Latest StoriesCoffee
    The Best Coffee Maker Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article here.

    After two months spent surveying readers; interviewing coffee experts; researching makes, models, and reviews; and testing five finalist machines with a 10-person tasting panel, we recommend the $190 Bonavita 1900TS. It's the best coffeemaker for most people who love good coffee but don't have the time or patience for pour-over. The 1900TS brewed the most consistently delicious coffee among all of the machines we tested. That's thanks to a smart internal design: a wider showerhead, a flat-bottomed filter (the normal, wavy kind), and a built-in pre-infusion timer.

    Why you should trust us

    To get to these picks, we talked to coffee experts of various backgrounds from different parts of the industry: Humberto Ricardo, the owner of the renowned Manhattan coffee shop Third Rail Coffee; barista Carlos Morales, who just won third place in the Northeast Brewers Cup Championship; and Mark Hellweg, who founded and runs the speciality coffee accessory company Clive Coffee, which recently developed and released a high-end coffee machine of their own design. We also chatted with pretty much every barista we encountered at shops to get their perspectives.

    SCAA 2015: The Chemistry of Coffee Brewing with Blossom One

    Making coffee is chemistry, and you want to have control of as many variables as you can. At this year's SCAA, we check out the Blossom One, a coffee machine that brews with precise temperature controls--keeping the brew at a single temp for any length of time. Having seen a prototype severals years back, we're happy to see the final Blossom machine up and running, and chat with its creator to learn about the chemistry of coffee.

    SCAA 2015: Brewing Grit-Free Coffee with Espro Presses

    At this year's SCAA The Event coffee convention, we check in with Espro, the makers of our favorite French Press-style brewer to geek out over coffee! We chat about how to make grit-free French-press coffee, Espro's new travel press, and micro filtration for brewing tea.

    In Brief: Steven Levy Chats with Alan Adler, Inventor of the Aeropress

    It's been a while since we've done serious coffee coverage on the site, but with the SCAA Event convention happening next month (we're heading there!), now's as good a time as any to revisit some of our favorite coffee-making gear. One of our very first videos was about making coffee with the Aeropress, a simple single-cup brewing device that has inspired international competitions for barista-perfected recipes. Aeropress' creation by Aerobie flying disc inventor Alan Adler is a great piece of maker lore, and Medium's Steven Levy recently chatted with Adler about the device and its wonderful simplicity. Lovely photos, too.

    Tested Mailbag: We Can Smell It

    Time to open another package that's arrived at the Tested office! This one happens to be a box inside a box, so both Will and Norm get to demonstrate box-opening skills. The smells within give it away--it's a lovely gift from Tested reader Phil. Thanks, Phil! Have a great weekend!

    In Brief: The Invention of the AeroPress

    Priceonomics has a great long feature about the invention of the AeroPress, our current favorite low-cost single-cup coffee maker. If you've ever bought an AeroPress from its manufacturer, Aerobie, you may have noticed that it's the company's single coffee product among a dozen other "high performance sports toys." That's because Stanford professor Alan Adler, the inventor of the AeroPress, started the company in the 1980s making the famous Aerobie flying disc (which was actually inspired by the Chakram!). Priceonomics' story walks us through Adler's revelation of using air pressure to reduce brew time for a single cup of coffee, and how the AeroPress actually struggled to find fans after its initial release. Today, it's so popular that there are international AeroPress competitions. (And if you liked this story, don't forget to read about the invention of the Chemex as well!)

    Norman 1
    Why People Think Coffee is Bad for Kids

    Why don't most parents let their kids drink coffee? The first, most obvious answer is that caffeine is addictive. Overcaffeinated kids will be bouncing off the walls and staying awake at night, and letting them drink coffee is a likely way for them to get hooked. Soda, though, is also caffeinated, and a common beverage for kids in the US. Smithsonian Mag offers a different theory about why coffee's off limits: a persistent belief that coffee stunts the growth of children.

    Smithsonian Mag writes: “'It’s ‘common knowledge,’ so to speak—but a lot of common knowledge doesn’t turn out to be true,' says Mark Pendergrast, the author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. 'To my knowledge, no one has ever turned up evidence that drinking coffee has any effect on how much children grow.' "

    No study has ever lent credence to the theory that coffee harms the development of children, though Smithsonian Mag points out that no study has ever exposed children to years worth' of coffee, either. "There has, however, been research into the long-term effects of caffeine on children, and no damning evidence has turned up," they add. "One study followed 81 adolescents for a six-year period, and found no correlation between daily caffeine intake and bone growth or density. Theoretically, the closest thing we do have to evidence that caffeine affects growth is a series of studies on adults, which show that increased consumption of caffeinated beverages lead to the body absorbing slightly less calcium, which is necessary for bone growth. However, the effect is negligible: The calcium in a mere tablespoon of milk, it’s estimated, is enough to offset the caffeine in eight ounces of coffee."

    Photo credit: Flickr user raster via Creative Commons.

