What You Need to Make Great Coffee at Home | Random Thoughts
I love coffee. I have loved coffee ever since I was allowed to drink it as a teenager. I remember I was determined to work in a coffee shop so I could get all the coffee I wanted, so I got a job at Starbucks Coffee in the early 2000's. I worked there for about four years. That was when Starbucks Coffee had grinders separate from their espresso machines (which has made it a lot easier for me to learn how to use the grinder and espresso machine I own now).
As far as coffee, the types of brewing methods I have tried are drip coffee makers, French press, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines, pour-over coffee makers, stovetop coffee makers, and a percolator. I have not tried a Turkish coffee maker or an Aeropress. I find that the single-serve coffee makers (like a Keurig) make the worst-tasting coffee I have tried (probably because the coffee is pre-ground and old), and drip coffee makers, French press, and espresso machines make the best tasting coffee (as long as you have the other needed materials which I will talk about below).
For reference, I have a Mr. Coffee that is programmable and self-cleaning. I also have a Technivorm Moccamaster and a Keurig K Elite. The espresso machine I have is a Gaggia Classic Pro and the grinder I have is a Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder (Doserless). I get whole beans from Whole Foods, which carries local, recently roasted coffee and espresso beans. So far, I have tried Grassroots Coffee (Tanzania Peaberry) and Eternity Coffee Roasters (ECR Seasonal Espresso).
What You Need:
The first thing you will need is conical burr grinder. Conical burr grinders are better than blade grinders because they give you a more uniform grind, which in turn will give you coffee that will taste better. They also give you a variety of grind textures, so you can grind beans for any type of coffee maker.
A good grinder that doesn't cost a ton is the Baratza Virtuoso+. I've seen it listed for about $250 in stores online.
I have the Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder (Doserless) and it costs about $400 (It was over $500 when I got it, but the cost has come down a lot in a year). It has done a great job at producing consistent, even grinds for both espresso beans and coffee beans and is very easy to use.
One thing to note, grinders are tested in the factories or wherever they are made, so when you get your grinder, don't be alarmed if it has grinds in it.
2. Fresh Whole Coffee Beans
The best coffee and espresso I've ever had is from local coffee roasteries. Research coffee roasteries in your area and get your beans from there. You can always order beans directly from the web sites, but it's nice to know what you are getting before you buy it. They are more expensive than getting pre-ground coffee from let's say, Starbucks Coffee or coffee from the grocery store, but local coffee is always more fresh and the taste is amazing.
I've found that my local Whole Foods sells coffee from local coffee roasteries, so you may want to check your Whole Foods (if you have one).
3. Filtered Water
It may be tempting to use tap water to brew your coffee, but trust me, use filtered water instead. It will give your coffee a cleaner taste and help your coffee maker or espresso machine last longer.
4. A Coffee Brewer and/or Espresso Machine
Duh, right? You do need one to make coffee though, so you should think about what you prefer to drink (coffee and/or espresso drinks, if you like your coffee black or with cream and/or syrup or sugar, etc.).
If you prefer black coffee, I would recommend a French press. Bodum makes good French press coffee makers and they are relatively inexpensive.
The Technivorm Moccamaster makes really good coffee, either taken black or with cream and sugar. It brews incredibly fast as well. Each of the components can be purchased and replaced, so it will last you a long time. It costs about $300.
Espresso machines are a little different and you will have to (and want to) spend more to get a good espresso machine. You also want one that will last, so look for one where the individual components can be purchased and replaced as needed. I got the Gaggia Classic Pro for this reason. I found that there is a learning curve with the Gaggia, even with my experience as a barista, but if you watch videos on how to pull a shot on the Gaggia, you will get it in no time.
I found that it is better to get a separate grinder and espresso machine because you can change the grind according to your taste. You can grind coffee for different brewing methods, so you won't only be able to grind beans for your espresso machine.
Before you buy, think about what kind of coffee you like or what kind of espresso drinks you drink. You won't save money if you never use what you bought.
Are you looking for better tasting coffee or looking to save money on espresso drinks? I started looking into making drinks at home because I was tired of getting espresso drinks and coffee that were burnt and/or bitter from well-known coffee establishments. I knew I would regularly make drinks and was able to use and take care of my coffee makers and espresso machine, so nothing I got was a waste of money.
You don't have to buy everything at once. You can always start off with a good grinder, filtered water, and fresh, local coffee beans and see if it makes a difference for you. If you find that you like the difference, you can start looking into coffee makers and espresso machines.
I hope this article helped you. Do you have tips to share? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!