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How Does a Drip Coffee Maker Work?

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Updated August 25, 2022

If you enjoy coffee on a regular basis, you understand the basics of how does a drip coffee maker work. However, you may not realize how much work goes into a cup of coffee or cups of coffee, as the case may be. Most of the best coffee makers make multiple cups of coffee at a time. Several types of coffee machines exist, including espresso machines, pod coffee makers, and drip coffee machines.


  • Drip coffee makers contain several parts, including the water reservoir, power switch, heating element, showerhead, filter compartment, and carafe.
  • As the heating element boils the cold water inside the water reservoir, a tube collects the water, providing an escape route into the showerhead.
  • The water falls from the showerhead into the paper filter filled with coffee grounds, extracting flavor before dripping into the coffee carafe.

Your drip coffee machine contains several parts that work together to perfect the brewing process. So, read on to find out more about each of these parts. For more details on how a drip coffee machine moves water, check out our article about how does a coffee maker pump water.

How Do Drip Coffee Machines Brew Coffee?

Different kinds of coffee machines brew coffee in varying ways, and most use temperature to extract the flavors of your coffee. In particular, drip coffee makers require heat to pump water and make your coffee beverage. If you have a single-serve coffee machine, you may be interested in how does a pod coffee maker work.

Insider Tip

Before brewing, grind and measure your coffee grounds.

To fully understand the workings of a drip coffee machine, you should know the various parts included inside. These parts include the power switch, water reservoir, heating element, showerhead, and more. Then, read on to learn more about the coffee maker’s process to brew delicious coffee, either in light roasts or dark roasts. Alternatively, if you want to try a different brewing method, you can learn how to use a pour-over coffee maker.


When you turn the coffee machine on, you activate the heating element of the device. The heating element typically consists of a metal component that becomes activated as electricity passes through it. Sometimes this element is an aluminum tube. The metal emits warmth, heating everything nearby. Traditional drip coffee machines also feature a temperature sensor that detects when the water reaches its optimal temperature and stops sending electricity through the aluminum tube.

This part warms the plate the carafe sits on and the water in the water tank. As a result, the cold water you put inside the water reservoir starts to boil. This piece features a tube for the water to pass through to enter and another tube for exiting. If you are wondering how all that could affect your power bill, you can check out how many watts does a coffee maker use.


The tube bringing water into the tank features a one-way valve that prevents hot water from escaping. The other tube draws the boiling water into the top of the coffee machine, using the bubbling motion to push the liquid up.

These components lead to the showerhead of the machine. As you might suspect, the showerhead releases the hot water onto the ground coffee beans placed inside the drip area. The boiling water and the showerhead create the gurgling sound of the coffee maker.

Drip Area

The drip area consists of the cone or basket-shaped filter compartment. As the water releases from the showerhead, the hot water drips into this compartment, containing your paper or metal filter and your grounds.

When you make coffee, you grind and measure your coffee bean grounds. Then, you place the grounds inside a disposable paper filter. As the water drips into this area, it extracts flavors from your favorite coffee roast. Once they become fully saturated, the hot water drips through the filter into the carafe or coffee pot for you to serve your coffee warm. Additionally. you can read about how your coffee maker auto shuts off to prevent burnt coffee or starting a fire.


Water will escape from the input tube if the coffee machine lacks a one-way valve.


What ratio of coffee to water should you use?

The ideal ratio for coffee to water in a drip coffee machine is 1:17.

What is the difference between a coffee percolator and a drip coffee maker?

A coffee percolator contains the water in the container where the coffee brews. The water cycles through the filter basket and coffee grounds continually as it brews, ensuring it stays hot and properly saturated. A drip coffee maker has a water reservoir. Once the coffee has brewed it drips down into a carafe.

Does decaf coffee taste different?

Decaf coffee doesn’t taste that different than caffeinated coffee, but some coffee lovers may notice a slight difference.

STAT: In the United States, 75% of adults are coffee drinkers, and 49% of Americans report drinking coffee every day. (source)

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