Given that :
- I make at most 3 coffees a day, usually 1.
- I prefer espresso
I found the traditional options lacking.
- a machine costing about £600
- a solid quality grinder.
- machine needs 20 minutes warmup minimum before you can pour a consistent shot (or you need to leave it on).
Instead I thought I'd go a different way and build an all manual espresso setup, using getting past the largest price tag using one of these :
https://www.flairespresso.com/. Takes some getting used to but I've been very satisfied with the quality. You NEED to pair it with a high quality grinder to get solid results (I'm using https://coffeehit.co.uk/products/lido-e-travel-hand-grinder).
Downside is I can't steam milk unless I break out my stovetop milk steamer thing ( https://prima-coffee.com/equipment/bellman/50ss ) but that's fine as I prefer black coffee, the steamer gets more use by partner for her hot chocolates.
My setup : https://i.imgur.com/6M9AT4O.jpg
I’m not suggesting you change what clearly works well, but anyone starting out should consider second hand gear. The best espresso gear ages well, is repairable and is readily available second hand. The machines Rancillio Silva, La Cimbali Junior and the grinders by Mazzer are all readily available and affordable if you are patient. Bought dirty, chipped and not working is best - then the price is lowest, sub $50US each is the best I’ve achieved.
I’m yet to find one that isn’t just a broken on/off switch or disconnected cable. All the parts are easily sourced and a careful respray is cheap.
The above machines are commercial grade and designed to be pulled apart quickly using a screwdriver or two and maybe a spanner.
Careful though. It’s a very slippery slope.
It's probably $30-50 to ship given its size and weight.
My email is in my profile.
If you're a bit lazy, you can substitute a cheap blade grinder, and still have the same equipment outlay.
$4 per 10 ounce can.
I highly recommend getting THAT one and not the Porlex mini, or any of the cheaper brands. The build quality is not the same, plus you'll want the extra capacity in case you decide to do a big french press or something.
I do pourover as well, which is great, though I do love me a stovetop when I'm feeling old school! Pretty inconsistent though unless you really dial it in over time.
I can't stomach drip coffee but have really enjoyed a nice espresso with steam/foamed milk.
The biggest lessons I've learned are don't over pack it, don't under pack it, stop when it turns blond, give it time to warm up & let it run for a bit to get the old water out.
- Edit -
I would love to hear tips on what else I can do to up my espresso game though for a reasonable price.
It wasn't earth shattering. But the price to convenience factor was there. First person in always turned on the machine warming it up. We'd make a round of shots before stand up. Then switch to coffee + frothed milk.
For beans we maintained a rotation and all chipped in. We also had a french press, siphon and chemex.
Ideally you want everything the coffee touches to be at the proper temp - included th portafilter and cups.
Great point on cup temp! That makes a huge difference if you want your coffee to stay warm.
get freshly roasted beans (within 2wks)
grind with a high quality burr grinder before each run.
That will get you the best quality shot with your machine.
That said I too love my electric milk frother its hot chocolate option.
Then some part broke and instead of fixing it the company bought the fully automatic machine. It was downright terrible (and crazy expensive!). The coffee tasted terrible and more importantly the ritual of making it was gone :(
I know there's a lot more that can be done with roasting. But that one small change means you can have strong coffee without having burned coffee. Its at the point I can walk past a coffee shop and say "Yuck they don't sort their beans" just by the smell.
I'm a roaster. All coffee is sorted by size, or at least all quality coffee. It's necessary, not only for an even roast, but it's also an inherent part of green coffee processing. You have to screen and sort the beans to dry them.
The reason grocery coffee is bad is simple. They roast it until the oils come out and then the oils go rancid because it has been sitting on the shelf for the last 6 months getting to you. Even if it hasn't gone rancid (way more common than you'd guess), it's still stale and overroasted. Americans expect coffee to be dark, bitter, and cheap... And so that's what they get. But what you said isn't true. Even the crappiest bulk market roaster/reseller roasts by size and the blends after. They literally don't have a choice.
To be fair, a lot of the junk info comes from roasters keen on delineating themselves in any way in a saturated market. Taking words that are true for everyone and making them seem unique to your business is a sales tactic ad old as time.
