This Coffee Gear Will Make Your Next Vacation a Lot Easier. Gq кофе
The Chillest City with the World's Best Coffee
There is not a single better place in the world right now to feed a low-key coffee addiction.
You could forgive Kyoto a degree of second city syndrome, if it had it. Kyoto, after all, has a third of the land area of Tokyo, one-sixth its population, and one one-hundredth the number of bright, loud, perfect, ridiculous, flashing things as there are in Japan’s sprawling capital. The thing is, though, it's the rare kid-brother city that seems to function in a vacuum of its own legitimacy, completely unaffected by the overachieving neighbor a bullet-train-ride away. Maybe that's because it's less a kid brother than a much older one—and itself a former imperial capital. As one local put it to me, "People from Kyoto are really proud of the fact that they're from Kyoto. No one leaves."
For a demitasse-sized taste of the root of that pride, go out and grab a cup of coffee. While there are plenty of hip and otherwise excellent coffee bars spread out over the endless maze of Tokyo, a walk around the low-lying grid of Kyoto reveals a city not only chock-full of them, but manageably so. You can, for instance, stay for three or four days and traverse much of the city's core; on each outing, regardless of where you end up, you'll never be more than a short stroll away from a damn-fine espresso.
I'm a two-a-day espresso drinker, the result of not just a feedback loop of early-thirties anxiety, but several years, in college and immediately after, of paying the bills by working the machine at a fancy third wave roaster. So I say this with both credentials and a decade-plus of market research: There is not a single better place in the world right now to feed a low-key coffee addiction. Here, in no particular order, are the five best places in Kyoto to grab a cup.
Ichikawaya CoffeeYou'll start here, at family-owned Ichikawa-ya, on a backstreet on the east side of the Kamo River. The small shop, dim but for light pouring in from its courtyard, roasts its own beans, and offers three house blends: the bright, medium-bodied Ichikawa-ya blend; the refreshing Sieji blend, and the full, strong, punch-in-the-palate Umamachi blend. Also of note is a house iced coffee and–dangerously–a menu-wide policy ofits across- the- board discounted refills.
On a crooked alley-sized street near the Fushimi Inari Shrine (those are the orange gates you see all over Instagram), the Fukakusa Kaidoguchicho location of Vermillion (there's another, smaller one nearby) is a chill, unpretentious respite from the hoards of picture-taking crowds just around the corner. Vermillion sources from Weekenders across town (and also on this list), but the effort saved on roasting goes right back into brewing. An outrageous matcha latte completes the menu; doors opening to a lush backyard complete the living room-like space.
Head out to the western edge of Kyoto–the area of the city frequented by both bamboo forest gawkers and tourists trekking up the mountain to feed apples to macaques–and you'll find, in a teeny, tiny building near the river, the Arashiyama location of % Arabica. It seems crazy that the spot can fit, simultaneously, baristas and customers and a roasting machine, but somehow it manages–at peak hours, the overflow spills into a line out the door. % Arabica has the branding thing down pat; it would be the best designed coffee brand in any American city, and also maybe one of the best tasting. That it's here, in three locations in Kyoto (plus two in Hong Kong and six outposts in the Middle East), surrounded by the worthy competition of the other spots on this list, is pretty much just not fair.
WeekendersBy all accounts, Weekenders was on the leading edge of the Kyoto coffee craze when a husband-and-wife team opened their shop in 2006. Their coffee bar sits at the very back of a parking lot wedged between two office buildings, but it is, despite that, one of the most picturesque little retreats in town: a light wood bar opened up to a small, leafy patio, ivy running up the white walls. It's as if a house was flung via storm from some mythical espresso-worshipping land very far away. Despite being one of the first shops to bring coffee culture to Kyoto, Weekenders is still making moves: they started doing their own roasting here last year.
SentidoNearby, in a storefront in the busy downtown area, Sentido is an unassuming shop decked out in Scandinavian-style blonde wood, with light bites and finely sourced coffee from the around the world. The buyers here are clearly geeks about the farms from which they source their beans, offering guests both a regular blend and a rotating single origin option. Always choose the latter.
If you go...You can't sleep on coffee beans (can you?) but you can splurge on a room at the city's best address, The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, hard up against the banks of the Kamo River. It's the kind of place where walking in the front door feels both immediately transportive and perfectly situated in its place–a new building designed to play off the old architecture surrounding it, slung low and long and filled with things both local (a top-notch sushi bar; a tranquil spa) and familiar (hamburgers). If a Ritz property isn't in your budget, shack up at Hotel Noku, near the southern edge of the grounds of the Sentō Imperial Palace. It's moderately priced and clean, and located right off one of the city's main subway lines.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE
The 5 best coffee shops in the world
Having consulted with 150 coffee experts and brilliant baristas, a new book names the best cafés, bakeries and restaurants where caffeine addicts can get the perfect hit from their favourite fix. And of the 600-plus places mentioned, author Liz Clayton has picked her top five. Are they really the best coffee shops in the world? According to these experts, they might just be...
