Asking for “a coffee” may seem an obvious process, but actually it isn’t: there are countless ways of making coffee, depending on culture, geographical area and personal preferences.
Different ways of preparing coffee modify the taste and intensity of the beverage. Options range from the Moka pot method – an Italian classic – to the Neapolitan flip coffee pot, the French Press system, Filter (or American) coffee, Turkish coffee and Arabic coffee.
If you’re curious about other ways of making coffee, beyond espresso, you’ll find plenty of alternative ways in this article.
How to make Moka pot coffee
Despite the appearance on the market of highly practical capsule coffee machines, making coffee with a moka pot remains a great Italian ritual. The moka was invented by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933, and its name was inspired by the city of Mokha in the Yemen, one of the first and most famous coffee production areas, especially for Arabica beans.
The moka coffee pot is made up of a lower water-containing component, which is placed on the heat source, a filter unit to be filled with ground coffee and fitted into the top of the water container, and an empty compartment on the top which gradually fills as the water passes up through the filter.
To make a perfect coffee with a moka, you only have to carry out a few easy operations:
- fill the lower part with water, without covering the valve at the top. The water should be at room temperature, and not too calcareous… otherwise the final quality of the coffee may be damaged.
- Next fill the filter component with ground coffee, without pressing it down tightly.
- When the coffee has filled the top compartment, remove the pot from the heat: the liquid coffee should never reach boiling point, which would spoil its taste.
When cleaning the pot after use, it is better to avoid detergents: all you need do is rinse it with boiling water. You should clean the filter carefully, otherwise it can harbour residual deposits that could compromise the pot’s hygiene.
With a brand new moka pot, or one that hasn’t been used for a while, let it boil for a while with some coffee inside before making the first coffee.
How to make French Press coffee
The French Press system for coffee-making is based on the hot infusion principle. This method was probably invented in France in the mid-19th century, but it was patented for the first time by the Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1931.
The French Press is used widely around the world, with names that vary from country to country: in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa it is called plunger coffee, in France cafetière à piston, while Great Britain and Holland use the French term cafetière.
The secret of making an excellent coffee with the French Press system is to keep down the number of coffee particles in the water, which means using a medium grade grind instead of a fine one. If the you’re using a dark turbid coffee, you can grind it more coarsely, but if it’s ground too finely it risks clogging the filter plunger and creating too much pressure in the cylinder, making it difficult for the piston to descend.
The French Press system consists of a cylindrical glass pot with a broad piston inside it. Making coffee is extremely simple:
- Place the pot on a flat dry surface
- Hold the pot firmly by its handle and pull out the piston plunger
- Use a spoonful of coffee (7-8 gr) for every 200 ml of water (a cupful)
- Pour hot water into the jar… just below boiling point (maximum 96°C)
- Let the infusion process work for 4-6 minutes
- Now reinsert the plunger into the top of the cylindrical jar and slowly and delicately plunge it towards the bottom… the slowness serves to obtain better results but also to avoid liquid squirting out
When you’ve finished using the coffee pot, wash it with water and a delicate detergent, and then dry thoroughly.
How to make Neapolitan coffee
This coffee-making system requires the use of a particular coffee maker called the Neapolitan flip coffee pot. This consists of two metal cylinders separated by a filter cup containing ground coffee. The filter cup should be filled with darkly roasted and finely ground coffee, and the lower part filled with water.
The lower part is then placed on the heat source and brought to boiling point. At this point the Neapolitan pot is lifted up and quickly turned upside down, thus allowing the hot water to filter down through the coffee, extracting its aroma, taste and perfume, and collecting in the container with the spout (originally at the top, now at the bottom). Now all you have to do is… pour the coffee!
How to make Turkish coffee
Preparing Turkish coffee involves using an Ibric or Cezve, a metal pot with a single handle, and very finely ground coffee (traditionally ground with a brass pestle). The procedure is as follows:
- pour 50 ml of water per person into the ibrik, add the desired amount of sugar, and stir
- bring to the boil on a low heat
- remove from the heat and add finely ground coffee (2 teaspoons per cup)
- the coffee should be brought to the boil twice, to make it more frothy. Between one boiling and the next, the ibrik should be removed from the heat source
- before serving, add a teaspoon of cold water, to accelerate the depositing of the grounds
- and finally, serve the coffee without filtering it. The beverage should be drunk in small sips, allowing the grounds to sink to the bottom.
How to make Arabic coffee
Like Turkish coffee, the Arabic version is also based on the infusion principle.
The coffee beans (preferably Arabica) are ground with pestle and mortar, mixed with cardamom capsules and a few saffron pistils. Given the degree of taste intensity in these two spices, you should perhaps start with a low dosage.
Arabic coffee is made in a dallah, a tall coffee pot with a long thin spout. You should proceed as follows:
- for each person pour a cup of water into the dallah, plus another half cup for evaporation, and bring to the boil;
- remove the dallah from the heat and add the mixture of ground coffee and spices (a teaspoon per person): this should be stirred, in order for the mixture to remain suspended in the water, preventing it from burning on the hot base of the dallah;
- replace the dallah on the low heat until it boils… repeating this action 3 times;
- before serving, beat the pot gently on a flat surface to help the grounds to deposit on the bottom;
- sip the unfiltered coffee, so that the grounds remain at the bottom of the cup.
How to make Filter coffee
Filter coffee, known in some parts as American coffee, is the most widely used of all coffee-making methods, and is particularly popular in North America, Asia and Northern Europe.
To prepare it you need a disposable paper filter and a jug… automatic filter machines also exist. The coffee should have a medium grind, not too fine (the coffee would be over-infused, and taste too bitter) and not too coarse (the coffee would be under-infused, with a weak aroma).
- Preparing with a filter machine: fill the machine’s tank with water (one litre for 40 gr of coffee) and position an empty jug underneath the filter holder. Position a paper filter in the filter holder, and then spoon the coffee uniformly inside it. Turn on the machine: the water will be boiled and then begin to drip slowly into the coffee in the filter, and then drip down into the jug. In about 5 minutes, your long coffee is ready to be drunk;
- Preparation with filter jug: the procedure is the same, but in this case is carried out manually. The filter unit containing the coffee is fitted into the top of the jug, then boiling water is poured manually on top of it, with a circular movement. As the water filters down into the jug underneath, more water is added from above. Once the operation is completed, remove the filter compartment and pour the coffee.
How to make soluble or instant coffee
Instant coffee is ultra-simple to prepare: you simply dissolve the instant coffee in hot water… the standard dose is roughly 1.5 to 3 gr of soluble coffee in 150 to 190 ml of water.
The production of soluble coffee by coffee roasting companies is much more complex. The first step is to place the coffee in an extraction column with water heated to 180°C, under pressure. Next, the coffee’s aqueous extract must have its water removed, which can be achieved by two different methods:
- spray-drying process: the extract is pressure-sprayed from the top of a tower, while from the opposite part a jet of compressed air at 250°C is activated, which evaporates the water in the extract and sends the coffee powder to the bottom of the tower.
- lyophilisation process: the aqueous extract is first concentrated and then slowly frozen. Once solidified, it is crushed into granules and is then “sublimated”, i.e. it passes from a solid state into a gaseous one, leaving only the powdered coffee.