The Best Coffee Brewing Set-Ups on Any Budget

It’s one of the most common questions we get: what’s the best home coffee set-up? Like most things in life, that depends on what budget you’re working with. Whether you’re looking to get going on a bare bones budget or are ready to take a second mortgage out on your house, we have some ideas as to how you should spend your money.

Less than $50

Less than $50 is tough because you’re going to be missing out on something we would consider essential, in this case a scale. But if we only had fifty US dollars to spend on coffee equipment, we would buy a Clever Dripper ($20) and a Hario Mini Mill ($32). The Clever dripper doesn’t depend on having a gooseneck kettle, like most pour-over methods. It’s also our go-to device when we have to make coffee without a scale. Filling it to the brim is a perfect 500ml, which means it’s easy to get a consistent recipe, even if you have to measure your coffee by volume. The Hario Mini Mill is definitely an entry-level grinder, but it beats using a blade grinder.

(Okay, we realize that’s actually two dollars more than $52. We’re doing the best we can over here.)

Less than $100

Dropping a hundred bucks on anything is a serious investment, but that’s about how much it costs to get a decent pour-over set-up. Essentially, you need a pour-over device, a kettle, and a scale.  You can easily spend your entire budget on any one of those devices, but making a few smart decisions will keep you on target. For the scale, it’s hard to do better on a budget than the American Weigh Scale AMW-SC-2KG. It’s fast, compact, durable, and less than $18. Its only Achilles’s heel is heat, so be sure to use a small pad for larger brews. (Warning: it’s a bit too small to comfortably fit a Chemex). The budget constraints rule out any of our favorite kettles from Kalita or Bonavita, but there’s never been more off brand options for kettles. Most will set you back $30 or less. If you need a grinder, the Hario Mini Mill and V60 01 ($18) will keep you on budget. Otherwise, we would recommend upgrading to the Kalita Wave ($28).

Less than $175

Kalita gear at Verve Tokyo. Photo by Andy Cenci

Expanding your budget to $175 will get you more of the same pieces of equipment, but a higher quality. We would upgrade the kettle to Kalita’s stainless steel 1L ($50, pictured above), a stately, sturdy piece of metal with nice wooden accents. We would also sub the Hario Coffee Scale ($41), which features a timer and is more suited for larger carafes. Any remaining budget would be spent upgrading the Hario Mini Mill to the Porlex Mini ($53). Alternatively, you could scrap the scale upgrade to get the Bonavita Variable Temperature Kettle ($63), which will heat and hold your water to a specified temperature.

Less than $300

If you’re spending $300 on coffee gear, you probably have a better home set-up than your barista (which, admittedly, isn’t that impressive because baristas almost never make coffee at home.) At this point, it’s time to put away the mini mill and get a serious grinder. If you’re tired of cranking a handmill, the Baratza Encore ($140) is your huckleberry. In a sentence, it’s the cheapest electric burr grinder worth buying. I love this grinder so much, I bought one for my in-laws. If you don’t mind cranking by hand, the Knock Feldgrind offers an incredible quality grind in a small, portable package. It’s our go-to grinder, at home or on the road. The best place to pick up this British-made hand mill in the States happens to be our sponsor, Prima Coffee.

Now that you have a serious grinder in your arsenal, the rest of your budget is going towards a coffee maker. Don’t worry, the Bonavita BV1901TS isn’t your parents’s Mr. Coffee machine. This time-tested autodripper meets the SCA’s prestigious Golden Cup standards, which means you’ll have a better cup of coffee waiting for you once you’re out of the shower than you’re likely to make on your own.

4 thoughts on “The Best Coffee Brewing Set-Ups on Any Budget

  1. Great article, Michael. What are your thoughts on the Kuissential Manual Coffee Grinder, at $20, to save some money and an Aeropress for $30? Free shipping with Amazon Prime, but tax will push you up over the $50 mark…

    1. I haven’t used one, though I certainly wouldn’t think it would be too hard to match the mini mill. I also love the Aeropress, but felt like the Clever is the better option for people who want to good cup of coffee with little fuss. Great suggestion though!

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