Welcome to part two of our guide to buying coffee equipment on a budget. If you missed part one, make sure to check it out here, as these lower priced items will not be covered in this article.
Making great coffee at home has become more and more of an undertaking in recent years. Coffee geeks love to tell about all of the details that are intrinsic to making the best cup and it can seem like an immense challenge. Strangely though, you have probably been making coffee for years and not had too many problems getting a cup.
The geeky requirements are meant to ensure the best brew at home, though often we over complicate a task that usually needs to be done before you are completely awake. Lists and recommendations for brewing coffee at home also seem to add up to a stack of equipment that may cost a small fortune by many household standards.
Please note that we will assume you are buying good, fresh, whole beans (hopefully based on our ratings!) and this cost is not accounted for in our budget, since coffee will be an ongoing cost. If you are unsure where to even start, you should read our 5 Tips for Better Coffee at Home article to see what to prioritize first.
In the $50-$100 range we get a lot more freedom in quality equipment. While you will see a larger selection of grinders, scales, and accessories featured below, the high quality brewer selection is limited in this price range. Also keep in mind that since we are talking about a budget minded approach, it can make good sense to mix and match items from this list with less expensive options from our previous list.
In this price range, we have some of our first solid electric grinder options as well as some higher quality hand grinders. As with most products, you may be sacrificing build quality and ruggedness for a more approachable price. Plastic parts, less powerful motors, or manual power are the natural trade-offs. It is still difficult to get the best grinding at $100 or less but the following can still help you make a great cup of coffee.
There is nothing wrong with still getting your coffee pre-ground in small amounts, but chances are you will want to unlock the beauty of flavor from fresh grinding soon. Remember that pre-grinding your coffee is not ideal for the best flavor experience.
– RHINOWARES HAND GRINDER – $60 at Espresso Supply
Still wanting a portable hand grinder? The new Rhinowares hand grinder is made of sturdy steel, which makes this a competitor to the Porlex hand grinder (for around the same price). These are both useful for grinding fresh coffee at a reasonable cost, but don’t forget that hand grinding is time consuming and can result in sore muscles.
– HARIO ACRYLIC BOX HAND GRINDER – $72 at Sur La Table
Another version of hand grinding, the acrylic “box” has a suction cup in the base to help stabilize the unit while you crank away. With a price inching steadily toward the $100 mark, this is recommended for those of you who are committed to the manual and more portable frame of mind.
– CAPRESSO INFINITY BURR GRINDER – $85 at Seattle Coffee Gear
A more refined and solid grinder from the Capresso company. Typically a reliable product, though the grind quality is not as uniform and consistent as other high dollar grinders on the market. Some static issues have been reported, especially when grinding fine for espresso.
– BODUM BISTRO BURR GRINDER – $100 at Bodum.com
Using conical burrs, the Bistro grinder is a work horse. If you really can’t justify spending an extra $30 on a Baratza Encore, this is a great choice for an electric grinder. Reliable and fairly consistent, with soft plastic parts that help make the build feel a bit more substantial.
This price point is strangely a tough spot for quality brewing equipment. You can get great manual brewing devices for under $50 and the main auto brewers worth investing in are over $100. While this section is rather limited in its variety we do have a few unique and useful items to look at.
– ZOJIRUSHI FRESH BREW AUTO BREWER – $90 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Just like with grinders, auto home brewers tend to be pricey for the better models. Zojirushi’s 10-Cup option brings good brewing parameters with a good price. While this brewer is not the most favorable that we have used, it does make a better brew than other auto brewers we tried in this price range.
– SOWDEN IMMERSION BREWER – $60 at Seattle Coffee Gear
A love child between a french press and a tea infuser, the Sowden immersion brewer is not quite either. The exterior is ceramic to hold the heat better than glass and the infuser basket is laser cut to ensure fewer grinds in the cup as well as easier cleanup. While you may get a similar tasting brew in a french press, the Sowden is undeniably attractive in comparison.
– YAMA SILVERTON HOT/COLD DRIPPER WITH STAINLESS FILTER – $97 at Espresso Parts
If you are ready to spend a bit of cash this is a great brewer. Not only can you make a standard hot pour-over brew, you can make a hot immersion style brew or a cold immersion brew. This brewer can easily be used for brewing tea, plus it is rather attractive on your kitchen counter. The last perk is also a downfall, which is to say it comes with a stainless steel filter. It is wonderful not to worry about running out of filters, though the brew of a metal filter can be less desirable depending on your tastes (ie. heavy with a more fine particles in the cup).
Obviously most filters for brewing coffee are made from paper and would never reach the $50-$100 price range. There are, however, permanent filter options for certain devices. Permanent almost always means that the flavor will differ from what you get using a disposable paper filter, so make sure to weigh your options.
– KONE FILTER FOR CHEMEX – $60 at Able Brewing
For those of you who have a Chemex brewer and can’t stand wasting paper every time you make coffee, or even just prefer the grittier brew of a metal filter, the Able Kone filter is an option worth considering. You may have to adjust your grind size and/or brewing method to get the best results but the investment in this permanent filter is worth it, especially if you brew one or more times per day.
