HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Are you making a specialty food? Get great advice
TELL US

Please give me some advise on choosing a coffee maker

z
zhlmmc Nov 19, 2009 08:47 PM

Hi there

I recently fall in love with home-made coffee:)
I am really new to making coffee. Can someone here give me advise on how to choose a beginner coffee maker?

Thanks in advance

  1. tim irvine Nov 27, 2009 08:51 AM

    I believe that the best answer depends on a lot of things: "What sort of coffee do you prefer?" is a good place to start. Do you like it stong or not so strong? Do you drink it with anything? I absolutely agree on getting a burr grinder. I have a Capresso burr grinder, and while it might not be a good choice for espresso, it is fabulous for other types of coffee. It goes from fine to coarse with ease. With coarse the coffee I get out of a French press is pretty darned spectacular. We used a Melitta and my wife wanted the convenience of automated and so got a Capresso. She started drinking my press coffee and is now a convert. With a coarse grind the sediment on the bottom is not that big an issue. If you like milk drinks, I'd go with either a press or even a moka pot. Everyone who says how important the quality and freshness of the coffee are may, if anything, be understating it. Listen to them! And just because beans are roasted and sold whole does not mean they are fresh. Find a local roaster and buy from them (or get into roasting!)

    1. f
      fern Nov 25, 2009 05:19 PM

      Tuesday Morning has the Capresso MT500 for 99.99 + shipping. That's the lowest I've seen.

      http://shop.tuesdaymorning.com/dsp_pr...

      1. j
        Jane917 Nov 25, 2009 04:41 PM

        Chemex and Aeropress are indeed great coffee makers. I have both. But, for everyday coffee when we have to get out of the house early, our standard is the Technivorm. We bought ours from Sweet Maria's, which has over-the-top service. Chemex is our Saturday coffee.

        As others have explained, freshness of beans and grind is also very important.

        1. t
          taos Nov 21, 2009 09:09 AM

          As others have mentioned, a paper filter method, whether a one-cup filter or a Chemex, is the way to go.

          I've been making coffee this way since college in the 1970s and it cracks me up that this method is now considered trendy.

          Here's a video that shows you what to do. If you use a larger filter the method is exactly the same.

          http://www.chow.com/videos/show/youre...

          1. Ambimom Nov 20, 2009 07:35 AM

            I love my coffee and wouldn't drink instant if my life depended on it, but If you are just learning to appreciate freshly brewed coffee, PBSF gives the best advice! Bottom line: different strokes for different folks. No doubt you will have your own preferences. The quality of the beans you brew is certainly important, but you can certainly buy acceptable coffee in any supermarket. A&P brand 8 o'clock is consistently good and you can grind it yourself (extra fine for drip). I also like Melitta brand. My mornings begin with Gevalia Columbian made in a Cuisinart coffee maker only because I'm too uncoordinated when I first awake to boil water and drip it through manually. Chemex drip pots are certainly excellent but you can buy a simple cone and filter for a few dollars that will give the same result. During a recent power outage, I reverted to an old-fashioned (40-year old) metal drip pot in which I filtered ground coffee through a paper towel. It was delicious!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Ambimom
              Politeness Nov 20, 2009 08:55 AM

              Ambimom: "... you can certainly buy acceptable coffee in any supermarket. ... My mornings begin with Gevalia ..."

              Our experience over the years is that the first statement cannot survive an empirical test, and our much more limited experience with Gevalia reminds me of the clock that strikes 13:00. Once, we succumbed to a Gevalia sales pitch, paid Gevalia a substantial sum, and they shipped us four varieties of coffee to try, all in encouragingly vacuum sealed packets. The first was perhaps the stalest coffee we ever have attempted to drink, and the remainder of the package went straight to the garbage; thinking it may have been a one-off, we tried a second of their coffees, and it was just as stale. With a twinge of guilt, we donated the remainder of the box to a homeless shelter, and I still feel pangs of shame over what we subjected some unfortunates to drink.

              In order: (1) freshness trumps all, both freshness of the beans from the time of roast, and proximity of the time of grinding to the time of brewing; (2) the quality of the beans to begin with, while important, is not as important as their freshness; but bean quality -- and of course the water used in the brewing -- still is more important than: (3) the fanciness of the equipment used to grind the beans or to brew the coffee from the ground beans. Our experience is that from the time of roasting, coffee goes stale at about one-half to one-third the rate that bread goes stale after it is baked. Once ground, coffee is like an individual slice of bread separated from the loaf and out in the room. We would no more recommend most supermarket coffee, which rarely is closer than two weeks from the roast date, than we would recommend week-old bread.

