Drip Coffee Maker – How to make perfect coffee with a drip coffee maker

Drip Coffee Maker – How to make perfect coffee with a drip coffee maker

Saeco 12-Cup Automatic Drip Coffee Maker with Burr GrinderDrip coffee makers are the single most popular small kitchen appliance in the US. You can buy an automatic drip coffee maker for as little as ten dollars, or go all out for one with all the bells and whistles – including its own coffee grinder – for over two hundred dollars. And despite the growing love (and resulting culture of) espresso, even espresso lovers sometimes admit that they just want a good cup of joe.

A couple of years back, I worked in an office where coffee was the lubricant that kept the wheels humming. We ran round the clock, and the coffee pot was always on and always full. It was also more often than not, barely drinkable. The standing rule of the coffee pot was “If you drink the last cup, put on another pot”. From the day that I started working there and made my first pot of coffee, there was a new rule. “If you drink the last cup of coffee, let Deb know so she can make another pot.”

Whenever I put on a fresh pot, people would drift from the far side of the building, and by the time it was finished dripping, there was a line at the coffee pot, waiting for that first cup.

There’s no big secret to making good coffee with a drip coffee maker. It’s simple and straightforward – but there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Invest in a coffee grinder.

It’s amazing what a difference that one single thing makes. When you grind coffee, you increase the surface area of the coffee bean that is exposed to air, hastening the release of the oils that give coffee its rich flavor. If possible, grind coffee right before you use it. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, buy at a store that sells whole beans that you can grind yourself. Buy just enough for a few days at a time, and store it in an airtight container at home.

2. Buy good coffee.

The better the coffee you start with, the better the coffee you’ll end up with. Of course, good coffee is a subjective thing. The one big suggestion I have here is that you avoid those big supermarket displays with plastic bins of coffee beans – the kind where you scoop or pour out beans into a bag. The bins aren’t airtight, and you have no idea how long they’ve been sitting in those bins getting stale. Vacuum-sealed bags or cans of coffee beans are better. Even ground coffee in a vacuum sealed bag is a better choice.

3. Keep your drip coffee maker and coffee pot clean.

Coffee oils cling to everything, and once they’re deposited they start growing rancid. Wash out your pot and filter basket every time you make a fresh pot, and clean your coffee maker once a week. Descale it once a month. And do remember to clean the shower heads up under where the filter basket goes. That’s an area most people never think to clean.

4. Use a paper filter.

You’ve probably seen ads for “permanent coffee filters” in gold or nylon. They sound like a great idea, but see #3 above. Coffee residues tend to collect in hard to clean places on them. It’s better and easier to buy good quality paper coffee filters and have a fresh one for every brew.

5. Use enough coffee.

The biggest mistake that people make when making coffee in a drip coffee maker is using too little coffee. So, how much coffee for one cup of coffee? You should use a full tablespoon of ground coffee for each 8 ounces(about 227 grams) of water. Measure it out the first few times and you’ll be surprised how much coffee that actually is.

6. Use fresh, cold water.

I’ve heard people recommend using distilled water with all the minerals and impurities removed. Frankly, distilled water is good for your machine, but it makes flat tasting coffee. If your tap water is good for drinking, it will make good coffee. If it’s not, use a water filter or use spring water.

7. Avoid the temptation to use the brew pause.

The first cup or so of coffee will carry most of the coffee flavor. If you pour that off and return the pot to fill the rest of the way, the first cup of coffee will be very strong, and the rest of the pot very weak. Practice patience, grasshopper.

8. Take the coffee off the warming plate when it’s done brewing.

Coffee left on the warmer plate will continue to “cook”. Instead, pour any coffee that’s left over into a thermal pot, preferably one with a vacuum seal.

That’s all there is to it. Follow that advice, and you’ll have the entire office lining up to drink your coffee, and skipping the afternoon run to the nearest Starbucks.


  1. One last question….researching for a while….am I allowed to say the “K” word? Keurig…..lots of buzz….but am apprehensive….Your thoughts?

