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coffee

Up your coffee game!

Are you tired of drinking miserable instant coffee and want to move to the next level of actually brewing your coffee? The way it was supposed to be made?

Excellent! Welcome to the better side.

I have been brewing my own coffee since 2007 and since the last 6-7 years, have been grinding my own beans as well.

Recently, a friend asked me for recommendations on a coffee machine which motivated me to put this post. All devices reviewed here will be under Rs. 5K – 6K – good for beginners.

There are multiple options to brew your own coffee in India. Sharing my experiences here.

1. The Aeropress

If you are looking for a no-nonsense coffee machine which cleans itself and produces a great cup of coffee 99.95% of the times, look no further. Buy an Aeropress machine. You’ll thank me later.

Buy on Amazon – https://amzn.to/2YH2Y3G

The Aeropress is quite a new machine. Invented recently by Alan Adler (bless him) who got tired of the overtly complicated or extremely poor choices to make a cup of coffee.

The machine is simple, works on hand power (no electricity), is very forgiving with the grind sizes, super portable and also cleans itself. You can google tutorials on making aeropress coffee. There are hundreds.

I have been using an Aeropress to brew coffee after discarding my steam machine about 8 years ago and haven’t looked back.

Pros:

  • Affordable, portable, self cleaning, super-durable – will outlast you.
  • Makes good cups of coffee for 1 – 4 cups at a time.
  • Makes a coffee concentrate – letting you make an Espresso type shot, americano, cappuccino, latte and what have you.
  • Very forgiving on bean grind sizes. Works on fine to coarse beans producing a decent cup.
  • Difficult to screw up a cup of coffee. Very scientific. Follow instructions, get good coffee.

Cons:

  • Very unsexy way of making coffee.
  • Your kitchen / house won’t smell like a cafe.

2. A Steam Machine

Morphy Richards and some other companies sell these extremely inexpensive steam machines (they retail for Rs. 3 – 4K) and they call them espresso / cappuccino machines.

Buy a Morphy Richards Steam Machine: https://amzn.to/2KIC5mh

I got my start with these machines and they make a pretty good cuppa. Again, between 1 – 4 cups. The added bonus over the Aeropress is that they make your entire place smell nice and warm – like walking into a coffee shop.

However, I call them steam and not espresso machines because they are not able to generate enough pressure to make a true espresso shot. Espresso requires 9 bars of pressure and uses a pump to build pressure. These guys instead, do between 2 – 3 bars and use steam to force the water down.

However, they have a number of cons which caused me to finally ditch my steam machine and move to an Aeropress.

Pros:

  • Makes a decent cup of coffee.
  • Your house or office will start smelling like a coffee shop.
  • Looks like a coffee machine.
  • Makes espresso level concentrate shots which allows you to make cappuccinos and lattes, etc.

Cons:

  • Gets a bit painful to clean as you need to wait until the machine is cooled down to clean it which is a pain.
  • If not handled properly, some of these machines are known to blow up. (literally)
  • You need espresso level coffee grinds which gets expensive to grind yourself. (Burr grinders capable of grinding fine consistent grids are upwards of Rs. 20K). Hence, you end up buying pre-ground coffee which is not the freshest option.

    More on grinders later.

3. Mocha Pot / Stove Top

A Mocha Pot (also known as Stove Tops) is by far the most fun I have had while making coffee. They are quite a manual process and you need a stove to make coffee with this.

Again, it produces a good cup of coffee. You get mocha pots which make coffee from 1 cup to 4 cups – some even more.

As much fun as it is, it tends to be a time consuming process. Making the coffee and then cleaning it. So unless you are a big fan of the way coffee tastes in a mocha pot, you may get fed up having to make it in the morning everyday.

And then cleaning and maintaining the mocha pot is a different beast altogether. Needs to be washed and wiped dry else can get mouldy spoiling the future cups of coffees that you can make.

Buy a Mocha Pot on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MWkVV0

They start relatively cheaper as well – around Rs. 500 odd but if you are into this, I would recommend spending a bit more for a solid apparatus.

Pros:

  • Makes a decent cup of coffee. Relatively fool proof.
  • Makes coffee concentrate. Allowing you to do cappuccinos and lattes.
  • No electricity required. Sturdy and will last you a life time.
  • Relatively inexpensive start to your coffee journey.
  • Can make your house smell like a coffee shop 🙂
  • Lots of fun to use.

Cons:

  • A pain to clean.
  • Requires fine grind of coffee (espresso level) which leaves you buying pre-ground coffees.

4. Filter Coffee

If you like Filter Coffee, you cannot go wrong with getting a filter coffee apparatus. It is another fool proof way of making many good cups of coffees and if you do it correctly (frothing of the milk by exchanging it between utensils), you can have a great cup of true south indan coffee.

Buy Filter coffee maker on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2YX562s

These are extremely inexpensive and start at Rs. 300 odd on Amazon. The only downside is that to make really good decoction (or the coffee concentrate), you need about 30mins to steep it correctly. Hence, requires some planning.

Pros:

  • Great, unique tasting coffee.
  • Very inexpensive and a quick way to start.
  • Device occupies very little space.
  • Decoction can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Cons:

  • Takes 30m to steep correctly.
  • You will need a proper filter coffee mix containing chicory.
  • Quite bitter generally. So copious amounts of milk and sugar are mostly required.

