For many of us, the day starts with a steaming cup of coffee. Whether you’re looking for a caffeine boost or simply enjoy the taste, it’s a helping hand to keep fatigue at bay.
As the lockdown means coffee shops are out of reach for most, you may be craving your usual order of a flat white or Americano from your favourite café.
But instead of counting down the days to when you can visit your nearest Pret, there’s plenty of kit you can use at home that will allow you to recreate your favourite drink.
From grinders, cold-brew makers, French press to subscription services and eco-friendly capsules, this is everything you need to get the cafe-bought experience in your kitchen.
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The best coffee grinder
Fine-tune the art of making the perfect espresso with a coffee grinder. With the right one, you’ll be able to enjoy the full flavour of the coffee, because much of the aroma and taste lies in the essential oils of the bean.
When the beans are ground, the oils are released, resulting in a more rounded coffee experience, but these oils evaporate very quickly after grinding and can result in a bitter-tasting, sub-par cup of coffee – so it makes sense to keep things fresh and just grind what you need.
It earned top marks with our reviewer for its integrated LCD weighing scale that means you can measure how much beans you use to the nearest gram. You then twist the dial to select one of the 39 settings between coarse, medium and fine grinds, tailoring your favourite blend to your requirements.
We found that the conical stainless steel grinder that delivers consistent, quiet and accurate results every time, right down to the finest espresso grind.
You can use the dials to select the number of cups you want to make, or stick with manual selection to stop and start grinding yourself – this is ideal for when you’re grinding beans for an espresso maker or other coffee equipment. It’s easy to clean (the parts are dishwasher safe), holds a whopping 375g of beans and looks incredible.
The best cold-brew coffee maker
For a chilled caffeine fix, a cold-brew coffee maker is a must-have. As summer approaches, a hot cup of coffee might not help to cool you down but that doesn’t mean you need to forgo your favourite drink.
As you’ll find in our guide to cold-brew coffee machines, unlike iced coffee, which is hot coffee poured over ice, there is no heat applied during the cold brew method. Instead, freshly ground coffee is left to infuse in the water – which can take anything from eight to 24 hours. As such, this will require a little forward planning if you’re to quench your thirst.
We found using filtered water really made a difference to the finished brew, allowing the nuanced flavours of the ground beans to shine through. You should find that cold brew is a lot smoother and less acidic than an iced coffee but it will take much longer to prepare.
This Hario cold brew coffee filter in bottle (Amazon, £30) takes the hard work out of the preparation for you without using electricity or batteries. It takes up less space in the fridge door and can also be drunk on the go.
Our reviewer found the compact design has a built-in filter for infusing your coffee and a secure rubber lid which kept our coffee fresh. Hario recommends pouring cold water over ground coffee, giving it all a little shake and leaving in the fridge for at least eight hours.
The clever design means you can leave the filter in while you pour without any sediment getting into your drink. It’s available in just the two colours – a lighter brown colour as well as mocha.
If you’re looking to make an iced coffee, however, we’d suggest using a blender to mix together your ice, syrup flavouring, milk and black coffee. An affordable option that rated highly for us is the Smeg BLF01 50s retro style food blender (John Lewis and Partners, £162). It’s a chic addition to the kitchen and one simple knob with four settings, plus pulse and ice functions, allow for a variety of consistencies.
The best coffee machine
An efficient coffee machine is a piece of kit that will do all the hard work for you at the press of a button, all you need to do is pour in the beans and fill up the water tank.
The Siemens fully automatic coffee machine EQ.9 plus connect (John Lewis and Partners, £1,499) is a hefty investment but impressed us for producing coffee on par with our favourite barista-made stuff in our IndyBest round-up of the best bean-to-cup coffee machines.
We loved the fact you can load up two types of beans, that every step of the coffee is editable and the machine intuitively remembers what you tend to prefer – right down to which beans for which type of coffee.
There are nice touches like a cup warmer, on-screen prompts for everything (cleaning etc) and it’s just so easy to operate. The wifi is confusing to set up – a feeling echoed in user reviews – but once it’s done it’s good. The app also opens up a world of coffee, allowing you to find examples from around the world and enjoy at home. A brilliantly professional home machine – if you can stump up the cash.
If you’re looking for something that’s more budget-friendly, try the Krups arabica digital EA817040 bean-to-cup coffee machine (AO, £429).
We discovered that this machine required almost no set-up and was ready to go immediately. It’s one of the simpler machines we tried and doesn’t have an in-built option for milk, but in many ways we preferred the fact it uses a nozzle for manual steaming and frothing milk; it made us feel like real barista's and allows you to control the temperature and frothing. Plus, there’s no fiddly extra cleaning of milky tubing or containers.
The machine is very self-explanatory to use and we liked how easy it is to adjust to your favourite strength and temperature, which the machine is then able to remember via the memory function (we found this made the weakest coffee so you might like to amp up the strength and adjust to a finer grind).
