I love going to a good cafe as much as the next person, but did you know that brewing your own java at home can save you $1,500 per year? In this post, we'll explore several options that will provide a fantastic cup (or three!) every day, no matter what your budget is.
Getting Consistent Shots
Much like coaching at a gym, espresso can vary between expert level (see one-offs like Bivouac Coffee in Evergreen, Colorado or, on a bigger scale, Intelligentsia in Chicago, New York, Boston, Austin, and LA) to shots that deserve to be dumped in the sink. Avoid this issue by setting up your own in-house coffee cart. If you’ll only be making a few drinks per day, then a single boiler machine should be sufficient to start with. The Profitec GO is designed in Italy and – like a BMW car or Braun electric razor – made in Germany and will set you back less than $1,000. Can’t justify that? Then go with the Gaggia Classic or Rancilio Silvia, which are both highly capable bits of kit costing just $450 and $800, respectively.
If you want more of an endgame machine, splash for the Lelit Bianca V3 from Chris Coffee. This offers dual boilers (one for shots, one for steam) and a flow control paddle previously only available in the seven to 12 grand range from high-end manufacturers like La Marzocco and Slayer. They pioneered a needle valve set up that allows you to increase or decrease the flow of water through the espresso puck, meaning you’ll never get a bad shot again. Plus, it comes in a badass black finish that’s powder coated like a Yeti bottle for easier cleanup and less water marks than traditional stainless steel will inevitably accumulate. Which will leave you more time to work on your latte art.
In addition to the espresso machine, you will also need a good grinder. Some espresso addicts believe this is even more important. The best home machine is arguably the Mahlkonig X54. This manufacturer has long been a staple in premium coffee shops, and this is their first consumer-level grinder. A slightly cheaper choice is the Baratza Sette 270, which features a unique mechanism created by an engineer from Liechtenstein that ensures grounds don’t clog up the grinding burrs like in a regular machine. The same company also offers a stepdown model perfect for rookie at-home baristas, the Baratza Encore ESP. If you combined it with the Gaggia Classic, a tamper, and a steaming pitcher, you’d have a great setup for under $700 that could save you double that over the course of the first year by skipping the Starbucks drive-through.
Poring Over Pour-Overs
If you want something a little lower touch and less hassle than the semi-automatic espresso machines just mentioned, then you might want to get a pour-over setup instead. At the entry-level end of the market, the Gator is a solid choice to get you going. Just be careful when cleaning it, as the thin glass is prone to breaking (especially if you make the mistake I did, which was hitting it with a cast iron skillet during a clumsy kitchen cleanup). A slightly more sturdy low-budget option is the Hario V60.
Pair either with a gooseneck kettle that will help control water flow. This stovetop one from Bean Envy boasts a built-in thermometer that will deliver consistent results. If you’d prefer an electric option – which will heat up more quickly unless you’re using an induction stove with a turbo boost – then the Fellow Stagg EKG is hard to beat.
Should you get to the point where you’re ready to further automate your pour-over process, then there are an increasing number of machines that will remove the grunt work and inconsistency of manual pour-overs. One of the easiest to use for newbies and prosumers alike is the Ratio Six, which also boasts a clean look that any industrial designer would envy. Another proven automatic pour-over pick is the design-driven Moccamaster KBGV Select. Or if you want to go nuts, then shell out $645 for the Ratio Eight, which keeps the water inside at an ideal temperature with a die-cast aluminum heating element and has a BPA-free water tank to prevent microplastics from seeping into your perfect pour-over. It also offers fancy wood accents that look like they belong in a sports car.