This Is How to Clean Your Coffee Grinder

We go through a step-by-step guide for cleaning your burr grinder (hint: it’s fairly easy, as long as you get the right stuff).

A hand pressing down on the start button a coffee grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

I can guarantee that not enough people are cleaning their coffee grinders. 

And that’s ok! Perhaps you’re even reading this now and thinking, “I’m supposed to clean my grinder?” But coffee grinders are mysterious machines: with a click or a push of a button, they magically take beautiful whole beans and make them into uniform particle sizes that let you extract coffee’s wonderfulness.

Yes, this feels a little fantastical, but in our coffee grinder review, we talked to a handful of baristas and they echoed a piece of advice I myself have told hundreds of coffee drinkers: a good grinder is perhaps the single-most important piece of coffee brewing equipment you can buy. 

You can make more affordable choices with almost everything else in your home coffee setups, but investing in a good burr grinder is the key to a consistently brewed cup of coffee. As we explain in our review, a burr grinder evenly breaks down coffee into small, uniform particles, while a blade grinder is like taking a knife to a carrot and chopping haphazardly. A burr grinder’s that important! 

And after you’ve bought one, you want to treat your investment piece with love and care. But don’t go and start taking apart your grinder yet. Every machine is different, and there are two methods to cleaning your precious bean chopper (that’ll catch on as a cool nickname for grinders, right?). The first method involves using a dedicated grinder cleaner and can be used for most automatic grinders (the majority of the machines we covered in our coffee grinder guide) and the second is slightly more in-depth. So, I decided to provide a step-by-step guide on how to take apart and clean the Baratza Virtuoso+, the winner of our grinder review, to explain it.

Why Clean Your Grinder? 

How to Clean Your Coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

As coffee moves through a grinder, oils and other particles will eventually get stuck to the interior. Over time, coffee oils go rancid, so the longer they’re allowed to stay and accumulate on your machinery, the less appealing your coffee will start to taste. If you’re drinking coffee and notice an oily finish or a bad taste at the back of your tongue you can’t quite identify, that’s usually a sign it’s time to clean. 

Clean Coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Cleaning your grinder is meant to remove coffee oils and discard old coffee grounds and particles that get stuck to your equipment over time. Most grinders designed for home use come with a brush or even grinder cleaner to use on your machine periodically, but you can grab any brush (as long as it won’t scratch the burrs, but they can withstand a small wire brush, which is what comes with most machines). 

If you don’t clean your grinder, the first thing you’ll notice is that rancid taste, which will get worse over time. But eventually, grinders that continue to collect oils and old grounds can clog or slow down the speed of your burrs. Also, random bits of coffee beans can end up in weird places in your grinder, so it’s important to both regularly clean with a grinder cleaner (that’ll help pick up the oils and other stuff that gets stuck to the burrs) and take the grinder apart (to get out any loose bits). 

I, of course, have long lost the wire brush that came with my original Baratza grinder, so I grabbed a soft brush from one grinder and a wire brush from a different grinder (this is the kind of house I live in) to clean my machine. 

How to Clean Your Grinder

Grinder cleaning happens two ways: one, by using a designated product to run through the grinder; and two, through taking the grinder apart. 

In general, I recommend using a grinder cleaner every four to six weeks, and then taking apart your grinder every other month, but this really depends on how often you’re brewing coffee at home and what type of coffee you’re using. The schedule I laid out is for someone brewing about a pot everyday and using their grinder once daily. According to the Barazta website, darker roast coffees have more oils and will leave more residue on your burrs, so you might want to use grinder cleaner more often, but perhaps stick to an every other month cycle for taking apart the machine. 

Method #1 — Coffee Grinder Cleaner

A bottle of Grindz on a coutertop next to a gooseneck kettle and a burr grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Grinders are tricky to clean for a lot of reasons. “Due to the fact that a coffee grinder sits atop an exposed electric motor, it cannot be cleaned with detergent and water, as this would damage the components,” writes Joshua Dick in his book, “Grow Like a Lobster.” Dick was the CEO of Urnex, a coffee cleaning equipment company based in New York, and noticed that there weren’t very many good options to clean a coffee grinder. “Historically,” he writes, “people have ground rice as a way to dislodge coffee oil residue from the internal cutting teeth, but this practice risks destroying a grinder in a number of ways.” 

At a coffee trade show, he met Nils Erichsen, the CEO of a then-small German coffee grinding company called Mahlkönig, and they decided to work together to develop a coffee grinder cleaner that didn’t require users to take apart the machine. “[With] a new friend who had access to a limitless supply of coffee grinders (since I broke quite a few during product development), I set out to come up with a grinder cleaner.” 

“In building Urnex, I was determined to help customers make better tasting coffee by finding ways to clean away old coffee residue from any part of the brewing process,” he wrote to me in a follow-up email. “When I started to learn about grinders, I soon realized that this was an often neglected part of the system. The goal was to develop something that was chemical-free, edible, and did not require water as a rinse. After about a year of development work and many more years of patent filings, we figured it out.” 

Also available at Walmart; price at time of publish is $28.

In 2005, Urnex (full disclosure: I do social media work for Urnex’s Instagram account) filed a patent for Grindz and started bringing the product to coffee shows. “I will never forget the first SCAA [Specialty Coffee Association of America] show where Grindz was launched. It was an instant success!” Dick says. “The concept was incredibly well received. In sharing the idea and demonstrating the product I saw peoples' eyes light up as if we had just solved a problem that they knew they had been ignoring for too long. For the first few months or even a year production struggled around the clock to keep pace with demand.”

a handful of Grindz tablets on a black countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Grindz works by mimicking the shape of coffee beans and using food-safe ingredients to attach to coffee oils and residue. “The coffee bean shaped tablets fit perfectly into a grinder chamber and all ingredients were selected both for their cleaning and scouring abilities as well as their edibility,” Dick says. 

a collage of grinder cleaning tablets running through the grinder beside a hand holding a canister full of spent, ground cleaning tablets
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

For this tutorial, I used Grindz, but you could use another coffee grinder cleaner if you’d like—just make sure your product is designed to clean grinders. Grinder cleaners couldn't be any easier to use: measure however much you need (for Grindz, it’s between 35-40 grams, or about 1/4-cup for an at-home grinder), pour it in the hopper (the V-shaped top of the grinder), and grind like you would coffee. I recommend you grind a “burner” batch of coffee through the grinder just to remove any remaining cleaner, but all the ingredients in most grinder cleaners are food-safe (just check the label to make sure). 

The nice thing about this method is that you can do it as often as you’d like. I’ve seen experts recommend anywhere between once a week to once a month, but it really depends on how often you use your grinder and how much you’ll notice the difference in taste and quality of coffee brewed on clean burrs versus slightly dirtier ones. A fun experiment to do at home is to wait a few weeks, grind and brew coffee, then clean the grinder. Brew the same beans using freshly-ground beans on a newly-cleaned grinder, and see if you can detect the difference. You might notice the difference in the aftertaste (since grinder cleaners pick up old coffee oils) and in the clarity of flavors—a better-performing grinder should be able to grind coffee more consistently, which means you’ll be able to get more flavor clarity since the coffee is more evenly ground.

Method #2 — Take Apart The Grinder   

A bean hopper being removed from the base of a coffee grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

One of the reasons that Grindz was such a big deal when it came to market was that taking apart a grinder—especially taking apart the burrs, which are often delicately screwed and threaded into a grinder—is really time-consuming and it’s easy to break and lose pieces. When I was a wholesale coffee trainer in San Francisco, CA, my absolute nightmare was that I’d have to take apart a grinder and that I’d strip the threads and break the machine. 

“Not only were those few people who actually tried to clean their grinders stripping threads, they were misplacing screws, damaging outer cases, and wasting a lot of time both reassembling things and recalibrating their grind profiles,” Dick says. “Many big retail chains had been allocating as much as 30 minutes per store per week to clean grinders by opening and brushing.” 

Luckily, we’re not dealing with commercial equipment, but do check to see how your grinder is assembled before taking it apart. You can look at the manual or email the manufacturer to find out more information, but please do this before you take the machine apart. Missing a thread trying to reassemble the machine will render it useless until you can get a proper technician to fix it. 

Many at-home grinders, however, are designed to be taken apart easily, particularly those made by Baratza. In our grinder review, we recommended five different models of grinders—two of them are from Baratza. In researching for this article, I looked to see if there were any major differences between the Encore (one of their most popular models) and my Virtuoso, and I saw that the builds were virtually the same, so you can use this guide for either machine—you can also look at videos made by Baratza if you’d like someone to gently talk you through the process. I watched a video on cleaning three times before I went in just to make sure I was doing it right. 

Again, a quick note: this guide is primarily for the Baratza Encore and Virtuoso. If you have a different Baratza grinder, go to their YouTube channel to learn more about your specific grinder (many of Baratza’s grinders follow the same easy principles with pop-out pieces and intuitive builds, but the pieces are slightly different so it’s helpful to visually see someone else take apart the grinder first before you dive in). If you have a totally different grinder, read your manual, reach out to the manufacturer, or do a google search for video guides from trusted coffee experts. DO NOT TAKE APART YOUR GRINDER WITHOUT CONSULTING A GUIDE. 

The first step in cleaning your grinder is to empty out all the coffee beans. I usually don’t leave coffee in my hopper (I weigh out coffee every morning and then dose exactly what I need), but if you have any coffee in there, turn the grinder over and empty it out in a container. 