– EKOBREW STAINLESS STEEL K-CUP INSERT – $16 at Bed Bath and Beyond
So you bought (or received) a Keurig brewer. While we at Roast Ratings don’t believe these brewers are a great way to make coffee, we certainly understand their value to the everyday coffee drinker for their convenience. If you are ready to up your game to better coffee, pick up one of these filter inserts for a big flavor change. It takes a little more time, but it should lead to a huge improvement in flavor. For more info on the cost breakdown of your K-Cups, we have a handy article talking about it! Don’t forget that you either need a grinder or pre-ground coffee to put in there though. (It’s not our current price range, but we couldn’t pass this one up)
4.SCALES, KETTLES, AND WATER BOILERS
This section has many more options available in our current budget range. Scales and water boilers/kettles are heavy on the coffee geekery, and many well meaning equipment buyers get these products and simply leave them on their kitchen shelf to look pretty in favor of the convenience of an auto brewer. If you are budget minded, be honest with yourself about your habits and ultimate desire to spend time and money on brewing products. You will likely be happier with a purchase if you use it daily and it fits the way you live.
-HARIO SCALE W/ TIMER – $52 at Prima Coffee
This scale from Hario is compact and reliable. It is resistant to water spills and measures in 0.1, 0.5, or 1g increments depending on the overall weight on the scale. The built in timer is convenient for timing pour-over coffee, and it uses 2 AAA batteries. The weight measurement is accurate and does not tend to “jump” around at low or high weights. This scale only measures in grams, so if you prefer imperial measurements (oz, lb) it may not be for you. The small size may be an issue for those wanting to weigh larger objects as well.
– BONAVITA BV2000SC SCALE – $80 at Seattle Coffee Gear
The only scale available from BonaVita, it is sturdy and versatile. The weighing surface is made of tempered glass, and is large enough for most needs. This scale may use 3 AAA batteries or a wall plug for added utility. The built in timer is great for making manual brews, and the unit measures in grams, kilograms, pounds, or ounces.
– CAPRESSO GLASS KETTLE – $60 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Simple and elegant looking, this glass kettle can be a solution if you regularly need hot water for manual coffee or tea brewing. The connecting base is simple plastic but serves its purpose well enough. The glass carafe is convenient to know when exactly your water is boiling, but there have been a few reports of strong smells of plastic or rubber inside of the carafe in the past, perhaps from a bad batch of manufacturing.
– BONAVITA ELECTRIC KETTLE – $60 at Prima Coffee
Another simple design made for convenience in preparing pour-over coffee. The kettle boils the water and it is ready to pour for making coffee, no need to transfer to another container. The pouring spout is at a high angle, which creates a bit more turbulence in the coffee grinds. The high spout angle also means that the water will typically fall further before hitting the grinds, which loses slightly more heat in the process.
– BREVILLE IKON WATER KETTLE – $80 at Bed Bath and Beyond
Another water boiler option, the Breville Ikon is a heavy duty kettle that boils water rather quickly. Made of stainless steel, the interior has little to no risk of flavor contamination. Comes with a water gauge on the exterior as well as a light during the boiling process. If your primary concern is to boil water without the need of precision pouring, this will last years to come. The capacity is a bit larger than the other kettles at 1.7 liters.
– HARIO BUONO ELECTRIC KETTLE – $85 at Crate and Barrel
The lone Hario entry in electric gooseneck spout kettles, this one comes at a relatively high price and low frills. It has a simple on/off switch to begin boiling and will automatically shut off after hitting the boiling point (@212F at sea level). The spout is slightly more horizontal than the BonaVita design, which means you can pour water very close to the grinds if you like. The spout is quite wide, which means you can pour a lot of water very quickly. The construction is lightweight (read: thin) stainless steel with plastic handles, which feels insubstantial to some users.
– BONAVITA VARIABLE TEMP KETTLE – $95 at Williams Sonoma
Get ready for the coffee nerd dream. The “variable temp kettle” is essentially the same as the standard electric from BonaVita, but made with controls to heat the water to exactly the temperature you desire and hold it there. The easiest application of this product is actually in tea, where specific temperatures are stated for brewing. Although coffee is not quite so specific at this point, it is quite useful to have the kettle heat water to exactly 200F rather than boiling, which might require you to let it cool briefly before pouring. Ultimately this is about knowing exactly what temperature your water is rather than guessing. Will it change everything you know about coffee? Most likely not. But it will certainly take the guesswork out of how you make coffee, and you can even start the boiling process and do other things with your time (for example, getting ready for work?) and come back with water that is ready to pour onto coffee grinds.
Once again, this is not a comprehensive list of every product on the market in these price ranges, however these are products that we recommend for their quality and cost. We did not find any quality products at a significantly better cost. In addition, you may be able to find slightly lower prices by shopping around places like amazon.com.
For a full coffee setup, we have now covered enough to get a real quality cup of coffee. For example, you can pick up a Capresso Infinity Burr grinder, BonaVita Immersion Dripper, a Jennings CJ4000 Scale, and simply boil water in a saucepan and have a full-fledged coffee geek wet dream every morning for about $165 total.
If you want to go as inexpensive as possible while still getting a full setup, the Hario Mini Mill, Plastic Melitta Cone with Carafe, Smart Weigh Pro Scale, and BonaVita Gooseneck Kettle will set you back just under $100.
If you are less concerned with being frugal and simply want great coffee with great convenience, stay tuned for our next session where we will look at coffee equipment $100 and over.