People ask me all the time what I use to make my coffee. The truth is that it evolves over time and has gone through many stages. I also enjoy mixing it up, so the answer depends a bit on what mood I’m in at the time. There’s also the matter of my wife’s coffee needs at the time, and she likes her coffee different than me. In general, I’m an espresso guy and my wife is a regular cup of coffee girl, so mornings in our house sound like a busy cafe. Luckily I have no problem catering to everyone’s needs like a barista. This is your morning coffee after all, and it should be perfect!
So here’s where I am with my favorite coffee preparation right now.
Drinking Coffee Like An Italian
Right now I’m drinking coffee like an Italian. In short this means cappuccino (or more likely a cortado since I tend to minimize dairy) in the morning and espresso any other time throughout the day. To order a cappuccino, or any other milk based coffee variety, after 10am in Italy is unspeakable.
While the espresso machine is warmed up I whip up an americano for my wife. She likes a regular cup of coffee with creme, something with more volume and is able to enjoy a little longer, and has found that she enjoys an americano (espresso over hot water) as much as when I was really into making pour overs in the Chemex.
While this custom cup approach is a bit labor intensive, I don’t mind at all. The benefit is that each cup is individually crafted and fresh and there is no filter to throw away. Additionally, the espresso machine I use has the grinder built in right on top, so by getting away from the pour over (for now) I have been able to put away my scale, my grinder, and my Chemex and filters which has nicely decluttered the counter top.
I know, I know. But I have grown to require decaf coffee, and I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends at this fun time called getting older do to. So, one of the offerings I really wanted to have at Twin Fin Coffee was a really great decaf. At this point I just can’t drink espresso all day, but I want to have a good coffee in the afternoon. So decaf espressos get me through and help me cut back from teeth-clenching, mind-gripping over-caffeination to just regular yet functional love buzz.
I keep espresso ground decaf on the side, with whatever regular coffee bean I’m enjoying loaded up in the machine and ready to go.
So that’s the set up.
The Breville Barista Express
The next question I get after saying I generally drink espresso is ‘which machine do you recommend’.
This is actually quite easy for me to answer. I love my Breville Barista Express. I did a ton of research before buying this machine, and absolutely love it. If you check out all of the reviews and recommendations, this machine comes out on top for its price point. Would I love to have the La Marzocco home espresso machine? Of course. Am I willing to spend $4,000 on a coffee machine? Not quite yet.
The Breville Barista Express gets you as close as you’re going to get at around $500. After that, prices get out of control pretty quickly. I also love that it has the built in grinder. I have found that you need a really good grinder to get proper espresso grinds, so having that built in has a lot of value. Plus, like I mentioned before, it really helps declutter and minimalize your coffee space.
You’ll love this machine. It’s just manual enough to control all of the variables and have fun being the barista in your house, but automatic enough to let the machine do some of the work.
Here are some of the other phases of my coffee making that I have been through, and still go back to when it suits me.
Even though I tend to drink espresso, when I was learning more about the subtle flavor profiles of different coffees and making decisions about which origins I wanted to offer on Twin Fin Coffee, it was clear that learning to make a proper pour over was important. The pour over is kind of the gold standard for making a great, professional cup of coffee to maximize the true flavor of the cup. The Chemex is the most common way to achieve this.
Of course, if you start going down this road and assuming you’ve already got great coffee, you’re going to want to be able to control all of the key variables – water temperature, coffee grind, coffee-to-water ratio. To achieve this you’re going to want a decent burr grinder, not that one with the spinning blade on the bottom, a scale, and a kettle (maybe with thermometer, yes you are geeking out now).
I use a Chemex with paper filters, a nice little scale with a bamboo top that looks good, a decent grinder, and a Breville kettle (yes I like Breville stuff, it costs more but tends to last forever).
As I started to go down this road I only really had to upgrade my grinder and buy a scale. I already had the other stuff. Grinders are one of those things that you can really go crazy on. I just did a cheap grinder upgrade which got me into the game, but I later found that it couldn’t do a good espresso grind. So this may be a problem later if you buy a grinder and an espresso machine that doesn’t have a grinder built in. Do some homework there…
Here’s a great video on how to do a pourover:
Most often, the first step in upping your coffee game away from drip coffee is the french press. Simple and effective, this makes a great cup of coffee. However, in time I wanted to get away from the murky non-filtered cup that results. To get back to a filtered coffee, without it being drip, leads to experimenting with the pour over.
For its pure classic simplicity, there’s nothing like the Moka Pot. It is an Italian classic, speaking of drinking coffee like an Italian, and over the years I have used these at various times. I remember thinking I was pretty fancy when I had one of these in college, and I still use it as my go-to for camping trips, although I’ve been also meaning to try an Aeropress for this sometime.