equipment
All the Coffee Equipment a Caffeine-Fueled Professional Kitchen Equipment Tester Owns
Warning: it’s a lot.
11-12-2020
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

I am in love with coffee. My infatuation dates back to 2015, the year my grandmother passed away. She didn’t have much money by the end—with nursing home, hospital, and funeral fees—but left my parents a couple of thousand dollars. With the money, they decided to buy something they would use every day and remember her by, so they got an espresso machine. My parents had wanted one, a nice one, for 20 years and over time they mastered this machine, learning how to pull perfect shots of espresso with a hefty layer of crema on top and make cappuccinos that rivaled the best coffee shops. I, too, fell in love with this machine, resolving to start saving for my own. As luck would have it, though, my mom quickly found one for me, much discounted, at an estate sale.

Fast-forward five years and I not only have that espresso machine, but a French press, pour-over coffee maker, and an automatic drip coffee maker. So, yes, I love coffee. And I love making coffee—the ritual of it, the smell of it brewing, the fact that I, too, think of my grandma every time I flick on my espresso machine.

You don’t have to have multiple machines/coffee apparatuses as I do, but if you’re looking to invest in some coffee equipment, boy, do I have thoughts. Here is everything coffee-related I own:

The Basics (What I Use No Matter the Coffee-Making Method)

Digital kitchen scale
Burr grinder
Blade grinder

Coffee beans: Obvious? Yes. Important? Absolutely. Finding coffee you like may take some trial and error (we have our top supermarket picks here). I landed on my preferred beans for espresso by asking my favorite coffee shops which beans they use. For regular coffee, I usually default to something local that’s been roasted recently.

Digital scale: Too few beans? Too many beans? To ensure I have the right bean-to-water ratio every time, I use a digital scale. The rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water, but I prefer to weigh my beans before grinding them, which I’ve found gives me more consistent results. The ratio of coffee to water is, according to the SCAA, 55 g/L, plus or minus 10%.

Blade grinder or burr grinder: Burr grinders are superior because they give you a consistent grind with very little room for human error day-after-day and you can adjust the grind depending on whether you’re making drip coffee (medium grind), French press (coarse grind), or espresso (fine grind). 

But burr grinders take up more counter space and our favorite model costs about $140. Our top-rated blade grinder, on the other hand, is small and only costs about $18. While you do sacrifice consistency and grind customization, our favorite blade grinder is easy to use and store and can accommodate enough coffee beans for an entire 10-cup pot. 

When we tested blade grinders, we held four blind tastings and got help from coffee pros (baristas, coffee shop owners, and roasters) and found that you can get a truly great cup of coffee with either type of grinder, but that we prefer burr grinders for their consistency and hands-off grinding. 

I have two blade grinders (one of which I use just for spices and one for coffee) and one burr grinder. I use it almost exclusively for grinding espresso, since I dislike having to toggle back and forth between grind settings.

Automatic Drip

Automatic Drip Coffee Maker: Most mornings, the first thing I do is turn on our favorite coffee maker, the Technivorm Moccamaster 10-Cup Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe. It doesn’t have a timer on it, but it works quickly, requires just a flip of the button to turn on, and produces a smooth, velvety brew. 

Descaler & Cleaner: Descaling, in a nutshell, is the process of removing mineral buildup (from water) that is harmful to your coffee machine and can even cause it to stop working.  Technivorm, the maker of our favorite automatic drip coffee maker, recommends Urnex Dezcal Coffee and Espresso Machine Descaler.

To descale the coffee maker, you mix a packet of the descaling powder with hot water and fill up the coffee machine’s hot water tank with the mixture and run the machine. The mixture runs through the machine’s waterways and cleans away minerals, which can clog the machine. Then, you run the machine through two more brewing cycles using plain water to clear away any of the leftover descaling mixture. After the interior of the machine is descalled, you clean the outside of the machine (the brew lid, coffee pot, brew basket, etc) in this to remove coffee residue and oils. Not to worry—descaling isn’t a daily or even a weekly thing! I descale and clean every time I go through an entire pack of coffee filters

Nice to have, but not necessary: I love this container for storing my coffee beans and this scoop that makes it easy to transfer coffee into my blade grinder.

French Press

French press
Electric kettle
Stovetop kettle

French press coffee maker: When I started getting interested in coffee and everything that goes into making a great cup, I bought a French press. I was living in a small apartment in New York City at the time and loved how my French press took up minimal counter space and I could easily scale up or down the number of cups I wanted to make (unlike, say, an Aeropress). 

Now I mostly use our French press when I need an afternoon pick-me-up and don’t feel like having espresso. I have our favorite French press, the Bodum Columbia French Press Coffee Maker, Double Wall, 8 Cup, which costs about $80. It keeps coffee hotter longer than glasses presses, is dishwasher-safe, and produces rich, full-bodied coffee. I also like that it’s sturdy. (We absolutely won’t talk about the time my mom gifted me a Le Creuset French press only to have the dog nudge it off the table and the lid and handle smashed to smithereens a couple of weeks later.)

Kettle: I use either an electric kettle or a stovetop kettle to get water hot hot hot for French press-ing.

Pour Over

Pour Over Coffee Maker: I have this one by Brim (but Chemex, Bodum, Kalita, and Hario all make highly-rated models). I typically make a pour over when my husband is out of town and I won’t drink a full pot—or oven a full French press—of coffee. 

Filters: While some pour-over coffee makers come with stainless steel mesh filters that can be used over and over and over again, others require you to buy proprietary filters that vary from brand to brand. I usually buy the Chemex ones.

Gooseneck kettle: For a pour-over coffee maker, a gooseneck kettle offers great temperature control and allows you to pour the water precisely. When I first got a pour-over I tried (tried) to make a pour-over with my regular, well-loved stovetop kettle, but too much water came out at once.

Espresso Machine

Automatic espresso machine
Best DIY Espresso Machine

Espresso machine: As you have read, I love my espresso machine. In fact, it’s probably my most prized kitchen possession. Since we’ve been working remotely due to COVID-19, I’ve been making myself a midday espresso. It’s been a lovely ritual that forces me to focus on something else and step away from my computer. Our favorite fully automatic option (as in it makes espresso with the push of a button) is the Gaggia Anima Automatic Coffee Machine. Our other favorite is the Breville Barista Express, which has built-in grinding and weighing of the coffee, but you do have to learn how to tamp properly to pull a good shot of espresso. 

Burr grinder: While our two favorite espresso machines have grinders built into them, many espresso machines do not (including mine). Grind size impacts your ability to pull a good shot of espresso and a burr grinder will ensure a consistent grind. You need an extra-fine grind—and using a blade grinder for this could result in under-extracted and/or over-extracted (aka not-so-good espresso).

Single-Serve Manual Coffee Maker

Aeropress: Our favorite single-serve manual coffee maker is the AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press. And while it is indeed portable and travel-friendly, its compact size and collapsible design make it easy to store in a kitchen cabinet, too. I take it with me when I stay in an Airbnb or go camping.

Kettle: Sticking with the travel-friendly theme, I have a small electric kettle I bring along with the AeroPress for boiling water. 

Moka Pot

Moka pot: I’ll be honest: I don’t use my moka pot much, but I love it just the same. When I was studying abroad in Italy, my host mom made me a moka pot every morning. When I came back to the States, I immediately bought one. It’s not quite an espresso machine, but our favorite stovetop moka pot brews strong, complex coffee that’s rich and dense. And while it takes some technique to get great coffee from a moka pot (read about it here!), I like its compact size. I’ve brought it along with me to Airbnbs before, too.