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Best method for brewing coffee at home?

Hi all,

I am looking for advice on the best method to brew fresh, delicious coffee at home in a not-too-labor-intensive way (for two people). Right now, I have a standard drip coffee maker, and I have been buying pre-ground coffee (but would like to switch to grinding at home). I am wondering what the best method would be that would not take too long or cost too much to implement.

I am thinking about:
1) a French press and grinder
2) a Chemex and grinder or
3) a really good drip machine-- possibly the Bonavita with Thermal Carafe (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005...

)

I would LOVE to get any advice/thoughts on these three methods and particular models/devices that people would recommend/discourage.

Thanks so much!

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  1. The biggest difference right off the top will be finding a supplier that roasts often, not buying in too large of volume, and grinding right before you brew.

    If you don't mind hand grinders they are effective and not so expensive. I use a mini Porlex, but the Hario skeleton also gets good reviews. You want a ceramic burr grinder. Kalita or Kyocera would also be ok.

    After that, there are many different choices. I am using a Hario v60 pour over with good results. A lot of positive reports for the aeropress which is similar brewing to french press but has no grounds and brews faster.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TeRReT

      Wow, thanks! Lots to look into. We are lucky enough to live near awesome roasters/coffee shops and have been buying way too much coffee out, and want to switch to brewing at home. I am going to check out the Hario v60 and aeropress-- thanks!

      1. re: rebeccact

        The v60 is ridiculously simple but works for me at the moment. The aeropress is a great system but downside is it only brews one cup at a time. For me that doesn't bother me, I make my fiancee's coffee first and mine after. Have hosted up to 4 people at a time and made each coffee one by one without bothering me.

        The biggest thing for quality of coffee is quality of beans, freshness of beans, and freshness of grind.

        After that you need to look at how you grind Again, hand grinder works for me, but its not good for everyone. In theory I can grind two cups at a time, but always grind one cup at a time for no reason whatsoever. If this doesn't work for you, you can look at higher end automatic grinders, a lot of second hand professional grinders are available at a reasonable rate.

        Then you look at your brewing method. Many people swear by the technivorm, but I don't have that much money. Aeropress will be my next purchase. I also have a syphon which works well but is not with me at the moment. The v60 is quick and easy but leaves me with the responsibility of water temperature. (which is not solved with french press/aeropress anyways)

        After all of this, people start to get serious about their coffee. Filtered water, bottled water, water temperature, weighing beans, stirring a certain number of times in a specific direction, jumping up and down on your left foot while chanting guam wom and cranking your coffee mill exactly 12.64 times, etc.

        1. re: rebeccact

          Hand grinders are great value as you get excellent quality burrs and infinite grind adjustment for very little money. They do however, have some downsides. Grinding enough coffee for two people takes a reasonable amount of effort. Personally, I don't mind, as I'm very into the 'process' of brewing the coffee, but it does not qualify as 'not-too-labor-intensive.' Changing the grind from one to another is also time consuming and not easily repeatable.

          The Aeropress is not similar to a french press at all - it is a method of quickly brewing a cup of coffee under pressure - more similar to espresso than anything else. You tend to use a med-fine grind and brew a small volume of coffee, and then water it down to taste - a-la-americano. This happens to be what I'm drinking right now.

          I think you should first decide, or figure out if you don't know, whether you like a 'clean, smooth brew' which is usually defined by being paper filtered, or a cup with a lot of body, (ie. fine grounds in the bottom of the cup) best represented by French Press. The latter is probably the type of coffee I would live with if I had only one method. I think the Chemex is the best of the 'clean' brew methods. The Clever pour-over is also an excellent more modern alternative.

          Ultimately though fresh beans, ground right before brewing is the most important step. We actually have a Cuisinart brewer that we use with a gold filter (instead of paper) that brews an excellent cup of coffee for little money and with no drama. I'd say it's nearly as good as the Technivorm I've owned in the past.

      2. I can only recommend what I use myself. A Technivorm drip coffee maker because it's the best. A Breville Smart Grinder because it works. That leaves you with finding a source for fresh roasted beans. You're on your own there? I solved this problem by roasting my own. Also, I suggest using cold filtered water. I use a Brita.

        4 Replies
        1. re: grampart

          I have heard omly great things about Technivorm-- but it's twice as expensive as the Bonavita... trying to figure out if it's worth it, but thank you for sharing your experience! Happy to hear about the grinder. We have awesome local roasters nearby, so don't worry there!