  2. If you buy pre ground coffee check the grind size, (filter machines and cones say to use medium coarsely ground coffee) it should say size of grind on coffee package, or you can have starbucks grind for you when purchasing, make sure you tell them what kind of machine you are using..Ideally, you want to get a grinder of your own so you can grind right before brewing..Burr grinders are best but a simple blade grinder will work. Some have settings for coarse, medium coarse etc. I like hand grinders the best though.

  3. If you need to make a pot of coffee..There are 3 main ways. All taste different and, have different caffeine kicks, and,, all are really good.. Filter machine, French Press or Percolator. Most people use a paper filter machine because it’s the easiest.

  4. Hi Meg… your question has an answer on YouTube. It’s called “How to make a single cup of coffee with a one- cup filter cone” Nice, simple, and inexpensive. If or when you need more than one cup..Then, let’s talk.

  5. French Press?….which brand is the best for a single (substantial) cup of coffee…and how do you use it? I’ve been spoiled by Starbux but refuse to pay $4 for coffee anymore.

  6. Nifty idea putting “just off” boiling water into filter machine. Bodum, makes French Presses and recommend 7 grams, one tablespoon, one level scoop of coffee per each FOUR oz of water ounces. I personally use 1.25 tablespoons per 4 oz water. This makes full flavored. the expression used to be
    ” plus one for the pot” so yeah, I think you have to find your own

  7. RE: (For Larry re: Why cold water – Hot tap water contains dissolved lead.)
    – What if you have copper or cpvc pipes ? If there is dissolved lead in your water, you better completley change your plumbing because it is against federal law to have lead in your water or in chipping paint

    – Cold vs. hot ? When using hot water, I get hotter coffee coming out so it must extract the coffee flavors better right ? Cold wtaer just takes longer to perk.

  8. If you don’t have the option to take your glass carafe off of the burner, place 3 pennies between the burner and the carafe. This prevents scorching of the coffee.

  9. One’s coffee preferences are truly subjective but it seems, if it’s drank black, subtle differences count more; if it’s drank with milk, sugar and/or other additives, the subtleties in coffee flavor can be covered up. This may account for some of the varying opinions.

    A few things seem consistent – always remove your coffee pot from the heater once brewed. It seems to take only minutes to negatively affect the flavor.

    Microwaving coffee might be better than burning it on a heater, but it still affects the flavor so I suggest brew only what you need or, as previously mentioned, preheat a thermal carafe and pour your fresh brew in there to keep it warm longer.

    Fresh ground beans are definitely best but you can find decent pre-ground, vacuum sealed coffee. Buy from a store with high turnover as product will be fresher.

    I’d like to say otherwise, but the grind matters (it’s a nuisance, but it matters). Since there are so many variables to give what each person thinks is a good cup of joe, experimentation with coffee type, quantity and grind type relative to your specific drip machine (or any coffee maker, for that matter), is the only way to know what makes “your” perfect cup.
    Thanks everyone for sharing. This type of sharing is helpful.

  10. I use a Hamilton Beach four cup brew station. I use 2 level tablespoons per pot of coffee. I have a cup that handily measures out 24 ounces, so four six-ounce cups. This works out to one teaspoon per cup of coffee, roughly speaking. I clean the basket and holder after every brew, and I don’t use the warming feature. If my coffee gets cold, I warm it in the microwave. Say what you may, but I don’t taste a difference.

  11. Why does Mr.Coffee specify cold water? Perhaps hot water from tap from house water heater? But I have taken charcoal filtered house tap cold water customarily. However, more recently experimented with the same water heated in tea kettle to boil and filled Mr.Coffee maker with it. It certainly moves the water more rapidly through the fresh ground beans. Is there any opinions on this practice. I am not certain of a flavor distinction for better or worse. Typically used the fine side of medium grind.

  12. I’ve started pouring boiling water into my drip machine. I don’t stand near it while brewing as I’m not sure how safe this is. At last I’m brewing at 200 degrees instead of my machines 158 tempiture. Fresh beans, fresh clean water and beans ground for filter shape and type.

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