Looking into starting out experimenting with my coffee, what grinders/brewers to get

Cyber_Akuma

New member
Nov 17, 2020
3
0
I always loved coffee, but right now I just simply have a Keurig, and it's fine for me if I just want something quick but not exactly the best kind of coffee you can get. Since it's giving me trouble now I figured while I am looking for a replacement, I also wanted to look into what I can try to get better coffee.

The first thing I ran into near-everywhere when looking into this was people talking about how much they loved their AeroPress. I looked into it, and it's quite a rabbit hole of people who all have different techniques and methods with it. Still though, it's not really complicated and it's cheap so I wanted to try it. But that is when I ran into my second problem. Pretty much everyone whether they are using an AeroPress, some other method, or even a standard drip coffee maker recommend grinding your beans fresh.

So it seems the first thing I should look into is a good grinder. I know hand-crank ones are cheaper but I want an electric one, from what I understand hand-crank would be a lot slower and require you to know a lot more about what you are doing to get a proper grind, and I do not know what I am doing.... I remember reading long ago about how the best type are "conical burr" and to utterly avoid blade types, so researching these near every place I found recommended the Baratza Encore for around $150 or it's upgraded version the Baratza Virtuoso Plus for around $250. Some also recommended OXO Brew that seemed to be about on-par with the Baratza. From what I understand, other than some bells and whistles the main difference between the Encore and Virtuoso Plus is that the Virtuoso comes with a better burr that can grind finer and more consistent, but, both the Baratza machines are designed to be easily repairable and even tweakable/upgradable, so there are upgrade kits to use the Virtuso's burr in the Encore... but since that alone would be around $50 and they are $100 apart I don't know if it would be even worth it to bother upgrading an Encore instead of just getting a Virtuoso Plus in that case. Reading reviews of the two grinders and comparisons seemed to be pretty preferable, although one review claimed that they felt not even the Virtuoso Plus grinds fine enough for an espresso, but most others felt they did. If a $250 grinder which already would be busting my budget can't get a good espresso grind though then that is something that is going to be out of my reach for now.

As for roasting your coffee, I don't know if I should even bother looking into rosters. I don't even know where to begin getting un-roasted beans, much less roasting them properly. From my understanding though, rosters are pretty simple and cheap (I saw many for $20, I dunno if they are good but from what I understand they aren't something that you really need something high-end to do), I have even seen some people use air-pop popcorn machines to roast their beans. Seems like even with other coffee lovers I talked to roasting your own beans seems a little excessive so I don't know if I should bother and just buy already roasted beans.

Once I have my grinder sorted out though, as for the actual brewers. Well, I suppose a good cheaper way since I am just starting out and experimenting with something better than a Keurig or $20 drip coffee maker for now would be to get an AeroPress. Would that be a good way to start out for now? Just focus on a good grinder and use an AeroPress? Beyond that though, I know an AeroPress is many people's go-to for just about ANY coffee, but I also wanted to look into a good brewer for when I am not feeling up to messing with an AeroPress manually or when I want to brew a whole pot. Looking into these was a little.... less clear-cut as the grinders was. At the end though, the one I saw most recommended was OXO Brew 9 and OXO Brew 8. (From what I understand, the only difference between these is that they make 8 or 9 cups apparently? That's odd if true since the 8 is almost $50 less than the 9.) Another brand that came up often was Ninja, but I was a little concerned if the brand was that good, since looking at the design of their machines it felt like they were more selling on being flashy and bells-and-whistles than quality, but cost more than the OXO brewers. I don't know if they ARE also quality brewers though which is why I am asking here.

And finally as for espresso.... I think this one may be out of my reach. From what I understand even the "cheap" machines that are not just pure garbage start out at about $350 or so, and good ones can hit quadruple digits. So as much as I have loved espresso the few times I have had access to a machine to make it, I fear this one may be way out of my hands.

Oh, and one last thing I forgot to ask, for when I use something manual like an AeroPress, many said that temperature is pretty important, any good recommendations for a cheap water heater/kettle that lets you adjust the temperature?

So any advice about all this? Are these good options? Are these even common options people go with? Or am I completely wrong about all this I looked up?
 
Last edited:

MntnMan62

New member
Nov 15, 2019
445
1
New Jersey
I don't brew espresso for the main reason that the cost makes my entry into that process to be prohibitiive for me at this point. So I've been doing french press and moka pot. I have a vintage Bodum Bistro french press that I like using. I also have a Bialetti 6 cup Moka Pot that I also like using. My grinder is a Baratza Virtuoso. I think it's great and does the job admirably for both devices. The french press calls for a course grind and the moka pot a more fine grind. I'm still tweaking my moka pot grind setting but I have mine set at about the 3rd or 4th finest setting for the moka. I'm at about 26 for the french press. If you keep an eye on the Baratza website they offer refurbished machines for less.
 

sloperaly

New member
Dec 1, 2020
9
0
Where to begin...

I always loved coffee, but right now I just simply have a Keurig, and it's fine for me if I just want something quick but not exactly the best kind of coffee you can get.

