Coffee might just be hot bean water, but it takes a surprising amount of finesse to get it just right. You’re probably better off with a morning Monster than the syrup-based swill you’ll find at the gas station, and the good stuff usually comes with an inflated price and an atmosphere that’s just a little too hipster. It would be better if you could get great coffee, brewed just the way you like it, in the comfort of your own home — and with a small investment and a few adjustments to your morning routine, you can have it all.
One or two carefully chosen purchases can have you sipping espresso or stockpiling cold brew like a pro. Each style of coffee has its own tools, and all it takes is a little practice to be proficient with them. Here are six that can turn you into a connoisseur of caffeine.
Black Rifle Coffee Beyond Black
Beyond Black from Black Rifle Coffee Company is just what you need to start the day with intensity. Instead of promising notes of cotton candy and fair-trade hibiscus or some nonsense, this blend brings a smokey flavor that’s best served without milk or sugar. Each bag delivers 12 ounces of whole beans. You’ll need a grinder, but that’s what it takes to get the best flavor and you better believe it’s worth the extra effort. Black Rifle Coffee Company roasts their beans in the U.S. daily, so you get the freshest beans possible. Is there less expensive coffee? Sure. But this stuff is damn good and you can take pride in knowing that you’re keeping Mat Bests’ silky collection looking epic. [Buy]
OXO Brew coffee grinder
The first time you smell a batch of grounds from your OXO Brew, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to buy one. The difference between pre- and fresh-ground coffee is no joke. This conical burr grinder keeps your favorite roast at the ready with a hopper capable of holding 0.75 pounds of beans. The grounds container holds enough to brew 12 cups, so you can serve several guests at once. Unlike cheaper grinders, this one is built from stainless steel and uses a UV-blocking hopper to keep beans fresh. Best of all, you can choose from 15 coarseness settings to get the grind just right. This is especially helpful for making cold brew, which works better with an extra coarse grind. [Buy]
Bodum pour-over coffee maker
Brew up a classic cup of coffee on a budget with this pour-over coffee maker from Bodum. Traditional coffee makers just run hot water over grounds, so why pay for a machine to do that? Just add your favorite grounds to the stainless steel reusable filter and add hot water for the perfect cup of coffee. Heat-resistant glass stays clean and shows off your brew. Choose either a cork or silicone wrap to insulate your hand while you pour. Sizes are available in 17, 34, and 51 ounces, so you can fuel up the whole house or make a personal serving for two. Brewing only takes four minutes and is significantly cooler than shoveling grounds into your old coffee maker. [Buy]
County Line cold brew jar
This cold brew maker from County Line epitomizes brilliance in the basics. Brewing greatness starts with the tried-and-true Ball two-quart mason jar. The soda-lime glass won’t add artificial flavors to your coffee or stain with repeated use. A stainless steel filter keeps your coffee and grounds separate without heaving to deal with soggy disposable filters. The screw-on lid prevents spills with a tight seal. A flip-cap and handle make pouring easy and help prevent messes. There’s even an instruction manual, so just follow the steps and tweak your blend from there. Load this maker up before bed, pop it in the refrigerator, and wake up to delicious cold brew without coffee’s typical acidity. It’s also a great way to enjoy cold coffee without watering it down with ice. [Buy]
Micro milk frother
If you want to step up your game, grab this milk frother from Micro to go beyond adding a splash of cream and to your morning coffee. This frother holds up to eight ounces and can make foam hot or cold. Use less milk for a thick layer of foam to top a cappuccino or add more to make lattes and flat whites. Higher fat content gets the best results, so you’re better off with whole milk or even half-and-half. Removable whisks, a stainless steel body, and nonstick lining make this frother a breeze to clean. One-touch operation is much simpler than a traditional steamer and gives great results. Best of all, you can make your foam hot or cold with the touch of a button. [Buy]
Nespresso coffee maker
