While I am in no way a connoisseur of fine coffee (not yet anyway), I can definitely discern the difference between a good and bad cup. This is both a blessing and a curse; while I can appreciate the art of a good coffee, the cumulative price of continuous quality coffee does my bank balance no good.
Way back in 2014, I realised that the ongoing consumption of decent coffee was starting to cripple my finances. A good quality coffee machine was starting to sound like a good investment - however, with £500+ price tags, it was not a decision to be taken lightly. I spent a few months researching different models and styles for my new place in Edinburgh, but along the way I came across a magical invention - the AeroPress.
Looking back now, I can’t believe I was ever considering dropping upwards of £500 on a single button coffee machine. I’d saved about £100 towards a machine when I came across a post online, where a newcomer to coffee (which I was) asked what sort of coffee machine they should buy (what I wanted). The highest voted reply suggested foregoing the machine altogether, and instead buying an AeroPress and a Hario Mini Mill grinder (total cost <£60). Surely you couldn’t get great coffee at this price point… could you?
The answer, as it turns out, is yes. I took the advice, and duly ordered the AeroPress and a grinder, as well as a small bag of roasted coffee beans. The resulting cup (the AeroPress is incredibly easy to figure out) was pretty good, particularly for a first attempt. The best feature of the AeroPress/Mini Mill (and perhaps worst, for a beginner) is that you have full control over all variables - something that you don’t necessarily get with a coffee machine. Grind size, water temperature, steep time, etc. all contribute to creating a vastly different cup, and you have full control to experiment as you wish.
It did take some getting used to, playing with the settings, trying new recipes, but after a few months I settled on a fairly standard AeroPress brewing process (I use the inverted method, if you were wondering). I do tweak this occasionally, usually when I’m using a different grinder, but for the most part I’m happy with my brews.
Naturally, once I’d settled on an everyday coffee brewer, I needed to source a regular supply of coffee beans. One of my favourite coffee shops in Edinburgh (Artisan Roast, on Broughton Street) sell their own beans, but the price was a little too high for regular consumption. After reading a few reviews online and trying a handful of one-off bags, I decided to take the plunge and subscribe to Has Bean Coffee.
Has Bean offer a few different options for subscribing, either 4 bags, 12 bags, or continuous supply, all of which can be delivered either weekly, fortnightly or monthly. I elected to go for the continuous weekly subscription, at £6.50 a week. Today marks the one-year anniversary of my subscription, according to the tasting notes I received about this weeks beans.
Of course, once I’d started brewing my own bean-to-cup coffee, it was only a matter of time before I started exploring other ways of making my own coffee. My other favourite coffee shop in Edinburgh (Brew Lab Coffee, on South College Street) use the Kalita Wave pour-over, so I figured pour-over coffee would be a good place to start exploring.
I bought a Chemex and a goose-neck kettle shortly after the AeroPress, and I was quite surprised at how difficult it was to get a good clean cup of coffee from the Chemex. I hadn’t really realised, but it is very difficult to get a bad cup of coffee from the AeroPress - it is very forgiving. Not so with the Chemex, and even now, I still can’t always nail on the perfect cup. I also bought an incredibly cheap Hario V60 cone, which is even harder to get a great cup out of; in both cases, however, the coffee you’re rewarded with when you get it right is worth the effort.
I’ve since bought a second AeroPress for home use (my original AeroPress lives almost exclusively at work, along with an upgraded Hario Skerton hand grinder). It’s a slippery slope of new toys, but I think my next investment will be a quality electric grinder. I have my eye on the Baratza Encore, but I’ve come full circle in debating whether it’s worth dropping that much money on one piece of kit.
I have much to learn.