Next, grind out anything that’s left in the hopper. Even though you just poured out all those beans, there’s likely some still hanging around the very bottom and stuck in the burrs as well. Do this by pressing the grind button and letting it run until you hear no beans being ground. 

Now, unplug your grinder (safety first!), and remove both the hopper and the grounds bin. The grounds bin should be easy—you’ve probably already removed it before since that’s where the ground coffee comes out—but the hopper needs to be turned to the coarsest grind setting (the direction where the numbers get bigger, and you’ll see a little arrow indicating you’ve reached your mark). You can clean both of these pieces—and only these pieces—with soap and water. 

Clean your coffee Grinder
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Next, take out the gasket, which is a black plastic ring. It should come out just by lifting up. Then lift up the removable section of the burrs (these are conical burrs, meaning they have a cone-shaped middle piece and an outer ring—you’re removing the outer ring). You can do this by lifting up from the two tabs sticking out. You’ll notice one of them is red—this is important later. 

Cleaning the gasket is easy, but you want to be soft and avoid stretching or breaking it. I’ll take a paper towel or microfiber cloth and just rub off any old coffee grounds. With the burrs, I’ll take that brush, and really concentrate on trying to get grounds out of the small, sharp “teeth” of the burrs by moving in an up and down direction. I like to do the ring part of the burr first, making sure to clean around the o-ring, or the plastic piece that encases the metal burr, before going in on the cone part. After I clean the cone part, I’ll turn the grinder over to pat out any loose grounds. 

a hand holding the ring encasing the burrs and a hand holding the burr ring and using a brush to clean it off
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Then you’ll want to use the brush to clean the grinding chute, or the little opening towards the bottom where ground coffee comes out. There’s no method to this: just get in there and try to loosen or shake out any grounds, and feel free to give the grinder a knock or two to loosen things up. And as you’re doing all this, you’ll likely notice that your burrs will never be perfectly clean. That’s fine: they will never be as pristine as the day you got them. You’ll have to decide when you’re done brushing off the grinders. If you want to get wild, you can buy a can of compressed air and knock out all those last little particles, but that’s not required. 

Remember that red tab? To put the grinder back together, take the ring part of the burr and line up the red tab with a red line in the body of the grinder. You can simply drop it in—you don’t need to click or lock it into place. Then put the gasket it (it has two indents to line up with the tabs). Then take your hopper, and find the side that has a silver line: line this up with the arrow towards the coarsest grind setting, push down, and rotate back to your original grind setting. And that’s it! 

Phew! You deserve a coffee now. And with clean burrs, it’s gonna taste awesome.

FAQs

Can I use rice to clean my grinder? 

You could, but you shouldn’t. Rice is hard and brittle, so it can chip or damage the burrs, which are the bread and butter of your grinder. Coffee grinder cleaners now are designed to be soft enough to not damage your machine. 

Why can’t I use soap on my burrs? 

Most burrs on burr grinders are made from high-carbon steel, which helps them maintain their sharpness over long periods of time, but means they can rust if exposed to water. 

Do coffee grinder burrs get dull over time? 

Yes, and eventually you’ll want to replace them, but the question of when really depends on how often you’re using your burrs. Brands like Baratza will do that for you, or you can order one yourself and look up their tutorial for installing a new set of burrs. 

Do I need to clean my manual hand grinder? 

Yes. Like automatic burr grinders, manual grinders get dirty and their burrs need to be cleaned. You can run a dose of Grindz through your manual grinder just as you would normally, but consult your user manual before you begin taking things apart. 

Should You Buy a Nespresso Machine?

We tested and evaluated the performance, usability, and more of the Nespresso Vertuo Plus (one of the company’s most popular models).

A Nespresso machine brewing a cup of coffee into an amber mug
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The coffee pod revolution might seem like a recent phenomenon: in 2005, a mere 1% of US homes had a single-cup coffee machine; by 2020, four out of every 10 homes had a single-cup brewer—most of them pod brewers, those easy-to-use coffee machines that seem to work like magic: insert a small, sealed cup of ground coffee, fill the tank with water, and press a button. And just like that, coffee appears. 

But Nespresso (an operating branch of the larger Nestlé corporation that deals with all things coffee) has been at the pod coffee brewing game for a long time—since 1976, to be precise. And even with the proliferation of other competitors, they continue to be the leader in this market. The word “Nespresso” feels like it’s becoming synonymous with single-cup pod brewers, much as brands products from like Band-Aid and Kleenex have entered the generic lexicon. 

However, just because something has been around for a while—and has become ubiquitous within the at-home coffee brewing market—doesn't mean it’s good. So we decided to test one of Nespresso’s most popular models, the Vertuo Plus Deluxe, and see if it’s worth your hard-earned money. 

How Do Nespresso Machines Work?

A hand loading a pod into a Nespresso machine
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez


Nestlé, a Swiss company that is one of the largest food purveyors in the world, has been working on pod-based brewers since 1976. It’s kind of a wild story: “In 1975, a young engineer named Eric Favre took a trip to Rome that would change the history of coffee,” writes Ed Cumming for The Guardian. Favre, who worked for Nestlé, noticed a crowd of people at a particular coffee shop in the city, and realized that the baristas were pumping the piston of their espresso machine repeatedly (this was likely with a lever machine, where baristas have to pull down a lever to pressurize the brewing water and force it through a puck of coffee). 

“This meant they forced more water and air into the ground beans, which meant greater oxidization, which drew out more flavor from the beans and produced more of a crema,” Cumming writes. “In the history of at-home premium coffee, this is perhaps the closest anyone has ever come to a eureka moment.”

Farve used the observation in the cafe to develop the brand’s first single-serve coffee brewer. All pod brewers work slightly differently, but their technology is based on relatively the same idea: Coffee grounds are preserved in a sealed container usually made of aluminum. A small needle is inserted into the capsule, pressurized hot water is added, and out comes espresso. 

A closeup shot of a Nespresso machine brewing into a white mug
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Nestlé took ten years developing their first machine, creating the Nespresso sub-branch in 1986. In 2012, a number of Nespresso patents expired—specifically, their patent for the actual pods themselves, the little aluminum canisters filled with coffee. That allowed other brands to make pods compatible with Nespresso machines and helped usher in a new era of at-home coffee brewing. Now, pod-based brewers are as important an amenity in hotels and AirBnBs as running water and WiFi.

In 2014, Nespresso launched the Vertuo line—and it’s got some weird stuff. One of the reasons Nespresso made the Vertuo was to appeal to American coffee preferences by offering larger-sized drinks as opposed to just traditional, espresso-style beverages, but they also included a bunch of new technology, perhaps feeling the sting of losing so much of their intellectual property just years ago. Coffee YouTube creator James Hoffmann did a deep dive into the patents on the Vertuo and the machine’s new features, most notably their redesigned pods: instead of thimble-shaped capsule, Nespresso made these dome-shaped pods that come in three different sizes: the smallest for single espressos (the Vertuo box says these drinks are about 40 milliliters), the medium for double (80 milliliters) and “lungo” (150 milliliters) espressos, and the large for “coffee drinks” (230 milliliters). 

From what I can tell, there’s not much difference between the coffees in the pods themselves. Hoffmann opens up each pod and measures the amount of coffee in each, and predictably, the smallest pod has the least amount of coffee (7.5 grams) while the largest pod has the most (13 grams) and the middle is, you guessed it, in the middle (10.6 grams). 

What makes this seem like a ploy to make consumers use only Nespresso pods are the barcodes: if you flip each of the pods over, the outer rim has a barcode the machine reads so it knows what pod is in there. No one designs pods shaped like Nespresso’s new domes (that I know of), but I also don’t think that would matter because of the barcode. You can override the barcode if, say, you want to make a coffee-sized drink with an espresso pod, but I’m pretty sure your only option for brewing is Nespresso-made pods—I did see a TikTok video on my ‘For You’ page where a person reused their Nespresso pods by washing out spent pods and resealing them with aluminum stickers, so there are ways to get around repurchasing new ones.

Another proprietary piece of technology is their “centrifusion” technique, a portmanteau of “centrifugal” and “infusion.” I have to admit: I don’t fully understand how this works. I’ve read dozens of articles on this process, most of which seem to get as far as, “oh, this is cool!” without further explanation. Basically, the machine forces water through a puncture point in the center of the capsule, and then starts rotating really fast—something like 7,000 rotations per minute. This pushes the grounds and water to the edges of the capsule, and water out through a dozen smaller puncture points that form a circle around the capsule. You can see this when you look at a spent capsule. 

An overhead shot at a spent Nespresso capsule with the foil top removed so you can see the grounds
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

This “centrifusion” technique seems designed to extract coffee evenly, or ensure that all of the grounds are in contact with water for about the same amount of time. In his video, Hoffmann mentions that one of the goals of the Vertuo is to extract coffee without building up pressure, so perhaps that’s what the centrifusion does. 

What’s particularly confusing about this, however, is how Nespresso achieves “crema” in their drinks. Traditionally, crema is trapped carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules—CO2 is produced during roasting, but dissipates over time so the fresher the coffee, the more CO2; you generally don’t see crema on coffee unless it’s brewed using a pressurized brew method like espresso (most of the CO2 is released when brewing with a pour over set up when water hits the brew bed—that’s why you’ll see bubbles pop out during the first initial pour, particularly for fresh coffee).  

