Among the things that staying at home has taught everyone is the fact that there are limitless skills you can learn in the kitchen. With so much recipe testing and other culinary experimentation, you've probably really elevated your home chef game by now. But what about your barista techniques? With a few gourmet coffee products and accessories, you can make your daily cup something worthy of the pricier concoction you pick up at the local cafe. And what may surprise you — these essentials don't have to cost a fortune.
For anyone who's been tackling baking projects, what goes better with a fresh-from-the-oven pastry than a frothy, creamy cafe au lait? Or, if you prefer, a perfectly balanced, expertly crafted cup of black coffee? Yes, it's a treat to make a trip to your local coffee spot, but there are also those days you just want to (or have to) stay in. And during those times, it's nice to know that you can make something just as high quality as what you'd grab down the street — or pretty darn close, at least.
If you want to graduate your coffee-making skills from basic to barista-status, read ahead for a handful of products and accessories that will have you brewing like the pros in no time. Oh, and don't skimp on the beans.
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Manual Coffee Grinder
First things first: For the freshest cup of joe, ditch the pre-ground beans and grind them at home manually. Look for a grinder that offers various settings (French Press, pour over, espresso, etc) so you can make your daily dose taste even better.
Next tool of the trade? A coffee scale, which will help you find the right amount to brew for optimum flavor and strength. And when it comes to what the pros prefer, you can't go wrong with the Acaia Pearl. "A scale is scale, but this one has a really clean design and laboratory-grade parts," says Chris Smith, one of the founders of Humblemaker Coffee Co. "This brand also offers a suite of free apps for perfecting your at home brewing station including, recipes, timers, and the ability to sync multiple scales."
To create cafe-worthy au laits, lattes, macchiatos, and other coffee drinks that use steamed milk (or milk alternatives), you'll want to add a milk frother to you arsenal. "I recently bought [the Breville BMF600XL] for my at home coffee making and it’s been great," shares Smith. "This frother has two settings for both lattes and cappuccinos (two different foam styles)."
Coffee experts love French Presses because without the addition of a paper filter, the steeping process allows for an even more flavorful cup of coffee. You can find these in a wide variety of price points, but for Smith, Manual's Coffeemaker Nº3 is both stylish and highly functioning. "I have had it for a couple years and it is super easy to use and makes great coffee," he says. "It can also be used for pour overs and to make cold brew, so you really get a lot of bang for your buck. Not to mention, it is really nice looking."
Pour Over Coffee Maker
Pour-over style coffee is preferred by some because it can allow for a more nuanced flavor (and often brighter and less bitter than using French Press or percolator methods) and there are a few different types of tools you can use to get the result. "We love the Phoenix because is a very minimalist approach to making the perfect cup of coffee," says Bryan Marseilles, co-founder of Humblemaker. "The longer length of the brew column makes it perfect for precise coffee making."
And Smith adds that a classic Chemex is a great option as well. "This is another go-to tool for at home coffee making," he offers. "It is very easy to use, timeless, and has a great design."
Pour Over Kettle
And if you're going pour over, you might want to upgrade your kettle, too. Pour-over kettles are specifically designed with a long, narrow spout for precise pouring. In terms of brands the pros love, Smith says you can’t go wrong with the Fellow Stagg one. "If you are really serious about your coffee, this kettle is a super precise tool that allows you dial in your personalized settings and pour at exactly the right temperature," he explains. "Because of the way this kettle is constructed, you can make your pour-over super concise and the saturation of your coffee just right."
Stovetop Espresso Maker
For those who crave espresso-based drinks, you don't have to spend hundreds on a fancy espresso maker to whip up your Americanos and lattes. There are plenty of effective, stylish, and totally affordable stovetop versions.
Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Going into summer months, you'll probably be making the switch to cold brew most days. Cold brew is not the same as icing down a hot-brewed up of coffee — it's never heated, just steeped and strained for a rich, smooth flavor. A pitcher with a built in filter makes whipping up a batch so much simpler.