If there were a choose-your-own-adventure guide to finding a coffee maker, four choices would determine the plot twist.
First, paper filter or metal filter, and then immersion or pour-over. A paper filter lets less sediment and lipids through, says Bailey Manson, education and service program manager for Intelligentsia, a hip coffee roaster based in Chicago. That makes for a lighter, thinner mouthfeel and more aromatics. A French press makes an immersion brew, in which water sits with the coffee, while pour-overs allow the water to briefly pass through the grounds.
Then there's time. Do you want the morning ritual of a multiple-step process, or do you need to push a button and get out the door?
Finally, how much coffee do you need to make? A one-cup pour would do the trick if you're a one-cup person, but if you're making coffee for two adults and even grown children, a big pot should be considered.
Sometimes, though, the answer is not either-or but both-and, says Brian Jones, author of "Brew: Better Coffee at Home." "There's also no rule against having several different brew methods," he says. "It's nice to be able to switch up the method depending on your mood, your company or the type of coffee you're brewing."
As design director for HGTV Home, Nancy Fire circles the globe to find trendy goods and inspiration. When she's home to relax from her travels, she likes to use the Double-Wall Glass French Press ($49.95, williams-sonoma.com).
"It is so durable, and it always keeps the coffee hotter for longer," she says. "I keep this press out in the country, and it's the perfect way to make morning coffee on the weekends."
Attractive enough to sit out on the counter, this French press has insulated walls that keep it warm longer.
Every morning, Adam Mahr, owner of the gift and housewares shop A Mano in Washington, steeps his coffee grounds in the Espro Press P7 after a favored ritual ($99.95-$119.95, espro.com). He chooses a dark bean from Brazil, Colombia or Ethiopia, then grinds it just before brewing to preserve the beans' oil. He heats water on the stove, cutting it off right before it boils, then heats the stainless-steel press with hot water before putting the grounds and coffee water in. The unique double filter keeps the grounds from sludging up the coffee. Last, a timer is set for four to five minutes. "Every morning, I go down, feed the dogs, make my coffee, watch 'Morning Joe' and then begin my day," he says.
"My go-to choice for brewing coffee almost every morning is a Hario V60," says Jones, who is also co-founder of a coffee-roasting company and the java brain behind the website Dear Coffee, I Love You.
"It's a round pour-over dripper with a hole ... and spiral ridges to help with water flow while brewing." He likes a lighter, cleaner flavor profile, offered by the pour-over ($25, surlatable.com).
When drinking at home, Manson of Intelligentsia prefers his thrift-store Chemex. "I like the clarity and cleanliness that I get from a paper filter," he says. For something similar, he recommends the Six-Cup Glass-Handle Chemex ($43.50, chemexcoffeemaker.com). The glass neck makes for better ergonomics, he says.
For a truly excellent cup of coffee, he recommends investing at least $100 in a high-quality grinder.