Equipped for Enjoyment
Selecting quality tools for coffee preparation goes a long way towards satisfaction in brewing and the end result. I recommend buying the best equipment you can afford. Keep in mind that quality gear is more enjoyable to use, and often lasts longer as well.
I have used everything covered in this section, and recommend any of the items detailed here. However, I do not endorse or represent any of the vendors listed in this guide.
Some of the equipment here is expensive, but it is all top quality, and you are investing in tools that you might use multiple times a day. In the end it will be worth it to get the best gear you can afford.
I have not moved up to the exciting world of roasting my own coffee beans, so I don't have any tips for such equipment right now, but stay tuned. I am definitely planning to do so and will add information about my experiences to this section.
A Hario dripper and carafe for making pour over coffee
"World barista champions use the AeroPress to make coffee on the folding tray tables of airplanes."
— Timothy Ferriss
From the modest little hotel room plastic drip coffee maker, to elaborate espresso machines costing well north of ten-thousand dollars, the equipment for brewing coffee is important.
In fact, I consider the following trinity to be the critical considerations for excellent coffee:
- Raw materials: Coffee beans and water
- Brewing Equipment: Grinders, filters, devices (you are here)
- Process: Use as much science in your process as you can
This section focuses on battle-hardened and time tested gadgetry for perfecting your brew.
The Porlex JP-30 is compact, efficient, and uses no electricity
Grinding coffee beans seems a simple enough concept, but you should be aware that it is best to use a particular type of grinder. There are a couple popular styles of grinder for coffee beans, blade based and burr based grinders.
While blade based grinders are generally less expensive, they produce an uneven grind that is incompatible with preferred brewing methods and the spinning blade friction can actually heat the beans enough to add negative flavor effects while grinding.
A burr based grinder produces a nice even grind, and is the preferred type of grinder to use for the most delicious coffee flavor. Not to mention, when you need to dial in the grind size for various methods, a burr grinder allows for this while a blade grinder does not.
The electric models are fancy and can be expensive, while manual models are far less expensive, more compact, and useful anywhere even without access to electricity (great for camping!).
Here are some models to consider:
- Porlex JP-30 is a brilliant little stainless steel and ceramic manual burr grinder from Japan. You can get them from numerous online retailers for approximately $50. There is also a mini version that is even more compact.
- Hario MSCS-2TB another wonderful ceramic manual grinder featuring a glass vessel instead of stainless steel as found in the JP-30
- Baratza Preciso Coffee Grinder 685 expensive, but professional and well built electric powered burr grinder. Can be had for about $300 — perhaps the only electric grinder you'll ever need
- Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder is an entry level with the same great Baratza quality for under $150.
- Capresso Infinity Conical Burr a quality electric conical burr grinder for under $100.
What do you do?
I use the Porlex JP-30; I prefer the manual action for many reasons, such as using less electricity and doing things the old fashioned way. Getting used to grinding beans this way also means that I can use the same grinder in my kitchen and in a tent on a mountainside. Due to its all metal construction, it's more rugged than other similar grinders too.
A couple negative things I can report about the JP-30 is that the detachable handle appears made of a soft steel alloy, and the hexagonal hole that mates with the grinding action can become worn and loose, which causes the handle to climb, and eventually pop off during grinding.
Perhaps making the handle out of a more robust steel or even a titanium alloy or using a Torx type pattern could address the rounding out of the hexagonal hole.
Also, after time, the grinds container section becomes looser fitting, and if you're not carefully holding it, that section can slip off while grinding and spill your freshly ground beans. :(
I am going to try using the Hario MSCS-2TB as my daily home grinder, and stick to using the Porlex for camping and travel since it is more compact.
Prepare your hot water in some kind of vessel optimized for coffee preparation. In a pinch, one could use a stainless steel cooking saucepan to heat water, or a tea kettle. Microwaves are not recommended for serious coffee water preparation.
Here are some kettles which have proven to be handy for brewing coffee with presses and the pour over method:
- Hario V60 Coffee Drip Kettle "Buono"
- Bonavita 1 Liter Stovetop Gooseneck Kettle
- Bonavita 1 Liter Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle
- Bodum Chambord 8 cup French Press The classic chrome Bodum is a great classic French Press model that brews a fine cup of coffee.
- Grosche Madrid 1 Liter French Press
Needless to say, you should not be drinking fine coffee from a plastic or polymer cup. Use ceramic, glass, stainless steel, or titanium for cups which preserve the coffee taste and offer the performance characteristics you require for daily use.
What do you do?
I usually drink my coffee from a Snow Peak 450 double walled titanium mug with matching lid.
It's an expensive imported mug, but well worth it and particularly so for enjoying coffee in the great outdoors while camping or while out on the water.
I will also sometimes drink from typical stoneware mugs as well.