G&B Coffee (Grand Central Market), LA
“For the quality of the drinks, but also for all the systems they’ve put together to provide the best service possible and the best drinks. They are able to deliver what the customers want but also lead them to more specialised cups.” — Nicolas Clerc
“My favourite place to have an espresso is at G&B. I prefer that my espresso tastes more like a filter coffee. I prefer their larger extractions that are served in a Gibraltar glass that you sip at a warm temperature, while saddled up at the bar chatting with friends.” — Laila Ghambari Willbur
“The Fizzy Hoppy Tea soda at G&B was startlingly delicious. I wasn’t quite sure what it was when it was served to me with my espresso, but since it was bubbly, I assumed it was some type of soda water. It was such an amazing complement to the espresso (an Ethiopian coffee from Heart) and I was taken aback. They make it in-house and at the time I had it, it was a blend of two black teas, which they then infused with hops and carbonated it. A lot more gentle on the palate than straight-up soda water.” — Ben Helfen
“G&B is lucky to exist, and at the same time, they’re at the forefront of what’s being done with coffee service, which I think you can say about any business doing anything innovative or new in food. They lucked into an amazing location at Grand Central Market, because for the first time someone saw them as Angelenos in a sea of coffee companies from elsewhere trying to infiltrate the LA coffee market [neither G nor B is from Los Angeles]. The service is casual. You come as you are; they meet you halfway. They somehow manage this dance while maintaining really high quality in the cup, which no one else had really cracked the code to until G&B. They seem to want to rewrite the way everything has been done in coffee to this point, including how much a barista can produce, which has been an amazing thing to observe, but as a customer, all they ask is that you approach the bar instead of queuing in line—the rest is really seamless.” — Ben Kaminsky
“I’ve never cared about coffee pairings. I like the idea of using coffee as an ingredient. The only notable way that I’ve really seen it work, though, is in the espresso milkshake at G&B.” — Jay Lijewski
“I like the friendly service and the way that the service model is more akin to a bar than a coffee shop. I often find myself engaging the staff and other customers due to this layout, and that matches the social ideal that I appreciate in a coffeehouse. They consistently add new offerings and this evolution of their menu ensures that I can experience something different on a regular basis. Additionally, I have a lot of friends on the staff and it makes it that much more welcoming.” — Doug Palas
317 South Broadway, Downtown, Los Angeles, California 90013. USA. gandbcoffee.com
La Fontaine De Belleville
It seemed like the talented team behind Belleville Brûlerie was holding out from opening a traditional retail business. Many of the city’s finest cafes already relied on their beans. But in 2016, owners Thomas Lehoux and American expat David Nigel Flynn proved to their fans in the Tenth that their wait was not in vain: La Fontaine De Belleville became the first contemporary specialty cafe to open in Paris in the style of a traditional Parisian cafe. The classically styled corner spot is filled with the vintage charm (and delicious food) you’d expect from the city – replete with a smoker-filled patio – but with, in a new twist, brilliant coffee alongside. And there is wine.
31–33 Rue Juliette Dodu, 10th Arrondissement, Paris 75010. Francelafontaine.cafesbelleville.com
The Coffee Collective
“When I’m in transit in Copenhagen Airport, I usually go to their place in Torvehallerne by taking the metro, which is very easy to do. The Coffee Collective in Torvehallerne is in a food market where you can buy everything you need for your dinner parties. The design of the place is a long and open bar, with an espresso machine and brew bar.” — Sonja Björk Grant
“Consistently exquisite coffee and espresso, knowledgeable and friendly staff, beautifully designed cafes and packaging, and beautifully roasted coffee from some of my favorite coffee farms.” — Andrew Barnett
“The best filter coffee was in Copenhagen at Coffee Collective. The coffees there were so clean and crisp.” — Robert Dan Griffin
“Anytime anyone mentions Copenhagen I immediately think of Coffee Collective. When I started in coffee and learned about Klaus Thomsen (2006 World Barista Champion), I knew I wanted to visit. They were famous for their lighter-style roasting, and they had the World Barista Champion and the World Cupping Champion! It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally got to go there, and I was not disappointed. Their friendly service, the atmosphere of their cafes, and the quality of their coffee are still top in the world in my opinion. If they have Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda on the menu, get it!” — Benjamin Put
“I was blown away the first time I went to Coffee Collective in Denmark. Everything from the setting to the roasting facilities was fantastic. The coffees they serve are amazing.” — Fabrizio Sención Ramírez
Vendersgade 6D, Copenhagen 1363. Denmarkcoffeecollective.dk
Heart Coffee Roasters
