I miss my La Marzocco with a passion. A La Marzocco, just in case you don’t have as severe a case of coffee obsession as I do, is one of the highest quality espresso machines you can get your hands on. And I, for a petite golden age in my baristaing career, was able to create coffee on one. On this beautiful piece of machinery steaming tight micro-foam became as easy and natural as swaying to my favorite song, and I could nearly swear that I could also hear the machine whispering poetry under its breath to me as I pulled smooth, caramely shots. Yes, playing that machine as delicately as any musician would his instrument was verging that closely on the profound. But seasons in life shift and change and I then found myself being a passionate barista, with no espresso machine. My heart cracked to a deeper level than I would like to admit to, and as soon as I can I will get a La Marzocco of my own.. But I believe that even when the ideal espresso machine is not in my immediate future, gorgeous coffee is still within my grasp. This conviction was the launching point of my exploration of the best ways to make amazing coffee at home, and oh what a fun adventure it has been! The result is, as of now, a trio of the best possible ways to make coffee at home within a reasonable amount of time and a manageable (and relatively inexpensive) set of tools. And no, this list does not include a traditional drip coffee maker or anything Keurig. Please take a moment to applaud this amazing display of my self-restraint in the department of terrible coffee bashing, and then let us proceed to discover how to do it right, complete with brewing how-to videos.
Most akin to the drip coffee makers we are more familiar with, the Pour Over is a brewing method that creates a beautifully smooth cup of coffee. While I couldn’t trace down the exact history of the Pour Over (apparently beans + water is old enough to not have a recorded birthday), I can say that the first paper coffee filters were invented by Melitta Bentz in 1908 in Germany, ushering in the era of coffee that we now live in. A brewing method functioning off of the power of gravity, the Pour Over lets hot water seep through coffee grounds contained in a filter to gather in a waiting cup below.
This brewing method of this list of three is the one the most resembles a traditional cup of black coffee, but also gives you a far more delicate and complex taste than your coffee maker could create even with the same beans. My personal favorite Pour Over device is the Chemex, a sleek glass piece invented by Peter Schlumbohm in 1941 that is so good looking, it is on display in The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Ideal Bean: Lighter roasts with less oil
Flavor Strength: Weak to medium
Flavor Highlights: Clean, crisp, smooth
First patented in 1929 by Attilio Calimani, the French Press has established itself as one of the classic ways to prepare coffee with both ease and and a subtle touch of upper class style. Unlike the Pour Over which simply has the water naturally drain through the coffee grounds to instill the liquid with their flavor, the French Press allows the coffee to steep in the water for between five and seven minutes before quickly pressing the coffee grounds to the bottom of the beaker with a metal mesh filter. This steeping method creates a far richer coffee, allowing the oils of the beans to infuse the water and create a noticeably more robust cup.
Note that even though you shoved the coffee grounds to the bottom of the French Press they are still steeping away quietly down there, just at a much slower rate. To avoid any bitterness that might happen due to over extracting the coffee, don’t let the French Press sit too long before enjoying each drop of it.
Ideal Bean: Medium or dark roasts retaining much of their oils
Flavor Strength:Medium to strong
Flavor Highlights: Creamy, textured, thick
The Moka Pot, not to be confused with the chocolate infused coffee we generically call a mocha, first hit the Italian coffee scene in 1933 thanks to Luigi De Ponti and Alfonso Bialetti and has since remained a favorite of strong coffee drinkers everywhere and, like the Chemex, is now on display in multiple design and art museums throughout the world. Using an entirely different brew method than both the Pour Over and the French Press, the Moka Pot is actually a stove top coffee maker that uses steam built up by the boiling water in the bottom compartment to press that water through the middle compartment containing the coffee grounds up into the waiting top compartment. This method can create both a crema and an intensity of flavor that resembles a shot of espresso, leading to the common error of calling the resulting coffee “stove top espresso,” which it absolutely is not. The difference is primarily pressure, with the Moka pot using only one to two bars of pressure and an espresso machine using nine bars, resulting in completely different liquid compositions, flavor, intensity, and other such factors. But while not espresso, the Moka Pot makes an undeniably delicious pot of coffee and it is my personal go-to for a morning cup at home.
Ideal Bean: A dark roasted oily bean such as an espresso blend
Grind: Medium fine
Flavor Strength Strong
Flavor Highlights: Espresso-like, thick, intense
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