Q: I want better tasting coffee, but can’t invest a lot in coffee equipment. What should I do?
A: There are two things that are really basic to improving your coffee.
1. A kitchen scale
Because the relationship between the amount of water and the amount of coffee is critical to the resulting cup, the ability to weigh out the coffee and the water is a huge step forward in quality control. It also has the added benefits of allowing you to repeat a recipe (meaning the amount of water and ground coffee) and to fine-tune it (we call it “dialing in”) until you’ve found the most excellent way to prepare a certain coffee.
A scale is a game changer. I highly recommend investing in one.
2. A grinder
There are amazing grinders for sale these days, with features that purists drool over (super-uniform grind size, direct-grinding path, clump-free, static-free, temperature-controlled, and more). You can go down that road, but you don’t have to. If the taste of your cuppa is important to you, I recommend that even the most frugal coffee enthusiast take a deep breath and invest in a burr grinder, like one of these. (Note, you can buy this hand grinder on Kilimanjaro's online store, here.)
Why? 'Cause coffee loses its edge once it’s ground. You can see the difference between just-roasted, just-ground coffee, and coffee that was ground at the time it was bagged – just pour hot water on it. The fresh coffee will burble and pop as it releases CO2 and volatile aromatics (that great, fresh coffee smell), while the stale coffee won’t do much of anything. One is a party, the other a memorial service. If you want to enjoy your coffee, do all you can to keep it fresh. Grinding per cup is a huge step forward. Proper bean storage also makes an appearance here. See this other blog post, here.