Your ultimate guide to filter machine coffee
Preparing good filter coffee is somewhat of an art. From blooming to extraction, meticulous attention must be paid at each stage of the coffee-making process to create a great-tasting brew. The results are well worth your time and effort but with so many elements to get right, it’s very easy for filter coffee to go wrong. That's where electric filter machines come in. These wonder appliances take the fuss and guesswork out of filter coffee and control many of components that often go wrong, such as water temperature and the even dispersion of water over grounds.
However, machine-made filter coffee (also known as drip or bean to cup coffee) doesn’t always equate to good tasting coffee. It’s still possible to make a bad brew using the market’s most sophisticated machine. So, whether you’re looking to invest in a new appliance or you want to get the best results from a filter coffee machine you already own, our below guide gives you all information you need to up your game.
Filter machine coffee: the jargon decoder
If you’re new to the world of coffee, here are a few terms you might want to take note of for this guide.
- Blooming - Adding a little hot water to your grounds to kickstart the extraction process. When the water and coffee combine, the coffee swells up in the most mesmerizing way, as the grounds release their carbon dioxide content.
- Extraction - The process of brewing coffee (aka extracting flavour from the grounds).
- Over-extracted - When you extract too many soluble particles in the coffee, leaving you with a bitter-tasting brew.
- Under-extracted - When you don’t dissolve enough desirable coffee particles into your drink, resulting in a weak, sour or astringent taste.
- Grind size - The size of particles once you’ve ground your coffee. The scale ranges from extra coarse to very fine. There’s no universal setting for grind size, so a quick Google image search will help you determine if you’ve sized your grounds right.
- Ratio - The amount of ground coffee used vs the amount of water used.
- Blend - A combination of two or more different single-origin beans that are mixed together to create a new flavour.
- Bean to cup - A bean to cup machine has a built-in grinder, so all you have to do is add the right amount of coffee beans and you’re good to go.
The filter coffee machine: how it works
To understand how the filter coffee machine works you need to start with the basic principles of filter coffee itself. Filter coffee is made by pouring water over coffee grounds. Next, this liquid passes through a filter, sifting out larger particles. A vessel or coffee jug then collects the brew, which is lighter-bodied and less silty than coffee made using immersion methods such as the cafetière.
Electric filter machines use this same brewing mechanism but require very little manual input. They are very easy to use and you only need to keep water in the water reservoir fresh, equipment clean, and get your grind size right - your machine should take care of the rest.
Although electric filter machines will vary depending on their model, the general mechanism goes as follows. When switched on, the device activates a heating component, warming up both a cold water tank and a glass carafe or litre jug used to collect the final brew. Heated water boils up through the machine’s tubing, pushing it through a one-way valve and through a showerhead, distributing water evenly over a bed of ground coffee. Under its own weight, the water picks up all the good stuff in the grounds and runs through a filter into the vessel where the final brewed liquid is collected.
A hot plate is a common feature of early models of filter coffee machines and is used to keep your coffee warm and at perfect drinking temperature. However, even though old versions of a hotplate or warming plate were effective if you wanted your drink to keep warm, they tend to be avoided in newer models as they can burn your brew. Another popular feature is an anti-drip system, which allows you to pour one cup before the brewing process is finished while avoiding any waste or mess.
Filter coffee makers often get confused with espresso makers such as Nespresso or De'Longhi products. The preparation method and coffee flavours of the two vary greatly. Both types of machine coffee can be enjoyed on their own as black coffee, however, espresso machine coffee is thicker so is often used for coffee lovers' favourites such as an americano or lattes and cappuccinos. Espresso machines also support pod technology and product prices tend to be higher than filter machines.
Finding the right filter
When it comes to your filter type, filter options can vary greatly - from a nylon filter to reusable gold mesh, so it's important to consider your household's variety preference.
The most popular choice by far is paper filters. They produce a really clean cup, filtering out both unwanted particles and oils. Many coffee drinkers also appreciate the slight edge that the taste of paper filters bring to their cup of coffee and its definitely worthwhile testing out both bleached and unbleached papers.
Cloth filters work much like paper filters, however, can be reused over and over again, making it a highly sustainable option. Cloth filters are rather high maintenance to keep clean and store, so this is a factor to consider (particularly if you drink a lot of coffee, are catering for office kitchens or serving a large family, and will be making bigger volumes such as 10 cups or 12 cups in one go).
Metal filters are the most sustainable option to opt for as you can use the filters for years and years. It’s important to note, however, that coffee made using metal filters will have a very different taste and texture. More oil is allowed to seep through and only larger particles are removed. That means you’re often left with gritty sediment at the bottom of your cup. It’s also very important to remember that for the metal filter, grounds must be of a coarser consistency.