And this was just some small coffee plantation.
> They roast it until the oils come out and then the oils go rancid because it has been sitting on the shelf for the last 6 months getting to you.
Are you saying that it's bad if my coffee beans are glistening with oil? I usually took that to be an indicator of freshness. Or do you mean that if they're no longer glistening that the bag is probably stale?
FWIW, most of what I buy (except for the Costco bag that I take to work) has a roasting date on the back so that I can guarantee a certain degree of freshness.
To me a dark roast Ethiopian tastes the same as a dark roast Costa Rican. They taste very different with a lighter roast. You lose the bean's uniqueness when you go darker which is one of the reasons cheap coffee tends to be dark.
I prefer a dark roast with heavy cream :)
It isn't inherently bad, but it's usually a sign of more mass produced coffee. It's easier to roast coffee like that because it all tastes pretty much the same which is good if you need to make the same coffee for thousands of different locations. And some people enjoy the carbonic taste of coffee like that.
More lightly roasted coffees will have big differences in flavour that's not really possible to control for on a mass scale I don't think. Especially between origins and varieties.
That said, I think dark roasts age much less gracefully than a medium roast due to the oxygen exposure of oils, but I really love a full city roast for espresso.
Lighter roasts will never be shiny like that because they haven't been roasted long enough for the oils to react like that.
Always grind your beans just before you brew. Never buy preground coffee.
Thus, trendy 3rd wave coffee is almost universally light to medium roast. So oils might get a bad association this way, but that's not really fair. It's just a dark roast. It's the age and original quality that really matters.
I've only heard it described as a flaw. None of the recently and well-roasted beans from the local roasters I visit sell oily beans. But Starbucks? Or typical grocery coffee? Usually always dark and oily.
WRT junk info, coffee is not that different from audiophiles or wine. Luxury product, real differences exist, but they are subtle & hard to measure. Most of the experience is subjective.
You can grab some nice drivers, unreasonably high-quality crossover components, and couple sheets of MDF to make yourself some floor-standers for a few hundred. Using any number of popular DIY speaker designs, you'll have something that would easily stand up to anything of a similar format in a blind A/B test.
Amplification is dirt cheap now; class-D amps are superlatively good even in the <$100 category. You can even add in DSP for a very reasonable price if you want to jerk off to glass-flat charts.
It's probably also not that expensive to roast your own coffee beans, but it's an extra step that non-hobbyists don't want to deal with.
Followed closely by...
> The best I’ve ever had was $2US.
just noting that when people say strong coffee, they usually mean "more caffeine", not "darker roast". and coffee people generally know that darker roasts have less caffeine.
i actually like darker roast too, when i want a caramelly coffee (by adding cream and sugar). my theory is that not only does a dark roast better hide lower quality beans, but starbucks knows that most people put cream and sugar in their coffee and darker roasts are better for that, which is why it's so popular.
but when i want straight brewed coffee, i seem to prefer a medium roast.
The fact that WBC finalists are using coffee that the roaster haven't sorted based in size tells a lot. Perhaps the farmer does it to some degree.
I'm not sure if you've looked at espresso chemical papers (mostly the Illy ones), but they're pretty cool and they might explain this.
The oil extraction curves are non-linear. Lighter roasts that aren't at risk of burning smaller beans can be paired with variable bean size to produce a spectrum of related flavour notes, providing a bit of depth to a varietal that has a very strong and pronounced (but limited) set of notes.
But regardless, I have tried coffee that isn't burned. I primarily use lighter roasted beans, and there is zero burned taste.
Edit: also, could this be related to inconsistent grind? Smaller bits over-extracted.
Besides, you can tell me what you want but I think the coffee from an electric coffee maker tastes worse than hand brewing. Perhaps I've only used cheap coffee makers, but I'm yet to find one that can make a drinkable coffee. Exceptions are espresso makers;the ones I tried made really good coffee (including the one I currently have at home).
I think I get mot of the upside of 100% fresh ground and pour-over with a bit less work. And I start cooking breakfast while the water boils, so no time lost.
At work, it's generic machine coffee. It doesn't taste great, but it keeps me going.