    So where did this idea come from? What spawned the belief that coffee will stunt the growth of children, while it's perfectly fine for adults? The idea may have originated with advertising created by C.W. Post, who founded Post Foods in the late 1800s. The company is still a popular cereal maker. Post created a grain-based drink, called Postum, that was popular until the 1960s. It was only discontinued in 1967, but some longtime fans have brought the drink back, billing it as "a healthy coffee alternative for those who have dietary and health restrictions. Postum is caffeine free and won’t cause the sleeplessness, high blood pressure or digestive problems that are often linked to coffee and tea."

    To push people to drink Postum with their breakfast instead of coffee, Post created a series of ad campaigns talking about coffee's harmful effects. Some ads called it "nerve poison." Other specifically discussed children, claiming it made them sluggards and robs them of the milk they need in their diet. One ad credited a "world famous Research Institute" for a study that conclusively proved coffee made children stupid. "Less than 16% of those who drank coffee attained good marks!" it exclaimed.

    Somehow, Postum didn't stick around, but its ads must have worked their way into the public consciousness. Coffee doesn't stunt growth or make kids fail school. Still, you may not want them to drink it; there's still the no sleeping, bouncing off the walls issue to consider.

    Coffee is Least Effective Between 8 and 9 am

    The best time for coffee is not, in fact, the moment you sluggishly drag yourself out of bed. At least, not according to science. Brainfacts writes that the study of chronopharmacology, aka the interaction between drugs and the body's biological rhythms, reveals when we should and shouldn't drink coffee. More specifically, it dictates the best and worst times to inject ourselves with a peppy dose of caffeine. If your first cup of morning joe comes between 8 am and 9 am, you're doing it wrong, at least according to the study of chronopharmacology.

    The body's circadian clock can affect how it responds to drugs, making them more or less effective, altering our tolerance, and so on. Brainfacts writes that light, more than any other environmental stimulus, affects our biological rhythm. That rhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, which also controls our sleep/wake cycle, hormones, and sugar homeostasis.

    Photo credit: Flickr user shereen84 via Creative Commons

    The hypothalamus' control of the hormone cortisol is the key that ties together our biological rhythm and consumption of coffee. "Drug tolerance is an important subject, especially in the case of caffeine since most of us overuse this drug," writes Brainfacts. "Therefore, if we are drinking caffeine at a time when your cortisol concentration in the blood is at its peak, you probably should not be drinking it. This is because cortisol production is strongly related to your level of alertness and it just so happens that cortisol peaks for your 24 hour rhythm between 8 and 9 AM on average."

    Caffeine will naturally be least effective when cortisol is at its peak, which happens to be right around the time most people drink coffee in the morning.

    In other words, caffeine will naturally be least effective when cortisol is at its peak, which happens to be right around the time most people start chugging their morning pick-me-up. Brainfacts goes on to argue that using a drug when it's needed is a key pharmacological principle, and drinking caffeine when it's least effective means you're more likely to develop a tolerance and need to up your dosage.

    Drinking a cup of coffee when your cortisol levels are low, on the other hand, will give it some more kick. Cortisol levels apparently swing up between noon and 1 pm, and between 5:30 and 6:40 pm. That leaves a couple windows of opportunity--most importantly, between 9:30 am and 11:30 am or so--where caffeine will really be able to do its job.

    One other Brainfacts tip: Since light has a major affect on our biological rhythm and will help cortisol production in the morning, making the morning commute without sunglasses will get the cortisol pumping more quickly. It might not be as stimulating as a cup of coffee, but it's an au naturel way to wake up just a little bit faster.

    The Enduring Design of the Chemex Coffee Maker

    If you haven't paid attention to the history of the Chemex coffee maker, you may be surprised to learn that it's more than 75 years old. The Chemex was invented way back in 1941 by Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, who left Germany in the 1930s and invented dozens of products in the United States that prioritized design over features. The Chemex is the perfect example: It's a sleek, curved glass container which requires little more than a filter to make a cup of coffee. The Chemex has endured for most of a century, when countless other coffee makers have come and gone.

    Photo credit: Hagley Museum and Library

    The Chemex was Schlumbohm's greatest invention, or at least his most popular. But this retrospective from Collectors Weekly reveals how many great ideas Schlumbohm had, and how skilled he was as a designer. All of his creations followed the same formula: Making an existing product better through simple and elegant design.

    "Though the Chemex was his most successful invention by far, Schlumbohm tinkered with other ordinary objects long after the coffeemaker's success," writes Collectors Weekly. "Some of Schlumbohm's cleverest contraptions included the Instant Ice container, which chilled liquids quickly using brine; the Cinderella, a conical trash pail with disposable wax-paper linings; and the Minnehaha, a device that mixed and aerated drinks by forcing liquid through hundreds of tiny perforations. Schlumbohm also patented a stylish hot-water kettle made entirely of glass, a disposable aluminum frying pan, and a cigarette holder tipped with a miniature Chemex-shaped fitting that held a tiny filter, years before the tobacco industry adopted them."

