Let’s assume you’re interested in brewing awesome coffee on a regular basis.
Making great coffee from home is almost entirely a matter of having decent gear, fresh beans, and a recipe.
The bulk of this guide focuses on the gear. But first let’s take a quick look at where to find fresh beans and good recipes.
Fresh coffee beans: Coffee beans are at their freshest within the first 2 weeks of being roasted. If there is a local coffee roaster in your town, your best bet is to buy about a week’s worth of freshly-roasted beans from them. Here in Kansas City there are several excellent local roasters, and when getting beans I always just ask what’s been roasted most recently.
If you don’t have anywhere local to go for beans, there are many places you can order online. I’d start up a subscription with Blue Bottle Coffee (formerly Tonx) since their entire business model is focused on shipping you coffee beans as soon as they’ve been roasted.
I keep my coffee beans in a 64-oz. Airscape coffee canister. The Airscape has an adjustable internal “plug” that you press all the way down until it’s flush against the top of the coffee beans. This forces out most of the excess air and helps keeps your beans fresher, longer.
Coffee Recipes: There are a plethora of great recipes at brewmethods.com. Start there, find a recipe you like, and make small variants on it if needed.
Recommended Coffee Gear
If you just want to make a good cup of coffee every morning without going nuts about gear, then I recommend these two starting basics: a good burr grinder and simple coffee maker.
A good conical burr grinder: In my kitchen is the Bodum Bistro. It’s an attractive and inexpensive conical burr grinder that uses a clear glass catcher for the grinds.
The reason you want a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder is because the former will produce a consistent grind without damaging your coffee beans. Blade grinders don’t actually grind your coffee beans, they chop them and give you a combination of tiny dust specks, medium bits, and larger chunks all in there together. Brewing this jambalaya of coffee grounds means some of the coffee will get grossly over-brewed while some of it will be under-brewed.
A good burr grinder is arguably the most important piece of gear to start your home coffee brewing adventures off on the right foot. I’d get the Bodum Bistro or the Baratza Encore. These are the best of the inexpensive conical burr grinders, and you really don’t want anything less.
If you’ve got an extra $100 to spend, the Baratza Virtuoso is a good upgrade. It has nicer burrs, more settings for adjusting the grind of your coffee, and grinds at a slower speed than the Encore or Bistro.
A simple coffee maker: For anyone just starting out with brewing coffee from home, I highly recommend the AeroPress. It’s inexpensive ($25) and extremely versatile. You can use fine or coarse grinds, and brew it right-side-up or inverted, for all sorts of combinations of different types of brews. Also, the AeroPress is extremely easy to clean up.
Other Awesome Coffee Makers
Clever Dripper: This coffee maker can brew up to 500ml (17 oz) of liquid. You fill it up, let it sit for a few minutes, then set it on top of your mug and the coffee filters through. It’s great for making coffee when the AeroPress’ 250ml capacity isn’t enough.
Hario V60: If you’ve ever been to a coffee shop that does pour-over coffee, this is probably what they use. It makes a delicious cup of coffee and cleanup is a piece of cake.
Espro Press: Hands down this is the best version of a French Press pot there is. The Espro Press has a double-walled steel canister to keep your coffee hot, and it uses a micro double-filter basket to help keep coffee dust out of your coffee after brewing. It makes for a delicious, full-bodied cup of coffee without the “grit” common to standard french presses. I have the large Espro Press, which can brew up to 1,000 ml of coffee. It’s my go-to brewer when guests are over.
Chemex: Another type of pour-over method (just like the V60 above), but with much larger capacity. If you regularly brew more than a single cup of coffee at a time, then I would get a Chemex with filters.
Siphon Vacuum Pot: Now we’re just having fun. My siphon was a gift that I keep in the cupboard and pull it out on special occasions. It makes a full-bodied cup of coffee like any of the above full-emersion methods but with a brighter taste. Not only is the coffee from the siphon delicious, it’s the most “dangerous” and exciting to brew. Make sure you get a butane mini burner and a can of butane fuel.
The Rest of Your Arsenal
Electric Gooseneck Kettle: You’re going to have to boil your water somehow, and a variable-temp electric kettle is the most convenient way to do so.
This variable-temp electric gooseneck kettle is the best of both worlds. For any of the pour-over coffees, and even for the AeroPress, a gooseneck kettle is designed to make it easier and more consistent to pour your hot water over your coffee. Since the water is pushed out from the bottom of the kettle, rather than sloshed out from the top, you have a more controlled, consistent pour.
Kitchen Scale: Now that you’ve got the right gear and freshly roasted beans, making an awesome cup of coffee is just a matter of science. A simple kitchen scale lets you weigh the right amount of coffee and add the right amount of water every time for great coffee every day. Not to mention a scale can be used for much more than to weigh your coffee and your water.
Airscape Canister: As mentioned above, coffee beans stay fresh for longer when they’re in a cool, dry, dark place with no oxygen. The Airscape vault fights off all these enemies to fresh coffee.
Double-Walled glass mugs: The double-walled construction of these delicate mugs work wonders to insulate your coffee and keep it hotter for longer. Hot coffee has been known to make your morning better and your day a little bit brighter. And between you and me, that’s something we could all use more of.