A coffee lovers’ guide to 7 home brewers
A Chemex is one of the simplest ways to brew a great cup of coffee.(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
A setup of coffee brewing gear.(Tien Nguyen)
An excellent cup of coffee.(Tien Nguyen)
Kalita pour-over.(Tien Nguyen)
An up-close view of a Kalita brew.(Tien Nguyen)
Because it’s not always feasible or affordable to run down to your local coffee shop whenever you happen to want or need coffee, because knowing how to make a good cup of coffee perhaps is a good life skill to have, because making your own coffee at home is really not that difficult: Whatever the reason, it’s as good a time as any to pick up a good, reliable coffee brewer for your kitchen or cubicle. Which is where this guide comes in.
Highlighted here are seven brewers that make very good coffee. Some do so quickly while others require a bit of time and attention. Some are elegantly designed, others a bit more pragmatic in aesthetic. There is, in other words, a brewer to fit most everyone’s needs, so if you’re not sure which brewer to pick up, perhaps consider which one best fits your personality and style. Not unlike wizard wands, you don’t choose the brewer so much as it chooses you.
Once your brewer chooses you, note that you can make even better coffee if you use fresh beans and have a solid burr grinder that will grind the beans into uniform shapes and sizes. You can adjust the taste of your coffee by tweaking your coffee-to-water ratio, how long you brew the coffee and the grind size.
The coffee brewer for the utilitarian: Aeropress
Invented by the same man who invented the Aerobie and other gems in your kid’s toybox, the syringe-shaped Aeropress makes very good coffee in a very short amount of time. The instructions are simple enough: toss finely ground coffee into the Aeropress’s tube, fill the tube with hot water, wait about a minute, plunge it over a cup and ta-da, you have a fine cup of coffee in less time than it takes to boil the water.
In addition to its ease of use, the Aeropress is not expensive (about $30), and its small size and durability make it an ideal choice for campers and travelers alike. Perhaps because of its disarming simplicity, coffee geeks worldwide have “hacked” the brewer to come up with various brewing recipes; this, inevitably, perhaps, has led to Aeropressing as a sport, with national and world championships held every year. Better start practicing your plunge now.
The coffee brewer for those who would like a stylish and hands-off way to make coffee: French press or Clever dripper
The staple of many Sunday brunches, the French press is perfect if you want a pretty, simple, hands-off way of making very good coffee, as it requires little more than throwing coarse coffee grounds in hot water and letting them steep for several minutes before filtering. That said, if you like the ease of the French press but don’t like how very fine grinds and sediment often pass through the filter and into your cup, the Clever dripper (about $20) is the way to go.
The Clever looks like a pour-over cone — it even uses paper filters like one you would use for a Hario V60 — but unlike a pour-over, the Clever has a built-in stopper at its base that releases only when placed over a cup. With that, you can brew your coffee as long as you’d like, and when it’s time to drain your brew, the paper filter will ensure that the coffee grinds stay in the brewer and out of your cup.
The coffee brewer for those who enjoy entertaining themselves or their guests: Siphon brewer
A siphon brewer is what you want to haul out, along with the fine china and the good sugar, when guests come over. Indeed, it’s perhaps the most visually striking of all the brewers on this list, certainly the only one that looks like a device that would not be out of place in a Jules Verne novel. A two-pot contraption, the siphon uses vapor pressure and vacuums to brew coffee, and it’s hard not to watch as the coffee and water flow from one pot to the next and back again as it brews.
But what makes the siphon cool to watch is also what makes it sometimes difficult to master, as there are several fragile, moving parts and maintaining the water temperature can be a bit tricky. But when done right, the coffee is lovely, clean and bright. The price of a siphon brewer varies considerably depending on size and model (this five-cup brewer by Yama, for example, is around $70), though if your aesthetic is less steampunk and more Williams-Sonoma, you might want to wait until June when KitchenAid releases its version of the siphon.
The coffee brewer for coffee obsessives or those who like a challenge: Hario V60
“Pouring technique” probably isn’t part of your everyday vocabulary unless you’ve spent a lot of time trying to coax water out of a goosenecked kettle, in which case you must already know about Hario’s popular ceramic V60 pour-over cones. These are the same cones you see in most specialty coffee shops, the ones with the large hole at their bottom and interior ridges that spiral downward.
How long coffee brews in the cone, and whether it brews evenly across the coffee bed, depends on how the water is poured into the cone, and that’s where your pouring technique comes in to play. Specifically, you’ll want to pour not too quickly, not too slowly, always in measured circular patterns across the coffee grounds. If it sounds a bit finicky, it’s because it is – and that, of course, is exactly why some love the V60 so much. The ceramic model can be found for about $25; the V60s also are available in glass and stainless steel.
The coffee brewer for those who like the convenience of a pour-over but don’t have, or care to have, a refined pouring technique: Kalita Wave
One of the newer pour-over cones on the market, the Kalita Wave is similar to the Hario V60, except its design doesn’t rely as much on your pouring technique (or lack thereof). The Wave has a flat bottom with three small holes and uses accordion-shaped filters; the bottom promotes an even extraction and controls the water flow while the filters sit away from the walls of the brewer so the water stays in the filter rather than dripping down the brewer’s sides (and into your cup).
No refined pouring technique is necessary; so long as you can pour water out of a kettle, you will get a very good cup of coffee. The Wave is around $25 for its stainless steel model; the Wave also comes in ceramic and glass.
The coffee brewer for those who value equally form and function and are very careful with fragile items: Chemex
The Chemex was invented in 1941, and its elegant hourglass design has made it the brewer of choice for everyone from James Bond to Mary Tyler Moore to Monica Geller. It happens to make beautiful coffee, too: the brewer uses especially thick filters that absorb much of the coffee’s oils as it brews, resulting in an exceptionally clean, crisp brew.
Those who love the aesthetic of the Chemex but prefer their coffee with a heavier body might want to look into Able Brewing’s Kone stainless steel cone filter ($60), which allows more of those precious oils to drip through. Whether you put a Kone on it or not, do note that the Chemex starts at $40 for its three-cup version and comes only in glass, so those who have a tendency to drop fly balls and smartphones might want to consider another, more shatterproof option.
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