Gear for making great coffee

There is no one "best" method of making coffee. So, there is no best gear for making coffee.

Declaring such a thing would be like declaring that deep frying is the best way to cook anything. It’s partly a matter of personal taste — you might really like the results that deep frying produces! — and a matter of what you’re making. The same is true for coffee-making methods: siphon or pourover is probably my favorite way to prepare coffee, but some people really like press pots. The point is that you can’t quite declare one piece of coffee making equipment to the best, no more than you can say that the T-Fal ActiFry is the best way to cook anything. (That said, pod machines are truly awful.)

But I can give you some advice and options on the best gear for a given way to prepare coffee.

The cheapest coffee gear setup I’d recommend — and what I’d pitch to beginners with a burgeoning interest — is a $100 refurbished Encore grinder and an $18 Clever coffee dripper, at a total of $118.

For the best overall quality, my pick is a Baratza Virtuoso grinder (~$230) and a pourover method ($10-$35 for the dripper; $50 for the kettle), for a total of ~$300.

To really understand my picks, you’ll want to understand the fundamentals of coffee gear and how it’s all used.


First off, whether you brew with an Aeropress, French Press, Chemex or Clever, you’re going to spend more money on a grinder than the actual brewing gear. And that’s okay, because it’s the most important piece of coffee gear you’ll own.

A grinder will serve you no matter how you brew coffee. If you’re just brewing auto-drip today and then Chemexing tomorrow and then using a siphon in six months, you’ll be using a grinder. Obviously, the more serious you are about coffee — or think you will be — the more value you’ll get out of a higher end grinder.

That’s because it all starts with the grinder. Well, yes, it technically starts with the coffee. But assuming you have good, fresh-roasted, whole-bean coffee, the grinder is the first potential failure point. Making good coffee is ultimately about extraction. You want even extraction. The first step to an extraction is an even grind — and you want the particles to be as close to the same size as possible.

Baratza produces what most consider to be the gold standard for basic home grinders.

A great grinder
A good grinder is the best investment you can make toward improving your coffee making. At $130 (or cheaper on refurb from Baratza), the Encore is a great pick for most people.

Baratza’s Encore is the cheapest grinder I could get any coffee professional to recommend. It starts at $150 new, but every Thursday Baratza stocks its online store with fresh refurbs, where it can be had for around $100. This is what you should get if you’re simply interested in making basic drip coffee.

A manual choice
*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.
If you don't mind the manual labor, Hario's Skerton will give you a good grind for under $50.
(It is something of a mystery as to why there is no good home grinder for under $150, though acceptable manual grinders, like Hario’s Skerton and Mini Mill Slim, run just under $40. If you’re a fan of pain, or desire ginormous forearms, I suppose you could use the larger Skerton as a daily grinder, though it does not excel at coarse grinds.)

I personally own the next step up from the Encore, a Virtuoso, which starts at $230 new, or around $180 refurbed from Baratza. What that extra money gets you is a far more consistent grind at coarser sizes, suitable for a press pot, according to Mark Prince’s white paper, and the ability to eke out a grind that’s passable for espresso which the Encore cannot produce at all. (Correction: The Encore can technically produce an espresso grind, but it’s the lowest rated Baratza grinder for espresso, and the pros I talked to recommended a Virtuoso or better for that.)

A better grinder
If you need a consistent coarse grind for press pots or coffee fine enough for espresso making, consider stepping up to the Virtuoso

Better still, all Virtuosos now come with Baratza’s new, redesigned burrs that were created for the higher end Precisio — though make sure you get the Virtuoso 586, not the 585. (The 585 uses the older burr set.) In Prince’s testing of the Precisio, he got “a very clean grind with minimal fines; if you want a 700 micron sized grind for drip coffee, that’s what you’re gonna get.”

