In this Golden Age of coffee, java-heads will spend a mini-fortune to up their game with high-quality conical burr grinders and fancy imported brewing devices. But while those who are tired of burnt-tasting Starbucks may flirt with oddball apparatuses like expensive espresso machines and costly Keurig clones that sacrifice quality for convenience, there’s a simple at-home coffeemaker out there actually worth settling down with. The best part? The dowry will only set you back about $6.
Though the Hario V60 has been around for about a decade, the price of the plastic version of the pour-over coffee maker recently dipped below $7. Despite its low retail value, its brilliantly designed ridges prevent a paper filter from sticking to the walls of the cone, thus increasing airflow and allowing for a more even coffee extraction. Meanwhile, unlike a French press, the grounds are in contact with water only very briefly, thus curbing any bitter flavors. Oxidation is minimized because the coffee drips directly into the serving cup. Plus, it’s easier to clean than other systems, like the Aeropress. Did I mention that it’s only six bucks?
Hario does make more expensive versions of the V60 from other materials. On Amazon, the ceramic or glass models will set you back around $16; the metal version, at least $25. But considering this jump in price, the difference in the brew produced by these “premium” forms is imperceptible when the plastic model is used properly. We’re mostly talking upgraded aesthetics here, for triple or quadruple the price.
Now some of you are inevitably waving your fist at your screen right now, shouting, “But it’s plastic! Plastic in contact with hot water!!” No need to run to a doctor just yet — the plastic used to make the V60 is BPA-free. And I’ve yet to detect any plastic flavor in the coffee it produces (most of the liquid flows from the paper filter directly into the cup, anyway). The one thing coffee nerds should be aware of, however, is the fact that plastic doesn’t necessarily conduct heat very well. This can be easily addressed, however, by rinsing the cone with hot water to preheat it before adding coffee.
Unsurprisingly, not all baristas are sold on the magic of the V60. J. Park Brannen, sales rep and educator for Counter Culture Coffee, believes that the system is “fundamentally flawed” due to its larger hole at the bottom of the cone. “That giant hole essentially gives you a lot of drainage,” Brannen says. “So in order to brew coffee for [the universally recommended time of] between three and four minutes, you have to grind your coffee super-fine. Most of the time that doesn’t happen, so people end up brewing for two to three minutes,” and the flavor suffers. Additionally, filters made specifically for the V60 must be purchased from Hario — the cone is incompatible with most standard paper strainers.
Alternatively, Brannen prefers the similarly priced, plastic Melitta Ready Set Joe, which has a tiny drip hole and can use generic filters. Or, if you’re willing to go straight baller, he recommends springing for the stainless steel $24 Kalita Wave, which features a wider, larger flat bed in place of a cone-like structure, allowing for more even distribution as the water flows through the coffee grounds.
Ultimately, however, Brannen admits that much of coffee-brewing technique comes down to personal preference, and for such a low price, either of the $6 pour-over options are great steps toward making excellent beverages at home. “As long as you’ve got hot enough water and you’re using fresh coffee, they’re going to give you a decent product,” he says.
Now, if only there were an excellent coffee brewer available for $4.