Happy National Coffee Day! 4 barista-approved ways to make the perfect cup

Cup of coffee

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By Kristin Donnelly

Most coffee geeks agree: You can’t make the best cup of coffee using an electric drip machine. Sure, it’s efficient, but the machines get very dirty over time, and that tends to ruin the flavor of the coffee. Plus there’s no way to control the water temperature—two factors that also drastically affect the taste of your brew.


Just in time for National Coffee Day, September 29, here are four barista-approved ways to make your morning cup of Joe. And bonus: The equipment for these methods is cheaper than most electric coffeemakers.

Method: French press


What it is: Also known as a press pot, a French press is a pitcher (usually glass) in which you infuse coffee in hot water before using a plunger to press the grounds down to the bottom of the pot.

How it works: In the pot’s beaker, pour nearly boiling water over coarsely ground coffee, let it steep, then press down the grounds with the plunger.

Pros: It’s the easiest way to make a richly flavored, full-bodied cup of coffee.

Cons: You can get a lot of sediment in your cup, the pot can be a pain to clean, and you can’t keep the coffee hot for very long.

Method: Chemex


What it is: The Chemex is a trademarked hourglass-shaped glass pitcher that can be spotted in Don Draper’s kitchen on "Mad Men."

How it works: Line the top of a glass Chemex pot with a thick paper filter, fill with coarsely ground coffee, and slowly pour the water over the grounds; the coffee drips through to the bottom of the pot.

Pros: It’s a beautiful pot for making a super-flavorful but light-bodied coffee, free of sediment. Plus, you can make multiple cups at a time.

Cons: The special Chemex filters are more expensive than regular paper filters, and while you can make multiple cups of coffee, you can’t keep them hot for long.

Method: Pour-over cone


What it is: At its most basic level, the pour-over cone is like the filter basket in your auto-drip machine set directly over a mug of coffee. Of course, in the coffee connoisseur world, even the simplest things aren't so simple: There are several different shapes and materials used to make the cone—from ceramic to metal to plastic.

How it works: Set a paper filter in the cone and place over your cup of coffee. Fill it with medium-ground coffee, then slowly and evenly pour water over the grounds.

Pros: It’s a low-tech, portable and inexpensive way to make a flavorful, sediment-free single cup of coffee.

Cons: It’s a time-consuming way to make coffee for a crowd, and the taste of the coffee can vary depending on which cone you use and how fast you pour the water each time.

Method: Aeropress


What it is: The Aeropress is a trademarked cylindrical plastic device that is made by the people behind the Aerobie toy company. Like the French press, it allows coffee to be fully infused in the water, but it uses air pressure to push the water through a paper filter, so there’s no sludge. 

How it works: Put finely ground coffee into the chamber of the plastic Aeropress and set over a mug. Pour hot water over the coffee, then use the special plunger to press the water through the grounds into the mug.

Pros: It makes low-acid, very concentrated coffee. Like the cone, it’s inexpensive and portable, but it’s easier to make a consistent-tasting cup.

Cons: It calls for special disk-shaped paper filters, plus using the Aeropress requires a steep learning curve. And compared to the other devices, it’s just not that pretty.

The upshot? All of these methods, when used correctly, make an outstanding cup of coffee. You just have to decide which one works best for your lifestyle. Best plan? Try them all (ideally at an in-store demo) and pick your favorite.

A version of this article was originally published on iVillage.com.