Occam’s razor: A philosophical principle suggesting that simpler explanations tend to be better than complex ones. It has broad application, from medicine to ethics to proofs of the existence of God. Now if we apply the razor to our morning coffee, as the thinking men of Gear Patrol are wont to do, we can scrap our fancy drip machines and super-automatic espresso makers and still get a world-class cup of coffee without doing much more than pouring hot water over coffee grounds. We’ve assembled a pour over kit with all the basics to get you started — at a very affordable price.
Know your espresso
By definition, espresso is a relatively simple: 1 oz of coffee beverage made from 7 grams of ground beans, brewed under 9 bar of pressure, at roughly 200 degrees F. Plus or minus. To give you some context, the highest-pressure showerheads top out around 100 psi — not quite enough pound force to make it rain crema. Espresso is both brewing process and beverage invented by the Italians (c. 1884), its name implying speed and singularity of purpose. Our friends at La Colombe Torrefaction were kind enough to meet us one morning during the Fortnight to make the battery of espresso beverages. They were as good as they look. And none of us slept that night.
A brief, rational treatise on going without
If I were to drink caffeine my torso would explode. My cardiologist, who I can only assume double majored in pre-med and “buzzkill” as an undergrad, told me if I didn’t avoid nicotine use (not an issue), moderate my alcohol intake (I had to look up what that meant) and completely curb caffeine intake, I’d end up re-staging the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique scene in “Kill Bill”, in which I would play both Uma Thurman and David Caradine. What I’m saying is it’d be coronary suicide to caffeinate myself.
We Don't See Nothin' Wrong With a Little Bump and Grind
You like the line at your favorite coffee shop? Ok, besides the cute barista, you can do better: start by grinding your own beans, then check back with Gear Patrol for other suggestions for stepping up to the big leagues. The journey from coffee hack to ambrosia connoisseur begins with freshly ground java in your French press, drip, or espresso machine. A quick primer first, and then on to our top 10 picks.
Coffee table, meet coffee book
Left unattended, the ubiquitous coffee table quickly becomes a gatekeeper of everything from last October’s cable bill (you paid that, didn’t you?) to the feet of undisciplined friends and family. We know you run a tighter ship than most and appreciate how a well-placed read can stimulate conversations faster than a triple shot. Here’s a crop of coffee-themed books worthy of displacing Ansel Adams or your decades-long dedication to the Maxim Hot 100.
Great outdoors, great coffee
Something about sitting atop an unexplored peak to watch the sunrise while enjoying your favorite coffee just feels right. Maybe it’s the sub-freezing temperatures and obligatory wind chill, or it’s the all night trek catching up with you. With that in mind, we’ve got the best tried and true methods for brewing your favorite coffee for you next adventure, be it a weekend of car camping or a full blown backcountry expedition.
These are a few of our favorite things
One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is roll out of bed at 5:30 a.m., grab a camera and my jacket and drive 48 miles from LA to a business park in Irvine. There, on any given Saturday, hundreds of cars worth millions of dollars gather for Cars and Coffee, a special event where two common denominators create a mood of friendship, relaxation and shared passion.
Watch closely now
If you need proof of coffee practiced as an obsession, art form and science, this quick video — a “how-to” on making a cup of espresso — is exhibit A. Intellegentsia Coffee in Venice, California can come off as a little pretentious at first; but what you’re really seeing is an unabashed expertise in truly great coffee. “We take every single step in the chain, from seed to cup, as seriously as possible”, Kyle Glanville extols. We believe him.
Coffee for the man on the move
Instant coffee belongs to the category of cultural food relics, the type of product introduced at a World’s Fair, perfected with the help of military research, and eventually relegated to the pantries of grandmothers everywhere. It’s a food item for people at the fringes: too old, too tired, too time-strapped, cookies for breakfast, sweatpants all day. Coffee purists will swat it from your hand. But we’ve all got a little stash just in case, don’t we?
Because the beautiful thing about instant coffee is that it’s cheap, fast and the lowest-volume solution for getting a coffee fix on the move. We surveyed the market to find the best instant coffees readily available in grocery stores. We weren’t looking for something that stacks up to a cup of Zambian Ljulu Lipati from Intelligentsia, but we did want a close approximation to freshly brewed coffee.
Unique beans, unique brew
When you’re drinking coffee named after a mesh wire size, you’ve reached that level of serious entanglement that some might call obsession. Stumptown’s Panama Duncan Estate Mesh 15 ($23) embraces its intimate small-batch story in the way that really serious (and expensive) products should.
Hot coffee, un-burned crotch
Life seems to get difficult quick if you can’t bring your coffee with you; but if you spill, your treasured drink can become a mortal enemy. Nobody wants that. The solution is a great travel mug — one that keeps your coffee hot, your sips accessible and your crotch free of searing pain and disappointment. Finding the best mug for your cup holder (or mesh slot on your favorite backpack) isn’t as easy as you’d think, but we’ve gone ahead and done it anyway, because hell, it’s the Fortnight of Coffee. Here’s five great mugs, ranging from 12 to 17 ounces, for the backcountry hippie to the sharply dressed office warrior.
Better your inner barista
Let’s face it: the average North American spends less time contemplating the beans behind his morning motivator than it takes his barista to scowl disapprovingly. To open his eyes and shed a little light into those dark waters, the GP team delves into the differences between single origin and blended coffees. Our goal? To arm you with information on micro-lot farming, blend aging and why that cup tastes the way it does. It’s all about being informed and maximizing enjoyment in your every-morning drink. So put on your scholar cap, pour yourself a cup and read on to explore the methods used to turn those remarkable beans into a masterpiece.