So, I think you're doing fine unless you want to spend more money :)
If you're brewing espresso, where the freshness of the grind is integral to the texture of the result, maybe this is less true. But anyone who's taking espresso seriously has a nice grinder anyway, I guess.
(And on the opposite, I think French Press is very tolerant)
It also strikes me as odd that each of the grinders was exactly consistent across an entire week for its flavor profile, and that further the exact consistency matches the cost(margin) of the grinders, and that even further the company who is doing this "study" happens to also be selling the grinders!
Further, I have a hard time believing that inconsistent extractions is consistent with "better" flavor. It seems to me that the flavor would just be "different".
example: a chemex with a barrista warrior filter will work amazingly well with medium to coarse grinds - just as well with medium or coarse only.
however, if you still subscribe to 'it must be the same size grind' - grind it twice at the same setting, then use a Kruve filter. I like using a 1100 and 400 size filters in my kruve, to give me the three types of grind i prefer (under 400 for my espresso, between 1100 and 400 for drip, and above 1100 for pourover. - all with the same bean!
Keep this in the fridge - https://www.kitchenaid.com/countertop-appliances/coffee-prod...
and this on the counter - https://www.cuisinart.com/shopping/appliances/tea_kettles/cp...
As a sidenote, french press is also great for brewing tea, but keep your coffee and tea presses separated.
This is paired with a decent quality electric grinder.
For day to day, just making a coffee for myself, I find the aeropress is the best. Makes a good coffee, is quick, and the clean-up afterwards is the absolute easiest. Use with metal filter, not paper, and either the inverted brewing technique or a prismo to avoid leakage while brewing.
Mokapots are also pretty good overall, especially if making several coffees. The process is not particularly tweakable though if you are wanting to fine tune. Like the aeropress, clean-up afterward is pretty easy.
The siphons are great when you want to feel like a mad scientist. It is time consuming but fun to watch. Once the novelty wears off go back to the aeropress for your day to day brew. I've eschewed the cloth filter for either paper or metal.
French press, to me, is okay but doesn't have much by way of advantages over the above methods. Clean-up afterwards is a chore, uses the most water (if you pre-heat) and takes about as long as any other way.
Each brings something a little different to the final result.
I find cold brew really convenient the rest of the week and it has a much mellower flavor.
It's super easy to clean, makes a week's worth (at least for me), lets you serve directly from it, and I think it looks really good.
Whatever you do, make sure you use coarse-ground beans. They extract so much more flavor than medium or fine, in my experience.
Jars (I think these are the right size):
My process is that I fill the filter halfway with coffee, fill the jar with cold water, wait 24-48 hours, then refrigerate. That's it.
The entire process is super simple. I don't need to worry about presses, disposable filters, machines, etc. I just need to rinse the filter and clean the jars occasionally.
SMELLING the freshly ground coffee beans before brewing.
In both cases you satisfied your thirst for caffeine, the difference is that the lost method allowed you to do this more or less anywhere and at more or less any price which the new method makes this more hard to come by and carries a much higher price.
To put all that in two words: carpe diem
In a few more words: enjoy your fanciful coffee but try not to create too much ritual around it as that only builds walls where no walls need to be.
They asked about it - how does it work, why do I do it? I said that I can use my own coffee, it makes the coffee taste better and I can modify the strength and flavor depending on my grind size, brewing times, pressure - it's like experimenting to find the best cup.
They replied, "well I'm not a snob, and I think this [office] coffee tastes pretty good...after all they probably have the same amount of caffeine in them, don't they?"
It was humbling, and although I still make coffee (at my desk now lol) I look at the product I make myself different from coffee as a beverage. Handmaking coffee is an enjoyable ritual with new discoverable outcomes based on modifiable variables. It's a hobby I do, right next to making my own recipes and doing ham radio.
But if I just need caffeine and I'm too lazy to make aeropress, I drink out of the office pot and I don't think of it as an inferior product.
It doesn't need to be true to make sense. Everybody understands trying to get more caffeine without drinking the whole pot of coffee.
On that note, I had two total lunch fails last week. Food delivered to the table, that I couldn't eat. Is it the phase of the moon? The political climate? The cold weather?
