Serious Eats: Drinks
3 Ways to Brew Better Coffee at Home for Under $50
Home coffee setups don't have to be big pimpin' to make a big change in your daily routine. Today we'll explore three easy ways to make huge improvements in what you taste—and how you think about brewing—each and every day. Last time, we looked at three cheap ways to make a big difference. Now that you're committed to upgrading your home cafe, we'll look at three more ways to make changes that make coffee at home easier and more delicious. If you've got $50 saved up, walk this way with me...
1. The Chemex
Revered, long-legendary and unarguably sexy, the Chemex lives in both retro and renaissance, continuing to provide smooth, balanced cups of coffee in a variety of sizes of hourglass carafes that primarily hover around the $40 price point. For a brunch, morning-coffee-date or small group, the Chemex remains the handsomest way to easily prepare multiple cups of coffee at one time, in a way that will focus your attention on the joy of preparation as well as flavor. Easy to brew in as well as to clean, the Chemex will shout from your countertop that you take coffee seriously, even if you've only just begun.
2. A Scale
So you've taken the step of buying a few nice pieces of coffee equipment—maybe a pourover cone or a Chemex—but you're still feeling you lack that nerdy edge. A scale is just the solution for you, to add precision and scientific oomph to that morning cup. Though there's surely satisfaction in instinctually eyeballing just the right amount of beans or water, playing with a scale will allow you a level of control over the mercurial bean you may have never thought possible. A myriad of options exist on the home-kitchen-scale market for under $50.
Scales are handy not just for measuring the amount of coffee you use to brew, but for measuring water as you go. If you're using a Chemex, for instance, weighing the amount of water you've poured into the carafe eliminates the need for pre-measuring by volume, as well as the waiting game of pouring in X amount at a time and just standing there waiting to see visually if you've put in enough water to be done yet. Buy, beg or borrow a scale and do some comparisons to how you normally brew—you may find the few extra seconds of precision yield a ton of flavor.
3. Hario Ceramic Slim Hand Grinder
Enthusiasts, frequent travelers and people with small children eager to do manual labor all know the joys of the hand grinder, and at the affordable price of around $30 for the Hario Ceramic Slim, you can, too. The little sister of the Skerton grinder, the Ceramic Slim is easy to hold in the hand and—in the event you're roadtripping without your scale—even has pre-measured doses on the ground coffee chamber (perfect for adjusting your Aeropress method to just match the one cup mark!). Grind size is easy enough to adjust with a clickable nut at the bottom, but most importantly of all, your coffee will really, instantly, undeniably taste better when ground through these precision ceramic burrs than when ground through the majority of low-priced home coffee grinders. And for the simple-to-grasp, portable size (the fancy Porlex is smaller, but costs twice as much) and low price, there's really no competition.
Stay tuned for more in our series of simple coffee improvements tailored to any budget.
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.