“The single-origin espresso program at Heart Coffee Roasters is among the most innovative and chance taking I’ve found. They’re out there on the bleeding edge of light roasts, especially in America, and they’re serving these enormous long espresso shots in a cappuccino cup. It is just delicious. You can be innovative and take chances as long as you work really hard and make smart choices along the way.” — Jordan Michelman
“I always have a great espresso experience at Heart Coffee Roasters.” — Andrew Milstead
“The best espresso has come from Heart Coffee Roasters. Wille’s perfectionist nature means the coffee is not necessarily consistent but that it continually improves from the first roast batch of the season to the last. He’s not afraid to make changes, and when he nails a certain coffee, it shows. Sweetness tends to be the name of the game for Heart, and I’ve had some really delicious espressos from that team.” — Ryan Willbur
2211 East Burnside Street, Kerns, Portland, Oregon 97214. USAheartroasters.com
“Every detail is impossibly considered—a sleek juggernaut of Nordic coffee triumphalism, the canonical place to go and learn just what all the fuss is about light roasting and AeroPresses, but also home to one of the best coffee desserts on the planet: the iced cappuccino. They found a vintage blender that gives this treat this most delightfully fluffy texture—refined and refreshing, yet willing to have some fun, much like the eponymous Wendelboe himself.” — Alex Bernson
“The drinks are almost always impeccable, and the service friendly and professional. It’s beautiful and cozy.” — David Latourell
“Remarkable—one of the great coffee places on earth, in a very unassuming neighbourhood in Oslo. I wonder if many of their customers realise how special it is. I have talked to many Oslo residents who have no idea their city has one of the best coffee shops in the world.” — Nathan Myhrvold
“Tim Wendelboe, as a shop, has an amazing story. Wendelboe designed and built it himself, which no one really talks about, despite the fact that it’s a beautiful bar. The drop ceiling (made out of amazing wood, because it’s Scandinavian) of the former space was repurposed as the bar itself. He sands down and restains the floors black every Easter simply because it’s the right thing to do to make the shop look perfect. The fact that the business has just never had to make a qualitative sacrifice is a product of the fact that he has deep-pocket investors who believe in him (and his marketing value) and also that Tim as a person is so well reflected in the shop. He constantly says, ‘Well, it’s my name on the shop, so I’m accountable if it’s not excellent.’ We’ll probably never see another shop like it, and as he will tell you himself, there will never be another shop (in Norway, at least).” — Ben Kaminsky
“I had my mind reset by Tim Varney at Tim Wendelboe in 2010 when I clicked from ristretto to true espresso—being able to enjoy a properly balanced extraction rather than an intense salty double that was so in vogue in Australia. That absolutely reinvigorated my ability to drink espresso coffee again.” — Emily Oak
“I find Tim’s light roasts to be among the best in the world, especially when brewed with Oslo water.” — Sebastian Sztabzyb
“The world’s best coffee roaster/buyer is Tim Wendelboe.” — Tim Varney
Grünersgate 1, Grünerløkka, Oslo 0552. Norwaytimwendelboe.no
Where To Drink Coffee, by Liz Clayton & Avidan Ross (Phaidon, £16.95) is out now.
The Best Bags of Coffee You Can Buy Online
Want to get into coffee? Start with these roasters.
There are infinite ways to ruin a good cup of coffee—the grind’s not right, the pour wasn’t steady enough, water’s too chilly—but the most surefire way to make a bad cup of coffee is to use bad beans. All the fancy coffee-brewing devices in the world can’t turn trash into something delicious. The cash spent outfitting a kitchen with fancy gadgetry would be for naught if you’re going to bring home beans from the supermarket. It’s something I learned the hard way since falling in love with coffee after a roommate busted a Chemex out when I was in college almost a [shivers] decade ago.
Choosing your beans is really where the fun starts in the coffee making process. Getting your foot in the door can feel like quite the undertaking—I once got a bag of beans with the tasting note “avuncular,” but it’s an ultimately satisfying endeavor. Once you have the rig, you can properly start to experiment with what you like. There are infinite permutations between regions, varietals, and the way beans are processed. For instance, a coffee from Ethiopia—typically very sweet and fruity—will taste wildly different than beans from a farm in Central America, which usually produces coffee with nuttier and chocolatier notes. You get real funkiness from a “natural” process, where beans are left to dry and ferment on raised beds, and a more predictable and balanced cup from a washed coffee, where coffees are depulped (remember: coffees are a cherry and the beans are at the center!) through a wet mill. See, we’re having fun already. But finding the best coffees requires more than just walking into your local speciality cafes and throwing a dart.
To minimize the madness, we’ve compiled the list of the best roasters whose beans you can easily buy online. Roasters were chosen based on years of me just living obnoxiously and a taste test (my coffee nerds will know this as a “cupping”) held at the GQ offices.