King of grinds
Baratza's Cadillac gives you a ceramic burr that stays sharper longer and has 230 grind settings. Serious.
At the top end, Baratza’s Vario grinder starts at $450 new, or just $360 refurbished from Baratza, at which point it’s a steal. What you get with the Vario is a bump from a hardened steel conical burr — which wears down over time — to a flat ceramic burr, which Baratza says remains sharp at least twice as long. Baratza suggests that the Vario can grind 2,000-2,500 pounds of coffee before needing the burrs changed out. This makes it good enough for light commercial use — I’ve seen the W variant in several pro coffee shops. Against Baratza’s other grinders, Mark Prince found the Vario “to be the best overall grinder in Baratza’s lineup, in some ways quite outdistancing the rest of the pack (especially on repeatability).” It’s far more precise and offers over 230 steps of adjustment. It’s the best consumer home grinder you can get for the money at the moment.

Basically, this is the score: If you’re planning on doing more advanced techniques and think you might really fall down the coffee rabbit hole, you’ll want a Virtuoso, at least. If you’re getting the bare minimum, get an Encore. But ultimately, you should buy the best grinder you can afford because it is the most important piece of coffee equipment you will own. In fact you could basically ignore the rest of this from here on out.

And now we diverge into choose-your-own adventure mode.


If you don’t actually want to make coffee, but you want it to magically appear and be good, you will spend more money on your brewing equipment.

Having said that, here’s a disclaimer: An automatic machine is going to be more consistent than a human — it’s the nature of man vs. machine. But the best 10 percent of coffee I’ve had out of a machine is a pale shadow against the best 10 percent of coffee I’ve had brewed by hand.

The long-time gold standard in the industry for an automatic drip machine has been Technivorm’s MoccaMaster, which runs around $300. The major thing that Technivorm’s machines do that the average automatic home drip machine do not is that it heats the brewing water to the proper temperature for brewing coffee, which is 195-205 degrees. Nearly all common home machines often only hit around 180 or less. So the coffee they make sucks.

Should you get the Technivorm? No.

More recently, a cheaper machine appeared that takes after the MoccaMaster’s design. It’s the BV1800 by Bonavita and it starts at $130. The BV1800 is only the second automatic machine (besides the MoccaMaster) to be certified by the Speciality Coffee Association of America. When I tested it with coffee ronin Mike White — formerly of Gimme Coffee, but who can occasionally be spotted behind coffee bars at a number of places — we found it to be pretty good.

Pretty good!
If you want a machine to make your coffee for you, the Bonavita BV1800 is not bad for around $130.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $144.

(Note: A new machine, Bodum’s Bistro Pourover, is a beautiful automatic that also produces very good coffee. But I do not think it’s a better deal than the Bonavita, since it starts at $250.)

So if I were to get an automatic machine, I would buy a Bonavita.

Note: If you already have a machine, try following this advice before you spend more money. Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee offers this hack for your current home machine:

Best advice for beginners who have a home coffee auto-drip brewer is just use the brewer, but do a little extra work. Fill up your brewer with water but don’t put any coffee in. From the moment water starts coming out of the shower head (which may be a bit after you turn the brewer on), start the timer and measure how many ounces of hot water is produced in three minutes. This is what the brewer will yield; NO MORE, NO LESS. Use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 ounces of water. The actual brew time will be 30-60 seconds longer than those three minutes, since you’ve got coffee to slow the water down, but do this bit of pre-work and adjust your grind to taste (too weak and you’re too coarse, too bitter and you’re too fine) and you’ll be getting the best that your home coffee brewer has to offer. The problem is that home brewers will heat and deliver the water that’s provided, whether that’s one second or 10 minutes. About 3.5 minutes is generally a good target brew time, so the only easy way to control that is to control the amount of water (and the temperature of the water going in, but that’s a bit beyond ‘beginners’). If even then your coffee tastes shitty, you’re gonna have to look at something more advanced, or get a less shitty coffeemaker.

I’m sharing this with you because if your budget only allows $100 for new coffee equipment, you should spend it all on a new grinder, which will have the most dramatic effect on your home coffee.

Start here
I like the Clever for beginners because it's cheap and it's harder to screw up compared to other manual methods.

If you want to make the best coffee with the smallest learning curve and lowest cost, my pick is the Clever Coffee brewer. It runs around $18, and I like it for beginners because it’s cheap and it’s harder to screw up in comparison to other manual methods — or to put it another way, it’s “more forgiving” as Batdorf & Bronson‘s Jason Dominy remarked to me at the opening event for the latest Dancing Goats cafe.

