Enlightened java drinkers disdain the typical automatic coffee machine on the shelves of their local big box retailer for one simple reason: it lacks control. It turns out that getting the best possible results from those beans — yea, those ones, which some jittery seed worshiper pressed into your hand while swiping your Amex with the other — requires a lot of precision. Heating water to the proper range, between 195°F and 205°F, is the first step in releasing the flavorful oil from the beans, but the average electric drip machine only hovers around 180°F.
Carefully regulating the distribution and timing of hot water over the beans is equally important. Ideally, freshly roasted and ground beans should be pre-soaked in water and allowed to “bloom” for 40 to 60 seconds. This process removes excess CO2 from the fresh beans, a culprit that prevents heated water from properly reaching the full surface of the grounds (this appears in the form of bubbles coming from the wet grinds). More water should then be applied evenly (a notorious problem for basic brewers) across the beans for approximately 5 minutes. Exposing the beans to water any longer or shorter risks over or under extraction.
Hitting this narrow target has led demanding drinkers to sacrifice convenience for the exacting rituals offered by various pour-over methods — or to blow junior’s tuition on barista-made alternatives. But thanks to a new breed of re-engineered automatic machines, that trade-off is no longer necessary. Learn all about these best-of-both-world-brewers after the break.