How Does A Drip Coffee Maker Work

How Does A Drip Coffee Maker Work?

Last updated on November 13th, 2023 at 14:22

Knowing and learning how does a drip coffee maker work and understanding the brewing process in terms of what is happening in the coffee maker will help you to move your drip coffee making skill up a level.

Even though there are very little adjustments that you can make, there are some things that you can do to make your coffee better – and knowing what and how starts with understanding how a drip coffee maker works.

Keep reading for a detailed guide to what is happening inside your coffee maker.

How Does A Drip Coffee Maker Work?

A drip coffee machine is still the most popular coffee maker sold in the world. It’s main function and way that it works is heat, convection and gravity. The hot water rises up through the tube and then falls, often sprayed over the coffee grounds.

The water then passes through the coffee grounds, gets filtered and drips into the coffee pot or mug below.

This, of course, is a simplified version of how a drip coffee maker works. I’ll get more detailed in a moment.

How Does A Drip Coffee Machine Work
How A Drip Coffee Machine Works

Read: Difference between drip coffee and pour over

The Components Of A Regular Drip Coffee Machine

Let’s break your drip coffee maker into two parts, or two halves, if you like. The two parts are the top and the bottom.

When you take apart electric drip coffee makers you will encounter parts that quite easily could be found in other types of coffee makers of different brewing methods.

Open up the top part, and you will find: 

  • The water reservoir.
  • The faucet/tiny shower head.
  • The hot-water tube.
  • The drip area.

The biggest component is the reservoir. As the name suggests, it is the part of your coffee dripper that holds the water, which gets warmed up and eventually drips onto your coffee and into the coffee carafe below.

The size of the reservoir will vary slightly from coffee machine to coffee machine.

The faucet is a tiny shower head that sprays the hot water evenly over your coffee grounds.

Its function is to ensure that you get a great quality cup of coffee by ensuring a good even flow of water over your coffee grounds.

The hot water tube is the insulated water tube that connects the faucet/shower head to the reservoir, moving the water from one part of the machine to another.

The drip area is what separates the shower head (faucet) from your coffee. It’s a little piece of plastic that has holes in it and helps to control the rate in which the water falls onto your coffee grounds.

In the bottom half of your machine you will find:

  • The hot-water tube.
  • The cold-water tube.
  • The heating element.
  • The power cord connector.

The hot water tube connects the heating element to the faucet /shower head, which then sprays the hot water over your coffee grounds.

The cold water tube connects the other side of the heating element to your water reservoir. It takes the cold water and passes it to the heating element, where the water is then heated.

The heating element connects the hot and cold water tubes and does what heating elements do and heats your water.

The one way valve is a valve that permits the water to move in only one direction: from the reservoir, to the heating element via the cold water tube and through the hot water tube and on to the faucet / shower head. It ensures that your water is moving in the correct direction.

The power chord is what provides the power from the socket to your machine.

How A Drip Coffee Machine Works
How A Drip Coffee Machine Works

Read: How is pour over different from drip?

The Heating Element And Its Functionality

The heating element is obviously a very important part of electric drip coffee makers, as it heats the water before it gets sprayed over your coffee grounds. It serves a second function of maintaining the temperature after it is made, as it also warms the hot plate.

The resistive heating element is an electric-powered coiled wire that is embedded in plaster to make it last longer. It is located between the hot plate and the aluminum water tube.

It is via the aluminum water tube that your water passes the heating element and on either side are the cold and hot water tubes. As it passes below the heating element, the water becomes hot.

It is here that you will notice that there is a whitish-colored grease. Be careful with it as it is very difficult to clean.

The first point of control for the heating element is the power switch which powers the coffee machine and supplies heat to the element.

The sensors that are built in to the coffee machine are responsible for maintaining the temperature and achieving the ideal temperature by cycling on and off when required.

The Process Of Brewing Coffee

Making coffee with electric drip coffee makers is incredibly simple from a user’s point of view. There is very little required on your part other than to put coffee in the coffee filter and ensure that you have the correct grind size.

Fill the reservoir with clean filtered water and ensure you are using the correct coffee to water ratio of 1:16.

Once ready, just a matter of pressing a button.

Let’s look at what happens during the drip coffee brewing process and what is happening inside your coffee machine.

The journey starts in the water reservoir, where your cold water moves from the little hole that is in the bottom of the water reservoir and to the cold water tube below.

The cold water tube directs the water to pass via the one-way valve, ensuring that it does not pass back to the water reservoir. It passed to the resistive heating element with no way back due to the functionality of the unidirectional valve.

The water then moves partially up the hot water tube.

When the machine is switched on, the heating element gets hot and, after a couple of minutes, the water that is held in the aluminum tube begins to boil.

The boiling water creates air bubbles as it boils, which push the water up and through the hot water tube and all the way to the faucet (shower head).

The faucet (shower head) then sprays the boiling water evenly over your coffee grounds.

Your ground then becomes wet and eventually saturated and the water (coffee) flows through the grounds and drips into your coffee pot at the bottom via the coffee filter.

Fixing A Clogged Up Drip Coffee Machine – Cleaning Your Machine

At Latte Love Brew we encourage preventative maintenance by using filtered water, as this reduces the probability of limescale and calcium build up from blocking the water tubes.