Our all-out favorite
Heart holds a special place in my own coffee nerd evolution: I made my first great cup of coffee using its beans. And the roaster serves as a great entry point into the specialty coffee world. The Portland-based roaster churns out some extremely fruity beans, making it easy to pick up on their tasting notes. You’ll feel like the owner of a real advanced palette while saying things like, I really taste the mango on this one, while wisely rubbing your chin. It’s also widely available in third wave coffee shops—it’s getting Big to the point where I wake up in cold sweats after dreaming the roaster’s gone the way of Stumptown and Blue Bottle and gotten itself acquired by a corporation like Peets or Nestle. And in our GQ cupping, Heart was far and away the crowd favorite.
The little roaster that could
Coming to you straight from Arkansas is Onyx Coffee Lab. Over the past couple years, Onyx has taken the coffee world by storm. It won first place at the US Roaster Championship and US Brewers Cup Championship and took second at the US Barista Championship all in 2017 alone. The list becomes unwieldy if I go any further. Onyx Coffee Lab earns its accolades—and name—by experimenting with its beans. It won the US Brewers Cup with a coffee that sat in a tank of water, sealed off from oxygen, and left to ferment in its own juices for 80 hours. If you’re looking for funky, experimental beans, you’ll want to order them from Onyx Coffee Lab.
The father of Third Wave
George Howell is a bonafide coffee legend. His original shop, Coffee Connection, was bought by Starbucks in 1994—putting a giddy-up in the corporation’s expansion to Boston—and Howell is widely thought of as the forefather of “third wave” coffee. Howell also advocated intensely on the behalf of lightly roasted beans—a method that makes it possible for you to actually taste all those highfalutin tasting notes on the front of bags. Howell continues roasting top-of-the-line beans today in Boston.
The hipster dream
The story of Tandem is ready-made as the plot of a hipster romcom. Husband and wife duo Will and Kathreen Pratt, both Blue Bottle alums, found the hustle and bustle of the big city (San Francisco) too tiresome. They packed their things and made their way to the other Portland (Maine) and set up a coffee shop and bakery inside an old gas station. From there they started churning out some of the best pastries and coffee in the US. The coffees in particular are special and claim to come with some spectacularly fruity notes: “watermelon,” “orange soda,” “blood orange,” and “strawberry candy.” When asked why they named the shop Tandem, Kathleen told Fresh Cup magazine, “Anytime you see people riding a tandem it makes you smile.” That’s the opening line of the movie!
The best sampler
There’s no shortage of solid coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest—home to Starbucks, Stumptown, and Heart to name just a few—and yet Olympia Coffee still stands out in a crowded market. In our GQ cupping, it was the only roaster to come close to Heart in terms of a crowd favorite. It’s a great roaster to springboard you ever closer to the perfect cup of java since it sells a four-pack sampler of single-origin coffees. A surefire way to find out what regions and flavors float your boat.
The Canadian Option
As we (Americans) slowly cede our standing in the world to the Canadians (hello, Justin Trudeau), I welcome Vancouver-based 49th Parallel as our new coffee overlords. The only inclusion on this list from outside the U.S., 49th Parallel is well worth the (small) premium you’ll pay for shipping. The brand’s pretty teal bags of coffee can also easily be found on the shelves of America’s best coffee shops, speaking to the brand’s consistently great product.
For bright and fruity beans
Kuma is a sizable outfit operating like a small roaster: hand-stamping its simplistic brown-bag packaging and carefully selecting the beans that go inside. Both of founder Mark Barany’s parents were missionaries and in 1995 the family moved to Kenya, where he says he fell in love with African coffees. That infatuation for bright, acidic, fruity coffees comes through in Kuma’s beans.
For Bon Iver-style coffee
Ruby Coffee Roasters founder Jared Linzmeier is the Bon Iver of the coffee world. I know that this is an obnoxious comparison to make but it is unfortunately true: Linzmeier was working as a roaster at major coffee brand Intelligentsia when he decided to give it all up and move to Nelsonville, Wisconsin—a town of only 158 people. It’s there that he achieved the extremely unlikely and created one of the best roasters in the US. Ruby’s slogan is “colorful coffees”—it lives up to that promise with some very flavorful ones.
The feel-good option
A stalwart in the third-wave coffee game, Counter Culture deserves a place on this list alone for pushing the industry forward in regards to sourcing and transparency. The roaster’s extensive nitty-gritty transparency reports can tell you things you’d absolutely never need to know, like how many emissions were released by the company shipping UPS packages, but set the standard for how we expect our third wave coffee companies to act. Counter Culture’s been putting these reports together since 2009 and plenty of other specialty coffee roasters have adopted the practice. The end result is a delicious cup of coffee you can feel great about.
