If your coffee tastes like crap, you’re doing it wrong. Most coffee haters think they dislike coffee when it’s actually bad coffee they hate. Do you want to make a better cup of java? Keep reading.
Great coffee doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it’s all about the prep: the beans you select, how you grind them, and the brewing method of your choice. Once you’ve got the basics of that down, you should buy coffee equipment that will complement and enhance your preferred style of coffee. Price doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality.
The Grinder: Hario Mini Mill ($25)
Nothing beats the taste of coffee that’s been freshly ground. If you want to skip the process of grinding whole beans on demand, feel free to do so, but you should know that coffee grounds begin to lose flavor the second they’re exposed to oxygen.
A burr grinder (also known as a mill grinder) is a far better purchase than a blade grinder because blade grinders tend to produce uneven-sized grounds. Burr grinders are more consistent but they’re also a bit more expensive. The choice in the trade-off is up to you.
The Hario Mini Mill is a great compromise between efficacy and value. Electric burr grinders could cost upwards of $100, but this hand-powered mill is a fraction of the price. It’s easy to operate, easy to clean, slim design for ease of storage, and produces great results.
The Press: Bodum Chambord French Press ($30)
In my opinion, the French press is the best brewing method for coffee beginners. It’s the absolute easiest way to make a quick and delicious pot of coffee – easier than a drip machine, if you ask me. All you have to do is pour in the grounds, fill it with hot water, and let it steep. Seriously, that’s it.
You can find cheap devices in most supermarkets but I recommend against those. A French press needs to be robust and durable and the $10 models you find in supermarkets are anything but. Invest a tiny bit more for one that’ll last you for years.
The Bodum Chambord French Press has built up a reputation for being the perfect balance of quality and price. It comes in multiple size models (3-cup, 4-cup, 8-cup, and 12-cup) and it’s sturdy enough to be dishwasher safe. If it happens to break, Bodum even offers replacement parts.
The Moka Pot: Bialetti Moka Express ($28)
Don’t confuse mocha and moka. A cup of mocha is the drink you get when you combine espresso, chocolate, and hot milk. A moka pot is a unique stove-top coffee maker that not only makes wonderful coffee but is also fun to watch. It may look like a strange contraption, but trust me: you’ll fall in love with it.
Here’s how it works. The lower chamber, which is filled with water, heats over the stove until it builds up enough steam pressure. The pressure sends the water shooting up through the middle chamber that holds the grounds and into the top chamber where it sits, completed.
Due to the higher pressure, moka pots extract more caffeine and flavor from grounds, resulting in a stronger brew. Want to try it out? The Bialetti Moka Express is as standard as it gets, available in 1-cup, 3-cup, 6-cup, 9-cup, and 12-cup sizes.
The Drip: Clever Coffee Dripper ($22)
If you want to go full manual (known as the pour over), you’re going to need a versatile dripper. For those who don’t know, the pour over technique is simple: you place a filter inside a funnel, fill it with grounds, and pour hot water over it.
Sounds like a regular drip machine, right? It’s similar, but the manual pour offers much more control. Some even say that you can change the taste of coffee by pouring in different ways. That may or may not be true, but I personally like the pour over method because it’s relaxing and fun.
The Clever Coffee Dripper is basically a large cup with a valve at the bottom that can be manually opened and closed. To activate the valve, you place the dripper on top of a cup and it automatically drains. Easy to use, easy to clean, and so convenient.
The Machine: Bonavita Coffee Maker ($150)
Okay, forget the manual labor. You don’t consider yourself to be a barista and you have no desire to futz around with grinding beans or setting up presses and pour overs. You just want to set-and-forget, then come back to see a full pot of coffee waiting. In that case, you’ll need an automatic machine.
These machines don’t come cheap (compared to manual alternatives) and the cheaper ones on the spectrum tend to be pretty bad. Problems include over-extracted grounds, being difficult to clean, and making inconsistent cups.
The Bonavita Coffee Maker is one of the best value machines in the $100-$200 range. It’s designed to immerse the grounds in optimal temperatures (as optimal as a machine can be) and brews up to 8 cups. It also has 2-hour Keep Warm and Auto Shut-off features. It’s simple, durable, and to the point.
There are many ways to enjoy coffee. Whether you prefer the personal touch of a pour over or the convenience of an automated maker, these tools and devices will help you make the exact kind of coffee that you want – the kind you can enjoy every day. Just be sure you don’t spill it on your laptop !
How do you like your coffee? Do you make your own or do you just pop into the local Starbucks? If you brew, what does your brewing routine look like? Share with us in the comments!