So any advice about all this? Are these good options? Are these even common options people go with? Or am I completely wrong about all this I looked up?

The first step is admitting this! If you are drinking Keurig, think of your exploration as a switch from coffee swill to real coffee.
I have every manner of coffee accoutrements in my house and everything in between and my preference for dozens of years is not necessarily a coffee pot but the pourover method. you can find dozens of youtube videos so I won't go into depth here. Just know that starting out with pourover is not as expensive as it used to be thanks to Amazon - because now there are competitors to the pots and pourover items that one company always had a lock on so things got cheaper to buy. Think of it like going out for your favorite cup of coffee but the coffee is in your own house. But it requires a few tools, not the least of which are: a grinder, (my favorite is a Capresso infinity conical burr grinder about a hundred bucks but it will last you more than 10 years- whatever you do do NOT get a hand crank!) a Clever dripper, #4 cone filters (paper or gold which means you don't have to buy paper after the initial investment of the cone filter and you just rinse it every time) an inexpensive kitchen scale that weighs in grams, a 3 minute timer (phone count up or countdown timer is fine) and a 'gooseneck' tea pot. Electric is not necessary but they do sell them and they heat up really fast. Watch a video and see what I mean, making the coffee is not as simple as sticking a keurig in a machine and filling it with water but of course, it does mean you won't be drinking swill any more.

About the coffee... that's much harder to tell a stranger but I love the variety I find in Whole Foods called Allegro- organic, fairness for farmers, healthy ecosystems. And it's available online too. What I do know is that it's not 'cheap' to buy good coffee but then compared to capsule coffees, freshly ground coffee weighed on a scale in grams and ground fresh is like none other and actually does work out to a cheaper cup of coffee than, say, a Nespresso. The ratio: 20 grams of beans (NEVER buy already ground) to 350 ML water (water weighs the same in grams as ML yields 12 oz of coffee so when you put your Clever dripper on the scale with a filter and tare it out, grind the beans and add the 20 grams of ground coffee to the dripper, tare the scale again then slowly pour the hot water from the kettle into the dripper till you've poured 350 g's of water you get coffee that is the sensation of being at the best coffee shop!
I may need to post 4 more posts before posting links so if they don't come through you need the videos that go with the pourovers, IM me... otherwise, search out youtube videos that say:
Clever coffee dripper brewing guide,
and pourover coffee

Here's a clever demo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASke7Z4KO9Q
Here's a pourover demo: (not a clever dripper)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMFIrfvJJSM
Here's another version to buy (not a clever dripper- a true pourover that drips directly into the pot) seems cheap enough and it comes with the filter:
https://www.saksfifthavenue.com/product/grosche-amsterdam-pour-over-coffee-maker-and-stainless-steel-filter-0400097002439.html
https://www.saksfifthavenue.com/product/grosche-seattle-20-oz.-pour-over-glass-coffee-maker-0400010732960.html

Good luck with it- once I taught my friend how to do it she never made another keurig again so beware!

As for espresso, that is a bit more complicated as it requires a commitment to learn how to make if you don't buy a fully automatic (push button) machine. I started out a number of years ago with a gorgeous Italian espresso machine and grinder and never looked back. I'm actually looking to sell my entire setup, grinder, machine and all the tools elsewhere online. I've been afraid to put it up on ebay because it's such a fuss. I had the entire machine professionally serviced beforehand and spent 650 just to repair a machine I'm selling for 950 because I hated the idea of selling something that didn't work like new. So technically if you look hard enough you can have gorgeous machines without looking too hard by buying pre-owned. My setup is called 'pro-sumer' meaning it doesn't just look spiffy, it could be used in a small restaurant setting where they make several cappuccinos or espressos an hour because it's well made and the parts are easy to service.
 
Last edited:

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
To add to what's been mentioned, yes the grinder is a very important part of the equation. You can easily find a quality grinder that might not be perfect at one particular use, but more like a jack of all trades. A decent grinder isn't cheap, but if you want quality, longevity, consistency it won't be dirt cheap. I'm ALL for hand grinding, yes even for fine espresso range, as a quality hand grinder will last a true lifetime, won't wear down like a typical electric and will easily perform on par with electrics costing 3-4x more in many cases.

Regarding coffees/roasting... without question I'd recommend buying quality/fresh coffees for some time to really get an understanding of how origin, process method, roast level affects the end result. Granted good/fresh coffee isn't going to be cheap, but jumping into home roasting right out of the gate might leave you more frustrated than you can imagine. Home roasting is without question the absolute best control you can have over what you extract/drink, but definitely not an ideal situation for those really just getting started in the awesome world of specialty coffee. As mentioned, a simple $20 popcorn popper can indeed be used for decent batches, but it takes a good bit of effort to really get something good and especially consistent from one. My first popper was only $3 at Goodwill and I tweaked it to get some rather good coffee from it and I roast specifically for espresso, but it's definitely not plug/play to really maximize the end result. Some really good coffees can be had for decent prices, especially in bulk. Of course you might not want to invest in 2-5 lb. bags, but buying in bulk and vacuum packing/deep freezing is a great way to keep fresh coffee from staling for a decent time frame. There's LOTS of info online that will help 'steer' you into the direction you might want to go based on the taste profiles you like, that sort of thing. Just start experimenting, don't read too much into things and have fun in the process.
 
