Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Explore a New Way to Brew!


Satisfy the coffee nerd inside you with Chemex!


We're introducing a new product that just arrived in our store today!  Say hello to the Chemex coffee maker!

 
The history behind the Chemex brewer is interesting, to say the least.  It was originally made in the 40's by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm PhD.  That means it's been around for over 70 years without a single design change!  It's made out of glass, which makes coffee that is free from any past brews or build up that can happen in regular coffee brewers over time.  The brewer is so aesthetically pleasing, it's in display at MOMA NY  and at the Corning Museum of Glass.  You can read more about the history of the Chemex on their about page!

This brewer might have a few people scratching their heads on how to use it.  Thankfully, there are plenty of tutorial videos around the web you can use.  Here's our suggestion!  Once you get the process down, you'll be showing off in front of your friends and family like an expert.

If you want to satisfy the coffee nerd inside of you or have a great looking brewer on display at your kitchen that will make sure you get the most out of our coffee at Coffee City USA, come down to the store or call us to get it sent to you ASAP!



We have the 6 cup and the 8 cup classic style brewers in stock, as well as all the filters, cleaning accessories and a few other cool Chemex products for you to look at.  Check out our full selection on our website!

Friday, October 30, 2015

What You Should Know About the Keurig (or Any Single-Serve Machine!)

What kind of coffee maker is sitting in your kitchen right now?


Are single-serve pod-style coffee machines worth the price?
The chances are good that you own a pod-style coffee machine, or at least know somebody who swears by one; these brewers surged into popularity when Keurig Green Mountain first created a home version of its office coffee machine in the early aughts. Other brands followed and the single-server has settled well into the ranks of the many different contraptions available to get your joe on.

The single-server is ubiquitous, it’s trendy and it’s been around far too long to be a mere fad; if you don’t already have a coffee maker (or are tired of your old one) you may very well be considering a pod machine, and here’s what you need to know.

The Good


One of the great things about buying a single-server in 2015 is the selection; do a search for these machines on Amazon and you’ll see a plethora of familiar brands all touting their own version of this appliance: Hamilton Beach, Capresso, Kitchen Selectives, Black & Decker, Mr. Coffee, Cuisinart, KitchenAid and, of course, Keurig. Most of these brands offer multiple styles of machines with a variety of colors, pricing and doo-dads.

Your purchase will depend on your priorities: is budget your primary concern, or the amount of space you have left in your cabinet? Or are you truly in it for a good cup of coffee?

If taste is your main concern I recommend you revisit our blog on coffee makers and maybe go in another direction; but if you really want a single-serve machine and still want it to taste good treat these babies the way you would any other drip coffee brewer: find out how hot the water gets (between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal) then find a consumer review confirming that yes, it actually does get as hot as the manufacturer claims, and you’re off to a good start.

The other positive quality that most consumers assign to a single-server is convenience; we’re all busy (especially first thing in the morning!) so wanting something quick-and-easy is understandable. But unless every member of your family is determined to have a completely different flavor of coffee from everybody else, a single-server is no more convenient than a standard auto drip coffee maker—something has to be loaded, a button has to be pushed, and something has to be taken out when it’s done.

The Bad


As we are a coffee roaster and our focus is always on coffee tasting really, really good, single-servers make us frown a little—or more specifically, the things that go inside single-servers: the pods.

Nothing saddens your beans like grinding them long before they’re intended to be used—and then processing them, and shipping them, and setting them on a shelf, and then sending them home with somebody in a big set of many little pods to sit even longer until someone finally notices that last Hazelnut Cream in the dark corner of the pantry.

Freshness is essential to really good coffee, but it’s hard to get without grinding your own. If you’re still holding out for good-tasting coffee from a single-server then, yes, you can have it all—with a reusable filter. These tiny cup-like pods come with everything but the coffee itself, allowing you to use whatever kind of beans you want, as much as you want, ground whenever you want at the size you want.