              Of course, there is a chance that you could get lucky and get beans that: (a) were delivered to the supermarket that very day after (b) having been roasted (almost certainly not by the supermarket itself) within a day before that. If you are dealing with the major chains, which tend to pour the beans into bins by the solera method (the preferred way to age and blend sherry, q.v.), your chances of aligning the stars as suggested in the preceding sentence are probably lower than your chances of winning the state lottery. The freshest beans, which are probably not all that fresh to begin with, go into the top of the bin atop the beans already there, and you get your beans from the chute at the bottom of the bin.

              There are exceptions, of course, supermarkets where you can get freshly roasted beans on a regular basis, but they are the rare exception, not the rule.

              If you get quality beans that have been very recently roasted and you grind them while they are fresh and immediately you brew coffee from that grind, then you are right: without doubt, a simple dormitory style plastic cone atop a mug can make a very good cup of coffee. But freshness counts, and the supermarket is not a promising place to find freshly roasted beans.

              1. re: Politeness
                jnk Nov 21, 2009 08:44 AM

                When I can't get to our nearest coffee roaster or am just too lazy to, we get our beans from COSTCO (Sumatra) or the Bay Blend from Trader Joe's. Just make sure when you get beans that they are still oily (shiny). These beans will have the most flavor and are either fresher or just roasted better than dry beans..

                1. re: jnk
                  Joe Blowe Nov 21, 2009 08:54 AM

                  "Just make sure when you get beans that they are still oily (shiny). These beans will have the most flavor and are either fresher or just roasted better than dry beans."

                  Apologies, jnk, but that is *not* good advice. The OP, and anyone else, would be wise to disregard that and read this:

                  http://www.sweetmarias.com/roasting-V...

                  À chacun son goût ...

              2. re: Ambimom
                r
                RGC1982 Nov 27, 2009 06:43 PM

                Good point about Gevalia. In fact, they usually offer a decent free coffee maker. For a beginner, this is just fine. I had one about five years ago. I did find that they shipped coffee faster than I could use it, so I did ultimately cancel, but it was a very good grade of coffee, and I was using pre-ground for the first and only time in a long time. It was convenient, although I do strongly prefer beans because of the large variety available.

                I always grind my beans, and I have both a burr grinder and a blade grinder. Do you know what? The only practical difference to me is that I can set the grind size and leave the burr grinder unattended, while I have to keep checking on the progress of my blade grinder if I want finely ground coffee. If the OP is just making coffee for personal use, no need to drop $100 or more on a burr grinder because it won't make that much of a difference to a beginner. All the high machines in the world still depend on the selection of fresh beans and the right amount of water in order to be worth anything. You can make great coffee on far less expensive systems. As a matter of fact, the suggestion of buying a plastic cone and paper filters and dripping over a mug is a good one, and I use that as my backup system if the power is out. The only reason I don't do it anymore is because you have to be careful not to overfill a mug. There are similar systems out there with a carage set up that work nicely too.

              3. Politeness Nov 20, 2009 05:26 AM

                zhlmmc, the first four replies are all excellent. Technique is more important than hardware -- we'll get to hardware in a moment. By "technique," we mean ensuring that your coffee beans ARE fresh. Assume nothing: do you have any idea when the beans in the bins in your supermarket aisle were roasted? Unless frozen (see below), the oil in coffee beans begins to get rancid by about one week after roasting, and the beans begin to taste stale. We buy beans only from shops where the roasting is done on the premises, and that have sufficient traffic to ensure 100 percent turnover every 48 hours or so. If there is no such retail store to which you have easy access, some reputable mail-order roasters -- like http://cmebrewcoffee.com/roasted_coffee_beans.html -- actually roast-to-order and ship beans to you the same day that they are roasted.

                We buy whole-bean only, and when we bring the beans home, we freeze all the beans that will not be consumed in the next three days or so (in our case, that means all but about one-third pound). We freeze the beans in the same bag that we get them in at the coffee store, but we put that bag inside a plastic freezer bag, from which we squeeze out the excess air before sealing it and putting it in the freezer. Using that technique, the bag gets opened only three times after we bring it home: once to decant out the first third of a pound, a second time about three days later, when we decant out the second third of a pound, and finally, about three days after that, when we remove the bag from the freezer to become our room temperature countertop bag.

