For coffee drinkers, there seems to be an ever present search for the perfect coffee accessories, such as the right mug or thermos, a good storage container to keep beans fresh, or even the best grinder to ensure a consistent brew for every pot. Fortunately, there are tons of choices in the market in any price range; but, with so many choices, it is difficult to really know which accessories are worth the money, and which are not. Here is a guide to some coffee accessories that are worth taking a second look at.
Good coffee cannot be made with poorly-ground beans therefore; coffee grinders are a very important part of making coffee or espresso. Two basic types of grinders exist, the blade grinder and the burr grinder. Least expensive of the two is the blade grinder, which has a metal blade inside to chop the coffee beans. You are able to control the fineness of the coffee beans by how long you let the grinder run. Problems with the blade grinder include uneven grounds which can lead to inconsistent brew quality, and heating of the grounds by the spinning blade causing the coffee to taste burned. Braun and Cuisinart both offer blade coffee grinders that are durable and cheap, and worth using for the coffee novice. Burr grinders crush beans between a grinding wheel and a non-moving surface, which allows for a more consistent and quiet grind. These grinders will not clog with oily or flavored coffee beans. The Gaggia MDF ($150.00) is a solid burr grinder that can be used for coffee or espresso grinding. It is a reliable machine that will last a very long time with a little cleaning and servicing here and there. For the very selective connoisseur, the Anfim Burr grinder ($500+) is a top quality grinder that is very quiet and out-performs many other expensive brands.
Perhaps even more important than grinding is coffee storage – even a well ground stale bean will not taste good. Whole bean coffee, once opened, will stay good for one to two weeks, but must be kept in an airtight container out of the sun (rolling up the coffee bag is not enough to protect the beans). Because coffee beans will absorb tastes and flavors from cheap metal or plastic, use of a glass jar or one with a non-contaminating surface is best. La Pavoni ($18.00) makes a green glass jar with sealable lid which protects the beans not only from fresh air, but from the sun as well. Another very good glass jar is the Bodum Yokhi 32 ounce ($8.50), which is very inexpensive, can be cleaned in the dishwasher, and is made out of borosilicate glass which will not absorb any smells. The Cadillac of coffee storage jars has to be the Bean Vac battery operated vacuum coffee canister ($39.95) which will create a vacuum seal by the push of a button in under a minute. Vacuum storage will add significant life to coffee beans, and the inner sleeve of the container is made of high heat ABS, a plastic specifically made for chemical resistance. The Bean Vac has a very stylish stainless-steel appearance, and it can be used for travel because it is cordless!
Now, almost every coffee drinker out there seems to have a certain mug that they prefer to use each day for their coffee. Maybe it’s just a habit, or maybe coffee tastes better out of a ‘seasoned’ mug. In any case, there are literally thousands of different sizes and types of coffee mugs available, ranging from personalized mugs with pictures of family or friends, to mugs with catchy phrases, to plain white cups. For everyday drinking, it is really up to each individual coffee drinker as to which mug is best, although a bigger mug (whatever the design) does allow fewer trip back and forth to the coffee pot. The real difference in coffee mugs comes to those that travel; one stands out above the rest, and was even voted “best mug” by the Wall-Street Journal. This mug, made by oDelish Baking Company ($22.95) holds 18 ounces of coffee, is completely spill-proof when the lid is on, and even converts to a left-handed model for those lefties out there! It comes in stainless steel, pearlescent blue, or fire engine red, and is a must-have for any coffee drinker on the go.
Coffee accessories are a very significant part of brewing, drinking, and enjoying a good cup of coffee. More importantly, making good coffee at home can save you money, and cut down on waste (to-go cups from coffee shops are not good for the environment!). Find your favorite accessories, and if you do happen to need coffee on the run, have the barista use your awesome new travel mug instead of a Styrofoam cup; not only is your mug more stylish, but it will help you conserve natural resources as well!