In Search of Higher Grounds
Where did that coffee in your hand come from? We profile the major coffee growing regions of the world, helping you make an informed decision when it comes to Brazilian versus Indonesian, Colombian versus Monsoon beans from India. Grab a cup and study up.
Knowledge, Caffeinated Lore and Tools of the Brew
Ask any coffee aficionado about the best method for brewing a cup and they’ll rifle off one of several manual techniques. That’s because doing it yourself is far more precise than your average Mr. Sloppy in terms of water temperature and distribution, which are key for the proper extraction of coffee bean oils. Behmor’s Brazen…
A baker's dozen for the culinary nut
Blame Anthony Bourdain and his gallivanting food porn circus. Blame Bravo’s utterly watchable, bro-it’s-not-reality-TV show, Top Chef. Blame the hipsters, the bandwagoners, the trust-funders — and for Guy Fieri’s sake — please, someone, blame Bobby Flay. Because if one thing is certain in today’s chow-crazy culture, it’s that you’ve got a foodie on your holiday…
Fostering your addiction
If you sneer when people ask “cream and sugar?” you have two problems: a mean attitude and a nasty coffee addiction. La Colombe Pure Black ($6) coffee concentrate aims to abate the latter (which, fortunately, may also dismiss the former). The bottled java is steeped for 16 hours in stainless steel wine tanks — ah,…
The Fort Knox of coffee
We appreciate the chain cup o’ joes that keep us rolling on the road; but at home, we especially attend to the efforts and offerings of the world’s coffee-roasting elite. To make sure those efforts don’t go to pot, keep your morning motivators in the Friis Coffee Vault ($22+). Like most coffee canisters, the Friis…
Rise and Grind
Regardless of what those holiday commercials suggested as you were growing up, you can’t get excellent coffee by just scooping it out of a refrigerated red container. Grinding fresh beans is the fastest way to improve the quality of your coffee, but the way you grind is a big question mark. The Baratza Virtuoso ($249)…
Thanks a latte
If you don’t yet have a single cup coffee maker, you probably will soon. And if you’re a ‘Bucks addict, your buy date just got bumped up. The Starbucks Verismo ($199+) maker takes a big step forward in home coffee brewers, providing a multitude of professional-level drinks in the comfort of your own home. Where…
Map o’ Java
We like our women coffee strong and sweet but regardless of your preferences, the Compendium of Coffee has the range covered. An exploration of the various grinds (extra-coarse to extra-fine), production methods (steeping, pour-over or drip, vacuum, or pressure) and outputs (coffee; regular or concentrated; espresso; ristretto, normal or lungo), adulterants (sugar, melted chocolate, sweetened…
A good cup of espresso can turn a bad day into a very good one. A bad cup can do the opposite. You can avoid the latter altogether with Fracino Espresso Machines, built in the UK for high end hotels, restaurants, and the best coffee shops around the world. Using ISO 9001 quality standards, their…
Get it while it's (not) hot
Thought there was already a coffee maker for every type of drinker? You’re wrong. The Bodum Bean Set Iced Coffee Press ($45) is a 1.5 liter French press specifically “designed” for making cold-brewed iced coffee. In reality, the only distinction here is an additional lid that replaces the plunger while the grinds steep in the…
Discovering Local Frontiers
As the co-founder of the Philly-based coffee roaster, La Colombe, and the company’s main sourcer, Todd Carmichael spends much of his time traveling the world in search of the highest quality, ethically traded coffee available, and soon you’ll be to able to follow his adventures through his upcoming Travel Channel Show, Coffee Hunters. But running…
We’ve covered plenty of solutions for drinking Barista-grade coffee out in the bush, but European brand Grower’s Cup should win the lazy bon vivant’s stamp of approval. Each of their Coffeebrewer bags are self-described as a disposable french press. Every bag contains a filter with 26 grams of specialty coffee — good for brewing up…
These beans count
Whether or not you’re a fan of the recently passed health care legislation, we can all agree that the good ol’ US of A could use a little help these days. That’s why the Seattle-based coffee giant has introduced Starbucks Indivisible Blend. Sold both by the cup and in one-pound whole bean bags, the blonde…
The Cafino Coffee Maker ($165) is a lean coffee brewer with a tasteful aesthetic meant to ease the daily grind. Made of borosilicate glass (thermal stress resistant — think Pyrex) and stainless steel, this Tassilo von Grolman designed brewer utilizes a steel mesh sieve to reduce waste while extracting the perfect flavor. After brewing, remove the…
Camping requires plenty of tradeoffs, but your morning routine is one area where you shouldn’t have to sacrifice. Highly functional and highly stylish brand Nau felt your pain and collaborated with Snow Peak to create the Nau luxe cafe kit ($125). It’s a lightweight set that provides most of the comfort of a typical brunch…
For pressing needs in the outback
There’s nothing like the great outdoors, and for your money, that first cup of coffee on a cool wilderness morning is as good as it gets. But such serenity is easily undermined by a flat, bitter cup of instant coffee. Your delicate French press doesn’t really fit in the woods, but that shouldn’t keep you…
K-Cup, The Next Generation...
We’ve previously discussed the virtues of the Keurig brewing system and its thankfully-ubiquitous K-cup as a handy solution for a quick fix of caffeine. Now after years of success, it’s time to introduce K-cup’s second act – the Keurig Vue ($212). Gone are the days of having only one “brew” choice, and only physical buttons. Now…