We’re partial to the Melitta JavaJig (which uses its own itsy bitsy paper filters so you’re not tasting yesterday’s coffee in today’s cup). They’re not difficult to use, but if you’re feeling uncertain check out all the reviews on YouTube.

But if flat coffee isn’t a “bad” for you, how about a flatter wallet? A recent article in The Atlantic estimates that a pound of coffee in K-Cups (Keurig-brand pods) costs $40 per pound. That’s quite the price for something as intertwined with our everyday lives as coffee. (Amusingly, the same article quotes the inventor of the K-Cup as saying he doesn’t own a Keurig because they’re “kind of expensive to use.”)

The Ugly


The National Coffee Association took a poll in January of this year to find how how everyone is brewin’, and while the classic auto drip is still winning with over 50% of Americans single-servers are a strong second with 27% of poll respondents—and pod machine sales are still on the rise. Keurig, the grandfather of the single-serve movement, sold over 9 billion pods in 2014, none of which were recyclable unless their purchaser was willing to pull them apart into their paper, plastic and metal components—you’re not busy, right?

Coffee pod packaging waste is a major and very ugly environmental concern, and it’s certainly no secret (if you haven’t seen the awareness-raising “Kill the K Cup” video yet you’re in for a weird treat.) While companies like Keurig are scrambling to address the problem your most currently conscientious option is to go the reusable filter route, and dump your spent grounds in the garden.



Single-serve coffee brewers would like to be your one-stop kitchen coffee machine; but the variety and convenience they offer come at the sacrifice of taste, your pocketbook and the environment. Thankfully—with a little adjustment—you can drink great coffee without killing your wallet (or your world!) and still reap the benefits of these modern coffee makers.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Time for Tea!

There’s a special kind of person that comes into our store, sometimes—the kind of person who marches past all those jars of coffee beans with hardly a second glance, and goes right for the tea.


Enjoy a brief history of tea and learn the temperature and steep times for each variety!
We really can’t blame them. Tea is a very ancient, very special beverage, often ascribed with near-mystical health benefits and wrapped up in its own mythologies and traditions. It’s equally at home in a small, warm cup or a tall, cold glass; it can be flavored or sweetened or left alone to let its true taste shine through. And not all teas are created equal!

So, just for today, we’ll set aside our obsession with the coffee bean and show a little love to the other side of Coffee City USA—the tea side.

A Brief History of Tea


The first cup of tea was brewed in China, most likely as a medicinal beverage (there’s a fun legend about dried tea leaves accidentally landing in a cup of boiling water served to a Chinese emperor around 2700 B.C.) and in the 1500s traveled west in the hands of Portuguese merchants and priests.

In the following century tea became fashionable among the British, who started growing it in earnest in India (and haven’t shut up about it since), and tea is now—besides plain ol’ water, of course— the most-consumed drink in the entire world.

What Exactly is Tea?


In simple terms tea is a beverage made by pouring hot water over the cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant; the way these leaves are processed after harvesting yields the various teas we all know and love.

  • Black tea is the most processed; the tea leaves start out green but are left in the sun to wilt, then go through a fermentation process that turns them the familiar black. They are then dried and packaged and ready for flavoring, if desired. (Most of our 60+ flavored teas are black teas that we’ve flavored to order.)
  • Darjeeling tea comes from a specific province of India (the Darjeeling Province, believe it or not!) and is well-known to be a delicately flavorful and high-quality tea. The climate and soil of this province is responsible for this flavor and Darjeeling’s lovely bouquet—you can’t grow it anywhere else and get the same tea (sort of like true Champagne coming only from that one place in France.)
  • Ceylon tea is grown in multiple districts in Sri Lanka—its flavor varies from light and flavorful from being grown at higher altitudes to fuller-bodied the closer you get to sea level. (Try our English Breakfast for a nice blend of Ceylon and Indian teas!)
  • Oolong tea is processed similarly to Black tea in that it goes through a withering stage, although the fermentation process is cut short (and when this is done determines if your Oolong leaves look dark green or black.) Oolong is full-bodied and the tea you’ll probably be served in a Chinese restaurant.
  • Green tea is unfermented during processing; it is either steamed or pan-fired and, while not completely decaffeinated, does have less caffeine than a Black. Green teas are rolled into different shapes (such as the fine strands of a Japanese Sencha or the roundish pellets of a Gunpowder) and contain antioxidants and polyphenols; the health benefits of Green teas are often touted—they might improve your cholesterol levels and low blood pressure or even aid in preventing certain cancers, although the research is currently inconclusive.
  • Scented teas have been around since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644); these teas may use a Black, Green or Oolong as a base and have a strong, blended bouquet of rose, lychee, osmanthus or jasmine (the most popular.) They are traditionally drunk with bold-tasting foods to balance out their powerful aroma.
  • Herbal teas are not really teas at all—remember, all true tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant—but are steeped and enjoyed in much the same way. Herbal teas are made from herbs, roots, fruits, seeds and other naturally-decaffeinated botanicals; we carry a few popular varieties such as Raspberry Hibiscus and Chamomile.