          1. re: rebeccact

            From what I've read, the Bonavita is a fine choice and according to reviews it performs as well as a Technivorm. The lower price is attributed to a slightly cheaper construction which led the reviewer to believe the Technivorm may have a longer life. Also, the coffee basket on the Bonavita isn't accessible during brewing. No big deal unless you like to give it a gentle stir early in the brew. As you probably know, water temps and brew times are very big things and the Bonavita gets the job done on both counts. Let us know how it works out for you.

            1. re: rebeccact

              TechniVorm vs Bonavita -

              The Bonavita wasn't available when I bought my TechniVorm KBTS. If it had been, it still wouldn't have made my short-list of brewers. That's no fault of the quality of coffee it might produce, but simply because my requirements would've excluded it. Those requirements it wouldn't have met included:

              1) Robust & proven build quality (even now, it's still too new to have a meaningful track record for reliability)

              2) Copper boiling chamber & heating element

              3) Lab-grade plastics, used minimally in the brewer

              4) Evironmentally-concerned fabrication methods

              5) Not made in China

              I didn't want to re-buy a coffee maker after 10 yrs of use. The TechniVorm is built to industrial quality specifications. It has redundant safety features. It's built by people being paid 'living wages'. All of these played into my purchase decision. I understand that not everybody cares about these things. That's okay with me. I didn't buy it for them. I bought it for me. :-)

              1. re: Eiron

                I have the Bonavita BV1800 that the OP mentioned.

                I went through the exact same thought process as the OP, and it led me to getting the Bonavita, and a Rocky Rancilio doserless grinder.

                The Bonavita is a great machine. It does a fantastic job in terms of water temperature and the way it spreads water evenly across the grounds. The coffee that comes out is really good. I had stopped using drip for 5 years and had only been using French press because of the problems I had with drip. This machine has made me go back to drip for most days, mostly because it's easier to use than French press.

                The things I don't like about the Bonavita are that it's a really simple machine. The filter holder literally just sits on the carafe during brewing and there's no place to put it when you put the lid on the carafe. There should be a more elegant way to handle this - maybe the Technivorm solves that. But in terms of making a good cup of coffee (even a single cup) -- the Bonavita is really good.

                I do think that French press produces a slightly better cup than any drip -- because it does a better job of extracting the oils than drip does. But the Bonavita produces a better drip than any other drip I've used. I only use the French press a couple times a month. With the Rocky grinder it's easy to switch the grind size to go back and forth.

                If I were to make one more purchase it would be to get an electric kettle with temperature control. If I use French press with freshly boiling water (which is too hot), the coffee won't be as good as with the Bonavita. It seems like there should be a machine out there to improve the standard French press. One problem is that if the water temperature is right at the beginning of the extraction time, it probably won't be right by the time the coffee is done.

          2. I'd say the two biggest improvements you can make are:
            1) Buy a quality burr grinder & grind your own beans,
            2) Use a solid carbon block filter on your tap water.

            From my own experience using different brands & models of grinders, this would be the minimum I'd buy today:
            http://www.baratza.com/baratza-grinde...
            Check their 'Refurb' page, as they often pop up at 1/3 off the new price. (I bought one for my dad a few years ago & wouldn't hesitate to buy another. It looked pristine, came with a 6 mos warranty, & has worked flawlessly for the past 3 yrs.)

            I've also used several different brands of filters & like the Sears under-counter (single model) because it does an excellent job & the price can't be beat. Unfortunately, it looks like Sears no longer sells one under their own Kenmore brand, but similar models under Culligan (#US-560, $29) & Pentek (#PR10-JG38, $26) look identical. Get the solid carbon filter cartridges that remove lead & cysts ($28) for the best level of filtration & best tasting coffee.

            First make these changes, THEN you can decide if you really need to spend anything on a new brewer. :-)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Eiron

              I agree - the Baratza grinders are excellent. I have one at home that is 15 years old and one at the office that is 10. Could use some new burrs but work flawlessly.

              1. re: Eiron

                If your coffee maker doesn't deliver the water to the filter basket at the correct temp. (195-205 F), the finished will not "be all that it can be".

                1. re: grampart

                  I agree, however....

