When it comes to home coffee grinders, there is one Holy Grail. The white whale we’ve been chasing for years. One grinder to rule them all, and in the dark roast bind them. That coffee grinder, of course, is the Baratza Forté. With a touch screen, built-in scale, micro-adjust, and particle size distribution that puts a lot of more expensive commercial grinders to shame, the Forté has been the leading “prosumer” grinder in the industry since debuting at SCAA five years ago. You can see it on some of the best brew bars in the world. And after a few years of scheming and scrimping, we finally snagged one. And after putting it through its paces, we have some thoughts about this grinder and who’s it for….
Coffee Product Reviews
When it comes to consumer coffee grinders, Baratza is the only manufacturer we recommend across the board without hesitation. The company has a wide array of grinders that are loved by coffee professionals and home enthusiasts alike. We’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on all of their products (minus their newest version of the Sette, the 30 AP), and we ranked each grinder based on its features, grind quality, and price….
Let’s be honest, iced coffee is usually disappointing. Sure, enough cream and sugar makes anything tolerable, but iced coffee often lacks the sweetness and complexity we expect from a really great coffee. The disappointment transcends categories.
Iced coffee typically falls into one of three camps: cold brew, iced Americano, and Japanese iced coffee. For the purpose of home brewing, we can rule out iced Americanos. There are some solid consumer espresso machines on the market, but for most coffee nerds home espresso remains a dream. (And to be perfectly honest, even the best iced Americanos we’ve tasted have a certain aftertaste we just can’t shake.) Cold brew, perhaps the most divisive beverage in specialty coffee, is easy to make, but lacks the refreshing acidity most specialty coffee consumers crave. Japanese iced coffee, made by brewing double strength hot coffee over ice, is high in acidity, but the lower extraction lacks the complex sweetness of the best cups of coffee.
Is it even possible to enjoy an iced coffee that has the same complexity as the best cups of hot coffee? Until recently, many coffee professionals would have said no. Aside from a few mostly unsuccessful attempts at appropriating wort chillers to make iced coffee, most iced coffee makers simply embraced one of the short comings above.
Riding the Coldwave
That was, until the Coldwave Coffee Chiller came out this summer. While technically not a coffee maker, the Coldwave makes hot coffee cold without diluting your brew. It preserves the complexity of hot coffee while providing the refreshing coolness of iced. Perhaps most ingeniously, it works with any type of filter coffee, be it pour-over, Aeropress, or autodrip. …
I’m going to be honest, if you asked me last week whether the world needs another coffee dripper my answer would have been a resounding no. Between the Hario V60, Kalita Wave, Beehive, Melita, and even this collapsable silicon thingy, there’s more than enough products on the market. But then I saw this Kickstarter campaign and realized how wrong I was. …
You’re probably ignoring the second most important ingredient in your coffee. Although coffee nerds meticulously select their coffee, equipment, and brewing techniques, most just use whatever water comes out of the tap. But water makes up more than 98% of filter coffee, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that water can radically change the way your coffee tastes.
The chemical composition of the water both affects how the soluble coffee particles are extracted and how those flavors are perceived when consumed. For example, softer water will accentuate a coffee’s bright, juicy flavors, while water that is overly-hard will like taste flat and astringent. But it gets more complicated. As Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood and Chris Hendon explain in their seminal book, Water For Coffee, although water hardness is determined by the cumulative ppm of dissolved minerals, it doesn’t tell you what minerals are present. This matters because minerals like calcium and magnesium aid coffee extraction and don’t negatively affect flavor, but other minerals like iron and sodium bicarbonate can have an off-putting affect on coffee flavor. In other words, water matters.
While serious coffee shops spend thousands of dollars on their water filtration systems, for most consumers buying filtered spring water is the only viable option. But different brands and even different bottles of spring water can have very different chemical compositions depending on the source water. This problem bothered a couple of coffee-loving entrepreneurs in Southern Ohio which led them to create a product they call Third Wave Water….
There’s a million ways to pull a bad shot of espresso, but the easiest way is to mess up the tamp. Although it might appear to be a menial task, tamping is essential for an even extraction, i.e. ensuring all of the coffee grounds are saturated with the same amount of water. Any inconsistencies in the bed of coffee grounds and the water will channel, resulting in an unpleasant, astringent espresso.
As a barista educator, I can testify there are few bar skills that take as long to master as tamping. Even veteran baristas tend to tamp at a slight angle, ensuring the full flavor potential of that shot of espresso goes unrealized. Traditional tampers have the further problem of placing a lot of tension on the barista’s wrist. More than one barista I know has needed physical therapy because of repetitive stressed caused by tamping. The UK’s Clockwork Espresso claims to address both of these issues with a revolutionarily simple device they call the PUSH Tamper….
Every coffee professional has had the experience: a coffee blows you away on the cupping table, but subsequent brews don’t measure up. Or perhaps you’ve invited your friends to a cupping, only to see them look confused when you hand them a spoon and spit cup….
