The world runs on caffeine. Most of us can’t live without that first cup of coffee in the morning, but your wallet could do without your daily trips to that big chain coffee shop we’d rather not mention.
You can brew coffeehouse quality espresso or coffee right from the comfort of your own kitchen if you have the right tools. Here are five things you need to brew that perfect cup of morning coffee.
- Burr Grinder
The best-tasting coffee comes from freshly-ground beans. Yes, ground coffee is convenient, but grinding the beans just before you brew will maximize the flavor and the aroma of your coffee.
Beans are seeds – they contain volatile essential oils and flavor compounds that start to degrade the minute they’re ground. Coffee connoisseurs wouldn’t touch a bag of pre-ground coffee with a 10-foot pole, and every coffee house worth their salt will grind beans just before brewing.
But to preserve the flavor of the coffee, you really need the right grinder – a burr grinder. A burr grinder will grind the beans consistently every time. The grinder’s hopper funnels the beans down into the grinding wheels for a coarse, medium or fine grind.
Manual grinders also come with the added benefit of minimizing heat exposure. Electric blade grinders generate a fair amount of heat, which can degrade the oils in the beans before they even have a chance to get to the coffee maker.
While an electric blade grinder can get the job done, a burr grinder is the best option if you want control over the consistency of the grind. For French press brewers, a burr grinder is the absolute best option.
- A Good Coffee Maker
Sure, you can brew coffee the good old fashioned way, but a coffee maker will save you quite a bit of time – something we all need in the morning.
Invest in a good coffee maker if you want consistent, quality coffee at home. While the bean quality and consistency of the grind are incredibly important, you need a good coffee maker to bring the flavor and aroma to life. If the temperature is too hot, the coffee will taste bitter. If it’s too cold, the coffee will taste watered-down.
There are numerous ways to brew coffee at home, but the most common types of coffee makers are:
- Automatic drip: The type of coffee maker most people are familiar with. An automatic drip machine heats up water in a reservoir, and filters that water through ground coffee, which is placed in a paper filter. Quick, convenient and easy to use, an automatic drip machine is the most popular type of coffee maker.
- French press: A popular choice with coffee aficionados. The French press produces a heartier, oilier brew that’s smooth and flavorful. The great thing about a French press is that it requires no paper filters and no electricity – just hot water and coarsely ground coffee. The “press” in French press refers to the mesh filter, which is pressed down to the bottom of the pot when the coffee is ready to be poured. The pressing down of the filter separates the grounds from the coffee.
- Single-cup brewers: A single-cup coffee maker is similar to an automatic drip machine, but rather than brewing an entire pot, you brew just enough coffee for one cup. Keurig pioneered the single-brew coffee maker industry.
- Stove-top espresso maker: Made famous by the Italian Bialetti brand, stove top espresso makers offer a quick and easy way to brew espresso without a complicated electric machine. Simply add freshly ground coffee to the metal filter, fill the base with hot filtered water, and wait for the stove to heat up the water. A pressurizing system pushes the water up through the filter and upper compartment to produce a fine cup of espresso. The only drawback here is that brewing takes longer and you have to be careful not to burn the coffee.
- Water Filter
Poor quality water can diminish the flavor and aroma of coffee, which is why so many coffee aficionados stress the need to use filtered water when brewing at home. If you already have a whole-house water filter in place, there’s no need to buy an additional water filter.
But if you don’t have a filtration system in place, we recommend buying a good filter to remove flavor-altering contaminants, like chlorine, from the water before brewing.
Filtered water will give you the purest-tasting coffee, so it’s worth the extra cost.
- Coffee Beans
Coffee beans are the star of the show in your home-brewing adventures, but you need good-quality coffee if you want a delicious cup of coffee. While good coffee is more expensive than, say, Maxwell House, it’s worth the cost for its rich, smooth flavor and potent aroma.
Ideally, you would get your beans from a local roaster or coffee shop. Locally-sourced beans will be fresher and more flavorful than the beans you buy at the grocery or big box store.
If you’re making espresso, make sure that you purchase beans made for espresso. And don’t forget to grind the beans very finely for maximum extraction and that genuine espresso flavor.
- Milk Frother
If you enjoy a good cappuccino, latte or café au lait, a milk frother is a must-have. An electric frother is the simplest and easiest way to get that foam you love, but many coffee machines (especially espresso makers) have built-in frothers.
With a standalone electric frother, all you have to do is add milk to the machine and let it work its magic for a few minutes.
If your machine has a built-in frother, you’ll place the steam wand in your pitcher of milk and let the heat create the dense, thick foam you see on cappuccinos and lattes.
All you need to brew a great cup of coffee at home is a good grinder, a coffee maker, filtered water, good coffee beans and a milk frother. If you just want a plain cup of coffee, you can skip the frother.
Forget paying $4 for a single cup of coffee. You can buy an entire bag of good quality beans and brew dozens of pots of coffee right in your own kitchen for the cost of three coffees at a local coffee shop.