But the Nespresso pods are not fresh and yet, every single drink, from their single espressos to their coffee-sized sippers, has crema. The coffee was ground who knows when, and when you try actually brewing them—like, ripping the pods open and using the ground coffee on a pourover brewer—there’s no crema. I have to imagine this centrifusion has something to do with the resulting crema, but I’m not sure. 

The Nespresso milk frother pouring frothed milk into a mug with brewed coffee
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The machine also comes with a milk frother, the Aeroccino 3. I evaluated the Aeroccino during my review of milk frothers, and found that, though a little finicky (I had to watch a YouTube video to understand the machine’s functions) it works well and froths milk consistently. What’s wild is that I nixed the Aeroccino from my top milk frothers because of its price—alone, it retails for about $90, but the Vertuo and the Aeroccino together retailed for $154 at the time of publication. I guess it pays to bundle things?

To evaluate the Vertuo, I brewed every pod in the provided sampler pack and one of each of the coffees from this variety pack. I tasted and timed each brew, evaluating each on its roast level, flavor intensity, and bitterness. 

In writing this review, I wanted to address a gap that exists between coffee consumers and coffee people like myself: I think it’d be easy to dismiss this machine, especially from a company I have been critical of in the past (more on that below). But I keep coming back to the statistic stated above: four in 10 people have some sort of single-cup brewer, and the majority of them have something like a Nespresso. I really wanted to understand why these machines are appealing and hope my assessments and observations give potential consumers good information to think about. 

Pros of the Nespresso

A wide-angle shot of a Nespresso machine brewing into a mug with a milk frother beside it
Serious Eats / Ashely Rodriguez

If making coffee with a pourover setup or on a manual espresso machine is like making toast by baking bread from scratch, then using a Nespresso is like buying a loaf of pre-sliced bread and throwing a few pieces in the toaster; there’s absolutely no “craft” to the process: all you do is select your pod, pop in into the machine, and press go. 

I write the above sentence with absolutely no disdain. Sometimes you’ve got all weekend to make a dough, simmer a sauce, and lovingly put together a homemade pizza. Other times, you want to throw something frozen in the oven and have dinner ready in 20 minutes. If your main objective is to simply get coffee delivered to you hot, quickly, and consistently, then the Nespresso is a pretty good investment. 

First off, the Vertuo is fast. Like, scary fast. When I brewed one of the smaller pods—the ones meant for espresso-style drinks—it took one-minute and three seconds for the coffee to brew. That’s wild considering that the water in the brewing tank is about room temperature, so the machine is able to get water to around 200°F absurdly fast. Coffees brewed with the larger pods didn’t take much more time than that: every drink was done within two minutes of pressing the brew button.

A hand removing the brew tank from a Nespresso machine
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Vertuo is a well-designed machine. The brew tank is fully detachable and adjustable, so you can finagle it to fit whenever you’d like on your counter. The brewing tank makes a really satisfying clicking sound when it’s fully attached (I attribute that to the influence of Breville, another coffee brewing company that occasionally partners with Nespresso and is known for its user-friendly designs). Operating the brewer is also straightforward: all you do is press a lever (which is wild—I thought you’d have to click it open and the opening was controlled by a spring or something, but it’s literally touch-operated and wouldn’t work unless the machine was plugged in), put a pod in, and press go. Once you open the lever again, the pod automatically slides into a disposal chute located behind the brewer. Honestly, these design touches feel a little excessive, but also fancy, like you’re working with a high-tech piece of equipment. 

Lastly, the brewer offers a variety of coffee styles (my Vertuo came with 12 different coffees—four of each “size,” but all from different regions or blends) so you can easily shake things up if you wanted to try something new. Most brewers can be divided into two categories: they either make espresso or they make drip coffee, but the Vertuo seamlessly jumps between both. You don’t need to change any of the parameters on the brewer to pull a shot of espresso in the AM and a cup of filter coffee to round out your afternoon. 

Cons of the Nespresso

A closeup look at coffee brewed with the Nespresso with a thick layer of crema on top
Serious Eats / Ashely Rodriguez

So let’s start with the obvious: the coffee from the Nespresso is weird. And it’s weird for a few reasons. 

First, the dose. For filter coffee, the 13-gram dose is actually pretty appropriate since you’re getting about 230 milliliters in coffee. A quick ratio I use for brewing filter or drip coffee is to take the dose of the coffee you want to use and multiply that by 16. The sum will get you the amount of water you need for brewing. In this case, that gets you to 208, which is a little low, but not out of the ballpark. 

But when you look at the espresso doses, the amount of coffee in each pod feels really, really low. Espresso is usually a concentrated beverage, and most baristas at most coffee shops are pulling shots of espresso with anywhere between a 1:1 to 1:4 ratio of coffee to water, but they’re usually landing somewhere around 1:2 to 1:3. When I dial in a new coffee I’ve never tried before, I usually aim for a 1:2 ratio, usually 18 grams of coffee to around 36 grams of water for a double shot of espresso. 

The small capsules have 7.5 grams of coffee and give drinkers a 40-milliliter beverage. So the dose isn’t quite right for an espresso, and the resulting beverage has whispers of an espresso, but not quite. Same with the medium-sized capsules, which have 10.6 grams of coffee and put out an 80 mL or 150 mL drink (I’m not really sure what to classify this as—it’s like a very short Americano maybe?). 

This is all fine and good on its own—I don’t really care about there being a “right” and “wrong” ratio of coffee to water. What matters is being able to find the ratio that’s right for you: if users were able to adjust these ratios more (I mentioned there’s a way to override some of the sizes, but it can get complicated quickly), then the pod sizes wouldn’t bother me, but the whole point of the Vertuo is for the barcodes to tell the machine the precise and ideal way to brew, and I’m not convinced that Nespresso’s ratios are the ideal way to enjoy their coffee, nor that they need to be so didactic about how to enjoy coffee in general.

Now let’s talk about coffee. It is very, very darkly roasted. Each pod gives you a range of roast levels from one to 10. The lowest level I had in my variety box (the Vertuo came with 12 different pods to try out, and we also ordered three other coffees which came in sets of 10) was rated a four, and it tasted very bitter and weird in the finish. Most of the coffees had that bitter, roasty finish at the end that blew out my palate and made it difficult to taste anything nuanced or different in each coffee—no matter what pod I tasted, they all tasted the same. 

I found this bitterness to be the least offensive in the biggest pods, the ones intended for coffee-sized drinks. But I still couldn’t taste anything inherent to the coffees themselves, which feels boring! I’ve brewed coffees on a Keurig system before, and with those brewers, I could get a sense that different pods would taste different from one another. But each Nespresso pod tasted the same with a bitter finish at the end. 

Now is where we talk about the elephant(s) in the room. 

Nestlé as a company has landed itself in hot water over the years. Former Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has gone on record saying that water should be treated like any other foodstuff one would buy and sell and that NGOs claiming water is a human right is an “extreme solution.” In the 1970s, Nestlé was accused of encouraging women, particularly women in developing countries, to forgo breastfeeding their infants and switch to more expensive formula feeding. And just this year, when Nespresso obtained B-corp status, a certification program that seeks to distinguish socially and environmentally responsible companies, dozens of other previously certified B-corp companies penned an open letter condemning the choice to confer this status, writing: “Although Nespresso has achieved the minimum currently required for certification…Nespresso’s abysmal track record on human rights from child labor and wage theft to abuse of factory workers is well documented by the media and NGOs.”

Three different sized Nespresso pods on a countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

But, let’s zoom in and look at the Vertuo itself and specifically, the pods. Coffee pods and their effect on the environment have enjoyed a long life in the cultural zeitgeist. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you remember some discussion about how many times a line of spent pods could circle the globe

Nespresso claims that their pods are recyclable, and they are—but you have to drop the capsules off at one of their designated drop spots, give them to your mail person when they deliver your order, or bring them to a Nespresso store. Their pods say they’re recyclable, and while that isn’t a lie, it seems misleading and I imagine many people will either throw them into their home recycling or simply throw them in the trash. Just because something is technically recyclable doesn’t mean it will get recycled. 

So, What Should You Do?

A side view of the Nespresso machine
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

As a coffee pro, I think it’s easy for me to forget that many people simply want coffee as a caffeine delivery service, and that’s 100% acceptable! I can’t find any fault in the actual design and use of the Vertuo, and I’m kind of amazed by how quickly and consistently the brewer makes coffee. It literally couldn’t be any easier. 

But if you’re here, I have to imagine you care a little bit about what your coffee tastes like, and I think there are a few options for single-cup coffee and quick brews. For example, many of your favorite coffee brands make instant or steeped coffee options from makers like Swift Coffee and Steeped.

I think the Vertuo is a better value for people interested in making espresso drinks at home (the instant options I listed above are, in my opinion, better for drip coffee), but we also wrote a review of the best home espresso machines with options that range in price from a few bucks to a couple hundred, and I tend to think those machines are better options. They do require a bit more work on the part of the user, so if that’s a dealbreaker, the Vertuo is a good option to consider. 

But overall, do I recommend the Vertuo? I wouldn’t buy it for me, but for a person looking for a really simple and consistent brewing system? I think this would be a welcome addition to their kitchen setup.   

FAQs

Are Nespresso pods recyclable?

Yes, they are. But that’s maybe the wrong question. As noted above, Nespresso pods cannot be thrown into your home recycling, and must be taken to specific drop zones or given to your mail person when delivering a new order. 

Is Nespresso better than Keurig?

