There are so many factors that can come into play when trying to answer this question. Price, convenience, manual/automatic, ease of use, level of maintenance required, and more. The style of brewing also has a big impact; filter/pourover or espresso will require different types of equipment.
For those who are looking for something fast, easy and convenient, I would suggest going with a Keurig for drip and Nespresso for espresso. The pods are readily available almost everywhere and there is quite a selection of brands and roasts to choose from.
If you are willing to put in more time and effort and in return get better tasting results, then please read on…
Ok, so you want something better than what a Keurig or Nespresso can offer. I assume that you will be buying fresh whole bean coffee to start with. This means we need a grinder and some type of brewer. I’m going to include a scale as a necessary piece of equipment as accurate weighing of coffee and water are essential to brewing great coffee.
A good cheap scale to start with would be this Jennings scale. You want something with at least 1g accuracy but something with at least 1000g capacity so you can fit your cup, brewer, coffee and water. A good burr grinder is not cheap, and it can greatly affect the quality of your brew. In this case, I’d recommend this entry level Baratza Encore grinder. Grind fresh right before brewing for best results.
One of the most forgiving brew methods is a french press. It’s simple and easy to use since it’s a full immersion technique. The Bodum brand is very popular and there are many different versions available – check out their website.
Ready to try something a bit more involved like a pourover where you have more control over the brew technique and variables? Upgrading your scale can help make brewing a bit easier and more convenient. This Hario scale is very popular and seems to be the go-to scale for many home baristas. It has a timer, 2000g capacity, 0.1g accuracy (up to 200g, 0.5g accuracy to 500g, and 1g accuracy 500g+). It’s very durable and I’ve had one at home and one at work for many years.
Keep the same Encore grinder or upgrade a bit to the Baratza Virtuoso. Years ago, it seemed you had to get a Mazzer or Rancilio Rocky or other $500+ grinder for really good particle size consistency. But these Baratza grinders are a welcome addition to the scene and are great grinders at an affordable price. Usually I’m more trusting of articles written by the specialty coffee community, but even the NY Times wrote about the particle distribution size.
One of the simplest and most affordable brewers is this Hario plastic pourover dripper kit. Or you can’t go wrong with the popular classic Chemex. It’s stylish too so you can leave it on the counter without feeling guilty about clutter. Want to splurge a bit? Go for the Hand Blown series.
A good gooseneck kettle helps with control of the water as you pour. The Bonavita electric kettle allows you to set a temperature for the water which is super convenient and great for consistency. The Fellow Stagg is ultra stylish and comes with or without the heat pad.
I’ll write a separate post on pourover techniques. But for now, here are some really good references:
- Counter Culture
- Blue Bottle
- Iced Coffee (Japanese method by Peter Giuliano)
Don’t have time to perfect your pourover technique but want the benefits? I’ll take a look at some of the automated offerings that are available and add a few to the list.
There are many other pourover devices out in the marketplace and each has it’s own design and brewing peculiarities.
- Kalita makes its own brand and style
- Clever Coffee Dripper combines immersion and filter brewing styles
- Aeropress is like a french press style espresso
- December dripper allows you to adjust the drip openings
Ok, so now we are getting serious. Espresso. Pulling a good shot of espresso can be done at home, but it’s not cheap. We’ll need the fresh beans, a good scale, a great grinder, and an espresso machine. Where do we start?