This set from Nespresso is a versatile coffee station that does everything well. Single-serving coffee pods let everyone choose their own flavor and let you sample the company’s massive list of brews. Bar codes on each pod tell this smart coffee maker exactly how much water to add, so all you need to do is secure the lid and press start. It comes with coffee, espresso, and a matching milk frother so you’re ready to go from day one. The biggest downside of single-serving coffee makers is the environmental impact of all those pods. Nespresso goes above and beyond by providing prepaid mail bags so you can return used pods. They’ll recycle everything, including the grounds. The versatility of this machine and the quality of coffee make it a solid choice for anyone. [Buy]
Breville espresso machine
If you’ve already downloaded an all-acoustic playlist and stocked up on flannel, it’s probably time to break out the bucks for this Breville espresso machine. It’s expensive, yes, but this premium espresso maker includes just about every feature you could want. Grind fresh beans as fine or coarse as you want with the built-in conical burr grinder. Tamp down your grounds and choose between single or double shots. Craft foam like a pro and try your hand at latte art with the steamer. When you’re done, there’s even a cleaning kit included. This 23-pound espresso machine isn’t cheap or for the faint of heart, but die-hard coffee drinkers will enjoy a level of control that’s hard to match. [Buy]
Types of coffee makers
It seems like the local coffee shop is coming up with a new way to make coffee every week. Cold-brew, nitro cold-brew, flash-brew, pour-over – the list goes on. You can make your favorite style at home if you have the right tools. Before investing a month’s paycheck in a professional-grade espresso machine, see which styles of coffee you prefer and which you’re likely to actually make on a regular basis. Individual servings like you’d get from Nespresso or Keurig are the most convenient. Loading up your traditional coffee pot with fresh grounds results in dramatically improved flavor over instant coffee. Cold brewing is incredibly easy and mellows out the bitterness of your morning brew. If you feel like sipping with a pinky extended, milk frothers can get you the coffee shop experience without waiting in line.
Key features of coffee makers
- Brew method: The first step to making great coffee at home is deciding how you want it. With the exception of some premium coffee makers, most are good for one style of brewing. Start by choosing between traditional, single-serve, cold brew, or espresso.
- Price: The simplest coffee makers are readily available for less than $50. These options might not be fancy, but they’ll still give you a fantastic start to your day. You’ll pay a little more for single-serve machines, and espresso machines demand top dollar.
- Ease of use: Dropping a pod into a machine is as easy as it gets, and today’s options are far better than early machines. Cold-brew and pour-over coffee are as simple as dialing in your preferred ratio of coffee to water. Espresso makers are definitely the trickiest, but being able to bust out homemade latte art is an awfully cool party trick.
- Portion size: Single-serving coffee makers let everyone in your house pick their own flavor. Espresso machines make one drink at a time and require some extra work. Other methods are great for brewing up larger amounts.
- Features: Once you know what kind of coffee maker you want, it’s time to start comparing features like reusable filters, adjustable settings, and automatic timers that let you wake up to a fresh cup every morning.
Benefits of coffee makers
Aside from saving your coworkers from a caffeine-deprived morning rage, coffee makers can save you a lot of money. Plan on spending about half of what you’d pay per cup at a coffee shop on beans or grounds. That extra change adds up and pays off whichever coffee maker you bought in no time. It’s also rewarding to take pride in your homebrew and know that you’re enjoying the morning that much more than everyone choking down a cup of mass-produced coffee.
Coffee maker pricing
When it comes to making your own coffee, you can spend as much or as little as you want. Stepping up your game with a high-quality bag of beans won’t cost much more than you’re already spending. Decent cold brew makers can be had for under $30, and some even come with a reusable filter to save you money on paper filters down the line. The best single-serving machines start around $200, and some also include a frother. Espresso machines easily cost double even reach into the thousands of dollars. Luckily you don’t have to make that jump to get an awesome cup of joe.
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