Wake Up and Smell the Cortado
No more Starbucks grande Sugar-Injector Latteccinos, no more espressos served with a lecture on proper stirring protocol from an obsessive barista. We have—hallelujah!—broken through to Coffee Utopia. The good stuff is everywhere, and you don't need a Ph.D. in Colombian agriculture to enjoy any of it. From the best brews in the country to the best coffeemakers on your counter to the hands-down most addictive drink of 2015, here's why your next cup will be your favorite
ALL HAIL THE CORTADO
One Part Espresso + One Part Steamed Milk = Your New Favorite Drink
Most good baristas have had the formula for a cortado memorized for years, but only recently did it become a must-have on menus in cafés across the States. Which makes sense: In the past ten years or so, the coffee landscape has boomeranged from sickeningly sweet Starbucks Fraps to the rarefied stomping grounds of wired, minimalist espresso snobs. Just this year, it seems, we’ve reached an equilibrium: Good coffee is everywhere—so much so that nobody needs to say a word about it. Which brings us back to the cortado. Halfway between a single shot and a cappuccino, it’s the perfect encapsulation of coffee culture right now: strong enough to showcase a bean with killer pedigree; diluted enough to make sure you don’t say the word pedigree out loud.
STOCK UP FOR THE COLD-BREW REVOLUTION
You don’t need to read Barista Magazine to know that cold-brew coffee is having a moment—you just have to hit your local Whole Foods and admire the glistening rows of ice-cold joe. Here, our three favorite ways to cool off and wire up in the summer.
Toss one in a pitcher of water and let it sit in the fridge overnight; enjoy the slow-steeped result for days.
THE THREE BEST MACHINES FOR GETTING YOUR COFFEE FIX
Look at that sad drip machine on your counter, gathering dust because you’ve been told by the java-snob faction that a machine can’t match a handcrafted cup. They are liars, and the Breville Oracle is (very expensive) proof. It’s the first largely automated espresso maker—it grinds, measures, and tamps your favorite ethically harvested Andean roast by itself—and it’s packed with pro-grade hardware. Mention the Oracle’s double boiler to a barista and watch his mustache droop with jealousy.
But let’s say you don’t venerate your beans enough to drop $2,000. Try the De’Longhi Dedica EC680, a studio-size espresso machine (only six inches wide) with penthouse amenities: high-pressure boiler, no-hassle milk-steaming wand, and a cup warmer.
Just want a simple cup of coffee, goddammit? The Bonavita BV1500TS brews up to five cups of the best black gold you’ll ever sip, thanks to a water heater and shower head that pull better flavor from your beans. And it doesn’t expect a tip. —Jon Wilde
...OR BETTER YET, GET RID OF THE MACHINE ALL TOGETHER
The secret to a pour-over, today’s best DIY cup? A Hario V60 ceramic funnel ($25) and a steady hand. —M.B.
**Boil water. **Put a filter in the Hario and get it wet.
Medium-fine grind. Twenty-four grams per cup.
Pour the hot water in a spiral onto the grounds.
**Stop when full. **Let it drain and do it again.
The whole thing should take three minutes.
THE BEST PLACES TO DRINK COFFEE IN 2015
Ah, coffee shops. You’re either standing in line at Dunkin’ or getting lectured by film-school dropouts. Thank whatever’s holy for these places where the coffee is good, the vibes are better, and no one judges you for using sugar.
- BARISTA PARLOR (Nashville) It’s an old garage that looks like it’s staged for a photo shoot—vintage motorcycles, tattered American flags—and that fixation on the details extends to the espresso, which is served on a slab of wood with seltzer and homemade caramel.
- MAIALINO (N.Y.C.) Danny Meyer’s crazy-good restaurant in the base of the Gramercy Park Hotel also happens to have one of the best post-dinner coffee programs in the country (trained baristas pull shots here instead of stressed-out waiters), proving once and for all that money can buy happiness.
- ODDLY CORRECT (Kansas City, MO) Yes, Kansas City. If you need any further proof that good coffee has made it everywhere, look to the best small roaster in the vast expanse of the rural Midwest.
- JOULE COFFEE & TABLE (Raleigh, NC) Checks more than a few bos in the restaurant category—full menu, wine and cocktails, weekend brunch—but it’s got a walk-in vibe and the kind of imaginative drink menu that makes you actually want to order something as absurd as a honey latte.
- HERITAGE (Chicago) Why did it take so long for the world to acknowledge the intrinsic link between cycling and espresso? Heritage isn’t the only place to pair a bike shop with a café, but it’s the first to nail both halves.
- ADA’S TECHNICAL BOOKS & CAFE (Seattle) Ada’s isn’t just a well-stocked bookstore and a good café in a town that’s filthy with them—it’s also the lofty, skylighted reading nook you always wished you’d had access to when you were in college.
- RITUAL COFFEE (San Francisco) There are three Ritual Coffee shops in San Francisco, and each is beloved, but the one tucked into a Flora Grubb plant nursery in the Bayview hood must be the only place where you can literally see the floral notes.
