A Coffee Expert Reviews Coffee Gadgets

Brad Morrison of Dark Arts Coffee breaks down the ups and downs of coffee gadgets. Which are great and which are useless? Read on to find out.
Brad Morrison
Brad Morrison of Dark Arts Coffee.

How do you make your coffee? Do you take precious time out of your day to make yourself the perfect cup of coffee with a V60? Or do you simply shovel instant coffee granules into your gob, swish it round with lukewarm tap water, and hope for the best? Regardless of how you make your morning coffee, there's no denying the importance of having some form of caffeine in your system. Going to your local coffee shop is highly recommended – it's an excellent way to support local businesses and guarantee yourself a brilliant cup of joe but doing that every day will eat at your funds.

The solution is to learn how to make a decent cup of coffee in the sanctity of your own home, with one of the biggest temptations of doing that being the astonishing array of coffee gadgets and gizmos out there. There's nothing wrong with using a humble percolator but if every website on the internet is trying to convince you to buy an iced coffee maker or a bespoke milk frother, it's easy to feel like you might be missing a trick. But how do you know which gadgets are worth the money and which are, well, complete crap? If you're Brad Morrison – the answer to that is simple: you just know. Brad is the owner of Dark Arts Coffee and a coffee expert. He's had more cups of coffee than you've had hot dinners and I asked him to kindly review some of the various coffee gadgets out there. Here's what he had to say....

Nanopresso

Nanopresso

Don’t do it. If you’re looking for a travel companion to allow you to drink good coffee when you are wandering deep in the wilderness, buy an AeroPress. You will need a source of hot water to brew with the Nanoespresso so this travel companion will also need to be accompanied by a kettle or thermos and although it doesn’t do a bad job of extracting coffee from a pod, for me, it’s a little much for such a tiny amount of liquid. Also, if you are having to carry a thermos maybe just fill that thermos with filter coffee.

Chemex Ottomatic 2.0

Chemex ottomatic detail 1

So, this guy is basically a drip coffee machine where the vessel is a Chemex. There are plenty of products out there on the market that does this into different size and shaped vessels. The most popular being the Moccamaster by Technivorm or the Wilfa Classic+ Coffee Maker. The Chemex is a very popular brewer (so popular in fact it’s been sold out from anywhere in the UK since last year) but is this automatic brewer worth the £320.00 it’s selling for right now? I’m going to say no. For half the price you can grab yourself one of the alternatives mentioned above. They are both super reliable brewers and are great for using at home and even in some smaller coffee shops. Leave the Chemex for manual pouring with a lovely kettle so you can enjoy the process.

Ember Temperature Control Mug 2

Ember Temperature Control Mug 2

I do really like the idea of being able to keep my coffee at the same temperature no matter how long it takes me to drink it, however, the cost of this mug just makes it a bit hard to completely get behind. If £120 is no issue to you then I would say go for it, otherwise, go buy yourself a YETI mug. They are made with weird thermos tech and keep things both cold or hot for silly amounts of time.
Also, if anyone sees you have this mug it will be hard to avoid being made fun of so maybe this is a home office purchase.

Hario Skerton Hand Coffee Grinder

Hario Skerton Hand Coffee Grinder

Great home hand grinder. Ceramic burrs, adjustable grind and for only £40 you really can't go wrong here. If you're looking to get into grinding your coffee fresh and don't want to commit to an expensive electric grinder, I highly recommend grabbing one of these. You are going to notice the difference immediately in the flavour of your coffee. If you're looking for a travel companion this one is a little bigger than say the Porlex mini or Rhino travel options however its capacity of 115g dwarfs the Rhino travel which has 25g and the Porlex mini at 20g. Both have larger options but even those top out at 30 & 40g respectively.

Zulay Original Milk Frother

Zulay Original Milk Frother

For the price, this was surprisingly a really great product. It's handheld so there is definitely a technique here in trying to get silky smooth milk but after a couple of tries, I was getting a pretty good result. It's definitely not going to be barista-quality milk but if you heat your milk in a saucepan and then froth using the Zulay Original in a separate jug I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Definitely great for Latte and Cappuccino drinkers. A tip would be to watch some milk frothing videos on YouTube and copy the whirlpool technique baristas use to steam/froth milk. This will help to remove as many of the bubbles as possible and get that creamy texture.

Swan, Automatic Milk Frother

Swan Automatic Milk Frother

So this guy heats and froths milk so I was pretty interested in trying this as my 3-year-old is obsessed with babycinos and if I am able to create this quickly and easily at home, I will not only be dad of the year, I would potentially have a tantrum defeating tool. It’s very easy to use with a single button on the front and has two modes, froth cold or heat and froth. I didn't bother with the frothing cold milk as that just seems weird. You pour milk in up to a very low line in the jug and press the button. About a minute later it's done. The consistency is pretty good albeit there is almost no actual liquid left and the entire vessel is now filled with a cappuccino style foam. The temperature is hot enough and I can see this being great for those with a home espresso or pod machine without a steam wand. If you like your milk a little ‘wetter’ or less foamy this one might not be the best for you. But now to the real test which was my 3-year-old. Poured a little cold milk into a small cup and poured the foam over the top. Quick sprinkle of chocolate on top and boom. Homemade babyccino in 60 seconds. The little one loved it and ate most of it with a spoon. This is a win for me. Customer is happy.

Breville Iced Coffee Maker

Breville Iced Coffee Maker

Ok, so this guy is basically just a drip coffee maker with a purpose-made reusable cup. The same as the Chemex Ottomatic 2.0 or the Wilfa Classic Coffee Maker, there is a water reservoir at the back, which is heated, this then pushes the water up and over onto a filter basket where you will have your ground coffee waiting. The result is a slow pour of hot water over the coffee that then drips down into a vessel - in this case, the plastic cup. For this brewer, I guess the cup is one of the main points of difference. The whole brewer is quite tall allowing for a very large cup to sit underneath. The cup also comes with a lid and straw which is pretty handy - it has a very Starbucks vibe to its size. The plastic is also very robust and feels like it will last a long time. Another good thing about this coffee maker is that the filter basket is washable. The filter is really easy to clean and is only a mild inconvenience. Now, I am a little torn with this one as I kind of like it and it's also very cheap so obtainable for almost everyone. I guess the way to break it down would be that if you are looking for a brewer and don't have one yet, I would recommend the Wilfa Classic Coffee Maker. It is essentially the same thing and you can always use a different reusable cup, fill it with ice, and then pour your batch over that after brewing. This will then allow you to make hot brews too and keep them warm on its hot plate. If the price of the Wilfa Classic is a bit much though and you really only ever drink ice coffee then this coffee maker will be perfect for you.

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