It's always tricky compiling a "best of" list for coffee equipment, since tastes vary so much from person to person. There are lots of ways to make a cup of coffee in your kitchen, and the method you prefer depends on how much time you want to spend on prep and whether you go for a stronger or lighter brew, among other factors. Still, we're giving this list a shot by rounding up 12 sources and products that consistently get shout-outs as readers' and writers' favorites.
Home Coffee Roasting
Unlike wine, coffee beans are best enjoyed soon after they're roasted and rested a bit. Some coffee enthusiasts like to try their hand at home roasting, since it gives the roaster control over the flavor and allows you to have the freshest possible cup of coffee.
- Amazon.com: Believe it or not, one of the best methods for DIY bean roasting at home involves the classic Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper, $22. For a tutorial explaining the air popper coffee roasting method, see this video from roasting supplier Sweet Maria's.
- Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting Supplies: This is THE source for roasting information and supplies. To get started, try one of their starter kits ($42 - $307) along with a green coffee bean sampler (shown left, $19).
- Fante's Kitchen Wares Shop: Philadelphia-based Fante's is another good resource for roasting supplies. They carry the Nesco Pro Series Coffee Bean Roaster, $140. This machine basically automates the air roasting process of the Whirley Popper.
Burr and blade grinders are the two most popular tools for grinding coffee beans at home. A blade grinder is usually fine for a basic drip brew, while a burr grinder can create a finer, more consistent grind for espresso makers.
- Intelligentsia: This Chicago-based coffee roaster and retailer sells the Capresso Infinity Burr Grinder, $100. One of Maxwell's Daily Finds, he says it "crushes the beans with consistent, uniform grinding that allows the water to filter through properly and deliver a much richer taste."
- Lehman's Non-Electric Catalogue: For a high-quality, long-lasting burr grinder under $100, a hand-crank model is a good option, as long as you don't mind a little extra elbow grease. This Top Crank German Coffee Mill sells for $80.
- Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting Supplies: They say, "Everyone talks about 'conical burr grinders' as a requirement for good coffee brewing. But the fact is that pour-over or automatic drip brewing does not require these expensive mills." For a basic drip brew, they recommend the Bodum Electric C-Mill Grinder, $25.50.
Boutique coffee companies — from Stumptown to Intelligentsia — swear by Chemex brewers, French presses, and other back-to-basics tools that provide more control over the coffee making process.
- 125West.com: The Chemex Classic Coffee Maker ($35) is the one I use at home. It's beautiful, simple, and — although the brewing process is a little time-consuming — I've been happier with this brewer than any electric coffee maker I've ever owned. (Also, it's in the MOMA Collection.)
- Bodum: The French press is one of the least expensive and most consistent methods of producing a strong, flavorful cup of coffee. Made from glass and stainless stell, Bodum's classic Chambord French Press sells for $30.
- SmartHome: Based on the French Press model but designed more recently in 2005, the Aeropress incorporates a small cap with a paper filter to keep grinds from making their way into the coffee. The Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker sells for $26.
For a fast and consistent cup of coffee without a lot of prep work, automatic coffee makers are the way to go. Drip coffee makers are common and affordable, while pod systems like the Nespresso are gaining ground.
- Amazon.com: The Zojirushi EC-DAC50 Zutto 5-Cup Drip Coffeemaker is reasonably priced at $70, and it's earned rave reviews from Amazon customers. Unlike most electric brewers, it uses a space-saving cone filter within the carafe and it has a removable carbon water filter.
- Cuisinart: Their automatic coffee makers are some of the most popular models on the market. The Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker with Hot Water System ($99) has a convenient hot water spout for tea, soup, or hot chocolate.
- Sur La Table: I know several people who are obsessed with their Nespresso machines. It's a pod system that produces great coffee for 50 cents a cup, and although I have qualms with the waste created by pod systems and Nestle's market tactics, this particular product has earned a lot of praise from users. Systems start at $180.
• Best Online Sources for Coffee Connoisseurs
• How to Shop for a Coffee Maker
• Coffee Brewing Posts from the Kitchn
• What is the Best Way to Make Coffee at Home? from the Kitchn
• 10 Best Looking Coffee Makers from Unplggd
• Best Coffee and Espresso Machines 2009 from Unplggd
• Top Ten Coffee Machines from Apartment Therapy
• The Best Coffee Grinder You Don't Know About from Apartment Therapy
Photo: Ty Nigh used under Creative Commons License 2.0