Over the past few years, coffee has developed into an art form. Just walk into any coffee shop, and you can see people sipping on their perfectly customized cuppas. The art of the home-brewed cup has come a long way, too. Nowadays, there are hundreds of coffee gadgets available that promise convenience and good coffee. However, some of them, like the notorious Keurig, produce lots of waste and are expensive to run. Others, like the plastic drip coffeemakers our parents used, are ugly and make inferior coffee. And almost none of those machines are required for a good cup of coffee.
Some of the best coffee you can get is brewed using very simple means. Here, we look at a handful of coffee brewing methods that require very little equipment and produce almost no waste.
Of course, really good coffee uses freshly-ground beans and carefully controlled water temperatures, but these six methods can all make excellent coffee without requiring expensive coffee makers.
1. Coffee Press
A coffee brewing classic, the coffee press was patented by an Italian designer named Attilio Calimani in the 1920s. The modern coffee press is probably the simplest piece of coffee equipment you can own. A coffee press is simply a plastic, glass, metal, or ceramic carafe, a plunger fitted with metal mesh, and a lid. It requires no filters or special maintenance. At most, it requires just coarsely-ground coffee and freshly-boiled water to make an amazing cup.
Coffee made in a press tends to be strong and richly-flavored. And the best part? The only waste here is the spent coffee grounds.
2. Moka Pot
Also called a stovetop espresso maker, the Moka pot is a three-piece pot that uses the power of steam to create a thick, strong, espresso-like coffee right in your kitchen.
Unsurprisingly, the Moka pot is another Italian invention and was designed for Italian cookware company Bialetti in 1933, though many other companies make similar devices now. They come in a variety of beautiful, modernist designs. Also, much like a coffee press, this method uses no disposable filter and thus creates less waste.
To make coffee in a Moka pot, you first take the pot apart. After filling the bottom section with cold, clean water and the middle funnel-shaped section with espresso-grind coffee, put the pot on the stove on high heat. As the water boils, it will force hot water through the packed coffee grounds. The resulting coffee then burbles into the top part of the pot. While it is not true espresso, it’s thick and strong, and about as close as one can get without shelling out for a home espresso machine.
This method works very much like a drip coffee maker, but it gives you a lot more control over your product. In every version of pour-over coffeemaker, a conical dripper holds a filter filled with coffee, and freshly boiled water is poured over it. There are a few iterations of this style of coffee maker, from plastic versions available at local grocery stores to the beautiful and functional Chemex brewer.
While inexpensive versions are designed to be used with an ordinary cone filter, Chemex brewing is a different animal entirely. Chemex uses a special, thicker filter that draws out some of the coffee oils and creates a distinctive brew.
4. Cold Brew
Cold brewing is one of the simplest ways to make coffee, though it does take time. This kind of coffee is made by putting ground coffee beans in a glass container, and pouring cold water over them. The coffee is then steeped for between 8 and 24 hours. This makes a coffee concentrate that can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator and added to hot water to make a hot cup of coffee. It can also be served over ice.
There are a few different ways to make cold brew coffee. Although you can buy a dedicated cold brew pot or a specialty drip apparatus, cold brew only really requires a container to steep in and something to strain the grounds out when you’re ready to drink it. It can be as complicated or as simple as you like.
Cold brew coffee is a special animal. Compared to coffee made with hot water, cold brew coffee has a lower acid level and has a mellow, sweet, distinctive flavor. It has gained a much larger following over the past few years, as it has found its place among slow food movement adherents and coffee lovers who have the time to enjoy it.
5. Turkish Coffee
Turkish-style coffee is perhaps the most ancient method of coffee making listed here. It brings to mind images of Turkish coffee houses full of men passing time over a really strong cup of coffee.
Unlike the other coffee-making methods listed here, Turkish-style coffee doesn’t require any kind of filtering whatsoever. Instead, very finely-ground coffee and sugar are combined in a special copper or brass pot called a cezve. The coffee mixture is then heated until it starts to foam, and then it is poured into cups. Yes, Turkish-style coffee is served grounds and all. The key to drinking a cup of this Turkish specialty is giving the coffee time to settle in the cup before enjoying it.
6. Coffee Siphon
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a mad scientist right in your own kitchen, the coffee siphon is the coffee method for you. Coffee siphons work by using vapor pressure from boiling water. A siphon pot containing ground coffee is put on top of a kettle holding boiling water. The pressure created by the boiling water evaporating causes water to be drawn up the siphon into the siphon pot, where the water mixes with the grounds. The coffee is then taken off the heat and stirred as it cools. Then, atmospheric air pressure forces the coffee through a filter back down into the lower pot.
Siphon pots are a favorite of design aficionados, as well as coffee lovers. Not only do they look like something from a steampunk novel, but the unique closed design means that less of the coffee aroma escapes before it arrives in the cup. This results in a much more flavorful brew.
So, making coffee doesn’t mean making a lot of waste. These coffee-brewing methods all use reusable containers and relatively few disposable parts, meaning that you can still have a delicious cup of fresh coffee while still reducing waste.