The Clever Coffee brewer is an immersion method, meaning you’re letting ground coffee sit in water for a few minutes while it extracts. You don’t have to master a pouring technique; you don’t really have to stand over it while it brews. You simply grind coffee, toss it in with hot water, wait, and then it pours out of the valve built into the bottom of the brewer. Unlike a press pot, it uses a paper filter, so you get more flavor clarity (at the expense of less body, admittedly, but flavor clarity is probably what you want if you’re spending good money on good beans). I would follow one of the methods listed here. It’s so easy I’ve converted tech analyst Michael Gartenberg over from his Nespresso pods, at least part time.

For pourovers
Most pros recommend a pourover method, in particular using the Hario V60. But you'll need to practice! Get this plastic one, which is better than ceramic and less than $10.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $8.

At the more advanced end of the spectrum — in other words, you’ll need to practice and learn — most pros recommend a pourover method, in particular the Hario V60, which you can see in speciality coffee shops all around the world. Cho recommends the Kalita Wave — which he sells — because it uses a flat-bottom coffee bed geometry, wave-shaped filter and three-hole design. In theory it promotes a more even extraction than the standard Hario V60, which Cho says “sets you up for the best potential success. If the coffee still tastes shitty, then you’re the shitty one.”

Nice, expensive
I found the Wave easier to master than the Hario V60 and it's great for making iced coffee. But it's not cheap at $38.
I like both the V60 and Kalita Wave, but I admit that I found the Wave easier to master initially, and I still find it to be easier to use for properly brewing iced coffee than the V60, in terms of nailing the right extraction because the flat bottom makes it easier to control the brewing process. That said, the Wave dripper runs $35, while you can find a V60 for as little as $10. And in fact, the cheaper plastic V60 device is superior to the more expensive ceramic V60 model in one key aspect — there’s less heat loss. (Heat loss is your enemy.)

Another point in favor of the V60: It’s going to be much easier finding white filters for the V60 than the Wave, since it’s a far more established product. And you’re going to want to stick to white filters. No matter how much you rinse a brown filter, the paper taste doesn’t go away.


Hot water
For good pourover technique you need a spout that allows for controlled pouring. The Buono is the go-to standard.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.
Either way, with a pourover method, you’ll need a pouring kettle that has an elongated spout in order to better control your pour. The standard for a kettle is Hario’s Buono, which runs around $50.

Another option
For the same price as the Buono, Bonavita makes a convenient electric kettle that's also great for pourovers.
Note that for the same price you can get an electric kettle from Bonavita that also boils water, making it super convenient. While the Amazon reviews for the Hario’s Buono are overwhelmingly positive, some do complain of rust and at least one mentions trouble with the on/off switch. One thing about the gooseneck kettle is that while it seems pricey, like a grinder, you can/will use it with multiple brewing methods, should you go further down the rabbit hole: Chemex (definitely), Clever (optionally), Aeropress (optionally).

(Undoubtedly, someone will ask why I am not recommending an Aeropress — it only makes tiny amounts of coffee at a time — or a Chemex — the paper filters can be too thick — or some other method they prefer. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and taste is ultimately subjective. I’m no big fan of press pots, for instance.)

Lastly, if you don’t have an accurate scale, I would invest in one. Specifically, American Weigh’s 2KG pocket scale. It holds up to 2 kilograms — enough for even a giant Chemex — and measures down to a tenth of a gram. At $19, it’s cheap relative to other kitchen scales, and it has a small footprint. I love this scale. Why the scale? Coffee recipes are about coffee-to-water ratios and most of the best ones use mass as their measure of choice, not volume. (One oft-used standard is 60 grams of coffee per 1 liter of water. Adjust accordingly.) Mass is simply more accurate for measuring both coffee and water. Also, it’s easier.

Also Great
A scale is the best way to measure your ingredients, and this as fancy as you need and a great value.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $21.


Again, the cheapest coffee gear setup I’d recommend — and what I’d pitch to beginners — is a $100 refurbished Encore and an $18 Clever coffee dripper. It’s also the easiest of the bunch to nail right out the gate; you’re basically producing decent coffee every time from the first time you use it, as long as your beans are good. It doesn’t always produce the most nuanced cup of coffee relative to pourover, but it’s good, and a definite step up from your home machine.