A brief history of the filter machine
Here are a few dates and stats that take you through the evolution of the filter machine from its invention to today’s modern models.
- 1908 - The first known coffee filter was invented by a German named Melitta Bentz. The design was created by punching holes in the bottom of a tin cup and lining it with her son’s blotter paper.
- 1954 – Another German, Gottlob Widmann patents the first electric filter coffee machine, the Wigomat.
- 1972 – The American love affair with drip coffee takes off thanks to household name Mr Coffee. Electronic filter machines replace the percolator as the most popular homebrewing method in the US.
- 1974 - Half of the 10 million coffeemakers sold to America households are filter coffee machines.
- 2020 - The global coffee machine market is expected to grow by 3.9% to a staggering $229.6m. All designs are advanced variations of the original "Coffee Ma", the Wigomat. Leading manufacturer brands include Russell Hobbs, Morphy Richards, Smeg and Tower (the tower t13001 stainless steel model is a favourite brand pick for our team).
Today’s breed of coffee machine is something to behold. Thanks to decades of design and innovation, easy to use, modern filter coffee machines can include a number of features that deliver a next-level coffee experience. Nowadays users can power up an aroma button to enhance a roast's flavour, use an LED display to programme a timer feature or auto start, switch on a menu function such as auto-cleaning or simply touch a button to activate voice-recognition integrations, meaning Alexa or a phone app can essentially make your coffee for you. Depending on how much money you're willing to part with, there's almost nothing these machines can't do (except bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to dip in your brew - watch this space).
How to grind for filter coffee
No matter how sophisticated your appliance, there’s one major component that will sabotage a good cup of filter coffee every time - your grind. Grinders can be built into some filter coffee machine designs, however, when that’s not the case, you need to make sure you’ve got your grind size right.
While there’s no universal setting for grind size, filter coffee should always be ground super fine, giving you the texture and consistency of caster sugar. The finer the coffee, the more flavour the water is able to extract from the grounds.
This said, in situations such as when you have guests over and you’re brewing larger volumes (over 1l), your grind size should be slightly coarser. Similarly, darker roasts tend to be more brittle, so again your grind can go a little coarser. On the other hand, beans from higher altitudes sometimes need to be ground to a finer texture than you’re used to.
If grind size isn’t something you feel comfortable experimenting with or you’d rather keep your brewing process as simple as possible, Coffee Direct offers 106 delicious roasts that are perfect for a filter coffee maker and are delivered straight to you home, pre-ground to order. Just pick the ‘filter’ option when asked to ‘choose a grind’ and sort by price high to price low (or price low to price high) to find the exact roast for your budget.
How to make filter coffee: your step by step guide to brewing at home
When it comes to learning how to make filter coffee at home, easy to use coffee machines make the process incredibly simple. There are, however, a few key areas to pay close attention to such as ratio, grind and filters.
- Ratio: 30g/500ml.
- Grind: Superfine so it looks like caster sugar. Remember if you’re making large quantities of (1l plus), go for a coarser grind.
- Equipment: Filter coffee machine, filter paper, coffee, grinder (unless you’ve opted for pre-ground beans), coffee cups.
Instructions for filter coffee machine (how to use steps may vary depending on your machine):
- Prepare your coffee grind for the machine's basket/holder. Use the instructions discussed in the previous section or get your pre-ground coffee/whole beans ready. Make sure to pay careful attention when weighing out your grounds. It’s also worth noting that in general, a filter coffee machine is designed to brew larger volumes, so make sure you brew at least 500ml in one go.
- If you’ve opted for a paper or cloth filter, place it in the holder/brewing basket and quickly rinse with some hot water before returning to the machine.
- Fill the machine’s water container with fresh water. If your machine doesn’t have an in-built filter, use either filtered water (if you live in a soft to moderately hard water area) or bottled mineral water (if you live in a hard water area).
- Hit your machine’s ‘on’ button and wait for your cup of fresh brew to pour into your cups.
- While waiting for your brew to cool so you can drink your coffee warm, remember to clean and recycle your paper filters or clean and dry your cloth filters. We do not recommend using a dishwasher to clean your filters. If your filter coffee machine doesn’t have auto-cleaning features, make sure to give your appliance a quick clean to avoid problem areas such as limescale.
Top tip for using coffee machines at home:
If you’ve followed our home brewing guide and you’re not completely happy with your cups of coffee revisit your grind instead of altering your ratio. If your drink tastes weak and slightly sour, go for a finer grind and to counteract a bitter-tasting brew, go for a coarser grind.
