What is Drip Coffee?

by Nick Brown Updated: March 10, 2020 7 min read
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The term “drip coffee” may or may not be familiar to you, suffice it to say, I have no doubt that if you’ve ever drank coffee in your life, you’ve had drip coffee. Simply put, drip coffee is coffee that’s brewed by coffee makers. Getting a bit more into the particulars of it, you could technically say that something like a French press or a percolator is also a coffee maker, so in this context “drip coffee” will refer to coffee made by an automatic coffee maker, meaning a carafe and a basket full of ground coffee with water hot water dripped on it.

We use the term drip primarily as a means of distinguishing coffee from espresso since espresso is made with coffee and technically coffee itself. Yeah, it can get a bit confusing. Check out our complete guide if you haven't already.

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So why is it called drip coffee? Well, it has everything to do with how the coffee is brewed. In an automatic coffee maker, the brewing process looks something like this:

  1. A filter full of ground coffee is loaded into the coffee maker.
  2. The water reservoir is filled with water.
  3. A heating element heats the water, forcing it upwards.
  4. Water flows up to a shower head and is dripped onto the filter full of ground coffee.
  5. Brewed coffee flows out of the basket and into a carafe.

What makes Drip Coffee Different?

Compared to espresso, drip coffee simply relies on thermally induced pressure to send it up to the shower head, and gravity to pull it down through the grounds. It dissolves considerably less of the coffee’s soluble mass, and the paper filters common to this brew method will trap many of the oils that would otherwise be present in espresso, French press, or percolator coffee. Brewing coffee this way is uncomplicated, affordable, and thus, incredibly common among Americans to whom “drip coffee” is simply “coffee.”

Technivorm Coffee Maker on a Counter Top

Chance's are you've seen a coffee maker like this in your lifetime.

Among the more barista inclined, the term “brewed coffee” is sometimes used to refer to manual coffee brewing methods like pour over. It’s somewhat synonymous with the terms “craft coffee” or “artisan coffee,” and the general implication is that talent and effort went into making it. Drip coffee is the product of an automatic process, you put the grinds in, you pour your water in and you push the button. Maybe you select how many cups you want, or you set the timer on your coffee maker so it stops blinking “12:00” at you, but that’s about it.

Before we continue, I want to make it clear that the term drip coffee is not a disparagement, merely a descriptor of what is perhaps the most common brewing method in America, albeit one that requires substantially less effort than others.

Best Drip Coffee Makers

When it comes to brewing good coffee automatically, some drip coffee makers do it better than others. The SCA or Specialty Coffee Association sets standards for various parameters related to brewing coffee. Various manufacturers have received certifications from the SCA and its Golden Cup Standard. As far as we're concerned, drip coffee makers that are able to achieve this standard could be considered the best. With that in mind, if you're looking to upgrade your home coffee, we recommend checking out these coffee makers:

Technivorm Moccamaster KBT741

"A lot of web research went into the decision to purchase Technivorm. What sealed the deal was talking with W.L.L sales who gave honest feedback on my questions relating to the product and my needs" - Sukhi B.

5-Year Warranty
What is Drip Coffee?

Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741 Polished Silver Coffee Maker

22 Reviews
Technivorm Moccamaster KBT741 uses a unique 9-hole shower head that soaks the grounds evenly for ideal extraction conditions. The machine can brew up to 10 cups of coffee in just six minutes.

Braun KF9070SI MultiServe

"The MultiServe is great for brewing regular coffee, or treating yourself with the over ice function for special occasions. Love the multiple brew sizes." - Ed. M

7 Brewing Sizes
What is Drip Coffee?

Braun KF9150 MultiServe Brewing System - Black

Owning the Braun KF9150 MultiServe Brewing System - Black Drip coffee has become more innovative in the past decade and Braun has proven just that with the Braun Multiserve Brewing System. The Brau...

Behmor Brazen Plus Coffeemaker

"Awesome coffee maker. Makes coffee that tastes just like the aroma of the coffee beans. Not bitter or thin. LOVE IT! As usual Whole Latte Love has done it for us again!" - Carla B.

Ultimate Precision
What is Drip Coffee?

Behmor Brazen Plus Coffeemaker

28 Reviews
Behmor’s Brazen Plus is one of an elite few home coffeemakers to possess a coveted SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) certification, with programmable brew temperatures accurate to within 1°F.

Bonavita Connoisseur 8-Cup One Touch Coffee Brewer

"Just what I was looking for. Simple and to the point. Fantastic coffee maker." - Cynthia G.

Great Value Coffee
What is Drip Coffee?

Bonavita 8-Cup Connoisseur Coffee Brewer

23 Reviews
Bonavita 8-Cup Connoisseur Coffee Brewer presents a gourmet coffee brewing option as easy as the push of a button.

Breville BDC450BSS Precision Brewer

"Well-made, very quiet machine delivers consistent and excellent coffee, and thermal carafe keeps it piping hot." - Gary J.