- G&B COFFEE (L.A.) Much respect to G&B for not making you feel like a sellout for ordering iced coffee. Cold brews come in frosted-glass jars; baristas shake iced lattes in cocktail shakers and prepare them with almond-macadamia milk.
- BREW AND BREW (Austin) Consider us full-fledged endorsers of any coffee place that cares just as much about brew made from malt and hops—thirty-eight craft beers are on tap at any one time at B&B—as it does about the kind made from handfuls of roasted brown beans. —M.B.
THE WORST PEOPLE YOU’LL MEET AT STARBUCKS
In 2015 corporate America, "Starbucks?" is the new "Smoke?" The coffee’s just okay, but the misanthropic people-watching is the best work-break entertainment going.
MR. COFFEE ROCKHis order: "One grande hazelnut and... Say, who’s this playing? It’s just so smooth. Oh, really? Heck yes, I’d like to add on the Norah Jones album!"
THE DRINK DICTATORHer order: "I’d like a double dirty chai latte, but could you put on a dollop of whipped cream plus a teensy bit of the caramel squiggles and ten—not eleven, not nine—granules of mocha dust on top, then hum ’Careless Whisper’ as you hand me the cup? THANK YOOOU!"
MRS. REVISIONIST HISTORYHer order: "Ugh, when I said iced coffee with coconut milk? I meant a mocha Frap with agave. JADEN, SIT."
THE FEISTY SPELL-CHECKERHer order: "Yeah, um, it’s actually Persephonee with TWO _e’_s. Thanksss."
THE MOCHA LATTE PERVHis order (every day for two years): [drops thirty-nine cents into the tip jar, winks slowly] "That’s for you, sweetie. You should smile more."
THE NATIVE STARBUCKS-ESE SPEAKERHis order: "Can I get one Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher and a Chonga bagel to go using my treat receipt?"
THE WORST PERSON IN HUMAN HISTORYHis order: "Tall half-caf iced coffee, and I’ll pay with the app. Wait, my phone just froze, hold on."
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE
The Best Coffee Gear for Every Type of Java Freak
Whether you’re dipping your toes in or ready to make the full commitment, here’s a breakdown of everything you need to become your own barista.
There are two modes of coffee drinking for most people. The first uses coffee as a tool to get us from point A to point B. We take it medicinally, tossing flavor out the window, to cure our sleepiness. Then there’s the Fancy Coffee Lifestyle, which gives the same cure but in the form of a $5 single-origin pour-over from your local third wave coffee shop. Not so great for your wallet, but good for your tastebuds.
There is a growing middle segment, though, of casual coffee enthusiasts who have discovered it’s possible and relatively easy to be your own barista at home—where no one ever calls you Kim, Ken, Can, or Cap when your name’s Cam. It’s also a cost-saving enterprise: even the priciest (like, $20) 12-ounce bag of beans made at home can deliver a cup of coffee every day for several weeks.
The only things separating you from the mustachioed beanie-wearing barista at your corner shop is a set of devices that make brewing coffee in the comfort of your home easy. We’ve put together a list of gadgets at two price points: an affordable option for java fiends who aren’t as worried about perfect flavor, and a pricier one for those ready to dive into the deep end.
How to get the water hot
There’s a single name in getting boiling water for coffee, and it’s Bonavita. The company revolves around making your coffee (and tea) better, and is best known for its gooseneck—the name given to the curved spout—kettles. Getting your water to the right temperature and then getting that water to the correct places are tantamount to making good coffee: you want to get the grounds wet at the same time for an even extraction.
The model you buy depends on whether you think you’re going to need control over your water’s temperature. It’s fine to use the less expensive option and pour water right off the boil but if you’re going to be changing up your brewing technique or go back and forth between coffee and tea, you’ll want to be able to control the temperature. That temperature control is prized in the coffee community—Todd Carmichael, founder of fancy coffee shop La Colombe, famously keeps his kettle glued to his base so that the heat never deviates from where he wants it. I don’t recommend, that, but you get the point.
For the blithe boilers
Bonavita Electric Kettle
The no-frills option for guys and gals who just want to get their water hot but don't need to know exactly how hot. (Just brew off the boil.)
For the temperature tyrants
Bonavita Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle
Consistency is important to making good coffee. And the relief of pulling this kettle off when it's at exactly 205° means you'll never have to worry the heat is what's keeping you from the perfect cup.
How to measure everything
You will need a scale at every point throughout the coffee brewing process. You’ll use it to measure how much coffee you’re using, which in turn will decide how much water to pour (a 1:16 ratio is standard—meaning if you use 15 grams of coffee you’ll want to… multiply, carry the three, add the sums… pour 240 grams of water).
The simple scale
Escali Primo Digital Scale
This Escali scale will more than capably get the job done for any beginner brewer. The bare minimum of information you need is how much water and coffee you’re using and this will tell you exactly that. It also comes in a ton of fun colors because you should get at least one good Instagram out of all this.
