Good coffee tastes amazing, can be a great comfort, and is fun and easy to make well with the right tools. Coffee is also good for you, having been shown to make you smarter, help you lose weight, keep you alive longer and kickstart your exercise routine. Today we’re going to knock down coffee’s barrier to entry by telling you exactly which gear you need to get your hands on for a great brew.
Keurigs don’t make good coffee, and certainly don’t help the environment, and hitting up Starbucks every day definitely isn’t helping out your wallet. Beyond just having better coffee, there’s a lot of money to be saved in brewing it yourself.
If you’re inspired by our recommendations and enthusiasm and want to learn more, Lifehacker has a stellar and comprehensive guide to everything coffee.
We’re saving espresso for a separate guide, so stay tuned for that. However, if you want the easiest espresso possible, here’s our Nespresso Guide.
Coffee is mostly water, but that doesn’t mean the coffee should taste like the many chemicals and minerals tap water brings along for the ride. Get yourself a water filtration pitcher like the attractive Mavea, or go all out and invest in a Berkey, which filters out everything.
Better, Fresh Beans
Buy beans that have a roasting date on them, start using them a few days after that roasting date, and finish them within two weeks after that. Grind them right before brewing, and do not refrigerate them.
To preserve freshness, get yourself an airtight container, or even better, an Airscape.
For more on buying the right beans, check out Lifehacker’s Guide.
Another way to discover great beans is with a subscription from companies like Intelligentsia Coffee, Counter Culture, Blue Bottle Coffee, Tonx, Mistobox, and Coffee CSA, but there are so many options now that the pros and cons are difficult to identify. Fortunately, Corey Henderson (@CoreyH on Twitter) has put together a chart! It’s publicly editable, so add your finds.
The quality of the grind is critical in the coffee making process. You can make great coffee with a cheap machine, but nothing will save you from a bad grind. Here’s a great resource for what your grind should look like.
The Baratza Encore has long been the go-to recommendation for those looking to get into coffee, though if you’re pretty sure you’re going to be doing espresso, you may want to skip this step and bump up to the Baratza Virtuoso.
Check out Lifehacker’s Coffee Grinder Hive Five if you’re open to a hand crank model, or need a portable.
The Automatic Method
The Bodum Bistro won Gizmodo’s Best Automatic Coffeemaker Battlemodo, and also my heart. It’s dead simple to use, beautiful in motion, a great conversation piece, and makes great coffee. Dubbed an “automatic pourover” because it uses a shower head style dripper, the Bistro doesn’t waste time with disposable filters, and its thermal carafe will keep your coffee hot for hours, with no electricity.
The Many Manual Methods
The AeroPress costs ~$25, is easily the most idiot proof (and arguably the best) way to make coffee, took 24% of the reader vote on Lifehacker, and has been consistently recommended by Lifehacker, Gizmodo, and countless other publications. Hell, there’s a world AeroPress championship. As an added bonus, it’s also the best way to make coffee while traveling, and you can even use it to make iced coffee.
I can’t recommend enough that you also pick a reusable stainless steel filter for your Aeropress. It’s ridiculous that this filter is more than half the price of the AeroPress itself, but it’s a buy once have forever purchase, and I hate paper filters.
The french press method eschews disposable filters and gives the drinker complete control over the brew time and the end-strength of their coffee... those of you who nominated your French presses spoke highly of the control it gave you and the delicious coffee as a result.
When brewing with the Moka pot, water in the bottom chamber of the pot is heated and steam pressure pushes it up through a central basket that contains the ground coffee, and then finally into the top chamber where the coffee eventually rests, ready to pour... They’re super-easy to use (although they get seriously hot), and while you don’t get much control over the nuances of the brew, the final product has an extraction ratio more like espresso than drip, and has a flavor and balance to match.
The end result is a stronger extraction than you might expect because of how long the water stays in contact with the coffee as it passes down through the grinds and through the filter into the carafe below. You also get a more well-balanced cup but one that’s still smooth, blending the characteristics of drip and pressed coffee.
But which pourover method is the best? We’ll have to settle that in a future Kinja Co-Op.
[The] vacuum brewing method extracts all precious oils of your favorite coffee. The vacuum brewing process is entirely sealed off so no aroma can escape. In addition, the brewing time and temperature are perfectly calibrated, ensuring a perfect cup of coffee with each brew.
Several of the manual methods above require a kettle, which isn’t a bad thing to have around the house anyway. The Cuisinart is a great choice for a standard kettle, though if you’re planning to do pourover you’re going to want a goose neck. Alternatively, pick up our favorite tea maker, which doubles as a kettle.
If you’re looking to take your coffee on the go, you’re going to want to pick up our reader pick for best travel mug, the Contigo Autoseal West Loop, which went on to be one of our most popular products of 2014.
If you find yourself needing a little extra cleaning reach or power, the Oxo Good Grips Water Bottle Cleaning Set is an easy recommendation.
Need some mugs for home? We love Bodum’s double-walled line.
More about Coffee and Tea:
- Brew the Perfect Cup: The Complete Guide
- Five Best Coffee Makers
- The Best Automatic Coffee Machine
- Five Best Burr Coffee Grinders
- Five Best Tea Steepers
- Where Can I Buy Better Tea?
- Five Best Travel Mugs
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