How to Make a Perfect Cup of Drip Coffee

Espresso's more humble cousin deserves your respect.

A person served themselves drip coffee from a coffee pot

Juanma Hache / Getty Images

A specialty espresso drink is my favorite pick-me-up, but most days, I sip on a classic cup of Joe made from my drip coffee machine. Simple, flavorful, easy to customize, and consistent, drip coffee has developed  an undeserved bad reputation. Sure there are some less-than-acceptable examples (I’m not pouring myself a cup of coffee from a dilapidated machine in a dingy gas station anytime soon, or using that scary motel room maker) but excellent drip coffee is easily achievable if you follow these simple steps every time. Read on for everything you need to know about how to make a really good cup of drip coffee.  

What is drip coffee?

Electric drip coffee makers can brew up nearly a dozen cups of coffee with the touch of a button. Much like a pour over, drip coffee is made by pouring hot water over coffee grounds that are safely nestled in a filter. As the coffee brews, it drips (hence the name) into a coffee pot below. Depending on the size of the machine, you can make up to fourteen cups in one go, or opt for a small coffee maker to brew a single serving.    

How to make drip coffee

Unlike a French press or aeropress, both of which rely on pressure applied by the maker, drip coffee harnesses the power of gravity to brew. To make a cup of drip coffee, add a lightly wet filter to the brew basket. “Moistening the paper filter initially to eliminate any residual paper taste in the coffee,” notes Michelle Kawahara, west coast training manager for Lavazza. Add about one tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup and turn on the coffee maker.

What kind of grind to use for drip coffee 

Different brewing methods rely on different coffee grounds. For example, espresso uses very fine grounds so that they fully extract under the espresso machine’s high pressure. On the flip side, drip coffee machines can use a slightly coarser grind. The trick to excellent drip coffee is freshly grinding the beans. “[Grinding your own coffee beans] significantly influences the flavor profile. Coffee experiences oxidation, akin to an apple turning brown after being bitten and exposed to air,” says Kawahara. “By grinding beans freshly, the inherent flavors are more pronounced.” If you are using pre-ground coffee, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. 

How to clean a drip coffee maker 

If there is one thing to change about your drip coffee routine, it’s upping how often you clean your machine. A clean coffee maker is not only hygienic (a coffee maker can be one of the germiest places in your home) it can seriously improve the flavor of your coffee. “Ensuring the cleanliness of your coffee machine is important due to the natural oils present in coffee beans,” says Kawahara. “Neglecting routine cleaning can lead to the accumulation of these oils, resulting in rancid flavors over time and your coffee might have undesirable metallic, bitter, or astringent taste profiles.” Kawahara suggests cleaning it after each use by simply rinsing the brew basket and coffee pot with dish soap. Do a deep clean about once a month with a vinegar solution or coffee pot cleaner. With a bit of extra care, attention, and some cleaning, great coffee is easily achievable in seconds with a good old drip coffee maker. 

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