What About Tea Bags?


You may have noticed that we don’t carry a whole lot of tea bags—the jars in our store are full of loose leaves that we measure out by the pound and send home in a brown paper bag. Loose-leaf teas are a mark of higher quality; tea bags usually have some tea “dust” and other small pieces, and may lack the full and subtle flavor that you get from a good loose-leaf (although they make up for this is convenience!)

Using loose-leaf teas isn’t much different from using bags; you can put the leaves directly into your teapot and fish them out when done, or hold them together with an infuser (a plain spring-handled one works great, but we also carry something a little more fun!)

Let’s Make Some Tea!


The last step before you can enjoy a good tea is, of course, the steep. Measure out 1 teaspoon of leaves for every 5-7 ounces of water (you might want to use more for the larger-leaf varieties such as Greens and Oolongs).

Heat your (preferably filtered) water in a kettle and transfer to a teapot for steeping. Add your tea and look over the chart below—the two main variables to control here are water temperature and the steeping time itself, although you’ll notice that the guidelines below aren’t terribly precise. Personal taste trumps all, and if your tea comes out a little weak for your tastes use more leaves next time, rather than increasing the steep time.

TeaWater temperatureSteeping time
Black Boiling (or just under) 3-5 minutes
Darjeeling Around 175° 3-4 minutes
Oolong Around 195° 2-4 minutes
Green Around 175° 2-3 minutes
Herbal Boiling (or just under) 6-7 minutes

Prefer convenience over control? You can also brew tea in your drip-style coffee brewer (use two paper filters and run the water through twice—you may also want to use a separate filter basket so as to not risk making coffee-flavored tea!) For iced tea use 1 ounce of leaves per gallon—steep in the usual way, then add to a pitcher of water and put it in the fridge.

Tea is a fascinating and delicious part of the history of the world. The next time you want something warm or comforting to sip on—or cold and refreshing to gulp—keep this ancient tradition going and brew up a little tea.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What in the World Does Your Coffee Taste Like?

I’ve written about a few different ways to affect your coffee’s taste—the grind, the brewing temperature, proper storage and your preferred method of extraction—but before your coffee ever makes it to your kitchen it has to be grown somewhere in a particular soil in a particular climate, and processed in whatever way happens to suit the grower of those particular beans.


Coffee beans from around the globe have their own unique flavors and characteristics.
Because of this coffees from different parts of the world have identifiable characteristics, and if you know what these are you’ll have an easier time knowing what you like, and—when you feel like trying something new—what you’ll probably like.

Learning a few key terms will help guide you through the world of coffee (and make it easier to communicate what you’d like to try):

  • Aftertaste. The flavors you still taste after swallowing your coffee; also referred to as the finish.
  • Acidity (or brightness). A frequently misunderstood term, acidity in coffee does not refer to acid or pH (coffee is only slightly acidic with a pH of around 5 or 6), but to a bright and tangy flavor characteristic—think wine! Not to be confused with bitter or sour, which are terms for the really nasty flavors that show up when you over or under extract while brewing.
  • Body. The mouthfeel of a coffee; its texture. A full-bodied coffee will feel creamy and substantial; medium-bodied will feel thinner and light-bodied coffee will feel closer to water.
  • Clean. Flavorful but without any sharp, stand-out notes.
  • Earthy. The flavor equivalent of the fresh smell of wet soil.
  • Smooth. A smooth coffee is a balanced coffee and a good choice for beginners as it has no overly-pungent tastes or aftertastes.

