‘I’m a Professional Barista, and This Is the Best Affordable At-Home Coffee Machine’

Photo: Getty Images / Granger Wootz
In the age of the pandemic, many of us have learned how to be a bit more self-sufficient. We’ve become our own mixologists, our own chefs, and most certainly, our own baristas. After all, who needs a $5 latte when you can make one for far less at home?

Of course, in order to fully recreate the experience of a coffee-shop quality cup of beans, you’ll need not only the right ingredients but the right tools as well. So who better to ask than a barista? We tapped a few to learn exactly what the best affordable coffee maker is—and how to use it.

The winner: Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker, $48

Adam Khalil, lead barista at Cafe Riggs in Washington, D.C., doesn't rely on fancy contraptions when making himself a cup of coffee at home. “I love the Chemex pour-over coffee maker,” he says. “The coffee it makes is smooth yet full of flavor.” He recommends this affordable coffee maker in particular for folks searching for pure, flavorful, but not-so-bitter coffee.

Illycafe’s master barista Giorgio Milos agrees that Chemex is one of the best affordable coffee makers out there. “I particularly like it because of the beauty of the carafe and the cleanness of the coffee due to its filter that is thicker than others,” he says. “It retains more oils so the final cup is maybe a little bit lighter in taste but less bitter and cleaner.” And if you’re really feeling ambitious, Milos suggests combining coffee from a French press and then filtering it out with a Chemex carafe to make a “more aromatic but cleaner cup of coffee.”

chemex classic 6-cup affordable coffee maker
Photo: Chemex

Shop now: Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffee Maker, $48


Unlike other pour-over coffee makers, which often sit directly on top of your coffee cup and are single-serving, the Chemex can brew multiple cups of coffee at once using the same technique. How it works: Add a filter into the top of the carafe, then add your grounds. Pour hot water over the grounds, and the brewed, filtered coffee will stream into the bottom part of the carafe. How much grounds to add depends on your taste preferences and how much coffee you're making—and may come with a slight learning curve, Khalil admits. Still, “its coffee-making abilities are a match for even the best pour-over pros.”

You will need some other accessories in order to brew in a Chemex, specifically coffee filters and something to boil water with, like an electric tea kettle. (You can also check out reuseable coffee filters to be more eco-friendly—like the Able Kone, $40, which is stainless steel and designed to fit in a Chemex.) But once you have everything together, it's pretty easy to get going.

While you can use any high-quality coarse coffee grounds in a Chemex, Khalil is partial to Indonesian varietals. “If you own a Chemex, consider getting coffee from Indonesia’s island of Sumatra,” he suggests. “This coffee has dried fruit tones and a nutty base. It also has a sweet aftertaste that lingers well after each sip. These flavors really come out with the Chemex.”

Barista-worthy coffee without spending more than $50 on a new machine? Done and done. Your quarantine coffee ritual will be all the better for it.

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