Ask a barista how they brew coffee at home and most will tell you some form of manual brewing.
For discerning coffee drinkers, manual brewers give you more control over the brewing process, letting you optimize your daily joe to your tastes.
From French press to pour-over, these manual brewers will up your coffee game (without breaking your budget).
French press is the most popular manual brewing style because it’s an easy and fast way to brew bold coffee. This premium French press from Café Du Chateau is durable with an eye-catching design and a secure handle for serving. The 4-level filtration keeps grinds out of your cup better than other French presses, letting you enjoy every cup you brew.
This STARESSO manual espresso machine is an electricity-free way to brew up rich shots with full crema. Its stable base and straightforward pump design make it ideal for use on the go and it’s versatile, too, working with both ground coffee and Nespresso pods.
A pour-over dripper, like this one from Bodum, is the most affordable way to make café-quality coffee. It’s a great long-term value, too, with a reusable metal mesh filter so you don’t have to buy paper filters to use it. Take out the filter and the borosilicate glass carafe becomes an attractive serving vessel, ideal for entertaining.
The all-metal carafe of the Mueller French Press Coffee Maker retains heat better than glass designs, good news for those who like to linger over their morning coffee. Three layers of filtration on the plunger blocks sediment and grinds for an enjoyable, clean cup. It comes with a travel bean canister, too, adding to its value.
The copper frame and lid of the Veken French Press gives it a unique look without sacrificing durability. It still uses dual stainless steel filters like other high-end French presses, with a back-up strainer on the lid. The scale line marked on the carafe is a nice touch, too, making it easier to maintain the right coffee-to-water ratio when you’re brewing.
Stovetop espresso makers like this Primula model were the original manual brewers, giving you a full pot of bold coffee in minutes with nothing but heat. Since it’s made of durable, lightweight aluminum, it’s a great choice for camping and traveling, as well as a compact option for tight spaces like RVs and tiny homes.
The Coffee Gator Pour Over brewer has 2 parts: a heat-resistant glass carafe and a laser-cut stainless steel filter built to fit perfectly into the top. That makes it both a convenient and an eco-friendly option since you don’t need to use paper filters. You’ll get more of the coffee’s oils in the brew, too, for a cup with the natural sweetness of pour-over and the full body of French press.
For those who prefer French press, Coffee Gator still has you covered. The insulated stainless steel carafe of the Coffee Gator French Press won’t break during use or travel and resists damage from rust or corrosion. It’s also great for keeping coffee hot, no matter where you use it. The included airtight bean canister fits easily inside the French press during travel for compact coffee on the go.
The Wacaco Minipresso turns ground coffee and hot water into rich espresso shots with just the power of your hand. It doesn’t take as much elbow grease to prime the pressure pump as other espresso makers with a similar design. When you’re done, the included cup becomes a cap and the whole thing is small enough to fit easily in a backpack or briefcase.
Presto MyJo is an affordable, portable way to do K-Cup single-serve brewing. Just put the pod in the base, fill the top with hot water, put it on top of your mug, and start pumping. You can even put the reservoir in the microwave to heat the water if you don’t have a kettle handy, making it an even more versatile choice for offices, hotel rooms, and road trips.
The Wacaco Nanopresso is an upgraded version of the Minipresso reviewed above. It has the same compact, portable design but uses a more sophisticated pump system for a higher-pressure brew with less effort from the user. Since it’s just as compact and light-weight, it’s the best portable espresso maker for campers and travelers.
The wood sleeve on the OAMCEG Pour Over Coffee Maker gives it an attractive, modern look. It’s helpful when you’re serving, too, giving you a better grip and protecting your hands from the heat. Scale markers on the base help you track your brew with more precision, and the dual-layer stainless steel filter lets all the good oils through while still blocking sediment and grounds.
The carafe of the GVODE Pour Over Coffee Maker is similar to other models on the market. The main difference is the filter. It’s made of double-layered stainless steel with a titanium gold coating that’s more durable than other reusable filters, and won’t retain any oils or aromas. We also appreciate the thick glass handle on the carafe, which is sturdier and gives a better grip than more delicate models.t
Each manual brewing method has its own best practices. Let’s take a quick look at how to use the 2 most popular manual brewers: French press and pour-over.
Keep in mind these instructions are for a single, 12-ounce cup. Use this same ratio for larger batches (60 grams of coffee for a 24-ounce carafe, 90 grams for a 36-ounce carafe, etc.).
An automatic coffee maker does most of the work for you. At a minimum, they’ll heat the water and disperse it over the coffee. Some models will even grind and dose the beans or make sure you’re using the right coffee-to-water ratio.
Manual brewers don’t have any electronic components, so it’s up to the user to heat the water, grind the beans, and get the right ratio of grounds to water.
The advantage of this is you’ll get more control to fine-tune the brewing process to your exact tastes—that is, if you know what you’re doing. Manual brewing methods take a bit more knowledge and technique than automatic machines, though they’re usually not hard to learn how to use.
To properly brew espresso, the water needs to be under pressure during the brewing process—specifically, at least 9 bars of pressure to be considered true espresso. This means you always need some kind of “machine” to make espresso.
The difference between automatic and manual espresso machines is how that pressure is generated. Automatic machines use electronic pumps.
With a manual machine, the user is responsible for generating the pressure, whether that’s by pulling the lever of a full-sized commercial machine or pressing down the plunger of an AeroPress.
The least labor-intensive manual espresso maker is a stovetop espresso maker or Moka pot. In these brewers, pressure builds in the chamber as the water heats and releases steam, forcing the water up through the ground coffee.
While it doesn’t quite hit the 9 bars required for true espresso, it’s the only hands-off method that produces coffee similar to espresso in strength and body.
Automatic coffee machines vs. manual coffee machines
How to Use a French Press
Pour Over Coffee Drip Brewing