Like Coffee? : The First Steps Towards Loving Coffee

Like Coffee?

So, you like coffee?

We learned the difference between “like” and “love” in junior high (at least we thought we did). You walked your sweaty-palmed self to the object of your affection, and s/he proceeded to stomp your guts out. Hopefully, your story ended better than mine. The point being, there are millions of people who “LIKE” coffee, but they don’t love it. They may think it’s love, but really they’re just fooling themselves and it’s puppy love. So how does one develop a deeper understanding of the coffee world? Just like everything else, you can learn through trial and error, or my personal favorite, learn from the mistakes that others have made!

Taking the First Step

If you’re already a specialty coffee connoisseur, then this message isn’t for you, but it may come in handy when you want to point someone to an introduction to better coffee. If, however, you’re currently drinking grocery store coffee, or subjecting yourself to $5 coffee drinks, this message is made especially for you. If you’re the latter, you probably do not realize that you are spending almost $2000/year. If you’re the former, do you realize that you are drinking a rancid beverage? The first step is admitting your need of help. Even if you think you are perfectly happy with your current situation, there is always room to improve upon it.

It’s All in the Grind

Most people don’t know that the coffee grinder is actually the most important element to brewing a perfect cup of coffee. Sure, you must start with great beans, and you need to have a decent brewer, but those things will be all for nothing, if you don’t have a suitable grinder. The popular home coffee grinder is a cylindrical looking appliance, with blender looking blades at the bottom. If you are currently using one of these, then you are needlessly drinking a poorly brewed beverage. All home brewing folks need a reliable, burr grinder. Why? There is only a percentage of the coffee bean that is soluble, and an even smaller percentage that you want in your cup. For this reason, each brewing method requires a specific, uniform coarseness of the coffee grounds. The blades on the cheapo models cannot possibly be made to create a uniform grind. A poorly ground batch of coffee will see many fines (coffee dust), as well as chunks, leading to too much of the fine particles being dissolved, as well as not enough of the chunkier pieces. Conversely, a properly ground batch of coffee for your brewing method, will result in the optimal amount of the coffee being dissolved into the beverage (extraction).

If you are going to brew regular coffee (non-espresso), then the most economical grinder that I can confidently recommend is the Baratza Encore ($129). To most of you, this may seem like a huge price to pay, but there are grinders that cost thousands! You will also realize an overall savings by having a well constructed grinder that lasts for years, allowing you to brew better coffee at home than in most coffee shops. Additionally, you will also be able to save on the brewer, as most people think that the bulk of their budget should be spent on the brewer. This is simply not the case. If you have $150 for your overall coffee equipment budget, I will tell you to get the grinder and recommend a $20 brewer. If you are strapped for cash, but you don’t mind a bit of an arm workout, I can recommend a $40 manual grinder, The Porlex. This grinder is a great choice for non-espresso folks, and its sturdy construction makes it a great travel grinder too.

Choosing the Right Coffee Maker

There are probably hundreds of different ways to make coffee, but most people opt for the automatic drip coffee maker. While not producing the optimal beverage, it is easy to use. The drawbacks to the auto-drip are internal cleaning/descaling, which is vital to maintain the internal parts as well as providing the best possible taste. Also, many of these brewers do not sufficiently heat the water to attain proper extraction. Personally, I stay away from any brewing system that is enclosed. If I can’t see that the parts are clean, then there is always a nagging voice in my head that is telling me that it’s dirty. Another advantage of manual brewing options, is the level of control over the entire process. I know how hot the water is, I know the equipment is properly cleaned, and I know how long the water is in contact with the ground coffee.

Here are a few options of coffee brewers that are perfect for the beginner, not requiring a great amount of learning, while only requiring a small amount of time and effort.

  • The French Press – This brewer has been around for a long, long time, and with good reason. Even the most snobbiest of coffee snobs will brew via French Press. The ease of use, repeatability, and the tasty beverages it produces make it an excellent choice. (CoffeeNate’s French Press Tutorial) The press that I use is stainless steel, but aside from the durability, I really love the single piece filter of this press. Most French Presses use a filter screen, which is held in place between two plates at the bottom of the plunger. The con to this is the tendency for the coffee grounds to get stuck between these plates, often requiring disassembling to properly clean. My press, the Bodum Columbia, costs about $79. That is nearly double the price of a quality glass press pot, but it was well worth the investment to me. The single piece filter makes cleanup a breeze, plus my kids were constantly breaking the glass ones. I spent $79 on the Bodum Columbia, and $200 on the cheaper glass ones. 😛
  • Moka Pot – Also known as a ‘stove top espresso maker’, this brewer makes a powerful cup of coffee. If you don’t enjoy the concentrated beverage, simply add hot water to taste. You can also add hot milk. The nice thing about the Moka Pot, is that you don’t need to bother with measuring the amount of coffee you use (although it will help with consistency and reduce waste). You simply fill the chamber that holds the coffee, put it on the stove, and when it’s full, you’re ready to enjoy. (CoffeeNate’s Moka Pot tutorial)
  • Chemex – This method is rather easy to use, but will require a couple of tries before you achieve your desired results. Once you get it down, it will be second nature, and you won’t even think about it. This brewer looks like a glass pitcher with a glass funnel attached to the top. A filter sits inside of the funnel, and you simply pour the hot water onto the coffee. This method typically uses a paper filter, so the resulting brew will be quite a bit smoother than the previous methods mentioned. A brewer that uses a metal filter will allow much more flavor to enter the cup, while the paper will trap it. Which is better? It’s subjective, but I tend to prefer the metal filters. I sue a KONE filter for my Chemex, and I works fabulously. (CoffeeNate’s Chemex tutorial)
  • V60 – This method is another pourover style brewer, and is perfect for brewing single cups of coffee. At about $17, the price is also right. The style is similar to the Chemex, except you only get the funnel portion. You can use the paper cone filters, or use a metal KONE.