One of the most basic barista tasks is also the hardest to master. Over the course of a shift, a typical barista will pull hundreds of shots of espresso. In order to pull a decent shot, the barista must evenly distribute the ground coffee in the portafilter and compress the grounds with a nice, level tamp. It sounds simple enough, but after training dozens of baristas I can attest that it’s one of the last barista skills I see people master. Although steaming milk, pouring latte art, and making pour-overs might intimidate new hires, it’s tamping that keeps a self-aware veteran awake at night. Even a minuscule inconsistency in the distribution of the coffee can result in the dreaded phenomenon of channeling. Simply put, channeling is when …
Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of coffee subscriptions out there. Whether it’s through a roaster or assembled by a third party, each promises to send freshly roasted coffee to your doorstep. Only one problem: you usually get stuck with some coffee that isn’t your favorite. Rather than going into the grinder, it’s destined to sit around your kitchen a couple of months and finally get tossed at the behest of your spouse/roommate/life partner. Unless you’re subscription is with Crema.co. …
You see them every day. They know everything about you- at least everything about how you drink your coffee. Whether you’re friends, roommates, lovers, or casual acquaintances, your barista is important to you, and you want to show them how much you care. That’s why we’ve assembled a gift guide that is guaranteed to put a smile on your barista’s face. (Unless you’re crushing. That’s just weird.)
1. Travel Mug
As much as we all wish we could slowly sip that first cup of coffee in a ceramic mug while leisurely reading the morning paper, sometimes you got to take your coffee to go. These matte black travel mugs from Louisville’s Quills Coffee (my own place of employment) offer double-walled, vacuum-sealed insulation and a airtight lid that isn’t going to leak. The original design by Quills’s owner and founder Nathan Quillo is pretty nifty too. You might be surprised to discover that 8 ounces is the perfect amount of coffee for a barista- we really don’t drink that much!
2. OE Lido Hand Grinder
We can’t say it enough, your grinder is your most important piece of coffee equipment. Without a good one you can’t make good coffee. No exceptions. As we’ve written elsewhere, we love hand grinders, which allow you to save money on electronics and spend it on a good burr set. We’ve used a lot of hand grinders, but Idaho’s Orphan Espresso makes the best. The recently released Lido 3 features a collapsable handle, but we still prefer the Lido 2, which features 48mm Italian steel burrs and more metal parts. Read our full review for the low down.
A lumberjack needs an axe, a chef needs a knife, and a barista needs a good tamper. Australian coffee super star Matt Perger designed this tamp to maximize extraction by increasing the surface area of a conventional tamper by 2 cm2. That small improvement has a huge impact on flavor. The Pergtamp is available in the USA through Heart Roasters.
4. Coffee Subscription
Trust us, coffee is the last thing your barista wants for Christmas, unless that coffee is from Copenhagen’s acclaimed roaster the Coffee Collective. Founded in 2007 by four coffee industry veterans, the Coffee Collective has remained on the bleeding edge of the coffee industry. With a rigorous direct trade program and a distinctively light roasting style, the Coffee Collective offers a coffee tasting experience like few others. And with a strong dollar and free international shipping it’s never been easier to enjoy the benefits of the Coffee Collective’s subscription program stateside.
5. Coffee Compass T Shirt
A Coffee Compass original. These beautiful t shirts designed by Ryan Harrison feature our logo and everyone’s favorite grinder, the Mahlkönig EK43. Only downside? The American Apparel 50/50 fabric is so comfy you’ll never want to take it off. Interested in one or two or a dozen? Email us.
6. La Marzocco Linea Mini
Looking for something extravagant for the retired barista in your life? It’s hard to beat the La Marzocco Linea Mini. The Linea Mini features preinfusion, temperature control, and a steam wand powerful enough to pour some killer latte art. No one misses 4 AM alarms or mocha syrup stains on clothes, but every former barista misses making themselves a cappuccino.
Your barista’s biggest secret: they never make coffee at home. When you’re already in a coffee shop 40 hours a week it’s a lot easier to swing by the shop for a quick espresso on your day off. But sometimes you have to visit your parents/in-laws/ go camping, and that’s exactly why your barista needs an Aeropress. Its compact, collapsable size makes its perfect for travel and most techniques don’t require any other equipment besides a timer and scale, making it ideal to throw in a backpack and take on the road.
8. Acaia Lunar
Do you know why your barista is better than you at making a coffee? They use a scale. And if they could afford it, they would use this one. Autotare and autostart timer are just a couple features on the Acaia Lunar. And did we mention it’s completely water proof? Lucky for you, our sponsors Prima Coffee have one of the best deals on the Acaia Lunar on the internet.
9. Greenway Coffee Co. x Yuketan Sneaker Moc High
Yes, your barista makes only slight more than minimum wage, but they still love designer clothes. There’s a pretty good chance they’re stashing their tips aways to get a pair of these Yuketan Sneaker Moc Highs, designed in collaboration with Houston’s Greenway Coffee. Steel shank reinforced arch support and a cork outsole are designed with the service industry in mind.
10. Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker
Do you know your barista really wants for Christmas? To be able to get their first cup of coffee every morning without doing anything. Which is exactly why you should get them a Wilfa Precision Coffee Maker. World Barista Champion/ coffee farmer Tim Wendelboe served as the lead consultant on this device, which is beautiful in both form and function. Read why our friend Brian Beyke loves his Wilfa.