Home coffee setups don't have to cost thousands of dollars to make a big change in your daily routine. As we've shown, you could be drinking more delicious coffee at home for just $25, $50, or $75. But those of you who've already grown bored of weighing your water and carefully cleaning out your flannel filter-sock are probably itching to really step it up. For you, we bring some ways to spend money that will bring you not only real return on flavor investment, but perhaps a little more countertop prestige...
1. Conical Burr Grinder
Those of you still floundering out there with blade grinders, no grinders, or the grinder at the supermarket still lustily coated in dark-roast or French Vanilla oils, you already know what I'm going to tell you. And you already know that not having a decent—even entry-level—burr grinder as part of your home setup is making all the (negative) difference in your daily cups. Would it help if I told you the best, most affordable conical burr grinder out there, so you could at least know what you're procrastinating about buying? Sure.
We recommend the Baratza grinders, all of which are backed by good customer service and easy-to-replace burrs (yes, you have to do that, too) and are more or less easy to find at retailers online or in real life. Baratza's entry-level grinder these days is known as the Encore (the grinder formerly known as the Maestro, with an improved burr set), and weighs in at only $129. You can do it. You know it's time. We'll wait right here for you, it's okay.
2. Takahiro Pouring Kettle
Yes, it's true. The Takahiro stainless steel pouring kettle is very fancy indeed, complete with the price tag to match it. This one is going to be a harder expense to justify at the spousal dinner table, but hey—you're worth it, and so is your perfectly, artfully, gracefully saturated bed of morning coffee grounds.
Though it sounds completely ridiculous, the difference between this goosenecked pouring kettle and the other (perfectly useful) ones on the market is instant once the kettle's taken in hand: it's weighted right. It's ergonomic. The flowing stream of water is gentler, smoother, easier to control, which allows you that much more precision over whether you want to agitate the grounds a little, or more than that. And the looks? It's a stunner, wouldn't you say? Says class all over it. And you don't really have to tell your friends you spent more than $100 on a coffee watering can...
3. Syphon Brewer
Say what you will about high-maintenance coffee methods, but if you've got to pick just one fussy, dramatic way to make coffee, the syphon is totally it. There's no more gratifying, theatrical, and open-flame-based way to brew, plus all your friends will think you're up to something really, truly naughty.
A few Japanese-made syphons are reasonably easy to get in North America, but we prefer the Hario one, based on the quality of glass and simpler, sleeker looks. (Many of these Hario-made syphons are marketed under the Bonmac label, by the way, and cost around $120). By demonstrating your abilities with carefully attenuated heat and a skillfully deployed bamboo paddle, you will amaze and impress both visually and in the resultant clean, richly flavored cup of geekfully concocted coffee.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.