Which coffee brewing method takes the longest? What about the quickest? In my ten years of working in coffee, I’ve learned the ins and outs of practically every type of brewer.
Here are the short answers: Cold Brew takes the longest because you are trading hot water for extended brew times (in the hours, or even days!) What about the quickest? That depends if you factor in prep time.
The Aeropress has every brewer beat, from set-up to cup. But if we’re talking about brew time exclusively, an espresso machine clocks in at a speedy 20 to 35 seconds.
In this guide, we dissect brew durations and do some real-world testing on the most popular coffee brewers out there. Whether you’re a time-conscious individual needing quick caffeination, or a connoisseur with the patience to do a longer, more involved brew, we’ve got you covered!
- Cold brew takes the longest to brew, ranging from several hours to a couple of days. If we only consider hot coffee, a moka pot takes a while to make a small cup.
- Espresso from a machine has the quickest brew time, but an Aeropress is the fastest if preparation time is included. Pour-over drippers, French presses, and other similar manual brewing devices will take a few minutes longer than an Aeropress.
- The best brewing method for you is the one you like best, as well as the one you’re willing to spend time and effort on.
Brewing Times in a Nutshell
The length of the whole brewing process is largely determined by how your coffee brewer brews — or how it squeezes the tasty solubles out of the ground coffee. Each type of brewing device approaches this somewhat differently, with distinct results in the cup as well.
Slowest Brewing Method: Cold Brew
Cold brew coffee is a brewing method that involves brewing coarsely ground coffee with cool water for a prolonged period, resulting in a concentrate that’s intense, less acidic, and shelf-stable.
Just how lengthy is this process? As fast as six hours for small-sized cold brew drippers, up to extended steeping times of 24 hours.
Very Quick Brewing Method: Aeropress
Originally designed as an espresso maker, the Aeropress has become well-regarded as a travel-friendly brewer that can make brewed coffee in dozens of different ways.
Using the classic recipe on their website can get you a cup in no more than two minutes!
Quickest Brewing Method: Espresso
Never mind the major equipment investment or the complexity of dialing in a shot. In terms of raw coffee brewing speed, nothing beats the 20 to 35 seconds it takes to brew an espresso!
How Other Popular Brewers Stack Up
What about drip coffeemakers, pour-over brewers, and French presses? These brew methods are among the most popular for home use. You most likely won’t have to spend more than ten minutes making coffee in the morning with one of these.
But the proof is in the pudding, so time for some testing!
Comparing Brew Methods: Our Considerations
Sure, we can look up the most popular recipes for each method, note down the brew times, and call it a day. But making coffee involves some preparation, which adds at least a few significant minutes to your routine.
Also, some of these methods are more involved than others, which might matter to you especially if you have trouble blowing away the cobwebs during early morning brews!
I brewed five cups of coffee end to end using the most common home brewers and assessed each on the following.
Grinding your coffee fresh will always give you more aromatic and tastier results, so that’s step one. Heating water in a kettle is another prep step, at least for three of our manual brewing methods. The last part involves getting your brewer ready, setting up its filter system, and putting the coffee grounds in.
Actual Brewing Time
The moment hot water hits the coffee grounds, yummy coffee solubles begin to make their way into your cup or server. This entire process of extraction constitutes our actual brewing time.
Shorter does not always mean simpler! I decided to note down how simple or meticulous each brew method is. Some might prefer a “set and forget” approach, while others might enjoy a more involved ritual.
Drip Coffee Maker
This classic coffee brewer is a staple in almost every household. All the prep you need involves grinding your beans, filling the tank with water, and putting ground coffee into the filter.
Our drip coffee maker was ready to brew in under two minutes
This brewer takes the least effort to use. To begin brewing coffee, all you need to do is turn on the switch, wait for the coffee to drip into the pot, and serve!
And done brewing in three minutes, easy-peasy
As far as manual brewers go, the French press is popular due to its reusable filter and straightforward brewing approach. To prepare your brew, you need to grind your coffee, heat some water in a kettle, and place your coffee grounds in the carafe with the plunger removed.
The French press was ready to brew in about ninety seconds
Brewing on a French press involves pouring water into your grounds, stirring, and… well, that’s almost it! Most of the four to six-minute brew time involves waiting for your coffee grounds to steep in the hot water. Once you’ve reached your target time, plunge the filter down and serve.
From steep to serve, it’ll take a minimum of five minutes on the French press
If you’re a coffee enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard of the pour-over technique. This method breaks down the auto drip coffee maker into a manual, controllable affair. Prep work involves grinding coffee, boiling water in a kettle, and wetting a paper filter placed in the brewer before adding the ground coffee.
It took me three minutes to get my pour-over setup together
Of all the manual methods, the pour-over requires the most finesse. You have to pour gently and in stages to make the most out of the relatively short brew time.
And another three minutes for the brew to finish
The moka pot is another classic brewing device that makes a concentrated cup of coffee, similar to an espresso. In addition to grinding coffee, some assembly is required before you can brew.
To prepare a moka pot, fill the bottom chamber with water, add finely-ground coffee to the filter basket, screw on the top chamber, and place it on the stove.
Two and a half minutes and my moka pot was ready to go
The brew begins when you turn the stove on. Depending on your heat source and the size of your Moka pot, it may take a few minutes of waiting before the first drops of coffee appear on the top chamber. Manage the heat setting until the liquid stops flowing, and pour out the concentrated brew into a small cup to enjoy.
My induction-capable moka pot took more than 6 minutes to brew a single serving
The Aeropress is a versatile little brewer. There are several ways to use one (check out our regular and inverted recipes here), but for this test, I opted to use the manufacturer’s recommended recipe.
Apart from grinding your beans and heating water in a kettle, some assembly is required. Affix the pre-wet filter and filter cap onto the brew chamber and place the whole thing on top of your cup. Pour the grinds into the chamber, and you’re ready to brew.
Aeropress ready to brew in under two minutes!
Brewing is done in four simple steps: Pour in hot water, swirl or stir the wet coffee grounds, attach the plunger, and press down into your cup until the chamber is empty.
And ready to drink also under two minutes!
Summary and Conclusion
The chart below will tell you how much time and effort each brewing method requires, based on a one-cup serving.
- Drip Coffeemakers are by far the easiest to use. And if you’re just making coffee for yourself, you’ll be done in about five minutes. Expect the brew time to go up for larger servings.
- The Aeropress stands out for being quick and easy, and clean-up is a breeze too! It can be challenging to brew coffee for a crowd though, so keep that in mind.
- Despite a moka pot’s complexity and lengthy brew time, it’s the way to go if you want an espresso-like beverage without investing in a proper machine.
Some brew methods do take longer than others, and it’s important to pick the one that suits your lifestyle.
But time shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor in your brew. After all, the best coffee is the one you like. Try out these methods, and see for yourself which ones are worth putting the time and effort into!