I’m not sure you can say one is better than the other, but I’d be more excited to see a Keurig if, let’s say, I was in a hotel room or traveling somewhere. Because so many different coffee companies make Keurig pods, I’d be able to customize my experience a little more and find roasters whose coffee I’m more excited to drink (I don’t mean this is a bougie way—if I found pods of Dunkin coffee, I’d drink that 100 times over before I’d drink a Nespresso pod simply because they don’t roast their coffee as dark, which highlights the bitterness and lingering taste of coffee). 

How much is a Nespresso Machine?

At the time of publication, the Nespresso Vertuo + Aeroccino was $202 on Amazon. My initial package came with 12 pods, and we also ordered three sets with ten pods each (30 in total), which retail on Amazon for $36. Most Nespresso machines range in price between $100-$300. 

We Tested 7 Temperature Control Mugs—Find Out if They’re Worth It

We tested the most popular temperature control mugs (including models from Ember) to figure out which ones kept coffee hot and were easy to use.

seven temperature control mugs on a countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

I was at a (now defunct) coffee conference called MANE (the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Coffee Conference) in 2012 when I heard George Howell say drinking a cup of coffee should be a “thirty minute pleasure trip.” Howell is the godfather of coffee: he’s one of the inventors of the Frappuccino, creator of the prestigious Cup of Excellence competition, and now runs an eponymous coffee roastery outside of Boston, MA. So when he says coffee should be enjoyed over a 30-minute period so you can experience the changing flavors as the coffee cools, you listen.

So, you can see why I might be skeptical of temperature control coffee mugs. I do, in fact, enjoy the experience of drinking coffee as it cools and identifying the different flavor notes that become present. But I’m also forgetful, and I don’t always want my morning brew to be a variable pleasure trip. Sometimes, I just want hot coffee, and I imagine others feel the same way. Which means I eventually learned to unclench my jaw and open my mind to the world of temperature-controlled mugs, which keep coffee hot for an extended period of time. 

Now, temperature control mugs haven’t been around for too long. Before they became popular, people were using hotplates or the tried-and-true method of “sticking your mug in the microwave” to keep coffee warm. And if you Google any of these mugs, you’re likely to get some version of “Is X worth the price?” Of course, I can’t make that determination for you. But, what I can do (and did) is test the most popular temperature control mugs to find the best ones.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Temperature Control Mug: Ember Travel Mug

There’s nothing this mug can’t do. Along with a digital thermometer that gives temperature readings in real time, the Ember Travel Mug can also be controlled using the brand’s easy-to-use app. At 12 ounces, it had the largest capacity of all the mugs I tested, as well as a touch display.

The Best Budget Temperature Control Mug: ionMug and Charging Coaster

The Ember Travel Mug was the priciest model l I tested, but the ionMug was the least expensive. And did exactly what it needed to do: it kept coffee consistently hot over an extended period of time. It also featured three different temperature settings, functioned well both off and on its charger, and was cool to the touch when on. Its longevity is, however, questionable.

The Tests

A Thermapen taking the temperature of coffee inside the Ember Travel Mug
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez
  • Charging Time Test: Measure how long each mug took to fully charge out of the box. 
  • Temperature Hold Test: After charging, we poured eight ounces of hot coffee and set each mug to 135°F (if it could be set), to see how it held temperature off its charging station. 
  • Temperature Hold Test, with Liquid Removal: I performed the same test as above, but removed .5 ounces of liquid every 10 minutes, to represent sips of coffee. 
  • Long-Hold Test: I placed each mug on its charging pad, poured eight ounces of hot coffee into each mug, and took temperature readings (using an instant-read thermometer) every half hour for four hours. If the mug offered variable temperature settings, we tested it at 145°F. 
  • Consistency Tests: I measured each temperature reading of the mug against the temperature it was set to—in general, if the mug was within +/- two degrees, it was considered accurate. I also considered consistency of the temperature over time—did the temperature fluctuate or stay consistent over time? 
  • Usability of the Mugs: Throughout testing, I looked at the materials each mug was made of and how easy or difficult each was to use. Did the mugs get hot to the touch or were they cool enough to handle? Was the handle comfortable to hold? If it came with a lid, how easy was it to take on and off and/or drink from?
  • Usability of Any Smart Features: Were the features of the mug easy to understand? Were they intuitive? Did they perform consistently over time, or were there glitches and technical failings? If the mug had an app, I also assessed how easy it was to use.

What We Learned

When Left Alone, Coffee Cools Quickly

If you’re wondering if you should consider a temperature control mug, consider the rate at which coffee cools. Unlike many of the other Serious Eats reviews I’ve done, this review lent itself well to a control group: a mug of coffee simply left on the counter. During the temperature hold test, where I tested each mug’s ability to hold hot coffee (taking the temperature every 10 minutes over a 90-minute period), I also measured a regular ol’ cup of coffee to see how its temperature changed over time:

I can’t claim this was done very scientifically. (I don’t know what the temperature inside my home was, for example, and if that contributed to a slower or faster cooling rate. And I used an amber mug made by the folks at MANUAL, and I can’t say if these results would be the same if I tested in a porcelain or ceramic mug.) However, it seems like coffee loses about 40 degrees in the first 10 minutes, 25 more degrees after 20 minutes, and so on (see above). The rate at which coffee loses heat is high when coffee is very hot, and then it slows down as it cools. 

When I saw these results, I was even more convinced that a temperature-controlled mug could be a worthwhile investment since coffee loses so much heat so quickly. Anecdotally, I also know this to be true. The first few moments you’re waiting for coffee to cool can feel like an eternity, but the second coffee reaches an ideal temperature (more on this below), it’ll continue to lose heat. The moments between the perfect temperature and unpleasantly cool can be a phone call, a quick question from a colleague, or a bathroom break. This is all to say: Seeing a mug of coffee's temperature drop from 136°F (after 10 minutes) to 111°F (after 20 minutes) was enough to convince me that, for the right person, these temperature control mugs are a good way to solve a very common problem. 

135°F Seemed to Be The Sweet Spot

a cupping spoon retrieving coffee from a 135F mug
Throughout testing, I tasted each mug’s coffee repeatedly to evaluate any flavor differences.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Almost all the mugs we tested started at a preset temperature of 135°F. Some of the mugs could not be adjusted at all, hovering on or around the 135°F marker no matter what. I wanted to know why. 

Humans perceive different flavors from the same foods depending on temperature. We did a deep dive on how temperature affects flavor, and the research is still evolving, but here’s a summary of what we learned: items that are too hot will mask flavor while items that are too cool will dull them. There’s no uniform understanding of the relationship between temperature and flavor (our article notes, for example, that “beer turns bitter when warmed from its typical serving temperature; coffee, on the other hand, has been found to taste less bitter when cooled down from piping-hot.”) but it does seem there’s a sweet spot between just above body temperature and just below our heat threshold (around 150-160°F, but that’s also not a super scientific range and really depends on your own personal preferences). 

At one point, the National Coffee Association recommended a serving temperature between 180-185°F, and a few articles I read latched onto that range. Their current website doesn’t seem to reflect that range, but I’d guess they meant that drip coffee should be served, not necessarily consumed, between 180-185°F. Their website points to a study that shows most people prefer their coffee at around 140°F. Another study got more specific, indicating that 136°F was the ideal temperature. So, 135°F is not far off.

All The Mugs Performed the Same Task—But They Were Still Different

The OHOM mug with its lid off and its charging pad to the left
The OHOM mug, shown here, only worked on its charger.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

I found it slightly difficult to compare each mug because almost all of them performed relatively the same. They all did what they said they’d do—keep coffee warm—but operated very differently.

Two of the seven mugs (the OHOM and the Hurkins) are basically coffee warmers: they only work when the mug is on the heating pad. For some reason, with both models, the heating pads doubled as phone chargers. I’m not sure who asked for this. 

An upclose looking at the Glowstone mug
The Glowstone mug lacked any sort of digital interface or app, which I didn't find to be intuitive.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Glowstone, on the other hand, only operated off its charger, and displayed a red light when at the “ideal” temperature (their website indicates that’s between 140-150°F, but there’s no digital interface, and I noted that the temperature did drop over time). The ionMug had three temperature settings and heated coffee both off charger (for up to three hours) and on the charger (it’ll turn off after three hours of inactivity, but all you need to do is move it to remind it to keep heating). Both Embers and the VSITOO are app-controlled (arguably, these are the only “smart” mugs because of their app connectivity), and even amongst that group, the Ember Travel can be controlled via touch functions on the mug itself. 

A look at the Ember app
The Ember's app was easy to use and allowed you to easily tailor your temperature and save multiple preset temperatures.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

But, despite usability differences, most mugs were able to hold temperature at 135°F for at least 90 minutes (the Glowstone had a weird design feature where the temperature began to very slowly taper off around the 30-minute mark, but it was clearly still being heated since the temperature drop was very slight, about five degrees every 10 minutes, and then dropping down dramatically after 60). If the mugs were on their chargers, most (except the OHOM and the Glowstone) were able to keep a consistent 135°F for four hours.

It's OK If You Think a Temperature Control Mug Is Silly (It Is, Indeed, Both Silly and Great)

A thermal carafe pouring coffee into a temperature control mug
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

One of the reasons I wanted to do this review is because of a video made by James Hoffmann. Hoffmann runs a successful YouTube channel where he talks about fun—and sometimes offbeat—coffee topics, from reviews of common products to making espresso in tourist spots across London. He reviewed the Ember Mug in 2018, and admits that it’s a silly product, but that he likes it and accepts any and all teasing associated with that. “I get that if you saw me with this, [you] would want to tease me,” he says, “and you should.” 

