Not all coffee makers are created equal. I think most people in the US grew up with the ubiquitous automatic drip coffee pot on the kitchen counter, and everyone was happy with it. If you are happy with your automatic drip pot, God bless you. Personally, there came a time when I was not, and that time was when I first used a French press. I'd never known what I was missing.
Since then I've experimented with many other types of brewing systems, but the French press is still one of my main brewers. It's so simple and works so well. I love simple things that do their job well. But there are plenty of other ways to brew excellent coffee. The main things you're looking for are proper water temperature, even extraction from all the grounds, proper ground size, and proper extraction time. This is why most of the methods listed below are manual, because manual brewing methods put every variable in the control of the person brewing the coffee.
So without further ado, I give you our top 5 picks for brewing excellent coffee at home or on the go.
Bonavita 8 cup automatic drip coffee maker. This is an outstanding drip coffee pot for the price. The features we really love about it are the temperature abilities and the thermal carafe. Coffee should be brewed with water in the 195-205f range for optimal extraction, and this is one of the few drip pots that actually hits that range. Also, the machine doesn't have a burner under the carafe. Instead, they give you an insulated carafe that keeps your coffee warm but doesn't scorch your coffee. Burners burn your coffee. Nobody likes burnt coffee.
Aeropress. This little brewer makes a rich cup if you're making coffee for just one person. It has a little learning curve, but it's well worth the time. It's all manual and requires a separate heat source. Search youtube for creative ways to use this little guy. If you have an old Aeropress, make sure it's bpa free. The newer ones are, the older ones are not.
1 liter French Press. It's hard to beat the French press for fullness of flavor and mouth feel. It's also super simple to use. Just use a coarse grind, use a 1:17 coffee to water ratio (by weight), and pour your hot water directly over your grounds. After 4 minutes, plunge the grounds and pour. Just remember this isn't a coffee dispenser per se, so if you're not going to pour all the coffee out right away you will want to pour it into a separate carafe (sans grounds) right after you plunge. These are also super great for brewing loose tea. This particular model is great because it brews 1 liter, it's insulated, and best of all, it's made entirely of metal. No more broken French press vessels!
Flair espresso maker. This is the single best way to get a legit espresso at a low cost. You could call it an espresso press, since that's literally what is does. It will take some time to find the perfect grind size, but once you find it your espressos will be better than most coffee shops. Not even exaggerating. This is what makes our espressos in our shop if we're making only one at a time. Requires a separate heat source and does not steam milk. If you want lattes, pair this guy with the bellman steamer and you are all set.
Middle Eastern coffee set. For our Middle Eastern friends and anyone who likes to drink their coffee, we've found this set to be well-built and attractive. Comes with everything you need to make some real Middle Eastern style coffee.
Thanks for reading, and let us know what you think about our picks! What would you change?