There’s another thing to keep in mind before you embark on your international adventure: the darker the roast, the less of these unique coffee characteristics you’re going to be able to taste—the strong roasty, toasty flavor will cover most of them right up, so for the full experience stick with a light American roast (or, for coffees from the Asia/Pacific region, a darker Viennese roast.)

The same goes for using cream and sugar or anything similar; it may taste great, but it will disguise the flavors unique to each growing region.



The Americas


Mexico. Grown in the southernmost state of Mexico, Mexican Chiapas coffee beans are smooth, nutty, slightly sweet and have a hint of chocolate (think “unsweetened cocoa powder” rather than “Hershey bar”). They are light to medium in body with a brisk acidity reminiscent of white wine, and comparable in flavor to gourmet beans grown in neighboring Guatemala.

Central America. These coffees are smooth, fragrant, nutty and in general have a medium acidity. There are some variations between countries, though.

  • Costa Rican. A full-bodied, nearly-perfect balance of brightness, flavor and aroma.
  • Guatemalan Antigua. One of the finest of the Guatemalan coffees; less full in body but more complex in flavor with notes of cocoa and spice; very well-balanced. This coffee is a personal darling of the owners of Coffee City USA as they can “meet in the middle” between Ray’s favorite (Kenyan) and Sandy’s favorite (Sumatran).
  • El Salvadorian Buena Vista. A rainforest coffee competent in flavor, with medium body and a gentle acidity.
  • Panamanian. Bright, clean and flavorful without being pungent; subtle enough for blends but also makes a good cup by itself.
  • Nicaraguan High Grown. Light-bodied with mild acidity and mellow notes of fruit and chocolate.

South America. Expect your South American beans to be well-balanced and mild.

  • Brazilian Santos. Medium-bodied with low acidity; nutty and chocolatey with sweet-to-bittersweet flavor. Brazil produces ⅓ of all the world’s coffee—a lot of that is lower grade coffee, but the premium beans are very good.
  • Colombian Supremo. Supremo is medium-bodied and famously smooth, with mellow acidity and sweet notes of caramel and some nuttiness; an old friend to many North American coffee drinkers (and one of our best sellers!)

Hawaii. Hawaiian Kona coffee (named for the Kona region of the Big Island where it is exclusively grown) has a large bean size and a hefty price tag. Kona beans are mellow, full-bodied, well-balanced and clean, with a hint of chocolate and a sweet aroma. For the true, regional taste be sure to purchase 100% Kona beans; for a similar flavor that’s easier on the pocketbook try our Kona 50/50 Blend.


 

The African Continent


Africa. Most African coffees can be described as sharp and assertive, their flavors strong and clean with a real brightness and a tantalizingly fruity aroma.

  • Ethiopian (Harrar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe). Ethiopian javas are complex with a wine-like quality; Harrar is intensely bright with a heady aroma; Sidamo is milder in acidity and full-bodied; Yirgacheffe has a sweet flavor and a complex floral aroma and is bright and lively in the cup.
  • Kenyan AA. One of the world’s finest premium coffees and a favorite of connoisseurs, Kenyan AA beans are complex, full-bodied and boldly rich with a pleasant, wine-like acidity and a fruity aftertaste.
  • Tanzanian Peaberry. These unusual beans are smaller than average (hence the “peaberry” name) with rich flavor, medium body and a bright and snappy acidity; a nice representative of African coffees in general.
  • Zimbabwean. This coffee is well-balanced and medium-bodied with an intense aroma and a fruity (or citrusy) acidity; rich with flavor (and similar to Kenya AA beans) with a fine aftertaste. 



