Creating your at-home coffee brewing station is full of fun and excitement as you begin to imagine hand-crafting your own cafe quality drinks in your own kitchen everyday! Unfortunately, and often in many homes around the country, the focus is more heavily weighted toward aesthetics, and rarely the mechanics or functionality.
Any serious home coffee enthusiast can tell you, the mechanics of your home coffee brewing set-up is where it’s at! Why in the world would you spend so much time and money putting together a beautiful home brewing station, only to produce sub-par tasting coffee? If you are looking to take your at-home coffee brewing to the next level and you want to be sure you are getting all the form AND function, below are a few different options for people at different levels of interest.
The Low Fuss Solution:
This is the best coffee brewing set up for people who want an affordable, no-compromise cup of coffee with the least amount of fuss possible:
- Awesome Coffee Brewer
One of the major reasons we believe so many consumers require cream and sugar in their coffee is due to their home coffee makers never achieving or maintaining optimal brewing temperature (195°- 205°F) while brewing – leading to quite bitter and awful tasting results. There are only a tiny handful of brewers that do achieve proper temperature, and chances are, if you bought your coffee maker (even a big name fancy one) at a big box store, it is not capable of brewing great tasting coffee. We’ve had the best results on the Bonita BV1900TS 8-Cup Coffee Brewer, but you will most likely need to source it from a local independent coffee shop, or online because they are not commonly found in big box stores. If you are looking for the lowest amount of fuss with incredible results, this automatic brewer a must-have.
- Digital Scale
Some may be wondering if a digital scale is really necessary for your coffee station. I mean, why not just use the cute little scoop that happened to come with your coffee brewer? Well, not all beans are created equal… even in size. Meaning that using those coffee scoops guarantees inconsistency. The perfect cup of coffee has 1.6 to 2 grams of coffee for every 1 fluid ounce of water. For ease of memory, follow the standard 2 grams of coffee -to- 1 fluid ounce of water to make things easy! (i.e. If you pour 16 ounces of water into your coffee brewer, you need 32 grams of coffee – and you can’t “eyeball” weight.) A quality scale will go down to the 1/10 of a gram (i.e the AWS SC-2kG)
- High Quality Burr Grinder
The grind particle size of your bean astronomically affects the taste of your coffee. Too large a grind, and your coffee with taste under-extracted and flavorless. Too fine of a grind, and your coffee will be over-extracted and taste harsh, bitter, and astringent. In both instances, your coffee will leave a dry strip right in the middle of your tongue, as opposed to creating that mouth-watering sensation that indicates a properly brewed cup of coffee. The quality of your grinder matters because a sub-par grinder will grind inconsistently, having differing bean particle sizes dispersed throughout. This means that some bean particles will be over extracted and some will be under extracted, and your coffee will taste off. If your current grinder is a blade grinder, you might as well just start smashing your coffee beans with a hammer because you’d get the same result. A burr grinder ensures consistency and is the most important pieces of equipment you can purchase in your at-home coffee station. As a side note, always grind your coffee beans right before you are about to brew to ensure the best tasting cup of coffee. (We really like the Baratza line of coffee grinders, and you absolutely get what you pay for as you step up in models.)
- Freshly Roasted Coffee
The most legit specialty coffee roasters always include a “roasted on” date – if you see a “best by”date, avoid buying that coffee! You have no idea how old it is. This is most common with coffee in grocery stores (even stores that sell “good brands.” It doesn’t matter how good the brand is if the coffee is stale. The moral of the story is buy your coffee directly from a coffee roaster, or a local coffee shop that sells fresh coffee. Coffee beans are best consumed one week after roasting date, and at the most, within two to three weeks after the roasting date. Opening the bag one week after roasting date ensures proper resting after roasting (to allow excessive gasses trapped within the coffee to escape for best taste) and the freshest tasting coffee. If you are unsure of where to go to get freshly roasted coffee, or if you can’t seem to find the time to go to your local roaster to pick up a pound of coffee every week, try something like a monthly coffee subscription, and the best and freshest coffee will show up at your door step!