Perhaps that was just hyperbole by Griceraae50100. I hope so.
This is life in the west. Being comfortable is no sin. Getting used to "better" is likewise not a bad thing. It's bad if/when you use your "status/wealth/etc" to impugn or degrade others. I feel like I've earned my place in life, as has my wife. We live in a normal house, drive so-so daily drivers (car status means nothing to me), and wear clothes from the outlet stores.
I do, however, not skimp on coffee, tea, meat, or leather boots. These I will gladly spend money on.
Like a lot of guys, I enjoy a fine cigar and a cold expensive lager on the back porch while cooking steaks. All washed down with a healthy measure of espresso and green tea.
The other was a Philly I got at a bar (fancy-food seafood/bar). Except is came as a French Dip (which wasn't on the menu): scant grilled onions/peppers, no cheese(!) and a bowl of brown broth. Which had spilled and saturated the bottom bun - took my whole napkin to try and get the slime off my hands after one attempt to pick it up. So I tipped the top bun off, maybe I could eat the filling - which was bare sliced beef with some gummy white stuff (not cheese) smeared on it? Oh, the top bun had been smeared with some white jizz that had melted the bread into paste. Disgusting top to bottom. I ate the fries and left.
 I'm Dutch, nasi goreng (which you could translate to "fried rice with yesterday's leftovers", at least that is how I always make it) is a Dutch-but-really-Indonesian staple food
 ...which is illegal in the Netherlands, you can only camp in designated camping spots. While this might be the letter of the law it did not keep a local police officer who cycled by (in another place and time) while I was cooking something next to my tent in a totally illegal spot from wishing me a good dinner and continuing on his way.
What a great article. The takeaway sentiment is that the experiences and interactions that surround coffee-drinking are way more important than the quality of the coffee.
I am _way_ down the coffee rabbit hole (home roasting, etc). I'm still perfectly fine with "common" coffee from Starbucks/Dunkin/etc. They're just different things.
Really the only coffee I can't drink is "diner" coffee, but that's more about heartburn than preference...
(Obviously this is all entirely subjective, good coffee from any region is good)
The classic (which is to say, fancier, with the wooden collar) 8-cup model is $37 on Amazon right now. At our house, going to Chemex meant shifting from genuinely expensive drip machines that were hard or impossible to properly clean, and which therefore got replaced every few years. It's a drastically LESS expensive method than most.
When someone says "x is expensive", it's asserting that the item is a costly example of its genre. Given that drip coffee machines run from about $40 to hundreds and hundreds, it still seems disingenuous to say that Chemex is expensive.
Can you do pourover cheaper? Sure. But the good news is that in this area of coffeemaking, even the higher-end, beautiful option (the OG Chemex is literally in design museums) is pretty damn cheap.
I don't know, I feel like $37 for a glass container that still needs filters is asking for quite a lot. A nice french press is like $10.
But after doing a week long hiking trip I got pretty addicted to the simplicity and punch of the instant coffee method.
I even premix my Carnation instant coffee with a little cocoa powder and some sugar, so I can just do 1 spoon and I have an instant fun drink that tastes a little fancy.
For example, using the same coffee, I like french press coffee and hate chemex-style drip coffee. The latter brings out too much bitterness for my tastes.
I've had mine for > 10 years.
Do you think you can only use chemex filters with the chemex carafe? This isn't true. You can also use the chemex filters with other pour over makers.
Plain old conical drippers have exactly the same effect on the coffee, but they don't make it look like you're performing a science experiment.
I have switched to the Chemex, partly because as this article says I am liking the process. Partly because it tends to taste better. The Moccamaster does seem more consistent, it's just, to my taste, more consistently bad. Sometimes my Chemex is as bad, sometimes it is great... At home I have an Oxo BaristaBrain, and that is more consistently good, for some reason. But I also grind beans there with a pretty high end grinder (Virtuoso by ...?).
In the end, I have come to enjoy the break in the day that the brew gives me. I don't tend to take breaks otherwise, and I should, but that is a good opportunity.
