how a drip coffee machine works

By | January 19, 2014

how a drip coffee machine works

We all love our morning coffee. The smell, taste and the energy boost is so much part of our lives most can’t go through any day without. A few years ago, maybe you got a gift from one of your all-time best pal, a drip coffee machine, but do you really know how this machine works?

Well maybe not, so let’s get our best screwdriver set and find that out. The drip coffee maker is made up of several parts, the main ones being; the water reservoir, the warming plate, the heating element, the tubing system, brew or filter basket and the carafe. The reservoir is the part into which you pour a measured amount of water to make the coffee. If you look carefully you will notice an opening at the bottom of the reservoir, connected to the opening is a flexible tubing system that cold water travels through as it goes to be heated. At the bottom, the flexible tubing attaches into a metal tube that picks up the heat from the surrounding heating element.

how a drip coffee machine works

how a drip coffee machine works

Both the heating element and the metal tube are made from aluminum. Let’s take a deeper look at the heating element. Just like any electrical heating element, it is made from a coiled wire like the one in your iron box. Connected to the coil is the electrical wiring system including fuses, that plugs into the power outlet. When the switch is turned on, the heating element gets hot. As the heat becomes greater, incorporated thermostat switches the power off and on again when it has cooled enough, thus maintaining a stable temperature to boil the water and basically prevents your house from burning down. Back now to the water, as the aluminum tubing gets heated by the heating element, the water inside it almost instantaneously gets heated up to boiling point.

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Then the water continues its journey towards the outlet which is another flexible tubing that is connected to the other end of the aluminum tubing, which goes up through the reservoir to the drip area or the spray area up on top. The water travels from the reservoir to the drip area using gravity and thermo-siphon principle, where pressure created from the heat pushes the water upwards, so actually there is no mechanical part or pump in the coffee maker.

To prevent the backflow of water to the reservoir, the flexible tubing implements a one way valve that locks the opening when water tries to go back. The bubbling noise you hear as the drip coffee maker runs is because of the highly pressurized hot water making its way through the one way valve, using almost the same principle as a geyser. The drip area is a plastic top with holes in it, just like those in the normal shower head. The drip area spreads the hot water evenly over the coffee, located just right below it in the brew basket. The coffee in the basket is held within a filter. In the filter, the hot water picks up the coffee essence called caffeol that was let loose during the roasting of the coffee and drains into the carafe below it.

how a drip coffee machine works video

The carafe is just the fancy name for the jug or container that holds the coffee and it sits on a metal plate that keeps the coffee warm. The metal plate is also heated by the heating element which is directly below it, so the heating element ends up performing two functions. Well, now you know. So the next time you pour yourself a cup of delicious coffee, you will no longer think some alien magic and technology was involved.


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