“The most common coffeemaker in the world” doesn’t have much going for it.
Most Americans own at least one electric drip coffeemaker. As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance your first coffee beverage was made with one of these. There is no doubt about their convenience and ease of use … but there is also no doubt about their inability to make a superior cup of coffee.
Three problems plague the electric drip machine: first, the lack of contact time between the water and the grounds; second, the paper filter; third, the plastic filter basket ensures that past brews flavor each successive one. One of these is fairly easy to remedy. The others are more difficult to overcome.
First, the easy one: the filter. Paper is absorbent—it soaks up and locks in some of the liquid being poured through it. In the case of coffee, the paper filter soaks up much of the oils that are naturally present in the coffee grounds. These oils give coffee its character and its body. There is a very good reason why most coffee run through an electric drip machine tastes relatively the same. The oils are still sitting in the filter.
A simple fix to this is to buy a reusable metal filter. The metal screen filter allows the oils to pass through, which is what we want. Of course, this is a little bit of a compromise in another way. Bits of finely ground sediment is able to pass through the filter into your drink. Some people don’t appreciate this, but we think the compromise is well worth it. Some oil, with or without the sediment, is always good.
The second limitation of an electric drip machine is how fast the water falls through the grounds. Gravity is at work so there is little that can be done to slow it down. Some machines have a control that reduces or expands the size of the drip hole, which slows down or speeds up the contact time. Slowing down the drip speed and using a metal filter will improve the quality of drip coffee, but it is still not enough time to fully extract all of the potential flavor from the grounds. For this reason, most people end up using more grounds per fluid ounce of their cup of coffee than is recommended in drip coffeemakers’ directions. Just so they can get the rich taste they are seeking.
Obviously, using more coffee per pot means that some of it is being wasted, when compared to the efficiency of other coffeemakers. We hate wasting the most precious of beans at Thrasher, and this is why we recommend using other methods of coffee extraction—methods that allow the grounds and the hot water more time to get acquainted.
The third limitation of the drip is the worst and most difficult to overcome. Have you ever noticed that plasticware used to store leftover spaghetti gets stained red and oily? That’s because the lipids (oils) in spaghetti get trapped in the plastic, which is porous. The same thing happens with coffee oils and the plastic filter holder of drip coffee machines.
That’s why the filter holder gets stained brown, from the coffee oils that have been trapped in the porous plastic. And those oils that stay behind get stale. That’s why every new brew tastes kind of like stale coffee. Even the freshest coffee brewed in a drip machine comes in contact with old coffee oils, tainting the flavor and diminishing the fresh taste of your premium coffee.
This is almost impossible to overcome. You could replace the filter holder regularly, but that would only do so much. New filter holders make your coffee taste like plastic until they have been used a few times, at which point you’re back where you started. The real solution is to find a drip coffee maker that uses a glass filter holder. As far as we know, none of these exist.
For the best results with a drip coffeemaker, we recommend you use one that makes one cup of joe at a time. Because these single-serve makers keep the brew to a minimum, they concentrate all the brew in one cup and deliver a more flavorful and efficient result. As far as drip coffeemakers are concerned.
That said, you’ll never get the plethora of rich coffee flavors from an electric drip that you deserve, and this is why we recommend using other brewing gear for coffee extraction.
William of Ockham taught that the simplest solution should be preferred until more complex solutions prove to be better. In the case of coffee, we believe that the best preparation method is still the simplest: letting ground coffee steep in very hot water for more time than drip makers allow. New methods come and go, promising more convenience and efficient results, but this method still remains. And we guarantee that it is well worth the extra preparation time.