The souped-up scale
Hario Coffee Drip Scale/Timer
The Hario scale is the more advanced option. Most handy is the timer that occupies half of the built-in display. When you get into the nitty-gritty of coffee making, it’s helpful to know, say, how far you are from the initial pour, how long your grounds and water have been mingling, or the amount of time you’ve been immersing the coffee in an Aeropress (more on this baby later).
How to grind your beans
One of, it not the, most important factor in making good coffee is probably even extraction of the grounds. This is something that would be utterly impossible if you have coffee grounds that are vary in size from sand to salt to pebble. So that’s why using a gizmo with a burr grinder—as opposed to a blade grinder—is so critical to tasty java.
A good grinder
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton
The Hario Skerton mill is the affordable option and doubles as a great workout for your forearms. If you don’t mind putting in a little extra work, this little guy will do the trick at a fraction of the price of an automated grinder.
A great grinder
Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
In my early homebrewing days, I found that the greatest barrier between me and good homemade coffee was my hand grinder. One of the last things you want to do before you make coffee in the morning is laboriously hand-crank it. The Baratza Encore is an entry-level automatic grinder that makes getting freshly ground coffee possible for even the most low-functioning caffeine addicts.
How to turn your coffee grounds into coffee
Brewing coffee at home can be temperamental, but these two brewing devices deliver consistently good cups without the agony.
For solo sippers
The Aeropress has become my personal favorite brewing device. Not only is it almost impossible to fuck up—there’s no need to really pinpoint where the water goes, you can mostly just pour it in—it’s so damn fun to use. The Aeropress uses the magic of suction, or as I prefer to call it, magic: as you push the coffee through the filter it uses the trapped air to force the liquid out without ever actually touching the plunger. The Aeropress’s only downfall is that it can only really brew one full cup at a time. That’s great if you’re A. alone or B. selfish, but no so great if you have many caffeine-thirsty mouths.
For a crush of cups
Compared to other pourover methods, like the V60, the Chemex is a more tameable brewing device. It’s easy to wrangle a good clean cup of coffee out of the Chemex, and you can make a large batch of java at once. Plus, it’s an incredibly beautiful object that will actually look good taking up space on your counter.
At Ease: How Gregorys Coffee CEO Greg Zamfotis Dresses Down
Gregorys Coffee is a GQ-approved coffee shop chain in N.Y.C. that balances a quality product with a smart approach to design. A case in point: its logo, which is two coffee cups that form the glasses of the bespectacled founder combined with his spiky-haired silhouette. The Gregory behind the coffee, Greg Zamfotis, has attracted attention not just because as an independent business owner going up against the big guys, but also because he’s as meticulous about menswear as he is about brewing methods and roasting beans.
We caught up with Zamfotis at his Battery Park pad—early in the day for us, but just about in the middle of his—where we got a glimpse of how he spends his down time, and what he wears off the clock. He answered the door clad in a patched-up, paint-stained J.Crew sweatshirt and crisp white Thom Browne oord worn over a pair of black trousers from cult designer Boris Bidjan Saberi and broken-in Viberg boots. It’s a look that blends the best of off-duty style with Zamfotis’s penchant for high-end men’s fashion, and definitely speaks to his taste. Here’s what a true man at ease looks like.
GQ: What is your typical morning like?
Greg Zamfotis: I usually get up around 5-5:30 a.m. and try to get into the shops definitely before 7. People drink coffee in the morning, so I need to get there before to make sure everything’s going right. We start rockin’ and rollin’ around 7-7:30. I don’t have to necessarily be in the shops—we have more than one—but I like to wander around and make sure things are going good, and if anyone has any issues, it’s good for me to be around.
GQ: What do you normally wear when you have to go to work?
Greg Zamfotis: It’s a nice little mix. I get suited up if I’m dealing with lawyers or landlords. I’m a New York-certified, bar-approved lawyer. I never actually practiced though. I went straight to the food service industry. Specifically coffee, obviously.
GQ: From "bar" to "barista," you might say?
Greg Zamfotis: Exactly. So I was already preparing for life in a suit in a different kind of way—and it’s funny when I’m behind the bar making coffees in a suit, people are kind of like "what’s going on over here?" But I try not to do that too often when I’m wearing my really nice stuff. Normally I like to mix denim with nice oords, stuff I can beat up and is easy to wash. I don’t have to worry about if it’s wrinkled or not. It’s always a mid bag depending on what I’m doing. Usually I like to keep things pretty tight, clean, and organized.
GQ: Does your style change when the weekend hits?
Greg Zamfotis: The funny thing is I work seven days a week, but on the weekend it’s a little bit less stressful. I have a little bit less going on so I can let more of my casual side come out and I definitely get more cozy. You know, maybe bust out some nice tailored sweatpants.
GQ: Who are your go-to brands for sweatpants right now?