Last edited:

sloperaly

New member
Dec 1, 2020
9
0
Grinder expense

To add to what's been mentioned, yes the grinder is a very important part of the equation. You can easily find a quality grinder that might not be perfect at one particular use, but more like a jack of all trades. A decent grinder isn't cheap, but if you want quality, longevity, consistency it won't be dirt cheap. I'm ALL for hand grinding, yes even for fine espresso range, as a quality hand grinder will last a true lifetime, won't wear down like a typical electric and will easily perform on par with electrics costing 3-4x more.

For someone with no prior knowledge the Capresso I mention for a hundred bucks is not only a workhorse but gives you a degree of fineness and brings out the best in whatever type of coffee (filter, drip, french press) you decide to go with- I'm SO picky about my coffee (my latest grinder is the Fellow ODE for around $300)- but the discernable difference is not worth the extra $200... it just looks better on the counter.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,592
4
Central North Carolina
For someone with no prior knowledge the Capresso I mention for a hundred bucks is not only a workhorse but gives you a degree of fineness and brings out the best in whatever type of coffee (filter, drip, french press) you decide to go with- I'm SO picky about my coffee (my latest grinder is the Fellow ODE for around $300)- but the discernable difference is not worth the extra $200... it just looks better on the counter.

I can certainly agree with the Capresso Infinity as it was the first 'proper' grinder I had. It did espresso fairly well, just didn't have a lot of range to really dial things in, but I did fine with it for some time. I'd gladly choose it over others, especially for the lower price point. My only issue with it is the grind chamber is fairly large and that leads to a good bit of retention, especially when grinding finer. Of course any grinder can have some retention, but it could be redesigned to cause less. For the last daily use I'd simply give it a quick touch up with a brush and use that for the last extraction so nothing was wasted/left behind to stale. Mine served me well for quite some time and I gave it to a friend who likely still uses it to this day.

Funny that you warn against hand grinding, when it is quite misunderstood by many. Now a cheaper hand grinder will lead to misery for many due to the poor grind quality, the seemingly endless amount of time needed to crank it, etc. A quality hand grinder like I use is easily on par with pretty much any grinder made for espresso range grinding and is far from slow. It does have coated burrs, which tend to take a bit longer to grind, but the quality/consistency of each batch is superb. A 19.3 gram double takes me about 75 seconds at a controlled rate of 1.5 turns per second. Cranking faster does not give a faster/better end result with many hand grinders. Slower usually leads to more consistent bean feeding/better consistency. In comparison my electric can give me that same 19.3 gram dose in about 7 seconds and is really good (overkill for home use really), but I still prefer the hand grinding aspect. That also allows me to feel the bean development as I home roast as well. It really puts you in touch with all aspects of the coffee from roast to espresso. Granted it's certainly not for everybody, but hand grinding definitely has its place among even the best electric grinders ever made.
 
Last edited:

Musicphan

Active member
May 11, 2014
1,508
2
Kansas City
Here is my take on the question.... coffee preparation is a rabbit hole... you can take it in a number of directions depending on how much time/money you want to spend.

Step 1... step away from the Kuerig...

Step 2... your first decision is the grinder - I often refer to this as the chef knife of the coffee world. \\Yes, you can spend crazy amounts on one, and they can be cheap, but stepping up to a quality grinder will make a huge difference in the output of whatever brewing method you choose. The 'quality' of the grinder is typically judged on how consistent is the size of the ground coffee. Just like cooking, an onion will cook evenly when diced exactly the same size - the same principle as brewing coffee. The more consistent sized coffee your grinder can grind the better quality you can produce. On the low end, you have whirlybird/blade grinders. The challenge with these is the grind size is the least consistent - skip them. You then jump up to cheap burr grinders - OK if that's what you can afford and certainly OK if you're doing immersion style brewing (french press / clever / etc). While it's still important to have consistent grind size, with immersion-style brewers (coffee sits in the water) it's less critical. If you want to get into manual/drip brewing method - AeroPress, Hario, tons of options - moving up to the next step in grinders IMO is where you want to make your investment. The grinders in this range are the Baratza Encore & Virtuoso... I'm a fan of either but prefer the Virtuoso. Baratza makes a great grinder with great / consistent output.

Step 3 - select your brewing device after you have selected a grinder... if you go the inexpensive ($50ish) grinder go with a Clever brewer or quality French Press. If you step up to a Baratza or similar your options are limitless... you will tend to find a brewing method for your taste profile. I like cleaner / brighter cups of coffee, for me, immersion brews are too heavy. Nothing wrong with them at all (in fact all can be excellent) but you will learn what YOU like, not what I like.

Step 4 - use clean/cold filtered water... adjust as needed for your area

Step 5... buy local fresh roasted coffee. Ask equations of your roaster... start with single-origin and lighter roasted coffees so you learn what coffee from each country taste like. Once coffee is roasted 'dark' you lose most of the unique origin flavors.
 
Top