The best coffee for filter coffee machines
If you’re wondering what coffee to use in a filter coffee machine, Coffee Direct has over 100 different freshly roasted options to choose from. Here is a selection of our best-selling roasts, each with a customer rating of five stars.
Monsoon Malabar (Price - From £10.99)
Picked in one of the wettest regions of southern Indian, Monsoon Malabar beans are transported straight from harvest to open warehouses for three to four months. At these warehouses, beans are exposed to harsh, moist monsoon conditions causing them to swell with moisture and lose much of their acidity. The result is a heavy-bodied taste with a beautifully mellow flavour and nutty and spicy aromas.
“We have been drinking Monsoon Malabar for many, many years and absolutely love the combination of strength, favour, aroma, and body this blend can offer with the minimum acidity that can often overpower some other blends with similar characteristics… I don't think there is anybody that may not enjoy this coffee.”
Saso T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Kenya Blue Mountain (Price - From £11.99)
Full-bodied, with good acidity, hints of nut and citrus and a smooth caramel aftertaste, our Kenya Blue Mountain is a perfect pick for those who like their cups of java strong. Combining seeds originally grown in Jamaica with rich Kenyan soil gives this roast all the natural sweetness of iconic Blue Mountain Jamaican beans, plus the rich, aromatic flavours and coffee strength you’d expect from Kenyan coffee.
“My father really likes this coffee and introduced me to it. I use it in a Sage Barista Express and it is delicious. A wonderful, unique, deep coffee taste!”
James B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
French Style Coffee with Chicory (Price - From £10.99)
Made with two parts ground coffee and one part roasted, ground chicory this blend is a truly unique addition to our filter coffee machine collection. The roots of the chicory plant add a slightly woody, nutty taste to a blend that is full-bodied with a beautiful aroma intensity and rich coffee flavour. We recommend serving this blend with milk.
“I spent a fortune online trying coffees with chicory but none made the grade for me until this one! It’s perfect 👌”
Mrs T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dark Decaffeinated Colombian (Price - From £10.99)
Decaffeinated brews often get a bad rap for a lack of flavour and strength.
Bursting with intoxicating aromas, our Dark Decaffeinated Colombian is ready to convert even the most die-hard decaf critic. Expect a cup of coffee that's full-bodied and packed with rich, luxurious flavours that have sweet fruit and chocolate notes.
“This Dark Roast Decaf Colombian is so good that it's hard to believe it doesn't contain any caffeine! The aroma, the taste, the appearance (with a good crema) are all just what I am looking for in my morning coffee.”
Jill B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Can you make filter coffee without filter coffee machines?
Yes. There is a long list of DIY ways to make cups of filter coffee without an electric machine for coffee. Popular methods that answer the quest for how to make filter coffee at home without machines include Pour Over (V60, Kalita, Bee Hive), Chemex, Nel Drip and Siphon. Price is a factor you should consider for alternative models as equipment price range can vary greatly depending on each brew method.
However, if you love filtered drinks but don't have the energy or time to perfect your morning mugs of java, taking some time to shop about for your dream purchase makes life easier and is an easy route to convenience and ultimate coffee enjoyment. Devices on the market come in almost every colour choice and material type and can even turn your kitchen worktop into a design feature.
Can you use filters without a filter machine?
Filter papers can be used without a machine (see above methods). Another handy hack for how to use coffee filter paper without machines/appliances is passing your cafetière coffee through a filter. This gets rid of the grit or sludge that often haunts the bottom of a cafetière coffee pot. We stock a number of paper filters which you can find when shopping in the Equipment section of our site.
Can you use cafetiere coffee in a filter machine?
No. Cafetière coffee should be ground to a medium-coarse grind, whereas the grind size for coffee for machines in the filter coffee category is superfine like caster sugar.
Can you use filter grinds in espresso machines?
No. Espresso grind size is even finer than drip coffee grind size. This means water will pass straight through the granules and you’ll get a cup of weak and under-extracted coffee. This will ruin the entire taste, sound, vision and smell experience of a brew for a coffee drinker. Espresso pods/capsules are also not usually supported by filter machines.
Can you use ground coffee in filter coffee machines?
Always check your machine manual, but unless your appliance has an in-built grinder for coffee beans, you should need to grind your coffee or use pre-ground beans. Make sure you always get your ratio right before heading to your LCD display settings to choose your settings. Remember, you'll need a larger quantity of grounds for 10 cups or 12 cups than you do 5-6 cups! If you do drink or brew large quantities of coffee, remember we offer free delivery for UK orders over £20. For all delivery regulations and information check out our website's delivery site page.