                  I started drinking coffee about 30 yrs ago using the Melitta System (hand pouring just-off-the-boil water over grounds in a cone filter). I've been using filtered water for the past 25+ yrs, so the 'water flavor' variable has been eliminated for me for quite a while. I used Braun auto drip brewers for 19 yrs, but when the 2nd one died about 7 yrs ago I started using a "free" Krups auto drip brewer (from Gevalia). I had been using a blade grinder up until about 6 yrs ago, when I got my first burr grinder (a Solis 166, aka a Starbucks Barista, & predecessor to the current line of Baratza grinders). About 6 yrs ago I almost went back to the Melitta System (the best coffee, IMO), but instead decided that I liked the convenience of an auto drip machine & upgraded to a TechniVorm KBTS.

                  I can say that for me, without a doubt, I noticed a bigger difference going to a burr grinder than I noticed going from the Krups to the TechniVorm. I also just recently had the opportunity to try some pre-packaged Starbucks pre-ground coffee. (It was in a Xmas gft basket.) I'd rather have a cup from a Krups brewer using fresh-ground coffee from a quality burr grinder & filtered water than what my TechniVorm brewed using pre-ground.

                  Of course, I would highly recommend the TechniVorm over just about any other brewer. And the combination of filtered water, fresh beans, quality grinder & top-tier brewer can't be beat. But I don't think the largest gains come from simply switching the brewer.

                  1. re: Eiron

                    It is difficult to pinpoint the largest gain. My quest began maybe 20 years ago when I started using Gevalia pre-ground. That got too expensive so I started grinding super-market beans myself in a blade grinder and, later, in a cheaper burr grinder. Through this whole period, I used a succession of cheap, run-of-the-mill drip brewers. About 5 years ago, I bit the bullet and purchased the Technivorm and, within a short time, got into home-roasting with an iRoast2 hot air roaster. Before long, I was turning out the best coffee I had ever made. Eventually, the iRoast2 crapped out and was replaced with my current roaster a Behmor 1600 drum-type. At about the same time, I replaced the grinder with a Breville Smart Grinder. The Behmor has made all the difference with it's quieter operation giving me the ability to easily hear (and time) the 1st and 2nd crack and producing a much more even roast. NOW I am making great coffee and have eliminated any doubts about having a weak link in my operation.
                    For Valentines Day, my sister sent me 3 bags of Equator whole bean (drinking a cup as I write this) and I must say it is really wonderful stuff even if I didn't roast it myself. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that the whole process is important. What is MOST important is up to the individual to figure out on their own.

              2. I love good coffee but do not have the patience to grind the beans separately and then put the ground coffee in whatever device is used to make the coffee. I find it messy, and a pain. However everyone is right, that fresh ground is far better. I find that an all-in-one coffee machine works for my level of "emotional investment" in my coffee. I have the Breville YouBrew which I like. You have to be careful to dry the basket each time (otherwise it can clog up and you have to take it apart to clear it out, a 15 minute job that you're probably going to be irritated at doing when you just want your coffee). For beans, I buy them from Porto Rico coffee in NYC (mail order) but if you've got a local coffee shop and it's convenient you could do that.

                1. Aeropress for 1-2 cup batches. Nothing I'm happy with for more than 1-2 cups at a time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: HillsofBeverly

                    I also use the Aeropress. Makes the best coffee I've had at home... and most other places! I recently purchased a Stainless Steel Coffee Filter made by Kaffeologie for it. This lets more of the oils come through than the paper filter that is normally used. Sometimes I would like the convenience of a coffee machine, but the flavor of the Aeropress is worth the extra time!

                  2. I use a French press and enjoy it.

                    1. I'm only going to jump in and opine.....unless you have tried a true Vacuum Pot made coffee.....you cannot know if you have had the best.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: fourunder

                        According to you, right. Different strokes for different folks. According to Sweet Maria's who say they love vac pots, "Is vacuum brewing for everyone? No...vacuum brewing produces a very clean cup - and so some can find it weak. But one man's "clean" is another man's "weak"! If you like French press brewing, the clarity of this cup might seem thin to you...it is a matter of preference". I doubt that I would find it " the best".

                        1. re: grampart

                          When one opines.....it is according to them...You cannot know what is definitive unless you have tried all methods, no? Last, regardless of method used, the final result has more to do with the amount of coffee grinds used than the method used to make it.

                          Having been involved the food industry for over 50 years and attending every Restaurant and Beverage Industry show in the last 25 years....I've tried every method of brewing coffee...and yes, according to me, I am right.