    Not only did Schlumbohm design his products with a flair for 20th century modernism, he did his own marketing and advertising, too. A LIFE magazine profile from 1949 said he had a real formula for his success: "20% was recognizing a problem that needed solving, 40% was coming up with a patentable solution, 30% was good design, and 10% was merchandising. [LIFE] wrote of Schlumbohm, 'He is the kind who perceives a problem and logically sets about finding a solution that will be efficient, handsome and profitable. Dr. Schlumbohm does all his own selling, writes his own advertisements, direction leaflets and brochures and even types his own patent applications—one draft only, since he refuses to make a mistake.' "

    None of Schlumbohm's other inventions have endured like the Chemex, and some never made it into production.

    World Maker Faire 2013: Pour Steady Coffee Brewing Robot

    Meet the Pour Steady, a two-axis programmable robot that can make five cups of pour over -style coffee at the same time. We chat with the makers of Pour Steady to learn the precise steps this robot takes to make each cup, and give coffee a proper taste test!

    Measuring Flavor Extraction for the Perfect Cup of Coffee

    As we've shown in the past, your coffee brewing method of choice--be it the Able Kone or the Aeropress or another piece of technology--has a direct impact on how your coffee turns out. But brewing the coffee is the last step, and everything before that is important, too. The kind of coffee you buy. The way you grind it. The temperature of the water. And, of course, the ratio of coffee to water; it all matters, and even the perfect Aeropress brew could come out bitter and foul without the proper process.

    In 2013 the Atlantic published a thorough, fairly beginner-friendly guide to making the perfect cup of coffee. It mostly focuses on the process leading up to brewing, leaving that final method up to you. The guide starts with the "golden ratio," which is meant to supply the perfect combination of water and coffee grinds for a perfect cup. And this is perfection as judged by the masses--it's based on studies from the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

    "The key is to start with the Golden Ratio of 17.42 units of water to 1 unit of coffee," says the guide. "The ratio will get you into that optimal zone, plus it is unit-less, which means you can use grams, ounces, pounds, stones, even tons if that's your thing."

    There are two key terms to know here if you're ready to get scientific about your coffee: Percentage Extraction and Percentage of Total Dissolved Solids. The guide elaborates: "The Percentage Extraction is the amount of coffee particles extracted from the original dry grounds. The Percentage of Total Dissolved Solids is the percentage of coffee solids actually in your cup of coffee (commonly known as 'brew strength'). When you correlate these, the result is a Coffee Brewing Control Chart, with a target area in the center that highlights the optimal brew strength and extraction percentage."

    Some fancy technology comes into play when you get into measuring Total Dissolved Solids: a refractometer, to be specific. Pairing that refractometer with a piece of software called ExtractMoJo allows you to measure the extraction of solids from your coffee grounds. According to the Brewing Control Chart mentioned above, perfection sits between 18 and 22 percent. That's where optimal flavor lies.

    Getting that flavor, it turns out, is simple as the right ratio of water, a refractometer, and a $150 piece of software. Actually, it's not that simple--you'll need a good coffee grinder, good coffee beans, water between 195 and 202 degrees Fahrenheit, and a whole lot of practice with your chosen brewing method. But at least The Atlantic's guide makes it all a little bit easier.

    The Evolution of the Coffee Cup Sleeve

    The coffee sleeve is one of those so-obvious-in-hindsight inventions that it's hard to imagine a time before the hand protector existed. But the coffee sleeve as we know it only came into popularity about 20 years ago. In those two decades it's become such a mainstay of bleary-eyed morning coffee culture that the coffee cup sleeve has earned a place at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

    Photo credit: Flickr user epw via Creative Commons

    As Smithsonian's Design Decoded writes, the coffee sleeve came into popularity thanks to the invention of the Java Jacket in 1991. A realtor named Jay Sorensen started pounding away on the idea after burning his fingers on a cup of coffee picked up from a drive-through window (and, as a result, dropping the whole cup in his lap). His first idea was to make the coffee cup itself better-insulated, but that wasn't going to work as a replacement for easily stackable and cheap paper and styrofoam cups. Besides, not all coffee drinks were hot enough to justify a more expensive cup.

    Image credit: US Patent Office

    Eventually Sorensen's idea evolved into the Java Jacket, which may have succeeded as much on the strength of its name as its idea. He used embossed chipboard to provide some insulation and sold his first box of jackets to a local Oregon coffee chain. After showing up at Seattle coffee convention with the Java Jacket, the coffee protector was destined for fame.

    Today Sorensen sells a billion Java Jackets a year. And that number doesn't include the coffee protectors sold with every cup of Starbucks coffee--Starbucks patented its own protector, using corrugated paper on the inside of its sleeve.

    There's no doubt the coffee sleeve deserves a spot among MoMA's "Humble Masterpieces" collection, but Design Decoded points out that it was far from the first cup sleeve. The blog offers a look at some of the Java Jacket's predecessors, dating all the way back to 1925.

    And if you're interested in the history of coffee cup lids, there are people obsessed about those, too.