This line really resonated with me. I think there's a general principle at play: simple systems take more effort to use but require less maintenance. It's at the core of the original vi versus emacs divide (although vim with vimscript and its plugin ecosystem has muddied the waters.) Vi's power comes from its simplicity: a limited but highly effective feature set. Emacs users on the other hand often end up spending a significant amount of time maintaining their emacs configuration, which makes their actual text editing tasks go much faster.
In this analogy emacs is the automatic coffee maker, and vi is the drip-cone. At the risk of complicating the analogy, emacs may in fact be able to brew coffee.
The advantage of a Prismo, and why I use one, is it stops the leakage of under-brewed fluid into your cup until you start pushing on the plunger. (Otherwise, I use the inverted brewing technique.)
With that being said, my coffee maker device of choice is a Peruvian coffee pot (for lack of a better name, essentially this: http://cuzcoeats.com/perus-great-way-of-making-coffee-esenci...). It creates a dark rich full body concentrate that hits the nail on the head for me. With that being said, I'm not a big fan of the subtle flavours of coffee that you might get in a high quality pour over with a lightly roasted coffee.
About once a year, we buy 20-30 lbs of green beans from http://sweetmarias.com at about $6/lb. Her preference is mostly for dry-process East Africans, but we also buy pounds of varieties from elsewhere that have words like "fruity" and "berry" in their descriptions.
About once a week, we roast an 8 oz batch or two in a Behmor Roaster (left over from a failed business venture). Roasts depend on the variety, but usually we try to stop somewhere between first and second crack. Depending on bean size and origin, this means 14:00 to 15:30 at P1A.
Then each morning, a portion gets ground in a Baratza Encore (at about setting 12), and put in a stainless steel filter cone (Bonzercraft from Amazon). Two cups of water is heated in a kettle on the stove. I add enough hot water to "bloom" the grounds when the kettle first starts to whistle (about 160F), then heat the rest of the water to about 195-200F. Then I start adding water to the filter, where it drips through at about 180F.
Over the course of a minute, I add the remaining water as the filter continues to drip into the cup. Meanwhile, I froth ~1/2 cup of cold whole milk in a Breville milk frother (set to about 140F). A minute or two later, the frother finishes at about the same time the remaining water drips through. Then I leave the milk and black coffee separate for her to combine when she comes down.
We picked up our Moccamaster second hand for 300 DKK (about 45 USD). This thing is absolutely solid and to my palette makes great daily coffee non-stop without complaint.
I do use a manual coffee maker a few times a year. So much "extra" goes into making coffee that I find the time savings of a Keurrig over pouring water into a funnel isn't very much.
My family went on vacation for a couple weeks without me, and I just ... didn't make any coffee. The first day or three sucked, comparatively, but by the time the first weekend rolled around, I realized that I had completely forgotten about the coffee.
In short: just stop drinking it, and suffer through the first few days. ;) Consider brewing tea in the morning if you need the ritual. Make sure you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated.
I don't really think cold turkey vs gradual cutoff would have made a difference for me. The biggest thing that helped was having something else to sip on (decaf tea + sparkling water in my case). The lack of caffeine was really only noticeable for a few days.
It's very easy to get addicted, and since the withdrawal symptoms are not that obvious (it's basically just not feeling good, some slight headache, etc) it is common not to be aware of it at all.
In the morning take a whole pill, and over say 10 to 15 days, linearly decrease the amount you take by using part-pills (ending with a nibble of a pill).
This has worked great for me twice now when I was about to go somewhere I wouldn't be drinking coffee regularly.
I also once titrated myself off coffee by using instant coffee. Day 1 is a full teaspoon, and decrease the amount slowly over many days.
Still I'm going for a Chemex to be able to drink something more subtile. Tried Moccamaster but it's still regular coffee to me. A good one though. My dad has a Jura that I really like for such a quick machine but perhaps not what I would like to drink daily.
Going to experiment a bit more with beans as well in the coming months. Just to have a bit more of variety.
For years, I roasted my own beans. Now that would be something to talk about. Not this.
Hmm I use 18 g of coffee for 340 g of water. It's what my grinder dispenses, and I use 12 oz of water. 13% more water per gram. Is that wrong?
