Since I work with a bunch of people who care about quality, and also about coffee, and since I am definitely one of them, a couple of times I’ve been asked about what tools I would recommend to build your home coffee paradise.
My recommendation for the home coffee enthusiast is 100% in the pour-over camp. There are lots of variations, the equipment is inexpensive, and the results are super nuanced and can be fun to tinker with.
The basic equipment needed are
The two basic pour-over vessel types are a Chemex and a “single-cup” vessel. Both are fantastic and produce great results with slightly different technique. There are also “hybrid” devices such as the Clever Coffee Dripper which is apparently fantastic but I haven’t had the chance to experiment. If you are opting into the Chemex camp, there are various sizes of brewers so choose the style and size you prefer. This will not affect the quality of your coffee.
If you are choosing the “single-cup” variety I really like the Hario V60 and the Bee House Ceramic Dripper. The latter has a couple of advantages in that the “windows” at the base of the dripper allow you to see relative volumes of coffee to that which your mug will contain (yes.. you can weigh your water, I don’t, maybe I should, but I still like the visual feedback) and its holes are smaller so it is easier to dial in your process than with the V60. That said, I’ve had fantastic luck with the V60 after taking the time to dial in my process and am very happy with it.
As important as your vessel are your filters. The Chemex filters are the gold standard of quality across the board. I recommend against The Kone as reports are that the “clean cup” of the Chemex is immediately undone by this, admittedly sexy, devise. Use paper filters. Since we’re on the subject, a recent taste-test of unbleached vs. bleached filters showed the latter to be significantly better e.g. they do not contribute a strong paper taste to the coffee. I was shocked, as a complete disbeliever, that such a strong taste could be contributed by the unbleached filters but it was clear as day. Chemex has a nice selection, though I have ever only used the square variety.If you are using the Hario V60, I highly recommend their filters as they do not contribute any paper flavor and work perfectly with their vessel. For the Bee House vessel a standard #2 or #4 filter will work perfectly (with the latter extending over the top of the vessel), and Sweet Marias , a reputable vendor of awesome coffee gear, recommends these.
To pour your water over your coffee a simple measuring cup (with a nice beak-shaped pour spout) or a steaming filter can be used but the results were tedious in my experience. Instead I recommend dropping the little but of change and using a proper goose-neck kettle. (This is exactly the point where you should feel a little dorky.) The Hario Buono is probably the best known though the Bonavita is a fantastic deal and even has an electric version and even a temperature controlled version.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, grinders are as important to the brewing process as anything else. The #1 most important quality in a grinder, above all else, is consistency. Speed, expense, etc. are all secondary to consistency, and by consistency, I mean how consistent the size of grind being produced is. There are very expensive machines that do a great job but for a home users the Baratza Virtuoso is my pick. Recently I was taken away from my Baratza and was exposed to the very stylish Bodum Bistro, which to its credit, was a very very good grinder. The Bodum’s granularity of grind was much less than the Baratzas, but clearly the prior produced a grind of such quality as to warrant a mention here.
If you are a particularly manual individual Hario makes a pair of fantastic hand-grinders in the Skeron and the Mini. Even if you have one of the above home grinders these are perfect, along with a simple pour-over vessel for a travel setup.
You may prefer to put your “single-cup” pour-over vessel onto something other than your mug. My home setup includes a chemistry ring-stand (and support). That particular setup is a bit particular as the ring support extends over the bevel on the base meaning there is a bit of a balancing act, perhaps replacing the base or finding another stand is the key. If you’re into that whole chemistry theme a 400ml beaker makes an excellent post-extraction drip catcher to go with your ring stand, and a beaker-mug completes the motif.
A great tool for dialing in your process is Intelligensia Coffee’s iPhone App. I discovered it by scanning their random QRCode at a store carrying them but am very glad I did. The app itself has information about their coffees, instructions on various brewing techniques, and includes a timer for many preparation styles, with various timed steps along the way. For example, the pour-over timer provides for a 45-second bloom followed by two minutes of brew time. By strictly following the times in the app I was able to adjust my grind and my pour-over technique to make it very consistent. From there, experimentation was key. I highly recommend using this app, or another timer, in order to dial in the process at some point. The brewing instructions in the application also provide details on water weight/volume as appropriate by brewing technique, which is perfect if you are even more persnikkity than I am.
The detail-oriented of you in the crowd will ask extremely important questions such as “how hot should my water be” and “how much water should I use”. The particularly astute reader will ask “can I weigh my water? Can I account for the water absorbed by the grounds?” The answer is yes. I am actually not that detail oriented. I’ve read it repeated enough that I believe it to be true that boiling water, after being transferred to my kettle and sitting a few seconds, has cooled enough that it will not steal my precious volatile compounds that make coffee so amazing. As to volume, yes I have a “flask mug”, as listed above” and 275-300ml is kinda the sweet spot for me (to 25g of coffee) but this is very unscientific.
An extremely good coffee-dork friend of mine has the following to say on the subject:
“I know within a gram or so how much my grinder puts out, and so I use the same amount of water every time now. … I can’t remember, but I think I’m at like 21-22g of coffee, and 11.5 ounces of water. So, I put the rig on the scale, and tare it before pouring in the water. 1.5 ounces first, to bloom it a bit, and then slowly build up to 11.5 ounces after. But, if I’m low on beans on the last grind of a bag, I’ll measure the grounds in grams and adjust the water accordingly. I haven’t tweaked it much after the initial tests. I don’t mess with the grind really either.”
There are so many great roasters now days take your pick. Find someone local who really cares and does a great job. I like coffee from lots of folks so take your pick!!
Firstly, I do not recommend someone who really cares about coffee get an espresso machine for home unless money is not an issue. I don’t like full auto machines and would recommend a semi-auto, or if you’re a real dork, maybe a lever machine (though lever espresso and pump-machine espresso are as different as IPA and Westvletteren and probably shouldn’t be discussed simultaneously). If you can spend as much as you like the following machines are my recommendations:
And, just as the grinder is critical for great pour-over, so too is it critical for espresso. The default go-to grinder for someone serious at home is the Mazzer Mini (I think I prefer the doserless option but a doser might be fine too). If you’ve opted for the Rancilio Silvia above then you may also really dig the Rancilio Rocky grinder which is its matching sister.
What gear am I missing?! I’m sure there’s tons and would love your insight!
Image credit: ultrakml