Do you need to spend a lot of money on equipment to have great coffee? To many people's surprise the answer is no. Expensive equipment has its place in the coffee world but it isn't necessary for brewing great coffee at home. In fact, we'd rather have cheap equipment and high quality roasted coffee than have the highest end equipment with lower quality roasted coffee. Here's what we are convinced is the best bang for your buck when it comes to coffee tools.
- Quality Roasted Coffee - Obviously we're biased here, but having quality roasted coffee is the most important thing you can invest in if you're wanting to drink good coffee. That's why we do what we do. That's why our roast date is on every bag. That's why we scramble at all points of the year to bring in the freshest green coffee we can. The world's most expensive equipment can't make stale, burnt, or aged coffee not taste stale, burnt, or aged. Your cup of coffee will never be better than the roasted coffee you start with. We can sell you a $10k espresso machine, but what we care most about is the quality of the coffee you put in what ever brew method you're using.
- Grinder - The grinder is probably the most important piece of equipment in any coffee set up, whether you're using cheap brewer or thousands of dollars of espresso equipment. Once coffee is ground, the amount of surface area exposed to air increases exponentially which, in turn, exponentially increases the rate at which the coffee will go stale. Grinding your coffee fresh before you brew it is key to great coffee. Burr grinders start around $100 and go up from there, but even a $25 blade grinder is better than stale coffee.
- Scale - A scale that allows you to weigh your coffee in grams can be had for less than $20 making it tremendous bang for your buck. When you're brewing, having an appropriate coffee-to-water-ratio is critical, as the wrong ratio will lead to under-extracted coffee and you'll miss out on a lot of the flavor and body that makes coffee so wonderful. Whether you're doing a pour over, French press, drip pot, or espresso, using the correct amount of coffee is necessary and using a scoop or spoon is far less accurate and consistent than an inexpensive scale. While this may sound a bit uptight, it's the best way to have a repeat of that incredible coffee you brewed yesterday.
- Water - We'll be honest here. When you drink coffee, from us or any other roaster, you're mostly drinking water. Similar to the point above about roasted coffee, if you use poor tasting water, your cup of coffee will not taste as good. Coffee flavor compounds can cover up some of the off flavor of the water, but it will still be there. Filtering your water to the point of having a clean and neutral flavor will do a lot for your coffee. Beyond just flavor, having water that is too hard will also hamper your ability to extract flavor from your coffee and will shorten the life of whatever equipment you have that heat the water. Basic water filtration can be had inexpensively and treating water hardness is also less expensive than a lot of the coffee equipment people put on their counters.
We know that this is a disappointing list to offer someone when they ask us about what equipment to buy, as they're often excited to spend some money on something that's fun to play with (like an espresso machine) and that makes a statement on their counter. Trust us, we love those pieces of equipment too, but because we care so much about coffee quality, the list above includes the first things we'd recommend before you buy that expensive espresso machine or automated brewer. What's more, because these things can be had for far less than a lot of the cool equipment out there, they really are the most bang for your buck.