#1 Fresh Coffee
There is no question that freshly roasted coffee tastes better. Of course, we recommend that you join the Fancy Coffee Test Coffee coffee bean subscription and get freshly roasted coffee delivered at your door each month. We roast different coffees each month and at its current pricing, it may well be the most economical way to get specialty coffee. Join here.
Of course, if you already have a great source for coffee just make sure that you check the date that it was roasted and plan on drinking it within a month. Store it at room temperature in an air-tight container. If you must store coffee longer, you can freeze it but make sure to fully defrost it before use. If you drink dark roasts, your container will pick up oil from the beans and will need to be regularly washed.
A good grinder! A reasonable burr type grinder is what you need and it should be one of your first equipment purchases. About $100-150 will get you a nice, reliable grinder that should last you for years to come. Most bur grinders have replacement burrs. This is the cutting head that will wear out over time. Burr replacement on most models is very simple and inexpensive.
Hand grinders and spice mills can do an ok job but planning for a burr grinder is definitely best. Top priority is fresh coffee and the only way to keep it fresh for any length of time is to keep it as whole beans until you are ready to brew. If you only have a spice mill to grind coffee, use that since pre-ground coffee is never optimal.
#3 Coffee Maker
So many good methods to pick from which really comes down to personal preference. Automatic brewers, french press, aeropress, espresso, vacuum brewers or a bewildering array of pour over, styles – there is a whole world to explore.
Pour-overs are potentially the best brewing method and generally the most inexpensive but do take some practice. All you need to get started is a kettle, dripper and a filter. As you develop your technique with this style over time you’ll be able to make brewing adjustments to suit your preference and the specific coffee. On the other end of the spectrum, a Moccamaster automatic machine will brew you the same cup exactly the same every time while you update your social media status. The choice is yours!
As mentioned above your grinder is crucial. A good grinder will allow you to make fine adjustments to your grind and dial your brewing in just how you like it and to suit every coffee. In theory, a burr grinder produces a narrow distribution of particle sizes which yields a better cup of coffee. Remember that grind size determines the level of extraction when you brew. So if your grinder produces a wide range of particles sizes ranging from very fine to very course, some of your coffee will be over-extracted and some will be under-extracted and that does not average out to something pleasant. Even high-cost, high-quality grinders will produce a range of grind sizes at any setting but in general the higher quality, the narrow this distribution.
Baratza Encore (~$140 on Amazon) – Our home grinder. Running strong after several years and having ground a lot of coffee. You get a momentary switch as well as an on/off toggle. This grinder claims to be suitable for espresso level grinds but the grind on the finest setting might be a bit too coarse for some. We replaced the burr in it recently which costs us $14 and every part of this grinder can be ordered via the company website.
Capresso Infinity (~$100 on Amazon) – Our office grinder. Just as reliable as the Baratza above and the main different is that the on/off with this machine is a timer. You can dial in a certain number and it will grind for a proportional amount of time. So once you get calibrated you can grind just the amount of coffee needed. We replaced the burr recently on this one too which was similar cost and also simple to swap. You do have to call the company during their business hours and talk with their ah-hem, highly-caffeinated staff but efficient staff and all-in-all it is pretty painless.
Bottom line: These are both decent grinders that should last you for years to come and do a good job of grinding your coffee. There are many different burr grinders available most of which are probably quite suitable and will produce comparable results but the two above are the ones we have experience with and are very popular.
A note on usage: For our process, we weight our coffee before grinding and only put what we are about the grind into the hopper. So for us the Baratza with its on/off switch is most convenient. If you prefer to store your coffee in the hopper the dial/timer style switch on the Capresso might be a better option.
As mentioned above, so many possibilities here.
Automatic Coffee Makers
Technivorm Moccamaster Cup One Brewer – Our home brewer. A great one cup brewer and has been serving us well. Brews hot enough and perfectly consistently cup to cup. High recommended.