For the best overall quality, my pick is a Baratza Virtuoso ($250) and a pourover method ($10-$35 for the dripper; $50 for the kettle), for a total of $310. It’s just a question of commitment: You will have to learn and practice your pourover technique. You will probably screw it up in the beginning, and maybe even after you know what you’re doing. But it offers the possibility of making the best cup of coffee you’ve ever made, something you’ve never tasted before, with unreal clarity and complexity. Plus, a lot of the knowledge you’ll pick up from learning pourover — about extraction, etc. — will carry over into any other method of coffee you want to pick up, from Aeropress to Chemex.


Again, an automatic machine won’t make anything nearly as good as a cup brewed by hand. The gulf between what your Mr. Coffee was making and a properly made cup using a Clever with an Encore grinder is enormous.

But once you’ve spent the money upgrading your coffee beans, your grinder and your brewing method by using the cheapest possible option, you quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. The extra $200 to move to a Virtuoso and a Kalita Wave or V60 does not produce a difference even one quarter as stark as the difference between a bad automatic machine and a hand brewed cup.

If anything, you’re talking about preferences. Yes, the grind the Virtuoso offers is going to be more consistent and give you a better shot at producing an evenly extracted cup of coffee than the Encore, but the difference between what a Clever produces and what comes out of a V60 can simply come down to a matter of taste. I usually (but not always) prefer pourover to any other manual method because of the clarity it offers. And since you can use an Encore with any coffee method you like, you can pick it up and brew with a V60, or whatever.

Obviously, this is all useless if you don’t have good coffee. It’s possibly difficult to come by where you live. So I’d recommend buying coffee online from any of these guys (a by-no-means exhaustive list):

To send this guide via email, fill out the fields below:
Message Sent!
Oops! Please try again
  • bobchadwick

    If you want the absolute cheapest setup, go with a hand grinder. I use a Hario Mini Mill at work and it does a great job. It takes some experimentation to figure out how to produced the desired grind size, and it takes some time to grind the beans, but it’s a great alternative if you don’t want to drop the cash on an electric grinder.

    • Yossarian.Lives

      I use the same set-up. After getting tired of electric burrs breaking down I purchased the Hario Mini and have great success, with no obvious wear, for over two years.

  • Brandon F

    I currently use

    Hario Skerton Grinder
    Hario V60 / Aeropress / French Press
    Bonavita Electric Kettle BV3825B

    With regard to Bonavita, the model recommended is a basic kettle. It has an on/off switch and boils water very quickly to 212F/100C. For all of my pourover brewing methods I need water that averages around 205F/96C so I have to monitor the kettle with a thermometer and stop it before it gets to boiling.

    I’m considering the “Bonavita 1-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Gooseneck Kettle” (Model BV382510V) which has a temperature preset option for anything over 140F/60C and the ability to maintain that temp for 20-30 minutes. The cost is $88 USD, $38 more than your recommendation, but overall if you’re spending $50 on a specialized kettle I think it’s worth the extra for the convenience.

    • Christina

      I nabbed a refurbished/repackaged Bonavita variable temperature kettle for ~$77 off Amazon a few months ago and really dig it. It heats water very quickly and keeps water temp stable. I currently use an Aeropress, but figure the gooseneck will really come in handy once I get a Hario V60.

  • chriskayTO

    I think you’re remiss in not including the AeroPress. Cheap, excellent coffee – all you need is a grinder and boiling water.

    • Andy Merskin

      LOVE my AeroPress. It takes no time and brews delicious coffee.

  • zalexis

    I second the AeroPress. It makes the best coffee so easily.

  • andrewkwilson

    If you don’t recommend the Technivorm (which is arguably the better machine), you should recommend the Bonavita with the metal carafe. Glass carafes require external heat, which affects the taste of the coffee after it’s brewed.

    • graypilgrim

      I normally prefer the metal over glass carafe as well, but there appears to be too many complaints of the metal carafe shattering internally. (I’ve seen it on reviews on multiple sites, and I didn’t do a statistical analysis on this, but the proliferation of this particular episode was a cause for concern.) I ended up moving to the glass carafe, which has its own nice aesthetic. (But I don’t disagree with you in principle.)