Hoffmann is in part responding to the not-so-warm (ha!) welcome the Ember received when it debuted. I’m not kidding: Google “Ember mug” and “silly” together and you’ll find Reddit threads and articles questioning why in the world someone would want this mug (one article even goes so far as to say you’d have to be an “idiot” to buy this mug). Ember took off through a well-funded IndieGoGo campaign, and like many crowd-funded projects (particularly in coffee with the most famous flop being the promise of the ZPM, which promised professional-grade espresso machines for the home for $400 a pop), people were skeptical. 

I can’t say for certain the Ember was the first temperature control mug, but it certainly paved the way for folks to enjoy consistently hot coffee without sticking it in the microwave. Coffee’s chemical makeup changes and compounds breakdown as it cools, so reheating a cup of coffee is like putting together a piece of glass you smashed into a zillion pieces: it’s not going to come out the same. And yes, oxidation will occur with any coffee you simply let sit out, regardless if it’s in a temperature-controlled mug or not, but it won’t degrade in the same way as a fully cooled—then reheated—coffee will. 

All this is to say that you do not need a temperature-controlled mug. I’d argue you need a good gooseneck kettle to make a great pourover, or a decent machine to make great espresso at home, but you absolutely do not need a temperature control mug to enjoy coffee. I feel like with articles like this, the natural reaction is to bristle at the recommendations and make a comment like, “I’d never pay X amount of money for that.” You don’t have to: having or not having one will not make or break your coffee experience. Instead, I’d classify this as a really lovely luxury, an item that made drinking coffee better in a way that I hadn’t expected. 

The Criteria: What to Look for in the Best Temperature Control Mug

The ember travel mug with text points around it
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez / Amanda Suarez

We looked for mugs that delivered on their stated promise: did they keep coffee at a pleasant temperature over an extended period of time? We looked at how long they took to charge, how long they kept coffee hot, how versatile they were, and any smart functions. We also assessed how easy they were to use: did they require any special instructions to deliver on their stated task? 

We also looked at how they delivered information: some mugs signaled that they were fully charged, needed charging, or were at their ideal temperature through a series of colors and flashing lights, which were not always intuitive. Lastly, we looked at the design of the mug and if they were easy to clean and handle (some got hot to the touch) and pleasant to drink out of. 

The Best Temperature Control Mug: Ember Travel Mug

What we liked: For starters, the Ember Travel Mug is the only mug that relies on old-fashioned design: travel mugs in general can keep coffee hotter for longer, which I saw demonstrated in my testing. After the mug ran of out battery (which took about three hours) its tapered shape meant that coffee cooled at a much slower rate than any of its competitors. Also, because of this design, less coffee was exposed to oxygen, so it oxidized at a much slower rate. I found that most of the mugs tasted relatively the same after 90 minutes, save the Ember Travel, which was superior to the others. 

The Ember Travel is also the “smartest” mug. Although both the Ember and the Ember Travel use the same app to control temperature, the Ember Travel displays temperature readings in real time (the Ember mug just has a light on the bottom that flashes different colors, which were difficult to remember and interpret). When I initially poured coffee into the Ember Travel, it gave me a reading of the coffee’s current temperature. However, there was a threshold: when I poured cold water, the mug simply read “cold,” but it also flashed the word “empty” to indicate when there was no liquid. 

The app for the Ember comes with preset temperatures for a variety of drinks: it’ll hold liquid at an ideal temperature for things like tea, and you can set your preferred temperature setting or just rely on one of the defaults already programmed. Unlike the other smart mug, the VSIToo, you could also set the Ember to exactly the temperature you want (along with its app constantly disconnecting every time I entered a different room, the VSIToo only allows you to tweak the temperature in nine-degree increments). Overall, I’m not sure you can ask much more from a smart mug than the Ember Travel: it provides so much more than any of its competitors. 

The Ember Travel Mug reading 'Cold'
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

What we didn’t like: Of course, the Ember Travel is the most expensive mug I tested. At $200, it’s undeniably pricey.

Part of my testing involved letting the mugs sit on their chargers over a period of four hours. Because the Ember Travel is designed to go into sleep mode after a certain period of inactivity, it was difficult to “remind” the mug I was still using it. I had to pick it up and fiddle with the app a few times before the mug kicked back on. 

I didn’t mind drinking out of a travel mug, but my partner noted that he’d prefer to use a mug with a handle. He reminded me that many people are likely using these kinds of mugs at work, but I countered with the fact that a travel mug can still be enjoyed at an office, while a regular mug with a handle can’t go on the road or fit into a car mug carrier. I think that’s more an issue of preference rather than a ding on the mug itself. 

Finally, although you can set your ideal temperature down to the degree, the temperature range is limited. The mug will only keep liquid warm between 120-145°F, so if you want something hotter or cooler, this mug can’t do it.

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 12 ounces
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 120 to 145°F 
  • Battery Life: 3 hours
  • Charging time: Approximately 2 hours
The Ember Travel mug
Serious Eats / Ashely Rodriguez

The Best Budget Temperature Control Mug: ionMug and Charging Coaster

What we liked: Because life is all about balance, I now present to you the least expensive mug I tested. 

The ionMug looked remarkably like many of the high-end mugs, with a matte black finish and a digital interface. It only offered three settings: you can set it to keep your coffee hot at 135°F, 140°F, or 145°F, but it has just as long of a battery life as the Ember Travel and works continuously when left on its charger. Like many of the mugs, it needed to be “reminded” it was still on during our four-hour charging test, but simply moving the mug a bit was enough to turn off its sleep mode and restart the warming feature. 

The ionMug is also steady as a rock. Other mugs fluctuated in temperature every now and then, but the ionMug barely wavered, keeping at a steady 133°F (it was programmed to 135, and I felt that a +/- range of two degrees was acceptable) at almost every temperature check interval. The ionMug is also the only mug under $100 that could be used off its charger: the other two, the Hurkins and the OHOM, need to be on the charger to heat and still cost more than the ionMug. 

The iOn Mug with a small container beside it and a cupping spoon with coffee in it
As you can see, part of the "5" is gone.Serious Eats / Ashely Rodriguez

What we didn’t like: I tested all these mugs four to six times. In particular, I really wanted to see if the ionMug would show early wear and tear, something I was worried about due to its low price point. Although the mug held up in performance, I did notice that the digital interface was starting to wear (when I set it to heat at 135°F, half of the “5” would no longer flash). Some of the Amazon reviews I read for the mug indicated that it didn’t have the best lifespan and that the charging divots on the bottom of the mug are easily damaged. 

I’m not totally convinced that the battery won’t just fail after a few more uses (especially based on the reviews I read), but I couldn’t get it to that point during testing, so I can’t say for certain if the battery issues were due to poor craftsmanship or simply using the mug incorrectly. The manual indicates that the ionMug is safe to use under running water, but I bet you shouldn’t really do that (I cleaned each mug with soap, then quickly ran water only in the mug, not outside of it. I also never submerged the mugs—I couldn’t wrap my head around each of these mugs having metal or a battery and throwing it into water). 

Key Specs

  • Capacity: 12 ounces
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 135 to 145°F 
  • Battery Life: 3 hours
  • Charging time: Approximately 2 hours
The ionMug on its charging pad
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Competition

  • Hurkins Smug: The Hurkins performed just fine, but its indicator light was very faint, so I had trouble telling if it was on. The Hurkins only worked on its charger. 
  • OHOM Self-Heating Ceramic Mug: Like the Hurkins, the OHOM didn't have a battery and only worked on the charger. Made of ceramic, this was one of the more attractive mugs I tested and it comes in a range of colors. Most of the mugs came with a travel lid—this one did not, and, despite moving it around to tell the charger it was still in use, it went into “sleep” mode around three hours. 
  • Ember Mug 2: The good ol’ Ember performed just fine, but you get so many more features for a few bucks more with the Ember Travel. It was a little hard to deduce the different flashing colors, but the mug performed well and kept coffee tasting fresh and hot. If you have your eye on this mug specifically, you won't be disappointed by it.
  • Glowstone Smart Mug 2: This most resembled an actual mug and was the only mug that was dishwasher-safe. But the design choices felt strange: for some reason, it only worked off the charger, and displayed a bright red light to indicate that coffee was at an ideal drinking temperature, but didn't allow users to control the temperature, nor did it display the temperature. 
  • VSITOO S3 Pro Temperature Control Smart Mug with Sliding Lid: This performed about as well as the Ember, but users could only pick temperatures in increments of nine and the app wasn’t as easy to use as Ember’s. Every time I walked from one room to another, I got a notification asking me to reconnect the mug and app.. 

FAQs

Will a temperature control mug heat up cold coffee?

Yes—although this wasn’t part of our testing protocol, I did allow some of the coffees to go cold, usually by letting the mugs get to sleep mode, and turned them back on. All of them were able to bring coffee up back to temperature, except the Glowstone, which needed to be emptied and refilled again (I have to say I’m not sure I did this right: the directions to the Glowstone were pretty sparse so I had to do some Googling and guessing. If there was a different way I was supposed to do this, I never figured it out). 

I will say that letting coffee get cool and then hot again isn’t ideal. Coffee compounds break down as they cool, so heating up a once-cold cup will yield a stale and lifeless mug. 

Why not just use a hotplate?

You can definitely buy a hotplate for your mug, but have you ever smelled an old coffee carafe sitting on a hotplate? That’s what your mug will smell—and your coffee will taste—like. 

