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February 1

Coffee With Thomas

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Hey, it’s Thomas, here to cover one of my favorite topics: home coffee brewing. Five years ago, I published this post. Many of those tips still apply, such as buying and storing fresh beans properly and investing in a quality grinder. I also have a few new tools and techniques that have converted Julia from a daily $7 coffee shop latte drinker to a home coffee drinker. 

Making coffee at home can be cheaper and faster, but it can also be more delicious. You don’t have to sacrifice quality for convenience. I’ve put together a list of tools that will improve your coffee, including my favorite brewers and methods, equipment like grinders, scales, and kettles. Finally, I finish off this extensive informational post with a great budget kit option around $200. If you appreciate a good TLDR, then skip to the end for the budget kit.

For Christmas, I got my first real espresso maker, the Profitec Go. To be totally honest, I’m finding the learning curve to be steep, the setup and clean up to be lengthy, and the overall value to be lacking compared to other methods of brewing. My biggest gripe with the machine is that it’s a single boiler, meaning the same boiler is used for shot pulling as it is for steaming, so you can only do one at a time. This makes brewing multiple drinks a logistical challenge. However, I’m dialing in my grinds and my methods, and my understanding of my machine is improving. I have a high standard for myself, which has played a factor in my satisfaction so far. Because of all of this, my espresso maker has not been an everyday tool for me; it’s become more of a weekend or late morning activity when we don’t have the dash of feeding two kids, getting dressed, and getting out the door for school. I have heard that people love their Breville Espresso Machines, which should offer faster performance given the features and built-in workflows of the machines.

blue green kitchen coffee bar
blue green kitchen coffee bar

I have recently discovered a coffee brewer that has blown me (and Julia) away. The affordable AeroPress makes it easy to craft a cup of specialty coffee in minutes. A wonderful resource for Aeropress users is the Aeromatic app, which provides step-by-step recipes (with a built-in timer) from competition winners and online coffee personalities. The app even has a list of grinders so you know exactly which setting to use for each recipe. Julia’s daily cup of coffee follows the James Hoffmann Regular Cup Recipe, and her favorite Almondmilk Creamer is steamed and added at a 1:2 ratio.

I’ve always enjoyed pour-over coffee, especially when using my Ratio Coffeemaker. The more affordable Ratio Six is available here. However, the Ratio has two downsides: the batch size was too big for our family because Julia wanted a different coffee than I did, and there is a lack of control that comes from the automated pouring. Despite this, I still highly recommend the Ratio machines for those who like making bigger batches, as it’s great for couples who want to take large to-go mugs (like this one) with them in the morning.

Coffee Kettle

Dial in your brew temperatures to the exact degree with this sleek kettle, which has become indispensable since adding to my setup. 

Electric Coffee Grinder

The Fellow Ode (Gen 1, a great value) is a beautiful filter-only (no espresso) coffee grinder which was recently upgraded to this Gen 2 design.

Portable Coffee and Espresso Maker

This Aeropress coffee and espresso maker is one of my favorites because it is compact, portable, and produces great coffee every time.

Coffee Scale

A reliable scale is essential for the coffee enthusiast, and this one is a great value compared to other more expensive options. 

Vacuum Sealed Coffee Canister

Keep your favorite coffee fresher longer at home and on travels with this vacuum sealed coffee canister.

When Julia got me the Fellow Kettle for Christmas– I was shocked it had taken me so long to buy one. When making coffee and testing different recipes, the ability to dial in your brew temperatures to the degree and then set it to hold at that temp are indispensable features.

As far as pour-over brewers, I have some favorites. Before ordering, make sure they come with filters; if they don’t, pay close attention to the recommended filter type and size:

Fellow X – This flat-bottom pour-over is well-designed and has been brewing me a great cup. This recipe is great. For larger batches for 2 people, use the XF

V60 – You can’t go wrong with this classic conical pour-over, and you can’t really beat this price, making it a perfect entry-level brewer. 

A few more that I want to test are the Pure Over (which my cousin says is amazing and has zero waste). I also want to try the Orea V3 and the Graycano Dripper, but both are sold out everywhere.

All of my homemade coffees this year have been ground on my new hand grinder. Thanks to recent advancements, hand grinders offer incredible value for coffee lovers. They are simple to use (you just have to do a little manual work, 20-60 seconds depending on grind size and quantity of beans), fun, and great for people who are making coffee for one to two people. I bought this top-quality, all-around (espresso to pour-over to French press) grinder from 1Zpresso, and I’m loving it so far. Even if I upgrade to a larger electric grinder, I’ll still use this one. It’s currently unavailable on Amazon, but they have a slightly upgraded option with a handle that folds hereThe same company makes this grinder that’s all-purpose and nearly half the price, as well as this $99 filter-coffee-only (including Aeropress) grinder. Its smaller capacity is plenty when brewing for one person.

The Fellow Ode is a beautiful filter only (no espresso) coffee grinder, too. 

With coffee, consistency matters. Especially in regards to the ratio of coffee to water. That’s why you need a scale that can work for coffee brewing. This budget coffee scale is top rated and would be the first scale I’d purchase if starting out.

Keeping beans in an airtight container is essential for freshness. I own both the Fellow and Airscape. I slightly prefer the look of the Airscape over the Fellow but the Airscape mechanism for sealing the beans is definitely easier. The 1.2L size holds a full bag of coffee beans.

Last but not least, you’ve done all the work to brew a great cup of coffee. Now it’s time to make sure you’re able to enjoy it. Since I’ve been brewing single cups of coffee I normally reach for one of my favorite mugs or these double walled tasting glasses. For to go coffee drinking or if I’m trying to keep coffee warmer for longer I’ll reach for a travel mug like this shatterproof ceramic mug, because I don’t love the taste of metal and coffee or this Tumbler.

As you can see from the information above it can be easy to get carried away with coffee gear. As a forever optimizer I”m always looking for the next piece of gear that can improve my coffee by 2%. However, there’s something to be said by trying to achieve the best possible results for the least amount of money. While I’m sure you can make good coffee with a $100 kit by going up to $200 the results will be greatly approved and I think this offers the best bang for your buck. Below are the necessities – a dependable kettle and scale, an expert approved brewing device and a hand grinder that performs much better than its price point suggests. Even at $200 this setup has a break even at 30-50 coffees if you typically buy pour overs.

Kettle – This electric kettle has preset temps and 1 hour hold making it a great value at $70. This electric kettle is attractive and nearly half the price @ $40 but it lacks temperature presets and the hold feature which I find to be super helpful.

Grinder $100 – Hand grinders offer great value compared to their electric counterparts. Plus this one can even be traveled with. This grinder was low inventory last I checked, so here’s a worthy substitute that’s $20 less. 

Scale – $21 – You can surely find a cheaper scale but having both a brew timer built in, protection from heat and moisture and accuracy to 0.1g make this a wonderful option. 

Pour over brewer – $10 – There’s not many items anywhere in life where experts agree that a $10 device can give you professional results but it’s hard to beat the value this brewer provides. Don’t forget filters.

Upgrade option:

Aeropress Subbing the $40 Aeropress for the V60 Pour over brewer is a worthy upgrade if you’re looking for a brewer that can do it all. You can actually achieve espresso-like brews unlike other pour over brewers. Plus it comes with really helpful tools like filters and dedicated holder, a coffee scoop and a stirrer.

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