    Asia/Pacific


    Indonesia. Due to the climate and processing methods used in this part of the world Indonesian coffees can taste almost savory or like very dark cocoa; they have a noticeably substantial earthiness to them and do well on a darker roast. While this sets them apart from most other coffee-growing regions their unusual taste can be polarizing—you might hate Indonesian coffee, but you might also really, really like it.


    Indian Malabar. Similar to Indonesian coffees—low in acidity, very smooth and clean and full-bodied with a pleasantly earthy taste.



    An Overview


    Feeling overwhelmed? You can generalize very broad regions of the world and get an okay idea of what to expect: coffees from the Americas and Africa are usually fruity, bright and floral with light to medium body, and the former is more likely to grow coffees with notes of chocolate, nuts and spice. That just leaves the Asia/Pacific region coffees—these tend to be full-bodied and much less bright, and those rich, earthy flavors reign supreme.

    Coffee is as varied as any other local cuisine, but with a little practice and exploration you can pinpoint exactly where your perfect cup of coffee is grown.

    Thursday, July 2, 2015

    Iced Coffee is Easy!

    Iced coffee is one of my all-time favorite drinks: it’s refreshing, it’s caffeinated, it’s both coffee and cold as hell. You can sweeten it with caramel or chocolate or a dozen other tasty flavors, you can drink it straight black or saturate it with milk and a dollop of whipped cream.


    There’s a good chance you already know all this—iced coffee has been surging in popularity over the
    last few years and you can find it at all your favorite coffee shops and a lot of your favorite
    restaurants, too. But what you might not know is just how easy it is to make at home.

    Iced coffee is easier to make than you think!
    The best-tasting iced coffee is made with the cold brew method. Of the many, many ways to brew coffee it’s probably the most unusual (there’s no heat or special timing involved) but it’s also one of the easiest. And if you’ve ever thought that all coffee in general was a little too acidic then you’re gonna love cold brewing (more on that later.)

    Here’s the process in 4 easy steps:

    • Grind up a pound or so of your favorite coffee (a very coarse grind, please.) Just about any coffee will work; I personally prefer one of our chocolate-based flavored coffees such as Caramel Mudslide or S’mores (they’re flavorful enough that I don’t add any other sweeteners.)
    • Put the grinds and about 7 cups of water in a Toddy cold brewer. These fantastic devices come with detailed instructions on the best way to do this, but it basically comes down to layering the grinds and the water gently (no sloshing or stirring) so as to not clog the drainage hole.
    • Put the Toddy cold brewer in the fridge overnight. Or leave it out on the counter, covered or not—the manufacturer says this is just fine (although I personally won’t be trying that after the Iced Tea Incident of ’06.)
    • Drain all that delicious coffee concentrate into the included carafe and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Whenever you’re overcome by an iced coffee urge pour the extract over ice and dilute it with water, milk or cream, and add anything else that sounds good (like caramel or peanut butter syrup, mmm!)

    So it’s easy, but why else should you use the cold brewing method?

    • Less acidity, less caffeine, more taste! Cold brewing extracts all those good flavors from the grounds but leaves a lot of the acids—including some of the caffeine—behind. If regular coffee gives you you heartburn or the jitters (or if you simply don’t care for the acidic taste) the Toddy could be your new best friend. Cold-brew coffee is smooth, and really highlights subtle flavors in the bean.
    • More strength, less waste. Six cups of Toddy concentrate can typically make 32 (6-oz) cups of coffee. If comparing this to your normal coffee consumption keep the waste factor in mind. Most people don’t drink a full, brewed pot of coffee; they drink what they need at that moment and throw the rest out. Since cold-brewed coffee keeps so well you can drink what you like today and save the rest for later.
    • Speed! After the initial brewing Toddy coffee is ready to go at a moment’s notice; you can have your morning coffee just as fast as you can pour it out. Depending on the thirst level of your household you may only have to make coffee twice a month.