What temperature-controlled mugs do is keep coffee at an ideal drinking temperature without bringing them to a temperature where the liquid quickly evaporates or the coffee begins to steam and bake. I couldn’t find any science or research on how coffee compounds would change if, let’s say, we set the mugs to 160°F instead of 135°F and held it at that temperature (this would be a good experiment), but I imagine there’s a temperature threshold where the coffee goes from being pleasantly warmed to cooked. I’m just not sure where that line is. 

There are hotplates available where you can control the temperature, but because they don’t come with their own mugs, you have a different problem: these mugs are going to get hot. I think that’s why I don’t understand why you’d buy a Hurkins or OHOM mug—the two mugs that only work on their chargers—rather than a hotplate that’s compatible with any mug. Both models only work with the chargers they come with, and both mugs were pretty hot to the touch anytime they were in use. Furthermore, they offer no temperature variation, so it seems like they limit themselves unnecessarily.

Does holding coffee at a prolonged temperature impact the coffee negatively?

Yes, but honestly? Not by a lot. Compared to a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, the coffees I tasted two, three, even four hours later were pretty pleasant, and I expected them to degrade much more than they did.

I considered some of the things I prized in past reviews I’ve written, like double-walled insulated carafes with coffee brewers. I like double-walled carafes because they keep coffee hot without baking or exposing the coffee to additional heat, and while these mugs do use heat to keep the coffee warm (they do so gently: it’s easier to keep something at a consistent temperature than to bring it up from room temperature or colder), I thought, “if I care so much about keeping coffee warm after it’s brewed, why am I not thinking about how to keep it warm after it’s poured?” I don’t think I would have ever considered buying temperature control mug until I did that first taste test, and now I’m going to order one for myself. 

We Tested 12 Gooseneck Kettles To Find the Best Ones for Pourover Coffee

We rigorously tested a dozen gooseneck kettles, including stovetop and electric models, to find the best ones that were accurate and easy to use.

two electric gooseneck kettles on a countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Coffee has two ingredients: ground coffee and water. This makes the quality of both of these—and the tools we use to handle them—incredibly important. 

Most of the tools we think about and consider when brewing coffee have to do with the coffee itself, which makes sense—coffee’s flavor can be radically altered depending on the grinder or automatic brewer you use. However, coffee is 98% water, so the tool we pick to actually pour water onto coffee matters more than you might think. 

Luckily, water doesn’t need much finessing. If you’re making pourover coffee, all you need is a gooseneck kettle, or a kettle with a distinct spout that allows you to control the flow of water. Instead of water rushing out the spout, like you might see on a traditional kettle, a gooseneck kettle has a thin, narrow spout, positioned towards the bottom of the kettle’s base that allows you to pour water smoothly and with control. 

I could tell you, as a former barista with a decade of experience, that gooseneck kettles are superior to regular tea kettles, but anyone who has tried to make pourover coffee with a regular kettle doesn’t need me to convince them. Standard kettles with wide spouts will pour too much water over the grounds at once, making a mess of the coffee bed and sending grounds wayward (and therefore leading to poorly extracted coffee). 

But many gooseneck kettles look the same...and certainly promise to do the same things. So, I ordered a dozen different gooseneck kettles—including stovetop and electric, variable temperature models—and tested them to find the best ones. 

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Gooseneck Kettle: Fellow Stagg EKG Electric Gooseneck Kettle

This kettle was incredibly accurate and easy to use and the most aesthetically pleasing compared to the other models I tested. The LED screen allowed me to customize the temperature down to the degree (135-212°F), whereas many electric gooseneck kettles only had a handful of preset temperature options. This is great for those who need a kettle for both coffee and tea brewing or want to know exactly how hot water is, perhaps for experimenting with different brewing temperatures. 

The Best Non-Variable Gooseneck Kettle: Hario V60 "Buono" Electric Gooseneck Kettle

If you’re simply using a gooseneck kettle to brew coffee in the morning—and don’t want to get too fussy with it—the Hario V60 electric kettle is smartly designed and takes about five minutes to heat a full pot (0.8 L) of water. The non-electric version of this kettle is also great, but takes much longer to heat up.

The Tests

water being poured from a gooseneck kettle into a pourover coffee maker
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez
  • Speed Test: Fill each kettle to its stated capacity and time how long it takes to boil (212°F).
  • Accuracy Tests: For variable temperature kettles, program each to four different temperatures: 175°F, 185°F, 190°F, and 200°F, taking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. If the kettle had pre-programed settings different from the temperatures noted here, I set the temperatures to whatever ones were the closest.  
  • "Keep Warm" Test: Press the “keep warm” function (if the kettle has one) and assess how long a kettle is able to keep 200°F water warm for, taking the temperature after 15 and 30 minutes with an instant-read thermometer.
  • Taste Test: After boiling and discarding the water several times, pour a sample of water from each kettle to determine if there are any off flavors.
  • Pourover Coffee Tests: Brew pourover coffee, using each kettle at least twice to evaluate how smoothly water pours out, how much control it offers, and how the handle feels when pouring.
  • Pouring Observations: Remove and put on each kettle's top, and pour water freely to assess any leaks or changes in weight distribution (most kettles boast a weighted handle, but that balance can change if you’re pouring all of the water out).
  • Usability: Note any functions designed to help users: does it make a noise when it reaches temperature, do the controls make sense, do you have to press and re-press buttons when you remove the kettle from the base? 
  • Clean Up: Clean each kettle and evaluate how easy it is to wash, dry, and store and if there are any nooks that are difficult to clean or that could hold scale buildup.

What We Learned

Water and Heat Have a Direct (and Predictable) Relationship

water boiling in an electric gooseneck kettle
All of the electric kettles brought water to a boil within the same amount of time.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Before I began testing, I thought there would be a ton of variation between how quickly each of the electric kettles could heat water. Some of the kettles even boasted how fast they could reach boiling (I’m looking at you and your “boiling in 60 seconds” claim, Willow & Everett). 

However, I found that most of them were able to heat water within a minute of one another, and those variations were mostly due to different capacities (we wanted to test their ability to heat water when they were at their fullest) or slight differences in temperature to start (I took water from my sink’s tap, and the temperature ranged between 58-61°F).  

When in doubt, I always ask my friend, Steve Rhinehart, e-commerce manager for Acaia and a longtime brand manager for Prima Coffee, to explain the nitty gritty of equipment. “The heating element [of a kettle] is usually mounted directly to the floor of the kettle in a circle or horse shoe shape," Rhinehart said. "Most kettles use about the same thickness of stainless steel and steel's conductive and convective properties don't change a whole lot within the various stainless kettles so they will be by and large identical there.” 

He also mentioned I should check the wattage of the kettles. Every kettle had the same electric capabilities (1200W), so that meant they drew the same amount of power—and therefore, heated water at relatively the same rate. “If you have a bunch of one liter kettles and they all have 1000 watt heating elements, there is not likely to be much difference in how quickly they heat,” Rhinehart said. He pointed out the Breville Crystal Clear, a 1800W kettle, would likely heat water faster than any of the kettles I was testing—however, the Breville Crystal Clear is not a gooseneck kettle and was therefore not included.

This all being said, I did notice variations between the electric and two non-electric gooseneck kettles I tested, the Hario V60 and the Fellow Stagg. Both took forever—the Hario clocked in at almost 13 minutes to boil while the Stagg took 16 minutes. The variation in speed is due to their construction. The Hario V60 is a single-walled stainless steel kettle. The Stagg is also made of stainless steel, but it has a matte coating and significantly thicker walls, which make it more difficult for heat to penetrate and to therefore heat water.  

Variable Temperature Kettles Have To Balance Between Speed and Accuracy

An instant-read thermometer being used to take the temperature of an electric gooseneck kettle
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Although I was wrong about measuring the speed each kettle took to get to boiling, Rhinehart urged me to look at how quickly each kettle arrived to a specified temperature (not boiling, where the heating element in a kettle is simply designed to make water hot, but something like 200°F). I noticed that the more precise the kettle, the longer it took to get to a specific temperature. 

Rhinehart said that’s because of how each kettle is designed to “know” it has arrived at a specified temperature. “Variable temp kettles often use some kind of logic control to arrive at the intended set temperature without overshoot,” he explained. “Depending on how that logic is determined, it might be able to get within 10 degrees really quickly and then slow down to make sure it hits the temperature you want, while others may prioritize accuracy instead of speed, or vice versa.” 

So basically, a kettle can try to get to a desired temperature really quickly, but could overshoot, or it could ramp up slowly, but hit the desired temperature precisely. This was especially clear on the Stagg EKG Electric Gooseneck Kettle. By far, this was the most accurate kettle, but it took the longest to reach any temperature. Essentially, the kettle will turn on to heat water, and then back off as the water gets closer and closer to the desired temperature. (I could even hear some of the kettles turn their heating elements on and off.) Personally, I'd rather wait a little longer than sacrifice accuracy.

Design Choices Matter

Two gooseneck kettles (one silver and one black) on a countertop
Examples of kettles with preset temperature settings.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Gooseneck kettles get hot. Some of the kettles I tested simply felt unsafe to use. I always had a towel on hand to remove the lids of kettles after we boiled water, but some lids (in particular, the kettle made by Brim) were difficult to remove, posing a burn risk.

