I was in Takk in Manchester once when someone was asking for advice on how to brew via Aeropress, and the Barista brought one out to their table and gave them a demonstration! He did go on to sell them an Aeropress and a couple of bags of Hasbean coffee, so he didn’t waste his time ;-).