I’ve really been enjoying my current coffee and tea setup, so I thought I’d share. There’s an investment involved, but you can set it up for anywhere from about $50 to $200, plus the ongoing cost of coffee beans and tea. Here’s the rundown.
Thanks to an old friend of mine (@tubetone), I’ve discovered Sweet Maria’s, a California-based coffee supplier which sells excellent coffee beans (primarily green) online. I don’t roast my own (yet), so I’ve been ordering espresso-roasted coffee beans from them, and they’re excellent. You can do whatever you like with preparation, but if you start with less-than-satisfactory beans, you might as well just stir up some Folgers. Research growers online and in your area, and find some good beans you can enjoy without the guilt of rainforest destruction and slave labor. It’s just more fun that way.
I’ve been through an array of grinders in my life, but it’s only been recently that I’ve invested in a conical burr grinder. The one I got may not be perfect, but it works just fine. It quietly creates a grind to your exact specifications, without warming or burning the beans in the process. For this preparation setup, I grind to the fine end of the “drip” setting, and dial it to 20 seconds which gives me the exact amount of grounds I need and doesn’t require me watching over it. I keep the sealed hopper full of beans, and then just grind out what I need when I’m making coffee. There are plenty of options for conical burr grinders. The only reason I really prefer them over your average Black and Decker is granular control over the fineness of the grounds, but do what works for you (and your budget).
Say what you will about the AeroPress ($18.99 on Amazon right now), which is essentially a glorified French Press, but it makes the best coffee I’ve ever had outside of an expensive espresso bar. It takes about 45 seconds to make a great cup of coffee, once you have the hot water and grounds ready. I’d recommend alternatives to this, but I haven’t found any. The AeroPress is inexpensive and, to rip off a phrase, it Just Works™. The optimum temperature for the AeroPress is 175°, and I’ve got that nailed and on tap with my Zojirushi water heater1. I purchased it from Mandala Tea (friends of mine) for the purpose of brewing perfect tea, but it’s doing double duty now that I have my AeroPress. 175° works perfectly for green tea and coffee, so I generally just leave it set there and have hot water on tap.
Combine pre-heated water with a hopper of beans that have my pre-measured grounds in 20 seconds, I’ve got a great cup of coffee in about one minute. Daily cleanup is as simple as putting the mug in the dishwasher, popping the grounds out of the AeroPress (just aim toward the trash and push the plunger, then run the plunger under water) and sweeping up the grounds I inevitably scatter around the grinder.
These days I tend to wake up to a single, great cup of coffee, and then drink tea for the rest of the day. Mandala Tea keeps me well-stocked in hand-picked, loose leaf teas (I especially like the Ginseng Oolong), and I picked up a tea thermos from them that makes sipping all day a pleasure. In the end, I’ve found that a great cup of coffee doesn’t require a religious routine or a lot of hassle, just the right supplies. I’m not trying to sell anyone on any of this kit, it’s just what I’m using and it’s working great.
If you choose to boil your water on the stove and don’t have a thermometer handy, you can use the “shrimp eyes” technique. The Chinese refer to the point where water first starts to form bubbles at the bottom of the pot as “shimp eyes,” and a full boil is “whale eyes.” Shrimp eyes begin at approximately 175°, so just keep an eye out for them. ↩