    With cold brewing you’re not limited to iced coffee: try blending the concentrate with ice cream for a frappe or mixing in frothed milk for a home-style cappuccino or even adding it to brownies and cheesecakes. The Toddy manufacturer has a whole book of recipes that cover everything from cream sodas to desserts—you can even cold brew tea!

    Pick up a Toddy today to impress your friends and your buds (your taste buds, that is) with your slick iced-coffee-making skills. It’s cheaper than getting a pool, and so easy and delicious you’ll wonder how you ever survived a summer without it.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Arabica vs Robusta

    On every single one of our packaged coffees we proudly display three words: 100% Arabica Coffee. It’s a required ingredient listing, of course, but we like to put it front and center in large, noticeable type because of what it says about the quality and flavor of our coffee beans.


    You can really taste the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans!
    Arabica is one of two very popular species of coffee—the other one you’ll commonly find is Robusta (there are around 25 other species in the genus Coffea but you’re unlikely to run into those.) Arabica is generally considered the more desirable bean; both have their advantages, but when it comes to nuanced flavor and a truly gourmet taste Arabica wins every time.

    So why the taste (and cost) discrepancy? There are several differences between these two species:

    • Around 75-80% of coffee grown in the world is Arabica. Robusta is primarily grown in Africa and Southeast Asia while our Arabica beans come from the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Oceania and the Caribbean Islands.
    • Arabica coffee is harder to cultivate. The plant must be grown at higher elevations than Robusta in rich soil with steady rainfall; it yields fewer beans and is more susceptible to disease, and once harvested is more finicky about handling and temperature.
    • Arabica coffee has less caffeine than Robusta (and before anyone panics, keep in mind that the extra caffeine in Robusta also gives it an extra bitter taste.)
    • Arabica coffee has a higher lipid and sugar content than Robusta; it has a softer, pleasanter taste with sweet notes of berries and fruit, and a higher acidity for that “wine” taste that you’ll notice in some varietal (single-origin) coffees. Even the unroasted beans have a sweet, blueberry-ish smell (Robusta reportedly smells like peanuts before roasting, and burnt rubber after.)
    • Most supermarket coffees (especially the cheaper ones and the instant coffees) are Robusta; higher-end Robusta beans do exist, but they’re hard to find. And unlike Arabica, Robusta beans are typically used as a cheap filler.

    While we’re personally very picky about the grade of our coffee beans, the truth is there are low-grade coffees out there that still fall under the 100% Arabica designation. And even a top-quality bean can be ruined by a bad roast (which is why we take so much pride in our roastmaster’s 25+ years of experience!)

    So, how do you know if you’re actually getting the gourmet experience? In the end the surest sign of quality is in the taste: good coffee tastes good, whether hot or cold (heat can disguise flavor, so let your coffee sit out a bit to really put it to the test.) We invite you to try a pound or two of our Arabica coffee beans today and see for yourself!

    Friday, May 1, 2015

    What Kind of Coffee Maker Are You?

    Coffee is many things: a morning eye-opener, an afternoon pick-me-up, an excuse to hang out with friends and a delightful cross-cultural social experience.


    And, if you’re the kind of person who likes to really geek out, coffee is the ultimate hobby. Just think of all the hours you could while away online with other bean heads, obsessing over light vs. dark roasts, or the length of time one can store beans before somebody on the internet gets upset. More importantly, think of all the fun toys you’ll get to invest in—there are so many ways to brew coffee, and none of them are wrong: it all comes down to your personality.

    So, assuming you’re already familiar with (and ready to move beyond) the ubiquitous auto-drip machine, just what kind of coffee maker are you?



    If you’re thrifty and a minimalist...


    Try a pour-over cone! This coffee brewing system is so elegant in its simplicity: put a filter and the ground coffee in your cone and pour near-boiling water over it. The hand-pour method gives you some control over the flavor (since you get to control the speed of the pour and, therefore, how long the water comes in contact with the coffee.)