      • RacerXX

        The shattering glass liner in the SS version is the main reason I won’t be going with the Bonavita. Looks like a great unit though.

  • Jamey Findling

    What about roasting my own beans? I understand that there is some savings in buying unroasted beans, and for reasons of both freshness and control of the roast (after some practice, anyway) it would seem like this could make a significant difference. Anybody care to weigh in on on whether roasting your own beans is worth the investment, and if so, what to look for in a roasting device?

  • Ellen Cassidy

    Ecco Caffe was bought by Intelligentsia a couple years ago and doesn’t currently sell beans. Their former owner is starting a new cafe and roastery, Linea, which could replace your link to Ecco in the near future. For now, the link doesn’t work :(

  • MysticCowboy

    You say the Aeropress only brews a tiny amount of coffee, yet you recommend one cup drip filters. Hmm… The Aeropress does require a two step method, brewing the shot then adding water, as with an americano, yet it still makes a great cup. It’s obvious that you prefer a drip coffee as you don’t even mention espresso makers.

    • jameskatt

      You do not need to add water to make Americano with the Aeropress. The AeroPress uses an immersion method of brewing. This starts immediately after you pour water in.

      So to get Americano coffee, simply pour your entire cup of water into the AeroPress. The 4-cup line on the Aeropress is actually the 1 cup of coffee Americano style. So pour all the water you want into it. It will immersion-brew in the same way as the single-cup immersion brewers mentioned above – like the Kalita Wave.

      The AeroPress, unlike the others, also allows you to use light pressure to complete the brewing, to extract as much coffee from the grind as possible. This leaves you with an easily expelled patty of used ground coffee when complete.

      You can also put more ground coffee on the AeroPress and simply repeatedly fill it with with water to fill a carafe of coffee since it uses the immersion method of brewing. Thus, you can make several cups of coffee with the AeroPress if desired all in one shot.

      • tony kaye

        Very great response. Thanks for that!

  • r3nny

    If you don’t mind making a bit of a fool of yourself you can drive the Hario with a cordless power drill.

  • r3nny

    Also, I’ve found the Cuisinart drip machines with the insulated carafes (and without the crappy grinders that fail) are fairly good.

  • Andrew Hammond

    The AeroPress is a great option. Also, no mention of vacuum brewing rigs for affordable upscale? And finally, unless you’re planning to serve the whole pot immediately, the glass carafe is a deal-breaker.

    • jsprag

      Agreed. The Bonavita is available in a thermal carafe version for about $30 more. Money well spent, in my opinion. I switched about a year ago and only regret not doing it sooner.

  • Alex

    I would suggest you add a uk option for sourcing beans. Square Mile Coffee, for example, are awesome!

  • gyamashita

    perhaps it isn’t/wasn’t endorsed by the SCAA, but the newco ocs series of auto drip coffee makers did the job just as well as the technivorm. water got to the right temp, the brew finished in the right amount of time, and the coffee tastes great. i don’t know if they’ve discontinued this line, but it’s a great brewer as well. and the vaccum carafe is better than the technivorm’s.

    my ultimate coffee setup? mazzer mini grinder, kone pour-over brewing system, and fino pour-over kettle. a close second is my newco osc-10 brewer. and for days when i want more chew, my bodum eileen makes a nice french press.

  • brucerb

    You lost me at “flavor clarity”. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, and I’ll stick with my old auto drip.

  • bdog

    Agree on the Aeropress, it produces a wonderfully smooth cup. I have the Baratza Precsio with the optional scale base (Baratza Essato) It doses by weight shutting off within 1/10th of a gram. Consistency is the key with any brew method!

  • Frederick Titus

    17 comments before mine and no one has discussed cold brewing coffee…immersion 6-8 hours…plan ahead…make a few days worth of concentrate…it’s low tech but…

  • aweissman

    There is also this Hario badass which, sadly, doesn’t seem to be in the US yet – I havent found it:

    • Nik Bauman

      Andy – I can get you one if you’d like it :)

      • aweissman

        I sure would Nik!

      • Sean Knox

        Nik, are the V60 Coffee Makers available outside of Japan yet?