It’s quiet, keeps the water hot for a while so no need to wait around for it to heat, and it fits under our relatively low kitchen counters the best of all the machines.
The best cafetiere
French press, or cafetiere, designs have evolved over the years and become varied in construction and style. They’re an easy way to make consistently delicious coffee, easily and without lots of expensive equipment.
Thus making it perfect for group get-togethers rather than lone coffee-drinking once lockdown ends. It’s dishwasher and microwave safe and is made of porcelain which meant it kept coffee warm for longer than the glass cafetières and it poured and filtered nicely.
The best espresso machine
A shot of espresso is the perfect pick-me-up for early risers or those suffering from a mid-afternoon slump, particularly if you’re struggling to sit through another zoom call with your boss.
An espresso machine delivers barista-quality coffee without the faff and allows you to cut back on using disposable cups.
Our favourite is the Illy Y3.2 espresso and coffee capsule espresso machine (Amazon, £110) which is nifty, narrow and compact, making it perfect for smaller spaces and it makes an incredible espresso in a matter of seconds.
According to our reviewer, it’s easy to set up and use – essentially fill up the water tank and pop in your capsule – and the 0.75l water tank, which sits at the back, is easy to remove and clean.
It also comes with a programmable temperature setting, so you can tailor your espressos exactly to your liking. It is only compatible with Illy capsules though, but it still works out much cheaper than a shop-bought coffee and tastes just as good.
The best coffee subscription service
Never run low on your favourite coffee beans again while supporting independent businesses by treating yourself to a subscription service.
Many on the market allow you to select your favourite bean profiles, grind and frequency and have them delivered straight to your doorstep. It’s also a great gift for a coffee fan who may be missing their favourite shop while in lockdown.
Try the Manumit house roast subscription (Manumit, £6.75 a month for 250g bag). Based in Cardiff but delivering across the UK, we found its coffee to be top notch with beans coming from farms and collectives aiming to improve communities (anywhere from Brazil, Uganda and Congo).
However, the real story is the brand’s anti-slavery work. Manumit coffee is roasted, packaged and shipped by survivors of modern-day slavery and human trafficking; there are some extremely harrowing stories from its staff on the website.
Manumit pays above the living wage and supports its employees to re-enter the workplace, plus the coffee profits are then ploughed back into local antislavery projects. As a bonus, its monthly house roast subscription package features delights like the gently festive Brazilian variety we tried: all sourced ethically, fairly traded and delivered straight to your door.
Best eco-friendly coffee capsules and pods
There’s no reason your coffee should be bad for the environment but it has been reported that a massive 350 million capsules are thrown away every year – and that’s just in the UK alone.
To reduce how much we waste, take an eco-friendly approach to get your caffeine without compromising on taste.
Our favourite eco-alternative option is the Roar Gill starter pack (Roar Gill £17.50 for a box of 40) and its all-encompassing approach to helping reduce the impact our coffee drinking has on the environment.
Not only are the farmers the brand works with always paid more than the Fairtrade price, but all the coffee is organic and sourced sustainably too. The capsule production is carbon neutral and it even offsets its sea miles (which are unavoidable when moving the unroasted coffee from where it’s grown).
Suitable for home and commercial composting, this starter pack includes its bold, exotic and rare pods, ideal for lungos, espressos and ristretto respectively. They’re all delicious but Roar Gill has created something particularly special with its rare pods – expect a silky smooth chocolatey body and zippy balanced acidity.
The best reusable coffee cup
Using a reusable coffee cup is the easiest way to cut down on your single-use plastic pollution, and is more important than ever as especially as a recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee last year stated that the UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and less than one per cent of those are recycled.
There’s plenty of options to choose from too, from folding cups to travel cafetieres that will both keep your drink piping hot and easy to transport without spillage or leaks. It’s ideal for when you’re standing in line at the supermarket or in the car making essential trips out while in lockdown.
Coming out on top of our guide to the best reusable cups is the KeepCup thermal 340ml (KeepCup, from £24). They’re made from double walled stainless steel and vacuum sealed thermal insulation so your drink stays hot for hours (ours was still piping hot well after we completed our hour-long commute pre-pandemic), but remains cool enough to hold, handily solving two of the very few complaints with the original model.
It has a brilliantly designed leak-proof lid with a “twist and click” plug – easily the nicest one for actually drinking out of. In fact, the entire thing is created for the coffee drinker, right down to the dedicated shape that gets the best pour, as vouched for by baristas.
We particularly like that you can buy replacement parts for your KeepCup, which is much less wasteful than buying a whole new one. Throw in loads of choice across colour, finish and size, and you’re onto a winner.
The best coffee mug
While we remain indoors under lockdown, splash out on a beautiful mug to hold your cup of coffee in the mornings.
This Jaimi blue and grey stoneware mug (Oliver Bonas, £16) is easy on the eye with its rounded shape, blue and grey glaze and shiny gold handle.
Our only gripe is that it’s not dishwasher or microwave safe, but it’s so pretty we can’t complain.