Updated: Jul 21, 2020
In the search for great coffee, it is easy to get overwhelmed (and carried away) with coffee equipment. But good coffee is accessible to all. And inexpensive. I'm going to show you where to start and where to go next.
It goes without saying, that regardless how expensive your gear, neither it nor you can perform miracles, and bad beans will always make awful coffee. No amount of milk and sugar can change that.
Before we jump into the nuances of brewing equipment, let’s establish an arbitrary rating scale (which I totally just made up) to explain why you need better equipment:
Coffee Quality Rating Scale (unofficial)
0 pts - pre-ground Maxwell House brewed cowboy style (dumped into a kettle with no filter). This is not even a suitable caffeine delivery system. Spit it out. Drink water instead.
50 pts - Mr. Coffee with a single serve packet in a hotel room. Again, just drink water.
70 pts - Starbucks black coffee. It is technically consumable, but if you’re at Starbucks, you should get something better like a flat white. Also, this is the maximum achievable quality level of a Keurig - it’s just a law of nature.
80 pts - Good beans roasted in the last 7 days ground immediately prior to brewing with a burr grinder. Filtered water. Use just about any brewing device (with the exception of a Mr. Coffee drip pot or a French Press. Both devices were specifically designed to ruin coffee).
90 pts - Great beans roasted in the last 7 days immaculately ground immediately prior to brewing. Judicious attention should be paid to grind size, water quality, coffee-to-water ratio, and brew time. You may also need to factor in elevation, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and the phase of the moon. 90-95 point coffee can sometimes be found at your local roaster (Harbinger Coffee in Fort Collins, CO or Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, Norway - both worth the journey) or at your really pretentious friend's house (listening to them talk endlessly about coffee is a small price to pay for a good cup).
100 pts - Coffee Nirvana. Yet to be realized by mortal man.
My goal is not to help you realize coffee nirvana; I am no Buddha. But I consider it an honor to help you progress on your journey. So, let’s get you to an 80 point cup of coffee at home as quickly and economically as possible.
Assuming you already have good whole bean coffee and great tasting filtered water, you now need four critical pieces of equipment: a grinder, a brewer, a kettle, and a scale. Here are my recommendations on equipment in order of priority.
To enjoy a good 80 point cup of coffee everyday for yourself add items 1-4, to share good coffee with friends (or to make yourself an irresponsible amount of coffee) add item 5, to speed up your morning routine and maintain quality add items 6-7, and to break the 90 point barrier add items 8-10.
Order of priority for brewing gear
Manual burr grinder. Porlex Mini II.
Electric kettle with temperature control. Cuisinart Programmable Kettle is fine.
A scale. OXO food scale is fine.
Chemex (Coming soon to Isolation Coffee)
A better scale. Acaia Pearl
A good cup of coffee is available to everyone, and life is too short to drink bad coffee.
Not only will this equipment improve the taste of your coffee, but it can bring a little peace to your kitchen or your office. Enjoy the coffee, enjoy the making of coffee, and enjoy the quiet.