Another important design consideration was that many of the kettles had built-in temperature settings: four or five buttons ranging in temperature and meant for different preparations, like white tea, black tea, or coffee. We found that none of these were necessarily right. The Willow & Everett kettle, for example, had a 180°F preset (which is its lowest temperature setting), designated for green and white tea. 

a close-up look at the Fellow electric kettle's control panel
With the Fellow electric kettle, the temperature can be dialed down to the degree, giving you more control.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

However, according to this guide from Rishi Tea, green teas should be brewed at even lower temperatures, with some green teas requiring water around 140°F. Also having preset temperatures meant you can’t experiment or adjust your temperature based on the coffee you’re brewing. In general, (and this is not always true, so follow what your taste buds are telling you) a lighter-roasted coffee might need hotter water to fully pull out all the flavors within the bean than a darker-roasted coffee, which is more water soluble. This all meant that the electric EKG kettle again came out on top, allowing you to dial the temperature down to the degree within its 135-212°F range.

And then there’s the “keep warm” function. Most of the variable temperature kettles had a button you can select to keep the kettle at a specific temperature—if you don’t press it, the kettle will reach the temperature you set, and then immediately turn its heating element off. However, if you remove the kettle from its base, the “keep warm” function resets itself, which sort of renders the button useless in certain situations. To me, the “keep warm” function is good for people who want to set their kettles and walk away or for those who want extremely precise temperatures throughout their brewing cycle (you want your water to be at 205°F from the first pour to the last, for example) or are brewing more than one pourover at a time (I learned this lesson working in cafes where I expected a kettle to be hot only to learn the “keep warm” button reset itself). In the latter two situations, the “keep warm” function doesn’t seem designed to be helpful—except on the EKG, which had a “keep warm” switch that didn't reset, so you don’t have to keep pressing a button to keep your water at a specific temperature. 

A close-up look at the Fellow electric kettle's keep warm switch
A "keep warm" or "hold" switch is superior to a button.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Now, onto some good news: I found that all of the kettles had a proper gooseneck shape and gave some level of control over pouring. None of them made a mess of the coffee grounds and the differences in flow rates were only apparent when we specifically filled each gooseneck kettle to the brim and aggressively poured all the water out, which you wouldn’t really do during brewing. I did fine counterweight of the handle to be more important—a gooseneck kettle should have enough weight in the handle to make pouring evenly feel comfortable. The kettles with lighter handles required more wrist strength to use, which can lead to discomfort. 

The Criteria: What We Look for In a Gooseneck Kettle

image of the stagg ekg electric kettle with text around it
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez / Amanda Suarez

I looked for gooseneck kettles that were durable, functional, and safe to use and had features that made sense like an easy-to-use “keep warm” function and a well-designed handle with a proper counterweight. When I specifically looked at variable temperature kettles, I also considered accuracy: an accurate kettle, like the Fellow Stagg EKG Gooseneck Kettle, that allowed me to set the temperature down to the precise degree (rather than just a select number of presets) was vastly preferable.

The Best Gooseneck Kettle: Fellow Stagg EKG Gooseneck Kettle

What we liked: The Fellow Stagg EKG was consistently the most accurate kettle, spot-on measuring temperature at 175°F and 185°F and only being a degree off at 190°F and 200°F. The EKG also had a hold switch located on the back of the brewer to maintain a set temperature for up to an hour. This seems like a small detail, but all the other variable temperature kettles had a button you had to press, which would reset anytime you took the kettle off its base—not ideal for making pourover coffee.

I found the variable temperature kettles with preset buttons to be both less useful and not entirely accurate. If you’re going to buy a variable temperature kettle, you should be able to set it to any temperature you’d like, which you can do with the EKG (again, anywhere from 135-212°F). To set the temperature on the EKG, you turn a knob and then press it down, which I found intuitive. The LED screen displays both your set temperature and the current temperature of the water, which was a nice way to gauge how far the water had gotten at any point in time (most kettles only display the current temperature). The handle on the EKG also had a proper counterweight, making it comfortable to pour no matter how full the kettle was. When I poured water freely into the sink, the flow rate was consistent from first pour to the last drop. 

pourover coffee being made with the Fellow electric kettle
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

What we didn't like: Of course, the EKG is expensive. I also noticed a little bit of leaking from the top, but only when I aggressively tried to pour from the kettle (tipping it really far to see if the flowrate changed, which it didn’t, but some water did spill out). It also had a smaller capacity than some kettles, at only 0.9 liters.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 4.52 pounds
  • Stated capacity: 0.9 liters
  • Length of time it holds temperature: One hour
image of the fellow electric gooseneck kettle on a countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Best Non-Variable Gooseneck Kettle: Hario V60 "Buono" Electric Gooseneck Kettle

What we liked: Hario kettles are a classic for a reason: they do exactly what you need them to do and nothing more. 

The reason I liked this kettle was because of its simplicity and speed. The non-electric version of the Hario kettle took more than double the amount of time to heat water than this model. I did like the versatility of Hario non-electric kettle (you can take it on the road, use it on an induction burner, and if you’re going camping, you can put it on an open flame), but I imagine most people are using a gooseneck kettle in their homes. The fact that the electric Hario turned off when it reached boiling was a big plus. I’ve seen folks forget their kettles on the stovetop before and the automatic off function is a good built-in safety feature.  

The Hario kettle being used to make pourover coffee
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Hario’s gooseneck spout was easy to control, and its stainless steel build a cinch to clean. This kettle is ideal for folks who simply want to brew coffee: all you have to do is bring the water to a boil and wait about 30 seconds in order to reach an ideal brewing temperature (this does depend on how much water you fill the kettle with, so try taking a temperature read the first time you do this). 

What we didn't like: The cord on the kettle is pretty short, so it needs to be close to an outlet. It doesn't offer the same control as the Fellow and lacks other features, like a "keep warm" setting.  

Key Specs

  • Weight: 1.76 pounds
  • Stated capacity: 0.8 Liters
  • Length of time it holds temperature: N/A
hario electric gooseneck kettle on a countertop
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Competition

  • Stagg Pour-Over Kettle: The Stagg is not induction-friendly and took much longer to reach boiling than the Hario. I liked the built-in thermometer on the lid, but for almost double the price of the Hario kettle, it isn’t enough to justify the cost. 
  • Cosori Electric Gooseneck Kettle: The Cosori came with five preset temperature options and no digital interface. The coolest option was still too hot (170°F) and it had a slightly plastic burning smell when heated.
  • Bodum Melior Gooseneck Electric: This kettle's cork lid and handle didn't seem like wise choices for a product designed only to boil water and for a handle that’s meant to act as a counterweight. I actually ended up using this one a few more times because I was concerned about the quality and noticed some leaking towards the base. 
  • Bonavita Variable Temperature Electric Kettle: A great variable temperature kettle with a comfortable handle (it had a little divot for your thumb to hold) but the “keep warm” button had to be repressed every time I lifted the kettle. Even though you can program custom temperatures, you have to toggle through +/- buttons to set the temperature versus the EKG’s twisting temperature knob.   
  • Willow & Everett Gooseneck Electric Kettle: Similar to the Cosori, the Willow & Everett had five preset temperatures, but all the presets are 180°F-plus. The fact that you can’t dip lower than 180°F seems to defeat the purpose of a variable temperature kettle. 
  • Brewista Artisan Electric Gooseneck Kettle: The Brewista is very similar to the Bonavita and had the same drawbacks. I liked that it beeped when it reached a set temperature, but the temperature settings made weird jumps (like from 177°F to 178°F to 180°F—it skipped over 179°F as I toggled through). 
  • Cuisinart Digital Gooseneck Kettle: The Cuisinart was the most confusing kettle to use. I ended up pressing buttons over and over and had to read the manual very carefully, as opposed to the other kettles which were intuitive to operate. This kettle also only measured temperature in five-degree increments. 
  • KitchenAid Precision Gooseneck Digital Kettle: This kettle was really heavy and had superfluous features—it had a digital read thermometer, but also an analog thermometer on top. However, this was the only kettle that had an adjustable flow restrictor, so you could customize the flow of water coming out of the kettle. While this feature might be appropriate for coffee shops or home brewers who want to get super into manual brewing, I don’t think it's necessary for most home users. 
  • brim Temperature Control Electric Gooseneck Kettle: The lid on the brim was really hard to remove, and because it was made of stainless steel, got really hot. I felt comfortable handling all the other brewers, but was a little nervous I’d burn myself with this one.
  • Hario “Buono” Kettle: I have nothing bad to say about this kettle except that it took a long time to reach boiling. However, this seemed to be an issue with all non-electric kettles and not the fault of the kettle itself. 

FAQs

Why buy a gooseneck kettle?

Most people have probably seen a kettle with a wide spout located towards the top. However, with these kettles it's way too easy to pour out water too fast or slow, resulting in poorly extracted pourover coffee. A gooseneck kettle allows you to pour water slowly and at a controlled rate, which is important for pourover brewing where you’re trying to evenly saturate your bed of coffee.

“When making pour overs it's incredibly helpful to be able to focus the pour on specific areas rather than splashing it all across the brew bed, and also to use the speed of the pour to manage the coffee's extraction time.” says Jackson O’Brien, a technician and trainer for Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. 

You don’t need a gooseneck kettle for automatic brewers or brewers that require full immersion with the coffee grounds, like French presses or Aeropresses since the grounds will be fully saturated and hang out with water for a period of time. Gooseneck kettles are primarily for brewers like a Hario V60 or a Chemex. However, they can also be handy tools for loose leaf teas, since different tea styles often require different temperatures. 

How does a gooseneck kettle control the flow rate of water?