                The room temperature beans, too, are kept in the bag they came in from the roaster (each of the first two third-pounds gets decanted into the previous pound's bag), and the countertop bag is, in turn, kept inside one of those snap-down gasket lid (Fantes.com calls it a "lightning closure") porcelain containers to minimize oxygen contact with the beans. It gets opened only for measuring beans into the grinder. All of this "technique" SOUNDS much more complicated than it is in practice, and ensures that the beans used to brew coffee are never more than three days away from either the roaster or from the freezer where they went soon after roasting.

                Finally getting to hardware, chipman has it right that you need to pay attention to the grinder. And you want a BURR grinder, not a whirlygig grinder. Burr grinders generally are pricier than whirlygigs, but need not break the bank. A great source for really fine but affordable grinders is here: http://baratza.com/refurb.php The coffee should be brewed from beans that have been ground within the previous ten minutes -- the ground beans exposed to the air go south very quickly after grinding.

                As others have suggested, Chemex is a great place to start brewing coffee at home. Sooner or later you will want to graduate to a vacuum pot http://sweetmarias.com/prod.brewers.v... But that can wait (unless you get too curious). There really is something special about coffee brewed in a vac pot.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Politeness
                  b
                  Beckyleach Nov 20, 2009 12:15 PM

                  Later on, if you DO decide you want a grind-and-brew, but don't want to spend the Capresso (? I think that's the name of the company) bucks, for somewhat less you can get the (new, improved, and FINALLY done right) Cuisinart Grind-and-Brew that I got for my husband last year. This one finally, finally comes together: it's not a total bitch to clean, you can adjust your grind and your brew strength, you can store 1/2 a pound of beans in the hopper, it's a burr grinder, and the carafe is thermal. All the previous incarnations of this combo, by Cuisinart, were FAILURES (and we know that personally, having been trying, off and on, for a decade) but we're on 15 months with this one and hubby couldn't be happier:

                  http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-DGB-9...

                2. c
                  chipman Nov 20, 2009 03:03 AM

                  Your best chance of getting great coffee is to buy freshly roasted beans, grind them in your new recently purchased grinder. Then figure out what type of brewer you want. The pour- over and Chemex recommendations are right on the money.

                  1. puzzler Nov 19, 2009 10:33 PM

                    Someone obviously made you some homemade coffee. Just copy them for starters -- If you liked that cup of coffee, buy the same coffee maker and coffee that they used.

                    Don't put too much effort into the first one. Your first coffee maker is never the right one, but it'll do until you learn what you really want/need.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: puzzler
                      Eiron Nov 20, 2009 10:57 AM

                      Count me as also suggesting this course.

                      All the talk about grinders & brew methods is great for someone who's tried a few different things & kinda knows what they don't like. But, for someone just starting out (like zhlmmc), this advice strikes me as the best way to begin.

                    2. s
                      Sporkman Nov 19, 2009 09:54 PM

                      If you're wanting drip coffee, you can't beat a chemex. It's a bit more involved than your normal drip brewer, but the taste cannot be beat.
                      If you're wanting a very versatile, cheap, 1-4 cup brewer, get an Aeropress. It makes a very clean shot of espresso (It'll do up to 4 at a time), It's very cheap, but requires about twice the coffee of an espresso maker, and four times the amount you would use for a normal drip brewer, which is a large downside.

                      There are lots of fans of French Presses also, but I personally don't like them because you have to keep a bit of coffee in the bottom of your cup because there is always a bit of grounds in the coffee.

                      1. PBSF Nov 19, 2009 09:07 PM

                        For starter, I would just buy a #2 plastic cone filter to make single mug or cup of drip coffee. Put a #2 paper filter into the cone, place the cone on top of a mug. Fill the cone with the appropriate amount of coffee grind for 'drip filter'. Pour a little fresh almost boiling water to wet the ground; then pour the amount of the boiling water that will fill the mug into the filter. Let the water drip down to your mug and enjoy your coffee. Depends on how much coffee you drink and the convenience, buy small amounts of whole coffee beans from a good source and ask them to grind it for you. Talk coffee with the staff where you buy your beans to learn about coffee, brewing, etc. For a good cup, freshness of the coffee beans is very important. There are other methods that makes a good cup: moka pot and French press are two, but they are a little more complicated to use.

                        Show Hidden Posts