  • blerky

    Don’t American’s know about stove-top espresso? (I have a vague feeling you call it “Moka” coffee, but that insults the multitude of ways of making the stuff). Experimenting with coffee grind, amount, and packing pressure results in a better coffee than Aeropress (not by much, but better).

  • oscar_madison

    Get a Hario Skerton grinder and an Aeropress. You’ll make gourmet level coffee for around $80.00.

  • Matt Jacobs

    It looks like the Bodum Bistro Pourover is now at $150 on Amazon. Is it as good or better than the Bonavita? I certainly think it looks nicer.

  • Chris P.

    I just picked up the Bodum Bistro B Over locally for $100. Really cool machine and so far makes a great cup. Don’t try to removed the carafe while it’s brewing. You can get it out but as soon as you try to put it back it’ll make a mess.

    I also got the matching Bistro burr grinder for $60. My first burr grinder so I don’t have much to compare to but it works.

    So I didn’t use the Amazon links but these were much cheaper at my local snobby store. I was very surprised.

    • Stephen Y.

      Where’s the local snobby shop? Interested in the same setup.

  • Christina

    I would like to put my vote in for the Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steal Coffee Grinder as a manual/hand option ( – currently $40). The movement is smoother and the grinder is easier to grip than the Hario Skerton in my opinion. It’s also very light and super portable especially paired with the Aeropress (fits inside).

  • Jane Smith

    A grinder will serve you no matter how you brew coffee. If you’re just
    brewing auto-drip today and then Chemexing tomorrow and then using a
    siphon in six months, you’ll be using a grinder. Obviously, the more
    serious you are about coffee or think you will be the more value
    you’ll get out of a higher end grinder.

  • berlioz

    No Jura?

  • norfizzle

    What about storing your beans? Do you keep them in the bag they came in?

    I was under the impression they won’t ‘breathe’ correctly and the flavor can change, but this article isn’t suggesting any storage solutions. We probably go through about a pound every 2 weeks.

  • jmush

    Add me to the list of folks that would like to see a better endorsement of the Aeropress.

  • saulshanabrook

    I would love to see a comparison of milk frothers.

    • tony kaye

      Asking our researchers about this. Thanks for the feedback!

  • MonnyBon

    I just got my Clever coffee maker and I love it. First cup of coffee this morning was the best I’ve had at home in a long time.

  • jameskatt

    The AeroPress makes the best cup of coffee among the bunch mentioned here.

    It brews one cup of coffee – the same amount of coffee as the Kalita Wave. Thus the AeroPress was too easily dismissed when it can brew as much coffee as the most expensive and high end brand mentioned. You can keep pouring in water since it is an immersion brew that starts immediately, followed by a light pressure press to complete the last part of brewing ending in a neat pad of coffee grinds that is easily expelled to ready the AeroPress for the next batch to brew. It has a flat-bottom filter similar in concept to the Kalita Wave.

    1) Where the AeroPress excels is that it is very easy to use to get a consistently fantastic cup of coffee. You don’t need much practice.

    2) It is extremely easy to clean. The cylinder is essentially self-cleaning. After brewing, you to pop off the used grounds, lightly rinse of the stopper and filter basket, then you can make your next cup or store it away.

    3) It is extremely portable, very durable. It has a cylindrical rather than cone shape. This makes it much smaller than the other brewers, and less prone to breakage. When closed it is about the size of a 12-ounce coffee cup.

    4) A huge advantage is that it doesn’t require mouth burning temperatures for brewing fantastic coffee. All it needs is about 170 to 180 degrees. This is easily achieved in a microwave.

    5) The AeroPress is CHEAP. It costs $26 on Amazon. The tiny filters are also very inexpensive for hundreds of them.

    When you are at home or traveling, it is extremely easy to brew fantastic coffee with the Aeropress.

  • mike3k

    When I have my first cup of coffee in the morning before leaving for work, I’m not capable of doing much more than pushing a button. For espresso, I use a Jura Capresso EN3 super automatic. It takes whole beans and produces a shot of espresso with the push of a button. For regular coffee, I use a Bunn My Cafe, which takes ground coffee, K-Cups, or soft coffee pods with interchangeable trays.