Greg Zamfotis: I’ve got some from John Elliott, Thom Browne, and Rick Owens. I’ve also been wearing my Thom Browne oord shirts a lot lately, I have like ten. I just rotate them constantly, they’re my go-to.
GQ: We’ve also spotted you in Visvim on TV. When do you pull those pieces out?
Greg Zamfotis: Yeah my Visvim one is for special occasions, when I want to go a little bit bananas. I’m 90% sure I’m never going to get it dirty. They all need to be handwashed, you can’t put them in the washing machine otherwise it’ll ruin the fabric. So, of course the last time I wore it I got sprinkled with some espresso and I was pretty disappointed. Now it’s a little bit more worn in.
GQ: Because you’re running around all day, what are your essential shoes?
Greg Zamfotis: I used to wear a lot of wingtips—I have this pair of vintage Florsheim Imperial wing tips. They’re great, they look really cool, but after like 8 hours on my feet, they don’t feel too great. I’ve also got a few pairs of Aldens and some Edward Green stuff. Lately, I’ve been finding myself in work boots because I’m on construction sites building new stores, or comfortable sneakers because I’m on my feet 12-13 hours a day. These custom Viberg work boots are really comfortable though. They have a Dainite sole. If I could, I’d have everything made on a Dainite sole.
GQ: You’ve also got a pretty impressive sneaker collection.
Greg Zamfotis: I have a pair of Outlier sneakers that I love, and obviously all my Nikes. Nike has a million chukkas and Frees that are super comfortable during the day. And I’ve also got my Jordans—but I’m also not trying to get those too dirty, because I’m trying to keep those crispy. That’s important.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE
This Coffee Gear Will Make Your Next Vacation a Lot Easier
Prop Stylist: Jenny Whichman
Add a few bonus items to your packing list, and you won't have to deal with the wretched liquid mud in your hotel room.
Going on vacation is one of life’s great luxuries, but getting to where you’re going can feel like its own special circle of hell. Vacation is sunny beaches, historically important monuments, and jungle safaris; traveling is new time zones, the back of a car then an airport lounge then a tiny airplane seat next to the man with the world’s smallest bladder and the world’s largest bottle of soda. To add insult to injury, you’ve been transported far from all your local coffee haunts. Poor you.
See, coffee is the the thing that helps you shake off all the rust of traveling. Coffee’s helps you stay sharp during that important business meeting and keeps you from falling asleep in the back of a safari jeep so you don’t feel left out when everyone is talking about the sweet lion they saw while you were facedown drooling into your lap. There are a couple reasons you might consider bringing a coffee kit on your next trip: maybe you don’t have time to leave the hotel room, maybe you’re in a coffee wasteland, maybe there’s no reliable way for you to get from where you’re staying to the good coffee place you did manage to find on Yelp. Maybe you just really don't want to rely on the Mr. Coffee machine at that AirBnB you booked in Memphis. Or maybe the only place nearby rhymes with Shmarbutts. So we’ve pulled together a coffee travel kit that will neatly fit in your front JanSport pocket, which, be honest, is currently just filled with empty aspirin bottles, six dead pens, and brochures from, like, two vacations ago.
American Weigh Scales digital pocket scale
This precious little scale, by American Weigh Scales, is only roughly the size of a coaster but measures precisely and in six different units. A package so small hasn’t accomplished such impressive feats since the Stuart Little franchise.
Rise and grind, by hand
Hario Mini Mill hand coffee grinder
If you’re not going to grind your coffee beans fresh, you may as well just drink the instant crap the hotel provides. (This may be harsh, but it’s only because I care.) Instead, order beans from some A+ roasters then throw a couple in a Ziploc baggie for your trip. This little Hario grinder—adorably named the “Mini Mill”—also requires you to hand crank, so it’s almost like bringing your workout along with you, too.
Make the damn coffee
AeroPress coffee maker
An AeroPress is the water-bottle sized collapsible do-it-all coffee maker that makes coffee worthy of the luxurious and leisurely vacation we all aspire to have. Plus, the AeroPress isn’t fussy—unlike most coffee brewing devices the Aeropress doesn’t require an exact pour from a gooseneck kettle so you can just dump water into it from the kettle in most hotel rooms. (Just make sure to pick up some filters, or jerry-rig whatever you have in your hotel room.)
In case of emergency
Sudden Coffee 8-cup pack
You could also screw everything I just said and just buy a pack of Sudden Coffee tubes. Most instant coffees don’t even have a taste associated with them; they’re described mostly with non-flavors like “bold!” “complex!” and “full-bodied.” Those are words used in a Tinder bio, not a coffee description. But Sudden Coffee was able to distill everything you love about your favorite hipster coffee shop (good coffee), without any of the bad stuff (bearded guy who won’t stop talking about “disruption”), into a tube. Sudden is a godsend when you need coffee in a pinch.