Serious Eats: Drinks
5 Coffee Splurges that are Totally Worth the Money
If Monday's post about coffee gear that's just not worth the dough left you holding a roll of cash you're just dying to spend on something coffee-related, never fear. Here's a list of splurges that are worth their weight in beans (or Benjamins).
A Great Grinder
A good grinder is probably the most important coffee tool you can have, and you shouldn't pass 'Go' until you've upgraded. We've heard coffee geeks say that you should decide how much you're willing to spend on your whole coffee setup, and then spend all of it on a grinder. All the fancy imported brewing equipment and pricey coffee beans in the world are worthless if your cheapo grinder gives you an uneven result (making every batch both over and underextracted.)
Not sure what to get? For starters, be sure that it has burrs instead of blades, and that those burrs are easily adjustable. Then, pick something that corresponds with the type of brewing you normally do. (Espresso preparations—though now you know how I feel about that—require a much finer grind than other methods, for instance, so you'd want to buy a machine that was capable of achieving the right profile, like a Mazzer Mini or the slightly less splurgy Rancilio Rocky. If you're a pour-over or press-pot type, Baratza makes several very reliable models.
Coffee is grown (and consumed) in some of the most beautiful places on earth, and following it around the world on vacation can be stimulating in more ways than one.
Continue joining a tour of coffee farms in Ethiopia, Brazil, Hawaii—even California!—to break out of that Sideways cliche vineyard trip, or make historic, beautiful cafés a priority on your visit to Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, or basically any city in Italy.
Immersing yourself in the local coffee scene is a brilliant way to experience a significant part of another culture and the foodways of a specific region. You might be surprised what you learn about people and their relationship to coffee, but you certainly won't ever forget the experience (or doze off in the middle).
A Goose-Neck Kettle
If you're a pour-over brewer at home, one of the best investments you can make is in a goose-neck kettle. They allow for exceptional pouring control (so you can totally geek out about the uniformity and speed of the concentric circles in which you pour your water into the grounds bed—yes, I'm serious), and pull the water you're pouring from the temperature-stable bottom of the kettle. Some are only meant for pouring (as in, you can't heat water in them on a stove, though induction is often okay), while others, such as the Bonavita that I use, is electric—some are even temperature variable, which gives you even more control.
Really Good Cups
Nice espresso or coffee cups can make your morning sip almost transcendent. That's why so many drinks are often actually defined by the drink they're served in. (Australians, for instance, know that caffe lattes are always in glass, while flat whites are always in ceramic mugs with a handle.)
For utility and sturdiness, I love Ancap's plain and 'decorated' espresso demitasse, but for an enhanced aromatic and taste experience, my favorites are made by the design company NotNeutral. They feel so good to hold, you know? (It's the little things.)
Espresso from Someone Who Knows How to Make It
A really, truly great espresso is a fleeting thing: Not only because they're somewhat rare, but also because, you know, it's espresso—it's only supposed to last you three or four sips.
Because of the relative scarcity of these perfect little moments, I like to think of them as priceless. Which means that I don't balk if an espresso costs $4 somewhere because it is a special bean or a featured roaster, as long as I trust the person preparing it. It also means that I know when to splurge on a coffee time-wise: If I'm paying more than I normally would for a special drink, I'm going to treat it as a special moment and sit down with it, or at least linger over it long enough to enjoy it stationary, in a real ceramic cup. With a saucer and a spoon. And a cup of sparking water. And my cell phone turned off.
Don't worry about spending the money—or, perhaps more importantly, the time—on yourself when it comes to really great coffee, at least every once in a while. Not only are you worth it, and you certainly are, but the coffee's worth it, too.
Got any other money's-no-object coffee splurges you recommend? Let us know in the comments.
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.