The Intermediate Solution:
One of the latest trends in speciality coffee is the hand-brewed coffee, aka the “pour-over” method. Either separate, or in combination with your Automatic Coffee Station, your guests are sure to be impressed by the “hipness” of your brewing method.
- Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
- High Quality Burr Grinder
- Clever Dripper
The Clever Dripper marries the quality steep of a French Press with the clean and sediment-free appeal of a filtered-brewed coffee. It is simple to use, and produces a quality cup of coffee time and time again.
The Chemex is simply an elegant and visually appealing brewing method. When brewed properly, it produces multiple cups of quality coffee. Follow the link to learn how to brew you coffee using a Chemex.
- Bonavita Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle
This kettle ensures controlled pouring and accurate water temperature, which are essential components to a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. The ability to set a precise temperature allows you to reach that vital 195°- 205°F necessary to brew a proper cup of coffee, and the gooseneck feature helps to prevent over-agitating your coffee grounds when you pour your water over the coffee grounds in your desired hand-brewing device. If you also enjoy quality tea, the Bonita Kettle is great for reaching the differing temperatures unique to each type of tea.
The Advanced Solution:
The Ultimate Home Coffee Station includes an espresso machine, allowing you to make all the coffee shop staples, either in its classical form or flavored lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and other espresso-based beverages. Texas Coffee School’s “Espresso and Milk Skills” Class is highly recommended to ensure that you have the fundamental skills necessary for using an espresso machine and making all the classic coffee house classic drinks.
- Freshly Roasted “Espresso” Beans
- The Bonavita Electronic Scale is ideal in terms of size and accuracy to ensure that you are properly dosing your espresso shots every time.
- High Quality Burr Grinder
Yes, you will need to upgrade to a more advanced grinder when you bump up to including an espresso machine in your at-home coffee set up. The best coffee shops will have two grinders, one to meet the grind settings for their standard coffee needs, and the other for their espresso. However, in a home environment the Baratza Vario comes highly recommended for its ability to meet the grinding needs of all your at-home equipment.
- High Quality Home Espresso Machine
Temperature and pressure consistency are vital components in selecting your at-home espresso machine. It is so important that your espresso machine is able to maintain that 195°- 205°F range while pulling one espresso shot or one of many. You also want a quality machine that will consistently apply the necessary amount of pressure into pulling an espresso shot, all while steaming your milk. We like the following espresso machines in each of their respective price range categories:
- La Marzocco GS3
- La Marzocco Linea Mini
- Expobar Brewtus IV-P
- Rancilio Silvia
You can totally geek out and get custom made tampers with your family crest engraved on the handle, or you can keep it simple.
- Scale for Tamping
Some of the hippest baristas with the biggest and most awesome mustaches will tell you that the best simply do not need to use a scale for accurate tamping. WRONG! The best baristas will use a scale to tamp their espresso shots because accuracy and consistency is what makes a shot of espresso perfect every time. Use even the most simple of analog bathroom scales and add a tamping mat to ensure you are hitting the standard 30lbs of pressure each shot you tamp. If this all sounds like another language to you, then definitely look into the courses offered to improve your at-home barista skills.
- Steaming Pitcher
While some may claim that the quality of your steamed milk is heavily reliant upon the price of the pitcher, it is simply not true. Make sure to get stainless steel pitchers with a defined pour spout, and keep them clean to ensure proper sanitation.If you want to step up your steaming game, then take the latté art course where you can master the art of creating the heart, rosetta and tulip shapes that really make your lattes feel special.
If you are interested in learning more about how to brew the perfect cup of coffee, or how to make impeccable lattes and other coffee shop staples, or if you would like to learn more about both to really improve your at-home coffee experience, Texas Coffee School offers a variety of coffee classes to suit your coffee geekery needs.