A great travesty exists in the U.S. with our home coffee brewing setups. Dirt cheap drip machines, Keurigs and blade grinders line the shelves at every big box retail store—and just about everyone has a French press in their cabinet for those special occasions. But for those who want to up their coffee game while not breaking the bank, here are a few of the great gadgets worth checking out.
Any serious discussion of coffee gadgets must begin with the AeroPress. Released in 2005, this compact coffee contraption incorporates pressure and yields a speedy, sparkly and amazingly clean cup every time. The brewing methods are endless and limited only to one’s imagination. Espresso-like shot—it’ll do that. Cold brew in four minutes—not a problem. Kyoto style slow drip—yep, that too. You can even use it upside down. Online resources are nearly endless, and if you practice hard there are annual competitions to see who can make the best cup. An even more compact travel version, the AeroPress Go was recently released. And at around $30, this is a steal.
The most common weakness for home setups is found in the grinder. Grinding coffee just before brewing is undoubtedly a crucial step to a quality cup, but cheap blade grinders chop the coffee into millions of inconsistent particles and create more problems than they solve. These fine grounds will clog up filters, result in a muddy cup and destroy any consistency when brewing. A far better option is a Hario Skerton. This Japanese manual burr grinder is adjustable and very consistent when grinding. There are few moving parts to wear out, and it is perfect for camping as well as everyday home usage. The one downside is the time and manual labor it takes to grind—but who doesn’t need a workout in the morning? At around $35, this is a great, cost effective upgrade to consider.
For those who have taken the plunge into pour-overs, you may have noticed the learning curve can be steep—no pun intended. The most common issues revolve around the flow rate and even application of water. One way to minimize the inconsistent brewing and ensure a perfect extraction is to use a device called the Melodrip. This honeycombed water distribution tool evenly applies water over the grounds and ensures a perfect brew every time. With no moving parts and virtually nothing to break, at $35 this will surely become a welcome tool in your coffee repertoire.
Finally, the quality of the coffee itself is of crucial importance. The end result can only be as good as the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, clever marketing and nonsensical buzzwords like “gourmet” and “premium” have confused customers and made distinguishing quality coffees difficult and complicated. Your best option is to buy from your local specialty coffee roaster—and the key word is specialty. This term has a concrete definition, that is, coffee that scores 80 points or higher coming from the farm. These coffees, while more expensive, can be roasted to bring out desirable flavors without the need to be burnt and cover up other, less desirable, flavors.
In short—even with a small investment you can up your coffee game tremendously. New gadgets are constantly coming out and many are worth picking up. The key is to find what you want in a cup of coffee and look for the best brew method to accommodate it. Figuring out what you like is half the battle and brewing that perfect cup every morning is the constant goal. With the right tools and coffee at your disposal, you’ll be amazed at how much better your day can be.
Andrew Robertson, district manager with Press Coffee is a coffee expert and teaches Press Coffee’s 101 coffee classes. Press has been Arizona’s own local coffee roaster since 2008. Quality driven and community focused, Press shares its passion for specialty coffee by providing the highest quality coffee products, service and knowledge with customers and community every day. Press Coffee has eight Valley locations in Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix and Chandler. Visit Press Coffee online at presscoffee.com to purchase beans, find locations and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @presscoffee.