Investing in coffee brewing
This post is meant for brewers who want to get serious with the details of a coffee brewing experience. Here, I will be talking about how to go about curating a coffee bar for yourself.
Whenever someone starts brewing, the question that comes to mind is what equipment and how to brew apart from the coffee in question. There are a few bases that need to be covered to be "functional" in the true sense. They can be clearly mapped to the core brewing parameters:
1. Weighing the right amount of coffee and water
2. Grinding fresh coffee to the desired grind size
3. Timing the entire brewing process
4. Controlling the temperature of the brew
5. Controlling the pour to minimise deviations and ensure consistency
With these in mind, the must haves are:
1. Weighing scale
4. Temperature gauge
5. Pouring kettle
The details of each have been covered in another article on brewing tools. The way to go ahead after getting the equipment of choice are as follows:
Upgrade 1: Basic weighing scale
This won't have a timer. You can use your phone timer alongside it. Should cost Rs. 300 - 500 and be able to measure weight with an accuracy of 1gms.
Upgrade 2: Gooseneck kettle 350 ml
This should be your next investment. Definitely before investing in a grinder. It allows you to have better controlled pours to improve the consistency of your coffees. It should cost you in the range of Rs 600 - 1000 unless you purchase it off Aliexpress.
Upgrade 3: Hand grinder
You 100% need a burr grinder to up your brewing game. Freshly roasted coffee is useless if the grind is not fresh. Invest in a quality burr based grinder preferably a Hario. Don't go for those bullet grinders that seem cheap. The grind quality will be inconsistent and will justify their cost. Have a budget of Rs 2500 - 3500 for a decent Hario hand grinder. This will also become your go-to grinder when it comes to brewing while you travel.
Upgrade 4: Temperature gauge
Get a temperature gauge to up your coffee game. A basic food temperature gauge should cost about Rs 400 - 500 and is a great investment to get more balanced flavour extractions.
Upgrade 5: Brewing equipment
The last 4 upgrades cover the basics of brewing tools. Getting a new piece of brewing equipment is the best next upgrade. A pour over kit and an AeroPress should be your first 2 equipments. So upgrade your game by getting the one method you have been missing out of. If you don't have either, get a pour over kit and then an AeroPress later on. Other options to invest in are Siphon (for theatrics), Mizudashi (easy cold brews), French Press and Espresso machines.
Upgrade 6: Advanced weighing scale
Some professional brewers might argue that a higher quality grinder is the ideal next investment. But I feel that a really good weighing scale add a lot of comfort to the process itself, allowing you to brew hassle free and eventually perfect those brews inspite of a tedious grinding process involved with a hand grinder. Get a Hario V60 drip scale (~Rs 5500), a versatile piece of equipment with a bigger base to accommodate most types of equipment you could think of brewing. If you have better budget in place, then Acaia Lunar can be a great investment to help you have much more control and analytics into your brewing process through its integrated mobile application.
Upgrade 7: Entry-level electric grinder
This is a life-saver in ways you won't be able to imagine. Get a Baratza Encore or Virtuoso+ (Rs 12000 - 18000). It will give you the versatility to grind for espressos to pourovers with a grind speed of up to 2.4 grams per second. Imagine cutting down those hand grinding times by over 95% and getting a perfect cup of brewed coffee within 4 minutes everyday.
These are the best possible upgrades to up your coffee brewing game beyond those of professional brewers. Going further, you can look into better equipment, brewing kettles and others. There are no hard and fast rules to the game. You should pace your progress as it suits you. Whatever you do grants you your very own authenticity in the process.
Before closing, I wanted to highlight a very underrated aspect of the brewing aspect. The glasses you drink in! Similar to how wine and beer acts out in different glasses, coffee plays out differently across different types of containers. Ceramic and glass have different thermal conductivities and impact brew temperature, thereby the balance. Keep trying multiple shapes and variants while staying away from plastic, which has a habit of leeching at higher temperatures irrespective of the food grade and temperature limits. Just keep exploring to find what suits you best. Be it double-walled glasses, whiskey glasses, Keepcups or a French Picardie Tumbler.
Drop me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions.