A "good" cup of coffee means something different for everyone, ranging from a cup of dark, almost chewy truckstop coffee to a lighter-bodied pour over made with meticulous measurements and timing. Even if you feel satisfied by your usual go-to cup of joe, there are products out there that can take your coffee to the next level. If you're willing to step (or even tiptoe) outside the comfort zone around your tried-and-true favorite brewing process, you may find that an even better cup of coffee is within reach.
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The simplest and most effective change you can make to your coffee routine, regardless of how you brew, is to grind your own beans. Conical burr grinders allow for more control over the grain size of your ground coffee than more common metal blade grinders. Something like this electric burr grinder lets you easily switch between a finer and coarser grind, unleashing the flavor inside of whole beans for whichever brew method you choose.
If you're traveling, this manual coffee grinder is small enough to bring to work or on vacation. Since it's completely hand-powered, no need to worry about having an outlet nearby and it goes well with other man-powered gadgets like your mortar and pestle, your hand-crank egg beater or your old-timey butter churn.
A French press might be familiar to you, and you may already own one (or three -- seems like it's an easy gift!). But, if you regularly brew with an auto-drip coffee machine, you might want to bust out or buy a French press and enjoy extra-flavorful coffee on the mornings when you've got a few more minutes to yourself. Grind your coffee extra coarse and bring out the French press to add a little romance to your usual coffee routine.
If you've never tried pour-over coffee, either at a coffee shop or at home, prepare for a completely different world of coffee. Pour over methods release layers of flavor you never knew coffee could have: fruity, chocolatey, earthy, floral, juicy -- coffee can taste like all of these and more. At home, try brewing with one of these, which each require their own type of paper filter. You'll add a little extra time to your coffee ritual but you will be rewarded with a cup of coffee that will have you savoring every precious drop of flavor.
This Japanese pour over dripper can be used with your mug for a single serving or placed above a large carafe for a big batch of coffee if you've got company (or it's just one of those mornings).
With an eight-cup capacity, this classic pour-over maker has a chemical lab feel and is still a fine choice both aesthetically and functionally.
For pour-over coffee methods, you'll want a good gooseneck kettle. Heat up water in something like this kettle, and the narrow spout will give you the control you need to distribute hot water over your coffee grounds, first to help "bloom" the coffee grounds, and then to evenly "pour over" the rest of the water.
Take it a step further with this digital kettle, which allows you to select the appropriate temperature you need for your brewing method. The water will heat up quickly and precisely, setting you up for a superbly flavored cup of coffee.
If you've got the pour over and the kettle, and you're committed to seeing this brew process through to the end, then take the red pill and get yourself a kitchen scale, too. This digital kitchen scale will help you achieve the ideal ratio of beans to hot water, so that you don't end up with a coffee that is too bitter or too weak.
There are still other methods for brewing coffee -- and one of these is done via the wonderful AeroPress. Using these circular coffee filters, the AeroPress is small and lightweight, making it perfect for packing in your carry-on. It's kind of like the next step after the French press, creating a smoother cup of coffee by way of pushing the coffee through a paper filter. And, cleanup is even easier -- you're left with a puck-shaped cake of coffee grounds that you simply push into the trash (or into your compost bin) and then a quick rinse of the AeroPress sets you up for the next cup.
Turn up the whimsy with this Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, preferably in a bright color. There is something very satisfying about watching coffee bubble up the spout and into the pour section of one of these espresso makers (also called a Moka Pot). As pretty as they are functional, these items are great to leave out as conversation pieces.
This cold brew coffee kit with a Mason jar and stainless steel fine-mesh filter can take you there. The slower process unlocks milder, smoother coffee flavors, leaving you to add milk or sugar only if you're looking for some extra indulgence.
If you're really in the mood to treat yourself, this automatic pour-over coffee maker will do the trick. Take all the guesswork out of a perfectly crafted cup of coffee -- this machine heats, times and pours the water for you so that you get the pour over flavor complexity without risking a case of barista elbow.
PS: The Beans
All these gadgets will help you make a better cup of coffee, certainly, but to achieve a truly great brew, you have to start with a strong foundation: the beans! When purchasing a bag of beans, look for a roast date within the last few weeks or sooner. Freshly roasted beans will get you the most flavor. A local coffee roaster will be your best bet but there are online options, too. Bags of Intelligentsia coffee smell amazing and give you a preview of the flavors you'll get in your brewed coffee and some brands of coffee will even benefit a charity, as with Grounds & Hounds ("Every pound saves a hound!").
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Any of the above will help you explore new ways to enjoy coffee, and for some of us, that's really what life is all about. As Johann Sebastian Bach said, "Without my morning coffee I'm just like a dried up piece of roast goat." Don't be a dried up piece of roast goat -- make a good cup of coffee.