    Melitta makes cones of all sizes (from single-servers that sit right on your mug to 10-cup cones that brew into carafes) and this is the least-expensive way to get your brew on. You can also toss the small plastic cone into a drawer or some other out-of-the-way place, so it’s perfect for small kitchens! Read more about it here.



    If you’re efficient and like to plan ahead...


    Try a cold brewer! The Toddy cold brewing system can take up to an entire pound of coffee in one go (so you don’t even have to bother with storing extra beans) and yields 6 cups of rich coffee concentrate, which can then be used to make iced coffee (try it with flavored coffee beans!), frappes or a traditional hot cup of joe depending on how you dilute it. It’s tasty and very smooth; cold extraction doesn’t pull out all those oils and acids that some people find too bitter.

    This brewer will need to sit in your fridge overnight to work its magic, but after that it’s like having coffee on tap! Read more about it here.



    If you’re stylishly retro and a bit of a purist...


    Try a French press! There’s a reason this method has endured through the ages; for one thing (unlike other popular brewing methods) the oils from your coffee beans are retained and the grounds are completely saturated and steeped. Brew time may be a few minutes longer than you’re used to, but the pure, bold taste is worth it—this is the coffee that coffee would drink.

    Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your French press (we recommend the Bodum brand as it’s popular and easy to find replacement parts if needed.) Read more about it here.



    If you’re geeky and like to experiment...


    Try an Aeropress! This syringe-like coffee maker quickly produces a rich, clean cup similar to a French press (but unlike a traditional press, the Aeropress filters out those tiny particles that not everyone cares for.)

    A creative community has sprung up around the Aeropress and developed various methods for using it (Google “Aeropress hacking” sometime) and there is even an annual Aeropress brewing competition that attracts hipsters from all over the world. Read more about it here.



    If you’re detail-oriented and love a good ritual...


    Try a moka pot! No, not that kind of mocha—a moka pot is an Italian invention that brews coffee using a pressurized boiler and is sometimes referred to as a stove-top espresso maker (although that’s not technically accurate.) The stove heats the water in the bottom section of the pot, creating steam and pressure that forces the water through a tube and into another section of the pot, where the grounds are.

    There is some fussiness concerning grind size, tamping and heating (make sure to read the directions) but when done well it makes a very balanced cup of coffee with a nice clean aftertaste. It’s also super cool-looking in an Art Deco way.



    If you’re my mom...


    Try a percolator! This style of maker isn’t exactly known for brewing quality coffee—it’s easy to boil your coffee, and boiled coffee ain’t great—but it can make a very bold cup that might even taste better than what you’ll get out of a typical auto-drip machine. (And an antique electric percolator will always have a warm place in my nostalgic ol’ heart.)



    If you’re barely awake and don’t care how your coffee tastes as long as it’s in you, and fast...


    Try a single-serve coffee maker! You know, a Keurig (or one of the similar machines that appeared after Keurig got popular). Single-serve makers—sometimes called coffee pod machines—are attractive in that they seem really convenient: they can make just one cup at a time and their little pods (or k-cups) come full of pre-ground, pre-measured coffee in a variety of flavors.

    But you can already get a small, cheap auto-drip machine that doesn’t require you to buy proprietary pods—and pod coffee, despite its many varieties, is notoriously stale. There is the option of using a re-usable filter that you can fill with your own fresh grounds, although Keurig keeps trying to design machines that won’t take these. Most auto-drips don’t exactly make wonderful coffee (they often don’t get hot enough) but neither do pod machines—the descriptive term I hear used the most is “watery” or “weak”. At least with the auto-drip you can control the size of your grind and the amount of coffee used.

    Billions of discarded coffee pods are also an environmental concern and, while they certainly are convenient, there’s not much time saved in dropping in a pod vs. dumping in a scoop. Read more about reusable filters here and here.



    These are just a few of the popular methods for brewing coffee (if you’re interested in learning more try looking up vacuum pots, Technivorms, Chemex brewers or Turkish coffee recipes) but I hope it successfully illustrates this one point: coffee-making is versatile and can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, and with so many ways to brew you’re guaranteed to find a way that perfectly suits you and your cup.