My coffee set-up has been honed over time to suit my requirements for brewing specialty coffee at home. In recent months I’ve focused on controlling the variables in my brewing to become more consistent in my output. I’ve been collecting tools and techniques to help me achieve this.
Beans and bean storage
For 2014 I decided to take out a subscription to Square Mile Coffee Roasters. I’ve enjoyed many of Square Mile’s coffees over the years, and their 12-month subscription (£115) is great value compared to ordering bags individually. Every month I get 350g of roasted whole beans delivered in the post with a newsletter detailing the coffee’s provenance.
To store beans in my kitchen I use a Vacu Vin Coffee and Tea Storage Container (£12), which keeps beans clean and fresh for weeks. It’s the perfect size for Square Mile packs, and the square shape of the rim makes pouring beans onto scales easy and controllable. There’s also something perversely satisfying in releasing the pressure valve when removing the lid.
I give beans about a week between roasting and consuming. This gives them time time stabilise in the bag before going through a brewer.
I use two sets of scales in my coffee routine. A 0.01g-precision set—a cheap set of digital scales (£8) designed primarily for weighing drugs, it would seem—for measuring beans (14g for AeroPress, 20g for Clever), and a 1g-precision set—the Salter Slim Design Electronic Platform Kitchen Scale (£12)—for measuring water (200g for AeroPress, 300g for Clever).
My grinder is by far the most expensive part of my coffee set-up, and rightly so. It’s a Mahlkönig Vario (£350), which was recommended to me by my local barista. It is a brilliant piece of kit, with very little ground retention, good grind consistency, and a sturdy and premium-feeling construction.
I grind for AeroPress using K4, and for the Clever using K9 grind sizes (these sizes correspond to the scales on the adjustment levers on the Vario). These settings might not be optimal in all cases, but they’re a good baseline and have far less impact on my output than other variables like the grind consistency or grounds/water ratio.
Heating water to the correct temperature for brewing coffee—around 94ºC—is tricky using consumer kettles, but I’ve found the KitchenAid Artisan Kettle (£120) gets close when set to 95ºC. It’s also a beautiful device, with a satisfying heft and tactile controls. The light and sound indicators built in are nice touches too.
I brew using one of two methods; AeroPress (£25) or Clever dripper (£20). I favour the AeroPress simply because I’ve been using it longer, and I’m more familiar brewing with it. It makes a superb cup.
For occasions that require more than one cup (i.e. when I have guests) I’m looking to pick up a Chemex at the London Coffee Festival next month.
I time my brews using the stopwatch on my iPhone; 40 seconds brewing + 30 seconds pressing using the AeroPress, and 120 seconds brewing + 90 seconds drip using the Clever.