                      2. I use a manual grinder at home (Hario Mini Mill). It's fine for me, but it'd be tedious if I were brewing for two. I hear it's also not optimal for French press.

                        As for brew methods, French press vs pour-over is a matter of preference. French presses give you a little more body, and don't remove those coffee oils (which add flavor, but also raise your LDL cholesterol). They also suffer from heat-loss, making it hard to get optimal extraction. Without a good grinder, you will get some grit in the bottom of your cup. On the plus side, they are pretty fire-and-forget.

                        Pour-overs give you a clean cup, and I think a more balanced extraction, if done right. They do require a bit of fussing over -- especially the Chemex and V60, with their large holes. The Melitta/Bonmac style is much more forgiving. If you want the coffee oils, you can get metal filters instead of disposable paper ones.

                        The Clever and Handy Brew drippers are compromises between French press and pour-over. I haven't been able to get a great cup out of my Clever dripper (heat loss?), but there's no denying the convenience factor.

                        1. Hi everyone-- just wanted to let you all know I appreciate your advice so much and I purchased the aeropress (seemed like a small investment to find out if I like it!). I will let you know what happens after it comes in the mail!

                          1. French Press, Aero-press or Hario. Keep it simple and enjoy. ;)
                            French Press is my pick.
                            I'd avoid Breville smart grinders like the plague. I had three of them die in a year. Your just paying a bunch of $$$ for electronics. The $50 Cuisinart burr grinder works just as well.
                            If your going to spend $200 up on a grinder for any of the methods I listed go with a Baratza.
                            I've been using a preciso for about a year now and love it. If your looking for a bargain watch the Baratza web site for refurbs.

                            Here's a review a did on the Breville Smart Grinder;

                            http://www.cheftalk.com/products/brev...

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: TraderJoe

                              One big thing in Baratza's favor - excellent customer service. I have a Starbucks branded Baratza grinder that is at least 15 years old. I contacted Baratza by email asking for help making sure I ordered the correct replacement burrs (wanted to to change them after 15 years of near daily use).

                              I got a clear, helpful response within the hour, and the representative went out of his way to make sure that I really needed to replace the burrs, not another less expensive part that fails more frequently. That part was fine on mine, but I went ahead and ordered it along with the burrs. Less than $30 shipped.

                              Before I ordered we had some emails back and forth and the representative responded quickly, even at hours that were most likely outside of work.

                              Compare that with the reports we've had here recently about Cuisinart...

                              1. re: zhenya00

                                Yes Baratza customer service is great. Far better than Breville or Cuisinart. The Cuisinart is only worth mentioning because it is a very cost effective burr grinder and it will perform equal to the Breville and last about twice as long for 1/4 the price. I'm just glad I bought the Breville @ WS and if any one goes that route I'd suggest buying from a vendor that will give you a refund any time in the warranty period.
                                FWIW the burrs on the Baratza Preciso are vastly better than the Breville as well. The Breville is not a suitable grinder (IMO) for espresso.

                              2. re: TraderJoe

                                These Amazon reviews for the Breville Smart Grinder paint a very different picture.

                                http://www.amazon.com/Breville-BCG800...

                                  1. re: grampart

                                    You may want to take a closer look at those reviews. Look at page 2 on Seattle Coffee ;

                                    "Our first Smart Grinder lasted 3 months before being replaced. The replacement lasted 2 days."

                                    I'd also suggest reviewing the Amazon ratings by hitting the two star button where you will see numerous dead machine and jam complaints. I killed three of them in a year and I still gave it 3 stars.

                              3. Another super great, super easy method: cold brew! Grind beans, put them in cold water for 24 hours, strain. (You can buy special pitcher-strainer apparatuses for this, but at its simplest you need a jar and a paper coffee filter.)

                                Especially great for light roast beans. Less bitter flavor, more acidic, interesting, weird flavors can come through. Can heat or serve cold.

                                1. Hi Rebeccact, Just curious if your Aeropress has worked well and any feedback is great. regards Dee

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: SomersetDee

                                    Thanks for reminding me to check back, Dee!! We love our Aeropress! We have been making hot coffee and iced coffee with it, and it brews strong, flavorful coffee with a doable amount of effort. I can't believe the quality for the cost of the product! Definitely amazing bang for your buck. Thanks again to all who gave advice.