The Manual
Food & Drink

Unfiltered: A Starter’s Guide to Brewing Coffee at Home

Written by Sam Mylrea Posted on November 12, 2013

Welcome to a new monthly column by coffee expert Sam Mylrea of CoffeeKind.com on what’s brewing in that world.

If you’re like most people, your first cup of coffee in the morning is the one you make at home.  Brewing coffee doesn’t have to entail a zombie walk to the kitchen where you find yourself staring into a black abyss of dreaded bitterness; you can and will make awesome coffee at home.  Great coffee is one of the most affordable luxuries available, so for a few extra minutes why not start your morning off with a brew you’ll truly enjoy.

Coffee Isn’t Complicated.

Okay, I take that back. Coffee is an incredibly complex beverage, but you don’t need to have a $1,000 set-up or find mustache wax under your fingernails to produce an outstanding cup of coffee every morning. You just need three things: great coffee, a quality grinder, and a coffee brewer that suits your style. Now, on to your style…

Mr. Precision

Brew Time: <5 minutes
Price Range: $25 – $75 
Difficulty Level: Just a little learning curve

Everything you do is measured and precise. You mix your own cocktails and grill your own steak. The Pourover method lets you get your geek on as you weigh your coffee and water and perfect the circular pour that experts prescribe for optimal extraction. The beauty of pourover is that you can make a great cup of coffee with just a filter cone, a gooseneck kettle and a mug, or you can go full gangster with a custom pourover stand and precision scale to perfect your technique. Also known as hand-dripped coffee, pourover scores you high trendiness points.

Mr. Right Now

Brew Time: <2 minutes after water reaches brew temp
Price Range:  $30 – $75
Difficulty Level: Easy

You don’t have time for fancy rituals. You just want great-tasting coffee and you want it in your mug right now. The Aeropress is for you. The funky brewer looks like a toy, but it brews seriously good coffee that’s low in acidity and high on flavor. It combines the flavor extraction of a French press with the clean cup of a filtered coffee, giving you the best of both worlds, and did we mention that it’s fun to use?

Dr. Heisenberg

Brew Time: >10 minutes unless you preheat the water
Price Range: $70 – $150
Difficulty Level: Tricky, but once you get it, you’ve got it

If you just finished watching all five season of Breaking Bad and are looking for redemption on the B- you got in Organic Chemistry, your brewer of choice is a siphon pot.  Siphon brewers, also called vacuum brewers, consist of two glass globes and a heat source, typically fueled by alcohol or butane. You put water in the bottom globe and coffee in the top, then turn on the heat. As the water heats, it rises into the top, mixes with the coffee and then gets drawn into the bottom with a showy whoosh.

Mr. Renaissance Man

Brew Time: <3 minutes once machine reaches brewing temp
Price Range: $400 – $2,000
Difficulty Level: Medium, but a never ending art

You’re a traditionalist with a true appreciation for the finer things in life. You enjoy your coffee like you enjoy life: big, bold and just a little edgy. Espresso is your drink of choice. Unlike the juicer you bought six months ago, espresso is a habit that will never get old and leaves little mess.  Like any precision instrument, you get what you pay for, so plan your purchase carefully and be sure to allocate 30-50% of your budget towards a good grinder.  Not only will you feel good pulling espresso shots, but you can produce a range of different drink options such as lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados…sounds pretty cool, ehh?

Not finding yourself? That’s OK, there are plenty of other options, from precision automatic drip brewers like the Technivorm to tweaked-out super-automatic espresso machines that do everything but drink the coffee for you. Once you start brewing quality coffee at home, you’ll never be satisfied with status quo Joe again.