How a cup of coffee is made does affect the taste. Both brewing method and brewing time influence the taste. Usually this influence is positive, resulting in a cup of coffee that is smoother, bolder, or somewhat bitter. But messing up the time can result in a cup of coffee that is weak, or tastes burnt.
There are general guidelines on how long different brewing methods take. But before we look at which coffee brewing method takes longest, it helps to understand the different brewing methods.
6 Common Coffee Brewing Methods
There are six common coffee brewing methods, though not all of them are used in coffee bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Hot water is poured over ground coffee and drips through a paper or metal filter into a cup or pot. The process can be automated using a standard auto-drip coffee maker, or manual using the pour over technique, or a Chemex or Nel Drip set. Manual processes allow you to control the bloom and ensure the water is poured evenly over all the coffee grounds. Drip filtration methods can take anything from 2½ to 4 minutes for manual processes, and up to 8 minutes with an auto-drip coffee maker.
Steeping or immersion sees the ground coffee being immersed in water for a set amount of time. The brewed coffee is then filtered as it is poured. Most familiar steeping or immersion method is the French press, while cold brew is also made via steeping. The Aeropress uses a combination of steeping and pressurised extraction. Brewing time can be as short as 1 minute with an Aeropress, and as long as 24 hours for cold brew. Brewing with a French press usually takes 4 minutes.
Siphon brewers use the steeping or immersion method, but with theatrics. Cold water is placed in the bottom chamber or bulb, while a filter and ground coffee are added to the top chamber. The water is heated, and once it is close to boiling, the top chamber is connected to the bottom chamber. The hot water slowly bubbles into the top chamber and mixes with the ground coffee. Once almost full, the heat source is removed, and gravity and a vacuum draw the coffee through the filter back into the bottom chamber. Brew time is roughly 2 minutes, but preparation takes time.
As the name suggests, hot water is passed through finely ground coffee under pressure. This is what espresso machines use, be they large, commercial machines or smaller ones for home use. Some coffee capsule machines also use pressure to extract a shot of espresso. It usually takes 30 seconds to extract a shot of espresso, but this does not include time needed to grind the coffee beans and to load and tamp the portafilter.
Stovetop coffee makers and moka pots use the percolation method for brewing coffee. Similar to siphon brewers, percolators usually have a bottom and top chamber. However, the ground coffee is added to a basket that fits between the two chambers. Water is gradually brought to a boil, creating pressure. The pressure pushes the water through the coffee grounds into the top chamber. The brewed coffee is poured straight from the top chamber. Brewing can take up to 10 minutes from start to finish, but it is very easy to end up with a coffee that is bitter or has a burnt taste.
Turkish coffee—and cowboy coffee—is similar in approach to steeping or immersion methods. Ground coffee is mixed with water and then heated on the stove or over another heat source. The coffee is ready when the surface begins to foam; it shouldn’t boil. The brewed coffee should be poured gently, leaving most of the coffee grounds behind. Brewing time can take anything from 5 to 10 minutes.
Which Coffee Brewing Method Takes the Longest
Coffee made using an auto-drip coffee machine can take the longest, especially if brewing up to 10 cups at once. But depending on your heat source, Turkish coffee and percolated coffee can also take up to 10 minutes to brew. However, it is important to remember that brewing time does not include preparation time. You still need to factor in time for grinding the beans, measuring out the ground coffee, heating the water where necessary, and various other steps.
At 18 to 24 hours, cold brew coffee does take the longest to brew. However, as a barista you would be brewing it a day in advance. So, when a customer orders a cold brew, all that is needed is to pour it and finish it off for serving.
When training as a barista, knowing the different brewing methods is more important than knowing how long each takes from start to finish. And when learning each brewing method, you will also learn the ideal brewing time for each to deliver a balanced taste that is never stronger than it should be.