Coffee is a combination of many factors: bean, roast, grind, freshness, water temperature, brewing time, brewing style, and amount of extraction. There’s some guidelines of course, but ultimately you’re trying to get a coffee that tastes good to you.
My uncle likes his coffee much more watery than I do, but I think he uses not enough coffee and over extracts it. So when I’m making the coffee I make it the strength I like, pour his cup about 2/3rd then top his up with hot water.
Edit to add: According to Harold McGee, balanced flavor is an extraction of around 20% of the coffee solids producing a cup that’s 1.3% - 5.5% bean solids by weight (so you can see already a big range, drip is at the low end, espresso at the high end). Ideal brewing temperature of 190-200°F (but this is higher than Aeropress recommends). Brewing time of 1-3 minutes for a fine grind and 6-8 minutes (!) for a coarse grind. For American coffee, he recommends a coffee:water ratio of 1:15 for American, 1:5 for espresso. Also, per my anecdote about my uncle: “It’s always better to use too much coffee rather than too little: a strong but balanced cup can be diluted with hot water and remain balanced, but a weak cup can’t be improved.” (My summary from “On Food and Cooking” which has about 5 pages on coffee alone.)
If I was a daily drinker, I doubt I could resist the temptation to get something convenient like a Keurig, despite all of that plastic waste it generates with the K Cups.
The author nails it. Often it's more about the ritual of taking a few minutes to do something that isn't work. The fact you get a nice cup of coffee is a bonus. Others in our office do the same thing by walking out the front door and over to the indie coffee place literally around the corner.
I enjoy ritual though. Maybe I just need more mindfulness in my life.
Pour-over seems almost as easy but you have to remember to stock filters.
Their layered construction can be described, from top to bottom, as follows:
1. A chamber for hot water. The top is open and has a lid. The bottom of the chamber has a number of very small holes, so that water will slowly drip through the bottom of the chamber.
2. A holder for coffee grounds. There are larger holes in this layer, so that water passes relatively quickly through the grounds during brewing.
3. A chamber to catch the brewed coffee.
They're still around, really popular in Europe at least (Bialetti is probably the best-known brand).
Quite hard not to over-extract the coffee, but still my go to when I need an industrial-scale caffeine hit...
The drip-o-lator style pots are NOT heated on the stove-top (a separate kettle is used), and the water moves from the top chamber, through the grounds, to the bottom chamber via gravity.
-A good grinder(Commendennte)
-Goose neck cattle
-A scale that does single decimals(.1) accuracy
-A thermal bottle to hold the coffee.
Grind it to 2xsugar sized grinds.
15g coffee to 220-270g of water right off boil is fine for most coffees.
How is it Americans still don't use electric water kettles? Everyone else on the planet that has electricity has one. It's faster, more convenient, kinda-sorta safer. And you can find ones with digital temperature control on Amazon for like $25.
Look at these things, there's hundreds of 'em. I picked the cheapest one and it works great. I can set the temperature to exactly 205F and the gooseneck works for pourover, or I can bring the temp down to 170 for green tea. (If you make big batches of tea, a non-gooseneck pours much faster)
Also if you like milk in your coffee switch to heavy whipping cream. You will use less and it taste richer. Shake up the cream a bit before putting in mug.
I also don't care if my MP3's are 128kbit vs 320kbit.
Just don't try telling me _I_ don't taste or hear a difference. :)
me? i prefer pourover with medium to coarse grind, my wife likes the moka pot, and my kid likes drip.
i use a kruve with sizes 1100 and 400 filters, grind handground to size 6 twice, and get all three size grinds at the same time.
Low end: https://www.hario.jp/seihin/productgroup.php?group=MSCS-2TB
High end: https://prima-coffee.com/equipment/orphan-espresso/lido-3
Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Still, reading comment threads about the supposed differences between various drip techniques is always funny. Chemex? We used a plastic funnel thing that looked exactly the same in the 80s. The difference was Yuban (or whatever) instead of the far nicer quality beans on offer now.
But seriously, the Italians figured coffee out years ago. These discussions are like a bunch of people arguing over which fast food chain makes the best burger.