Because water can lead to the build up of bacteria, I encourage you to clean your coffee machine regularly – every other week. Make it a habit to clean it every other Saturday, Sunday, for example.

Cleaning your coffee machine is easy and is by far the easiest way of ensuring that your machine lasts for a long time, keeps producing top quality coffee and prevents it from getting clogged.

Clean it by first filling the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of white distilled vinegar and water. Switch on your machine and let it run a full brewing cycle.

Don’t forget to put your coffee pot on the heating plate to catch the falling water.

Do this once or twice. Then flush it well by running a few cycles of water only. You can also run a couple of cycles using bicarbonate of soda to clean out the pipes very well and give your machine a good clean.

Ensure that you run 2 to 3 cleaning cycles with clean water, to flush out the bicarbonate of soda and water mix.

Use a small wire or toothpick to ensure the small hole at the bottom of the reservoir is not clogged. Check the faucet / shower head also to ensure there are no blockages.

Ensuring your coffee machine is kept clean by means of preventative maintenance and cleaning it regularly and using filtered water will ensure that it does not get clogged.

Cleaning A Drip Coffee Machine
Cleaning A Drip Coffee Machine

Read: Drip coffee

Using a drip-style coffee maker is easy, very easy. Follow the steps below.

  • 1. Fill your coffee pot with water to the number of cups of coffee that you want to make. Keep in mind that 1 cup of coffee is defined as 6 oz (180 ml).
  • 2.  Pour your water into the water reservoir of your automatic drip coffee maker.
  • 3. Grind your coffee bean to a medium-coarse grind size.
  • 4. Put your coffee filter in the filter basket.
  • 5. Add your coffee to the coffee filter that is in your coffee basket.
  • 6. Close the lid.
  • 7. Press the button for your drip coffee machine to brew your coffee. On most modern drip coffee makers it is marked brew.
  • 8. Wait a few moments and your coffee will start to drip into your coffee pot.
  • 9. Pour and enjoy.

As you can see, it is an effortless brewing method and produces coffee that consistently the same for every single cup of coffee brewed.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Does A Drip Coffee Maker Work?

Whether something is better than another, be it a type of coffee drink or a brewing method, it is, of course, subjective and based on opinion. Brewed coffee, all coffee is brewed using a particular technique. The term brewed is all encompassing and covers all brewing techniques, including pour over, cold brew, French press, moka pot and, of course, drip coffee.

Drip coffee is good, it is enjoyable and is better than some brewing methods that I have tried, like an Aeropress, and a Moka pot, but is not as good as a French press, pour over or a siphon coffee.

Drip coffee makers require little effort and make large quantities of coffee easily and effortlessly.

Also, you get a consistent taste with every cup of coffee. Modern drip coffee machines have a number of great benefits, including a timer feature that will make you a cup of coffee when you wake up.

In my opinion, the healthiest way to drink coffee is to drink it black. Black coffee lovers have the benefit of not adding anything to their coffee, no milk, no sugar and thus reduced fat and sugar content.


you will fully enjoy the flavor of your specialty grade coffee beans without the influence of any dairy product or sweetener. 

There are a lot of benefits of drip coffee. Here are the main ones.

  • You can set your machine to make a cup of coffee when you wake up.
  • It is very convenient and easy to use.
  • It makes a great coffee with a good clean taste.
  • You can upcycle the coffee grounds to fertilize your home plants.

One of the reasons many people like a drip coffee machine is the ability to make large batches of coffee for dinner parties or for all the family.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Drip Coffee Maker?

The biggest disadvantage of a drip coffee maker is the lack of control that you have over temperature, water flow and so on to produce a coffee that you is exactly to your liking. This makes it less than ideal for quality coffee, especially specialty grade coffee.

What Is The Difference Between A Drip Coffee Maker And A Brewed Coffee Maker?

Brewed coffee is an open reference to multiple brewing methods including drip coffee, French press, pour over, espresso, Chemex coffee, Siphon coffee and more.

A drip coffee maker is a specific method of making brewed coffee that slowly drips hot water through a bed of ground coffee and into the cup or carafe below.

Is A Drip Coffee Maker Worth It?

Yes, in my opinion, if you are the busy type or have a large family there is the convenience of being able to make a large pot of coffee at once with the ability to keep it hot thanks to the hot plate.

The modern versions can be programmed to start brewing at a specific time like as your alarm goes off. You can also set it up to brew yoru coffee just before you have your morning shower and your coffee will be ready by the time you come out.

Is Pour Over Really Better Than Drip?

Yes, pour over coffee gets more total dissolved solids into your cup of coffee than drip coffee, and thus you will enjoy more of those delicate and intricate flavors from your specialty coffee beans. 

Due to having more control over the brewing process, it is much better. 

Final Thoughts – How Does A Drip Coffee Maker Work?

Knowing how does a drip coffee maker work is something that is good to know, as it is a good, clean brewing method with a flow of fresh water is something that we know by just watching it brew, but knowing what is going on inside the machine takes your knowledge of drip coffee machine and drip brewing to a new level.

Join our online coffee community on Facebook/Meta and share your drip coffee tips.

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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