You know, life is stressful and you need to unwind. Trips to a tropical island or a secluded cabin in the woods are great, but few of us can afford to go with any regularity. You know what is cheap and relaxing? No, not meth. Coffee! It is the one thing I do everyday to relax. I take a few minutes to brew an excellent cup and let the world melt away. Coffee, when consumed black, is low calorie and packed with antioxidants, which your body craves. So why not make those few minutes as enjoyable as possible? It’s time to take your coffee game to the next level, friend.
So if you are still reading, I assume you drink coffee and if you drink coffee, odds are you are using a conventional coffee maker with drip method. Good news reader, I’m not going to tell you to throw your machine in the trash and go buy a $1000 wonder brewer. You can get more out of your existing brew method with some inexpensive changes. Coffee is mostly water, so it stands to reason you should use the best water available. Invest in a cheap water filter or use your fridge water dispenser if it has a built in filter, instead of using tap water.
Next, upgrade your coffee filter to a reusable mesh filter instead. Not only will you reduce the amount of waste you produce, you will save money in the long run. Coffee beans are oily, and that oil carries a lot of character and flavor. Unfortunately, paper filters trap a significant amount of oil muting the flavor in the cup. Using a metal filter not only allows more flavor from the bean to the cup, you can compost or use the used coffee grounds for fertilizer without having to remove the paper filter. So with those two easy tweaks you can getter a better cup, without a lot of expense. What’s that? You want to know more…
Want more flavor, but don’t want to toss your Mr. Radar, I mean Mr. Coffee? Okay, you’re ready for whole bean. I’m not shaming you for using ground coffee, it’s just as soon as the bean is ground at the factory it starts to lose flavor. Not only does the essence de cafe seep out, foreign flavors soak into ground coffee. Protect your coffee with a coffee vault. A coffee vault will keep your coffee fresh longer than the bag. So do yourself a favor, you’ve earned it, buy whole bean and grind it just before you brew.
Obviously, you will need a method of grinding. If you are an 18th century cowboy, you can buy a hand grinder. For everyone else, I would recommend a conical burr grinder. I know some budgets are tight, but please do not buy a blade grinder. It will not give you a consistent grind and your coffee will suffer. Conical burr grinders provide precise and accurate grinds and are well worth the price difference. I will list some of the equipment I’ve tried at the end of the article with pros and cons. Now you can enjoy that fresh ground coffee smell and experiment with different grind/bean combos to find your tailored cup of Joe. You say you have a few bucks you held back from your pimp? Risky, but I salute your bravery.
French Press is the best method getting the full flavor of the bean, because you can precisely control water temperature, grind, steep time and there are no flavor robbing paper filters. The process is deceptively simple. You place coarsely ground coffee in the carafe, and pour water just off boil (205F) and let it steep for 4 minutes, then press the plunger with wire mesh down slowly, then pour gently into your favorite mug.
Any kettle will do for heating water, but I’ve recently switched to an electric kettle. It cuts boiling time down, and is safer because it shuts off automatically. But don’t feel like you need to run out and buy one if you already own a traditional kettle. French press is how I drink 95 percent of my coffee. If you buy a quality FP it will last you a lifetime and no filter expense.
Another method that is equally simple, but allows less control is the Moka Pot, which gives you a cup of coffee similar to espresso. They are inexpensive and again require no filters. If you like strong, dark coffee this is the method for you. Plus you get to use those adorable little espresso cups. The grind is on the opposite end from FP. You want a very fine grind, as opposed to very coarse for FP.
I can hear people screaming “What about AeroPress or Chemex pour over or cold brew?” To be honest I haven’t tried those methods, so cannot provide an informed opinion. If this article proves popular, I promise to buy and review those methods. If you are rolling in Koch dollars, there are some very expensive machines that make steamed milk and froth and I assume for the price, provide sexual gratifications. Unfortunately, for you the reader, but fortunate for my wife, I have no interest in anything other than black coffee, so haven’t dumped my 401K in a machine I could never hope to comprehend.
But here are some items on which I’ve spent my hard earned dollars. I am not affiliated or paid by any of these companies and these opinions are solely my own. Prices from Amazon.
So there you have it Glibs. Something for every budget and experience level to make your morning coffee a little more enjoyable.
Bunn coffee maker with reservoir
I don’t own this coffee maker anymore because I changed brew methods to French press. It was a fine coffee maker for high volume drinkers or for parties.
Pro: Coffee brews quickly, multiple cups, precise temperature
Con: Unless you use it frequently, the reservoir can become moldy and is difficult to clean. Also the weakness inherent to paper filter drip coffee.
Bodum Stainless Steel French Press
My daily drinker. Nothing but love for this product.
Pro: Bullet proof design, no glass to break. Keeps coffee warm. Comes in multiple sizes. Pretty enough to leave on counter
Con: Longer prep time. “Muddy” coffee at the bottom of the cup.
Capresso Burr Grinder
I’ve had this grinder longer than I can remember.
Pro: Consistent grind, well made
Con: Really for only small volumes, but that’s how I grind. Plastic hopper could break if dropped.
Made in Italy, you draw whatever conclusions you want.
Pro: Inexpensive way to bring a little Italian variety into your kitchen
Con: Needs to be cleaned and dried immediately. Can be tough to gauge when brew process is finished.
Hamilton Beach Electric Kettle
I bought this when my stove top broke and I couldn’t use my traditional kettle.
Pro: Cheap, makes hot water quickly, automatic shut off.
Con: You don’t get the traditional kettle whistle to let you know it’s ready
Coffee Gator Stainless Steel Container
My fresh roasted coffee goes straight into this guy.
Pro: Keeps coffee fresh and provides attractive storage
Con: It cost money, bags are free
Reusable Coffee Filter
This will obviously be priced according to what brewer you use.
Pro: Cheaper over long run, more complex coffee
Con: Up front cost, more muddy cup of coffee
Price: Around $15.00
I own one of these and use it for parties. You don’t waste coffee and can provide a variety of choice, including tea.
Con: Expensive machine and pods. More waste, less control over final product.
Price: $65.00 and up
For those who are really into coffee, you can roast your own. I didn’t put that into that in the article because I assume that would be the extreme minority of readers. Sweet Maria’s is the company I source my green coffee beans from and is an excellent resource for roasting.
I used this method with a propane cook stove for a few months, then the agitator broke. I would not recommend.
Pro: Can really see/smell the roast process. Decent control of roast. Can do medium volume.
Con: You need an external heat source and an outside area to roast.
My first “roaster”. It does an okay job for me because I like lighter roast, but I drink too much coffee for this to keep up with my demands. If you like light roast coffee and aren’t a high volume drinker, it could be for you.
Pro: Cheap, easy way to see if you like roasting.
Com: Less control over the roast, hard to get dark roast, very small volume, must be used outside.
Behmor 1600 Plus
My current roaster. I’m happy with this roaster. It fills that spot between complete noob and pro roaster. The next step up in drum roasters are like $1,100; more than I want to spend.
Pro: Smoke suppression, can do up to a pound, more hands free, can roast dark
Con: More expensive, takes up room, will set off smoke alarm in house