The Café au Lait
In this article, we’ll walk you through a timeless classic in the coffee world, café au lait. Transport yourself to a Parisian cafe without ever leaving the house.
If you’re anything like us, coffee isn’t just for rejuvenating your brain when you’re drowsy. Coffee is a lifestyle, a drink to enjoy for its scent, flavor, and of course, a good blast of energy when you need it. You probably have a coffee maker at home, but have you ever wondered exactly how it manages to give you that great pot of coffee every day?
Here at Good Fika, we believe that the more you know about the coffee brewing process, the better you can appreciate that perfect cup every time. Read on to learn all about the automatic drip coffee maker.
When you think of a coffee maker, the object that comes to mind is most likely an auto-drip coffee maker. The innovative design of this appliance enables you to brew coffee quickly and easily with the right amount of coffee grounds and water at the perfect temperature. That’s why you can simply scoop your favorite coffee grounds into the filter, add water into the reservoir, press a button and completely ignore the machine until the coffee is ready.
However, when curiosity gets the better of you and you open up a coffee maker, you will see the following basic components.
Every automatic coffee maker has a container that holds water for brewing. This container is at the back of the appliance, funneled to the heating element to generate heat. Water reservoirs range in size depending on the maximum number of cups that the coffee maker can produce. Depending on serving, you can calibrate it by cup numbers or water quantity in ounces or liters.
This is the outlet that allows hot water to spray evenly over the coffee grounds. It should be large, round, and placed as close as possible to the coffee filter to maintain the heat and increase the surface area of coverage. A drip plate with small holes separate the showerhead from the coffee grounds to control the rate of water hitting the coffee grounds.
The cone-shaped or flat-bottomed fine mesh basket is the permanent filter that comes with your coffee machine. You can use it with or without a paper filter, depending on the type of flavor you like. Adding a paper filter produces a smoother cup of coffee, while the permanent filter makes a grittier coffee.
For your coffee maker to work, water must move between the heating element, the reservoir, and the faucet. You will find these tubes in different colors and connected to a one-way valve to ensure that the water flows in the right direction.
This part is purely aluminum and connects to an off-switch, either automatic or manual, to turn off when the water reaches the right temperature or when the reservoir is empty. The thermostat, which cycles on and off to maintain the right temperature during the brewing process, regulates the heating element. Most coffee makers also come with an external warming plate, which keeps the coffee in the carafe warm after the brewing cycle is complete.
The automatic coffee maker as we know it today became popular in the 1970s under the US brand name Mr. Coffee. However, the very first electric drip coffee maker was a German invention. It was named the Wigomat and patented in 1954. Before the 1950s, coffee brewing was a stovetop task using a pot or a percolator. Coffee filters had long been in use, invented by the German entrepreneur Melitta Bentz in 1908. Unfortunately, the general opinion was that the water temperature in all coffee methods was too hot, which altered the flavor. The Wigomat introduced the idea of drip coffee with regulated water temperature, which brewed a full-flavored cup of coffee like never before. Since then, auto-drip machines have evolved in size, shape, and technology, but they all work by the same Wigomat principle of drip coffee.
We’ve discussed what an auto-drip machine is, what it’s made of, and its origin. Here’s the fun part: how to actually use an electric coffee maker! The short answer is that brewing coffee using an automatic coffee maker is probably the laziest brewing method ever. Scoop in your coffee, add water, push a button, and a steaming pot of fresh coffee awaits you. However, there are some guidelines to end up with great quality coffee every time.
The ideal ratio of coffee to water is one cup of ground coffee for a 12-cup coffee maker. This works out to one tablespoon of coffee grounds per 6-ounce cup for a light brew and two tablespoons per 6-ounce cup for a dark or stronger brew. A standard coffee mug is about 12 ounces or more, and a cup of coffee grounds is about 16 tablespoons. So you can adjust your beverage according to the size of the coffee maker, size of the mug, and strength of the brew.
Most automatic drip coffee makers work best with medium or coarse ground coffee to extract the best flavor. Here at Good Fika, we recommend using pure filtered water for the best-tasting coffee. Filter your tap water first to remove any additional minerals that may change the flavor of your coffee or even build up in your machine.
For most of us, our default coffee flavor is drip coffee. It is the easiest, quickest, and most affordable brewing method for large qualities of coffee. However, you may find that drip coffee, which relies on gravity to pull down the hot water through the coffee grounds, tastes different from percolator coffee, French press coffee, and espresso. Coffee filters may be the key difference because a filter removes the oils from the brew. It could also be the brewing time since other coffee-making techniques may steep instead of spray the grounds with hot water, which means that drip coffee dissolves less of the coffee than other methods.
We believe that these are worthwhile tradeoffs for the sake of automation and convenience. If you can press a button and coffee magically appears, you could live without the extra flavor molecules from your everyday cuppa and splurge on other types of coffee brews when you’d like a treat or entertain a guest. After all, it’s always coffee o’clock at Good Fika, with plenty of time to try every brew under the sun.
We have come a long way from the original Wigomat of the 1950s. Today’s coffee makers come in almost all shapes, sizes, capacities, and features, so it can be hard to choose the right appliance. Some come with built-in coffee grinders, others with insulated carafes, and others still can make cold brews, espressos, tea, and hot chocolate, all in one.
Our best advice is to know how much coffee you need to brew every day. If you live alone or are the only coffee enthusiast in your family, a single-brew coffee maker would be ideal. It can make up to 4 or 5 cups, and you can serve directly into your mug. If you like a constant supply of coffee throughout the day, choose a large capacity auto-drip coffee maker, 12 to 14 cups, with a thermal insulated carafe to keep your coffee hot. Most importantly, your coffee maker should be easy to use. The buttons should be clear, the parts easy to remove and clean, and any additional controls should be quick to program. The faster you can get your great cup of coffee, the better.
An auto-drip coffee maker is a must-have for every coffee lover, and its design has changed through history to give us the best possible flavor of coffee with the least amount of effort. You can adjust the strength of your brew, set timers on the machine to start brewing when you wake up, and even program your coffee maker to clean itself (yes, self-cleaning coffee makers do exist). All that remains is to try all your favorite types of coffee using the drip method and enjoy!