How to Brew Better Auto-Drip Coffee

The auto-drip gets a bad rap. Sure, it doesn’t extract flavor like say, a pour over, but on a Monday morning when I slither out of bed, hazy eyes and frizzed-up hair to boot, I can barely find matching socks, let alone the will to spend time manually brewing my coffee – how was that visual for you? 

I love a pour over just as much as anyone else, and yes, those slow, intentional mornings are quite literally the moments I hope you experience with a cup of Written, but sometimes (read: Monday mornings) you need a no hassle, programmable option to get your first fix of the day.

Here’s how to get the most out of your auto-drip coffee machine.

Set the stage

Whole beans (done!), a good grind (almost done – see below!), filtered water, and the right temperature all come into play here. The good news is, a lot of the newer machines offer a grind option, so you can throw some whole beans in the night before, and program to grind and brew the next morning (I can almost hear the silent shudders of coffee-experts around the globe…)

I recently ordered this machine – which is SCAA-certified (Specialty Coffee Association of America) and works like a pour over. Take that, Monday.

Get your grind right

If your machine doesn’t offer a grind option, or if you just want to take matters into your own hands, Here’s a helpful guide for getting the perfect grind – it really does make a difference! 

For most auto drip coffee makers you want a fine or medium grind depending on the type of filter your coffee maker uses. Here's an estimation of how fine to grind it:

  • Flat Bottom Filters: Medium (close to the texture of sand).
  • Cone Shaped Filters: Medium/Fine (A little finer than granulated sugar).
  • Gold/Plastic Permanent Filters: Medium.

It’s all about the water

No, really. Your coffee is basically all water, so it makes sense to think that the quality of water is important here. If you live in an area where tap water isn’t very good (lookin’ at you, fellow Tampa Bay Area-ers), use filtered water for your coffee. 

In general, you want about 1 or 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces of water. Your preferences may vary, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something you like. 

On the note of water, if you’re working with a particularly, erm, crappy machine, do a trial run to heat up the machine. Per the SCAA, your water should be between 195 and 205F, but most cheaper drip coffee makers can’t get to this temperature quickly enough, which results in a bitter cup of coffee. 

Do a “trial run” of your coffee maker – without coffee – to heat up the machine. Pour the heated water back into the device and brew your coffee as usual. 

Clean your machine

If you’ve ever gone an extended amount of time without cleaning your machine, you know what bad coffee tastes like – and there’s nothing worse first thing in the morning. 

To clean your machine: fill the tank with a 50/50 measurement of vinegar and water. Run the vinegar and water mixture through a brew cycle just as you would make a pot of coffee (without grounds). When it finishes, pour the mixture back into the tank and run the process again. Run one more cycle with regular water to flush out any remaining vinegar. Et, voila!