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You NEED Good Coffee

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Reviews of Exceptional, Affordable Coffee Makers


Hario Pourover Image

The majority of people believe that making exceptional coffee requires an expensive collection of equipment. In most cases, the saying “You get what you pay for”, is accurate. This isn’t necessarily the case with coffee brewers. If we were talking about coffee grinders, it would be another story, but today we are going to focus on a selection of my recommended coffee brewers, and most of them are less than $100. Some of them are even less than $30! If you already own an outstanding brewer, you should consider adding to your collection. Every brewer mentioned, will highlight different characteristics of the same coffee. This truth is one of the reasons that I fell in love with the art of making coffee!

Brewing the best coffee in town requires 3 components…

  1. A quality coffee brewer
  2. A burr type coffee grinder (uniform coffee particle size)
  3. High quality, fresh roasted coffee

While all three are vital to the brewing process, we are going to tackle numero uno, ‘A quality coffee brewer’. When you choose any of the following coffee making devices, it ensures that you are using one of the most reliable and repeatable coffee brewing methods. This is important because there are other outstanding coffee brewers out there, but the level of involvement and preparation required to use them properly, is more than the typical coffee drinker is willing to invest in. If you want a simple method of creating the perfect cup of coffee, then the following coffee maker recommendations are perfect for you!

You will notice that all of my recommended coffee brewers have something in common, no internal/inaccessible components. The reason is simple, TASTE! Water contains several minerals, and the build up of these minerals causes poor brewer performance, inadequate brewing temperatures, and plain ole’ bad tasting coffee. In addition, coffee consists of oil. These oils cling to surfaces, and quickly turn rancid. Choosing a manual coffee maker will provide you with piece of mind, knowing your equipment is clean, as well as control of the brewing process.  Here we go…

Bodum Columbia French Press Review

buy bodum columbia stainless steel french pressThe Bodum Columbia stainless steel french press is my absolute favorite french press, for two particular reasons. 1) I have children 2) The filter/plunger quality. While you will pay a bit more for this press, when compared to the fragile glass/silicate versions, the Columbia is extremely durable. I first bought this, based solely on durability. Between my wife and children, we went through 3 glass ones within a 6 month time period. Now that’s expensive! The second reason I love this french press, is the single piece filter design. Most press pots have a multi layered plunger assembly, with two metal plates and a wire mesh filter screen between them. Coffee grounds get lodged between the plates and the screen, necessitating the user to disassemble the entire plunger unit after each use. Most people fail to do this, resulting in old coffee grounds and oils being infused into the fresh brew. Not good for flavor or your stomach. The Columbia is currently available for $79.95.

Need to know how to properly use a French Press? Check out my easy to follow French Press Brewing, Video Tutorial!

Bodum Chambord French Press Review

buy bodum chambord french press coffee makerIf you aren’t clumsy, and don’t mind a couple of minutes of extra cleanup time to save $30, the Bodum Chambord is an excellent option. This press is the gold standard of French presses! The redesigned model is enhanced with more chrome and BPA free, plastic spout. It is important to select a high quality press pot, such as the Chambord or Columbia (above). There are cheaper models, and even more expensive ones, that simply cannot do the job. The lesser quality versions have faulty filter/plunger components, which do not create a proper seal, allowing the ground coffee to enter the finished product. This is unacceptable, not to mention frustrating. The Bodum Chambord is available in 3, 4, and  8 cup sizes (12, 17, 34oz), priced at $40, $45, and $50 respectively (free FedEx ground shipping). I recommend the 34oz size, as you can always brew the amount you need. If you purchase a smaller version, you will be brewing multiple batches when company comes over (which they will, due to your great coffee).

Need to know how to properly use a French Press? Check out my easy to follow French Press Brewing, Video Tutorial!