Gold Cup Brewing
What is Drip Coffee?

Breville BDC450BSS Precision Brewer Thermal Coffee Maker

14 Reviews
The Breville Precision Brewer Thermal Coffee Maker BDC450BSS is the answer for anyone who best enjoys craft filter coffee.

How to Make Drip Coffee

Growing up, the answer to this question was "1 scoop for every 2 cups," but I'm guessing that's not the answer you were looking for. A good place to start is with ratio of 60g of dry coffee (beans or ground) to 1 liter of water. But let's do some math and figure out some basic averages.

The average American cup of coffee is 8 oz of liquid, and 1 liter is 33.814 oz. That means that you're getting just over 4 full cups for every liter (4.22675) to be precise. If you do a bit of rounding, that means that for every 8 oz cup of coffee, you'll want about 14g of coffee, which is just about 0.5 oz. So, our takeaway is:

Use approximately 14g or 0.5 oz of dry coffee for every 8 oz cup of coffee you want to brew.

Drip Coffee vs. Pour Over

Pour over coffee is a much revered method of coffee brewing in the specialty world. In a nutshell, pour over brewing involves pouring hot water over ground coffee that drains through a filter and into a carafe. While that may sound like drip coffee, it’s actually quite different. As mentioned above, drip coffee is the product of a coffee maker automatically dripping water. Your involvement is confined to providing the raw materials and pressing play.

With pour over you’re the one pouring the water, controlling the flow, stirring your grinds, and adjusting your filter. It’s an entirely manual process that requires constant participation to get right. In the scenario of drip coffee, one of the key benefits of choosing drip is convenience, and at the end of the day that’s a big deal when you’ve just woken up.

Is Pour Over Coffee Better?

Hario Buono Kettle and Woodneck Drip Pot

While time consuming, pour over can produce some of the best tasting coffee.

A somewhat loaded question, but a legitimate one, is if pour over coffee is better than drip coffee. The short answer is yes, so let’s get into it. On the face of it it’s pretty easy to see why, pour over as a method demands greater adherence to specialty coffee brewing standards in order to be executed successfully. If at the very least, you’re grinding your beans fresh and you have a digital kettle to heat your water to the proper brewing temperature, you’re already pulling ahead of drip.

Diving a bit deeper, it’s important to note that best practices for pour over brewing involve strict control of water flow while pouring, in addition to specific measurements for the total amount of ground coffee and water used to brew; definitely more exact than measuring in scoops. Controlling the flow of water and using the correct grind will ultimately provide you with the proper contact time between the water and the ground coffee and will prevent over or under extraction.

The resulting cup of coffee from a well executed pour over can yield much greater complexity of flavor that ultimately is the result of greater variable control.


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Drip Coffee vs. Americano

The Cafe Americano originates from WWII era Europe where American GIs wanted coffee that reminded them of what they were used to back home. An Americano is a mixture of espresso and hot water, with the ratio ultimately being determined by the drinker’s preferences. Something that’s important to note is that the Americanos originally drunk by our soldiers weren’t quite what you’d get today. Achille Gaggia’s revolutionary changes to the espresso brewing process did not take place until 1947 when he introduced a lever piston design, and thus, the espresso that was initially used in Americanos had distinctly different characteristics from those of a modern shot, including the absence of the signature crema it is known for today.

Because the Americano uses espresso as its main coffee component, it naturally inherits some characteristics from espresso. Compared to drip coffee, an Americano will typically be more full bodied and richer in flavor. Depending on how aggressively you add the water, you may also be able to preserve a light layer of crema on top of your cup as well.

Produces Incredible Crema
What is Drip Coffee?

Maromas Orphea Whole Bean Espresso

853 Reviews
It is usually ORPHEA that seduces people to start drinking their espresso without sugar. The only thing you will really miss is the long lasting phase that the sugar normally takes to sink into the...

If you flip that process upside-Down Under you can also make a Long Black like they enjoy in Australia where a shot of espresso is brewed over hot water, preserving even more crema. The primary reason for Americano’s presenting more full-bodied flavors is the higher amount of dissolved solids found in espresso as opposed to the comparatively lower quantity found in drip coffee. This also means that on average, an Americano will contain less caffeine than a cup of drip coffee.

Drip Coffee vs. French Press

Another incredibly popular method for brewing coffee, the French press. also differs from drip in both preparation and flavor. Anyone who has enjoyed French press coffee knows that it is richer and more full-bodied than coffee from a coffee maker. This is due to the absence of a paper coffee filter to trap the flavorful oils that are emulsified from the ground coffee while brewing.

Additionally, French presses make it easier to extract more evenly as the grounds are all submerged in water while brewing. Typically, you’ll grind your coffee, add it to your carafe, pour in your water, give it a stir to evenly wet everything, and you’re good to go. Check out our complete guide to French presses for more tips if you're just getting started.

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