The ideal way to experience the elevated quality of coffee in Sacramento is to drop by one of the leading shops and enjoy a cup made with skill and precision.
But the best coffee people want you to make great coffee at home, too. Several shops teach classes, many of them for free, on everything from coffee-brewing basics and home-roasting to the wonders of latte art.
There are several ways to brew excellent coffee at home with plenty of room for innovation and tweaking. But there are a couple of fundamentals: You need high-caliber whole beans, and you must grind immediately before brewing.
A quality burr grinder costs $75 to $200 or more (cheaper blade grinders shred the beans and compromise flavor). For some methods, youll need a kettle. Electric kettles are best and cost $50 to $100. For precision, use an instant-read thermometer to get the water to 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Electric drip machine, $50 to $200-plus
Most basic drip coffee machines dont get the water hot enough to extract the right balance of flavor out of the ground coffee. The Bonavita Exceptional Brew costs $169 and has a block heater that quickly gets the water temperature to 200-205 degrees. Further, the thermal carafe keeps the brewed coffee hot for hours. A hot plate and a glass carafe will make the coffee taste burnt the longer it sits on the hot plate. Coffee geek upgrade: I forgo the paper filters in my Bonavita (even with rinsing, I can taste the paper) and use a stainless steel filter from Able Brewing. The drawback? It costs $60.
2. French press, $25-plus
This is one of the simplest ways to make good coffee. For a time, this method fell out of favor, mostly because poor quality beans tended to taste bitter with French press. But if you appreciate top-notch beans and use a coarser grind, you can easily achieve a full-bodied, expressive and nuanced cup of coffee in about 3 to 5 minutes. You heat water, put the proper ratio of coffee to water (standard is 2 tablespoons coffee for 6 ounces of water) in the carafe and steep for the allotted time. Push the filter to the bottom and pour. The nice thing is you can play with the ratio to get the strength of flavor youre after.
3. Aeropress, about $30
This simple little device has taken the serious coffee world by storm. Not only does it make a very good cup of coffee, but there are hacks you can apply to alter the process and make even better coffee. A stainless steel filter upgrade allows the coffee oils to add body and additional flavor to the cup. The drawback: You can make only one cup at a time. The advantage over French press: easy clean-up.
4. Chemex, $35 to $45
This elegant and simple device is a large, shapely glass carafe that showcases the pour-over method on a large scale. The one feature the manufacturer touts is the extra thickness of its paper filters, which are supposed to reduce bitterness. You add the ground coffee to the top of the filter, then slowly pour hot water over it. Takes about five minutes. Because the paper can come through in the taste of the finished coffee, you must pre-rinse the filters. A better solution is to use to use the after-market stainless steel filter by Able Brewing ($60).
5. Pour-over, also known as V60, $3 to $30
Before the advent of third-wave coffee, this was known as the Melitta method (after drip-method inventor Melitta Bentz). You place a plastic or ceramic dripper on top of your cup, insert a filter, add coffee and water. When you get the ratio down, youll have a consistently good cup of coffee.
Call The Bees Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.