5. Pour Over Coffee

This is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to get started with brewed coffee. If you practice and get your technique correct, you can also enjoy really good cups of coffee.

Using a large filter paper everytime might seem wasteful to some. Also, the coffee you get out of this is mostly ready to drink (not concentrated). So if you like to have your coffee with loads of milk or prefer a cappuccino or latte, this won’t work for you.

Buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Z0z9KJ

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Ability to make really good coffee once you get your technique correct.
  • Easy to clean.

Cons:

  • Produces a non-concentrated drink. So not very good if you prefer cappuccino or latte based drinks.
  • Takes 4 – 6 minutes to brew. So not the quickest way.

6. French Press

The french press is another option to make a good, fool-proof cup of coffee. The only machine in this list that I haven’t tried making coffee with – so can’t write much about it’s operation and cleaning.

However, it seems quite easy to make coffee with this. Also, the coffee is in non-concentrate form and is best enjoyed with a dash of milk – so not for the cappuccino / latte drinking crowds.

French press options on Amazon: https://amzn.to/31De0Ee

7. Drip Machines

Drip machines generally look like this. They can be identified easily with the large carafe jutting out. Bulk coffee is what these machines aim for.

I am yet to have a decent cup of coffee that has come out of a drip coffee maker. And hence, I would not recommend this. Please do not buy this unless you know exactly why you are choosing this type of machine over the others.

These are completely automatic – but coffee ends up sitting on the heater and is often burnt and stale. (Life is too short for bad coffee).

Other Apparatus

1. Milk Frother

If you would like your milk to be a little textured (frothy / foamy) — this is probably the best option if you don’t own a steam machine or an espresso machine.

Get one from a good company. These will be around Rs. 800 – Rs. 1,000

I have burnt my hand with cheap Chinese versions which go bad in a few weeks. The one I use (by Severin) has lasted me 7+ years. They don’t have that on Amazon anymore.

The Instacuppa one is used by my brother for a few years now and is still going strong.

Buy on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2KxEAbS

2. Frothing Jug

This is not very essential but does help a lot with the consistency of the milk when you froth it. You will get a better outcome as compared to frothing milk in a cup or some other non-pitcher utensil.

If you mostly make 1 – 2 cups of coffee, go for the 300 – 350ml jugs. The 600ml jugs become too big for 1-2 cups of coffee.

Some options on amazon are here: https://amzn.to/2yUs0wU

3. Coffee Grinder

The next step in your coffee journey – once you start making a decent cup from pre-ground coffee, is to grind the beans yourself — the fresher the better. Typically, just before you brew — but even if you grind it a few days earlier, it will still come out fresh enough. I generally grind a batch of 100 gms which is good for a few days worth of coffee at a time.

Coffee stays much better in bean form (can be even good for a month) as compared to pre-ground coffee which starts losing it’s freshness as soon as you open the packaging.

There are 2 types of grinders.

The more affordable blade grinders – which range from Rs. 800 – Rs. 2,500. These typically look like dry spice grinders. The grinds they give you should be good for the coarser ground coffees. I have used them with Aeropress, mocha pots and pour over and they have worked fine. Will be even good for the French press. But these will not be able to give you a fine grind for the espresso machine, steam based machine or the filter coffee machine. For that you would need a burr grinder.

Good electric Burr grinders are quite expensive (around Rs. 25K) and hence I am not covering them here. There are a few that start under 10K but not all reviews are great.

I use a Black & Decker 150 watt coffee mill since 2014 which works really well and goes well with my Aeropress. However, it has been out of stock for a while.

You can buy a similar grinder – I would have probably bough the Russel Hobbs one today. Seems compact and easy to clean – important criteria for me.

Only grind coffee in it. If you start using it for spices as well, you run the risk of ruining your future batches of coffee ground in the grinder.

Where to buy coffee from?

I have tried a lot of places over the years. I generally end up getting coffee from 3 places:

  1. Blue Tokai

    https://bluetokaicoffee.com



    My all time favourite is the MS Estate Organic coffee.

    They (Blue Tokai) have exceptional customer service and you can ping them for all your coffee queries and they generally reply back within a few hours (during business hours).



    Coffee is always freshly ground and received within a 2 days of placing an order. Can’t recommend them highly enough!



    Rs. 400 – Rs. 450 for 250 gms of coffee.

    One pack generally lasts me ~ 10 – 14 days and will make around 25 – 28 cups of Aeropress coffee. (Yield may differ based on different machines)

  2. Starbucks

    I generally go and get coffee from Starbucks (very rarely) when I have forgotten to order my Blue Tokai coffee and can’t wait a couple of days.



    They have a few blends and are also quite expensive. Double the cost of Blue Tokai coffee.



    Rs. 850 for 250 gms of coffee.

  3. Kumardhara Stores

    If you are in Pune, search for Kumardhara stores on Google Maps. Not sure if they are available in other cities. Also known as Kerala Stores.



    They also have quite good coffee and freshly roasted. They mention they roast daily. Mysore nuggets and Peaberry Premium are the ones I generally get.



    They are Rs. 200 – Rs. 250 for 250 gms of coffee (half the cost of Blue Tokai).



    However, I have switched to Blue Tokai for about 90% of my coffee needs as their price to quality and value (and convenience – home delivery) ratio is exceptionally high.

That is all folks! Please post any queries below and I’ll be happy to answer them! Hope you found this interesting and useful.