Bodum PEBO Coffee Brewer Review

buy bodum PEBO Santos vacuum syphon coffee brewerThis is starting to look like a Bodum commercial, but they truly have designed some high caliber coffee making equipment. The PEBO is no exception. Many people believe the French Press is the oldest type of coffee maker, when in fact it is predated by the syphon brewer (also known as the vacuum brewer). Most syphon brewers have a separate heating element, containing fuel. You can also take out a second mortgage to get a halogen element, but the PEBO is a stove-top version. Despite its funky look, it is very simple to use! You put the water in the bottom pot, ground coffee in the top. When the water is heated, the pressure from the steam produced, will force the heated water into the upper chamber. When you remove the heat source, the effect is reversed, and the brewed coffee ‘falls’ into the lower chamber. There is an included nylon filter, which allows the liquid to pass through, while retaining the grounds in the upper chamber. It is fascinating to watch, and it never gets old! The character of the coffee it brews, is stellar. If you like the flavor of the coffee produced by the French Press, but you would rather do without the sediment, the vac/syphon brewer is for you. The included filter is easily washed and reused hundreds of times, but you can alternatively purchase a glass filter rod, which can be reused forever (these can be found for $7-$10, on eBay by searching for “Cory Glass Filter”) The PEBO will brew 4-8 cups, and total brewing time is between 5-10 minutes. You can buy the Bodum PEBO coffee brewer for $79.95 (free FedEx ground shipping). There is a cheaper stove top vac brewer, made by Yama, but I prefer the PEBO, because I found the rubber seal of the Yama to be too stiff. This caused inconsistency in the results, due to an improper seal. I hate wasting good coffee…and time!

Need to know how to properly use the Bodum PEBO? Check out my easy to follow Bodum PEBO brewing, Video Tutorial!

AeroPress Coffee Brewer Review

buy bodum aeropress coffee maker espresso coffee brewerThe AeroPress coffee brewer (also incorrectly titled, “espresso maker”) is a shockingly outstanding coffee maker. The AeroPress is constructed with three, BPA free, plastics; copolyester, polypropylene, and thermoplastic elastomer. Each of these materials are approved by the FDA, for use in contact with food. It may resemble the property of Austin Powers, but it is a highly acclaimed coffee maker. There is even an annual “World AeroPress Championship” competition, where several of the most prominent coffee professionals face off! The AeroPress brews a single cup of concentrated coffee, which can be adjusted by adding hot water or heated milk to the finished product. Traditionally, the AeroPress utilizes paper filters, which produces a super clean cup of coffee (‘clean’ describes a coffee that has little or no aftertaste). It also tends to mellow the character of the coffee. I especially love the AeroPress brewer, when it is paired with the metal DISK filter from Able brewing. The metal filter allows more flavor to enter the cup, rather than those flavors getting trapped in a paper filter. Paper filters can also inject undesirable flavors into your brew. If you choose the paper AeroPress filters, be sure to thoroughly rinse them with boiling water, prior to use. This will lessen the negative impact. You can purchase an AeroPress for as little as $26!

Chemex Coffee Brewer Review

buy chemex coffee maker coffee brewerThe Chemex coffee brewer is a must for any coffee lover. This brewing method is simple, yet refined. 😉 It’s single piece construction, consists of a glass pitcher, and a glass funnel on the top. Here are the basic steps; the filter is placed inside of the funnel portion, add ground coffee, then slowly pour hot water onto the grounds. It takes some trial and error to get your timing/grind size/dosage to their optimum levels, but within a few attempts, you will be an expert brewer. I’ve created a Chemex coffee brewing instructional video, to get your started. There are special paper filters for the Chemex, but I find it works best when paired with the Able Brewing, KONE filter. Can you tell that I’m not a fan of paper filters? Haha! Using paper is perfectly fine, if that is what you prefer. I enjoy coffee that’s flavor is influenced by the way it is cultivated and roasted, and experiencing that in the least obstructive way. That is why I favor glass and stainless steel, neither of which have any impact on flavor. The Chemex is versatile, in that it can also be used as a serving pitcher, or as a decanter, to cool your coffee. The Chemex is available in various sizes, the popular 6 cup version costs about $37, while the hand blown, 13 cup beast that I own, will run you about $90.

Moka Pot Review

buy moka pot coffee brewer onlineThe Moka Pot, often referred to as the ‘Italian Stovetop Espresso Maker’, has a similar brewing style as the syphon/vac pot. Put water in the bottom, the ground coffee into a funnel piece, which is between the top and bottom chambers. The top chamber has small holes in the center of the bottom, which acts as the filter. The water is forced from the bottom, through the bed of ground coffee, and through a spout in the top chamber. The finished product is a rich cup of deliciousness. Most of these pots are made of aluminum, and are quite durable. You do have to purchase the proper size, as you must brew the maximum capacity, each time. You can find single cup ones, but these are ‘demitasse’ sizes. A one mug size is actually 3 cups. A 9 cup Moka Pot can be usually be snagged for under $25.

Need to know how to properly use a Moka Pot? Check out my easy to follow Moka Pot Brewing, Video Tutorial!



Affordable Coffee Maker Reviews

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