Better Brewing

Hello all, this is Ian, and this is my first post on bedsidesign. I decided to start with something simple, and something that I know a little about, so I picked coffee. I hope you all like it, and I can't want to keep sharing new stuff in the future! Coffee is pure. Delicious. Addicting. It’s a commodity. It fuels the morning, and powers us through the day. It’s a great way to spend time with other people, but isn’t as heavy as a meal. All sorts of great social spaces are oriented around coffee.

Everyone seems to have their own idea of a great cup of coffee, from a crappy cup of diner coffee (sometimes delicious!) to a handmade pour-over cup of fresh ground, fair trade, artisan roasted Papua New Guinea, all the way to a perfectly pulled shot of gorgeous, rich espresso.

Coffee is one of the things that makes me tick, so here’s a breakdown on the simplest, best ways to start preparing better coffee (in my opinion).

Disclaimer: This is not the “cheap” way. These are the cheapest recommendations I can make for someone who wants to step up to really good coffee. It’s definitely cheap compared to any professional level equipment, and it does everything 90% as effectively.

Beans: Keep it simple - I aim for local. One of my best buddies roasts his own beans, they’re stinkin’ delicious, and that’s what I buy. If you know of a local roaster, check them out! Ask for a sample, check reviews, sit in their shop and order a straight espresso or ask the barista for their recommendation. They’ll love to share their passion.

Grinder: Grind matters. Grind right before you brew, don’t buy pre-ground. Grind needs to be consistent. A cheap blade grinder (the grinders that look like small blenders) is not what you want. Even a cheap Mr. Coffee burr grinder is a better alternative. There’s some pretty great options at $200+ but I’ll assume you want to keep the budget low. Try this guy.

Kettle: The commonly seen option is an expensive Hario kettle. You don’t need it. For the home brewer, get an electric kettle with a gooseneck. Gooseneck stems help you control the flow when you’re doing pour-over, and they work just as well for any other boiling needs. If you don’t want electric, you can save a few bucks and get the regular kettle. I recommend Bonavita.

Scale: You need a scale. Preferably electric. Ounces and grams. At this point all electric scales have a tare option, right? You’ll use it, it’s great to have in any kitchen (not just for coffee), and they’re cheap.

Brew method: There’s two great options that I primarily use, but here’s where you get lots of freedom. For a cup or two, I like Hario’s V60 dripper. It comes in ceramic or glass for around $20, but you can get the plastic model for less and it will do the job just fine. If you need to brew up a little more coffee, definitely go for the Chemex. It just looks great, it’s a wonderful way of practicing brewing, and making coffee for a larger group. The great thing about these two methods is that you can get a reusable metal filter that should fit both brewers and will save you on paper filters. I like the Kone filter.

So these are the basic tools of the trade. Now you need to practice your technique: even pouring, dialing in your grind, water temp, etc. That’s for another post though (and there’s about 100 youtube videos on the process). The great thing about brewing coffee is that it’s art and science. There’s a basic way to just “get it done,” but there’s so much room to refine and improve. I honestly find something different every time I brew.

Maybe you’re saying, “I’ve done all this, I’m not an amateur, I’m a weekend coffee warrior. Get to something complex!” Well, maybe you should look to unload a little extra cash and get the real laboratory equipment.