Gooseneck kettles control the flow rate due to their shape and design. “Kettles whose spouts come out from the top of the vessel are going to have vastly variable flow rates depending on how full the vessel is and the angle the person holding it pours,” O’Brien says. “Gooseneck kettles have the water exit the kettle at the bottom of the kettle, so the flow rate isn't going to be affected by how full the kettle is. In addition the fact that the tube is of a uniform diameter across the entire length means that the angle of the user's pour isn't going to affect the flow rate too much.”

We noted that the KitchenAid kettle had a flow restrictor, which allowed you even more control of the flow rate. If that’s something you’re looking for, most coffee equipment websites sell flow restrictors, which are usually a small plug that narrows the passageway of the gooseneck. 

How often should I clean a gooseneck kettle?

Probably more often than you think. Since the kettle only touches water, you might be inclined to believe that you don’t need to clean it: that’s incorrect. As water touches certain surfaces, it leaves behind scale, or calcium carbonate, which can look like a white, powdery substance or stubborn stains at the bottom of your kettle that won’t come off. 

Luckily, you can see most parts of a gooseneck kettle (versus an automatic coffee brewer on an espresso machine that has tubes and reservoirs that aren’t easily accessible), so you should clean your kettle anytime you see grime or anything that doesn’t look like water. “If you ever get hard water deposits inside your kettle, the best way to rid yourself of it is by dissolving 2 tbsp citric acid powder (available at most hardware stores and grocery stores among the canning supplies) in one-quart [of] water and popping it in the kettle and turning it on,” O’Brien suggests. “Don't boil soap unless you're comfortable with your kitchen walls wearing soapy water.” 

We Tested Coffee Makers That Cost $150 (or Less)—Here Are Our Favorites

We researched and tested coffee makers—including ones from Bonavita, Mr. Coffee, and Braun—to find the best ones that are more budget-friendly.

Bonavita and Mr. Coffee coffee makers
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

As a former barista—who's been in the speciality coffee industry since 2010—my day used to begin by dialing in espresso and batch brewed coffee, getting things just right for customers. I’d pour myself five ounces of coffee to start, replenishing my cup every time I brewed a fresh batch.


Now that I work from home, though, my needs are very different. I'm brewing coffee once, in the morning. That’s it. Instead of tweaking my brew recipe throughout the day, tasting as I go, I need a brewer that’s just going to reliably do a good job, which can be difficult to find at an affordable price point. 

Serious Eats last tested coffee brewers in 2018, however coffee technology has changed a lot in the past four years. So, we're re-reviewing coffee makers, including old favorites, updated versions of previously tested machines, and entirely new models. This review is split into two parts: the best automatic drip coffee makers (if you have more to spend) and the best models for $150 or less.

There are some excellent brewers that fall into this more inexpensive category (although the Specialty Coffee Association’s or SCA's list of recommended brewers only includes one under $150), but there are also a lot of clunkers. I specifically want to talk about what to look for in a more cost-effective brewer and the features sub-par brewers use to disguise their shortcomings. But, first, here's a quick look at the top models after testing.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Inexpensive Coffee Maker: Bonavita 8-Cup One-Touch Coffee Maker

The Bonavita 8-Cup brewer is SCA certified and does exactly what a great brewer should: it holds a high brewing temperature, extracts coffee evenly, and keeps coffee hot in its thermal carafe. (Editor's note: When we tested this model, we paid less than $150 for it. Now, at the time of publish, the brewer's price is about $160. Prices tend to fluctuate on Amazon, but, regardless, we do think this model is worth the extra $10.)

The Best Coffee Maker Under $100: Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Coffee Maker

This Mr. Coffee 10-cup model was the only brewer in this price range that brewed in a reasonable amount of time (the SCA recommends between 4 to 8 minutes), was easy to use, and produced well-extracted coffee.

The Tests

Using a pipette to transfer coffee to a refractometer
Using a pipette to transfer coffee to a refractometer to measure total dissolved solids (TDS).Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez
  • Brew Test One: Brew medium-dark roast coffee, to assess brew time, how well the machine does with a standard coffee available at a supermarket, and the resulting brew’s flavor.
  • Brew Test Two: Brew light roast coffee, to assess brew time, how well the brewer does with a harder-to-extract bean, and the resulting brew’s flavor.
  • Brew Basket Saturation: After each brew test, evaluate brew basket saturation, as an evenly extracted brew bed is a sign of a well-designed coffee maker.
  • Total Dissolved Solids: Measure total dissolved solids or TDS using a refractometer, to see if it provides a baseline for how much coffee is ending up in the final cup.
  • Temperature Tracking: Using a thermocouple, track the water temperature of the showerhead and the brew basket during brewing, looking to see how stable these temperatures are and at what temperature brewing occurs.
  • Heat Retention: Using an instant-read thermometer, check the temperature of the coffee right after brewing and again 30 minutes and an hour later, to see how hot the carafe keeps it.
  • User-Experience Evaluation: Determine how easy each coffee maker and carafe is to set up, use, and pour from.
  • Ease of Cleaning: After each test, clean the coffee maker’s carafe and brew basket by hand, looking for any factors that make one machine easier to clean than another.
  • Preset Functions: When necessary, try the preset functions these models offer.

Why You Should Trust Us

I’ve been in the coffee industry since 2010. My very first coffee job was as a barista at a high-volume shop where we weren’t allowed to change the grind setting on the grinder. After that, I was behind the bar in some capacity until 2019 and I continue to write about coffee and interview folks for a coffee-centric podcast. I’ve written the Serious Eats reviews of espresso machines, French presses, cold brew makers, and milk frothers.

What We Learned

Temperature Stability Was Essential

Thermocouple probes positioned in the brewer basket and under the shower head
We used thermocouples to track the temperature of the brew basket and the water coming out of the machine's showerhead.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Coffee extraction is affected by temperature, as higher temperatures will extract more from coffee. To track the brewing temperature, I used a thermocouple with two probes on each machine during brewing: one attached as closely as I could to the sprayhead to measure the temperature of the water coming out, and one at the bottom of the brew bed. 

I didn’t learn a whole lot from the bottom probe, and I did have some issues getting this probe exactly where I wanted it (most of the brew beds are enclosed, so once a probe was attached I couldn’t confirm exactly where the probe was or if the water displaced the probe at any time). However, from the top probe, I found out a lot about how the brewing temperature changes over time and varies from model to model. Many of the cheaper brewers started brewing with water that wasn’t hot enough (around the 170-180°F range), but that would spike towards the end of the brew. This resulted in coffee that was over-extracted and bitter. Higher-end models were able to keep the temperature consistent throughout the brewing cycle, around 195 to 205°F, producing balanced, well-extracted coffee. Our top pick, the Bonavita, got up to temperature (around 196°F) quickly, and stayed between 195-205°F during the entire brew cycle without any weird temperature spikes or deviations.

A Thermapen taking the temperature of coffee in a thermal carafe
Thermal carafes kept coffee piping hot, whereas coffee makers with glass plates tended to "bake" coffee, giving it a burnt taste.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez


I also measured the heat retention of the carafes, taking the temperature of the coffee right after brewing, after 30 minutes, and after an hour. Most of the higher-end machines came with thermal carafes, while the cheaper ones were split between thermal carafes and glass carafes with a hotplate. I found that machines with a hotplate kept coffee hotter (and in some cases, even made coffee hotter than it was right after brewing), but at the cost of flavor. Over time, the coffee from a glass carafe on a hotplate tasted baked and bitter. Thermal carafes were able to keep coffee hot without altering its flavor profile.

Why Showerhead Design Matters

One way I like to convey coffee brewing is to think of a container full of rocks. Now, imagine you pour water over the top of the rocks. Eventually, the water will end up at the bottom of the container, but a lot of factors can affect how that water moves through the rocks.  


I usually use this metaphor to explain grind size: water will move through smaller rocks (a finer grind) more slowly than bigger rocks (a coarse grind). However, it also works to explain how the showerhead of a coffee brewer functions. If you poured water from one point, directly down, only the rocks directly below that point would get wet. 

The Bonavita's shower head
An example of a well-designed shower head, with lots of holes over a wider area, which leads to a more even saturation of the brew basket.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez


A well-designed showerhead acts as a water dispersion tool, making sure that the entire brew bed is evenly wet, which is important because you want your coffee grounds to be evenly extracted. You can tell a showerhead is well-designed when, after you’re done brewing, you open the brew basket and the brew bed is flat without any noticeable craters or deep depressions. 


That’s harder to achieve than it sounds. Some of the showerheads seemed narrow in design, with many of the water holes concentrated in the middle. This resulted in a brew basket that had a noticeable crater in the middle and grounds creeping up the sides of the brew bed. Because the grounds weren't evenly saturated, the coffee was under-extracted.

Some of the showerheads were too powerful, puncturing (if you will) the top of the grounds and creating channels where water passed through too quickly and without extracting enough flavor, while the rest of the coffee was displaced and over-extracted.

Analyzing The Coffee Makers' Features


Some of the buttons or features on these machines were incredibly helpful. For example, a "bloom" setting saturates coffee beans with a bit of hot water, releasing carbon dioxide before brewing (carbon dioxide can act as a sort-of shield around coffee beans, making it harder to extract flavor). Some aren’t that useful, but are innocuous, like the fact that some brewers allow you to pick the number of cups you’d like to brew. This was initially confusing to me, however, I realized these machines are attempting to slow down the water flow for smaller batches of coffee. Essentially, they're decreasing how quickly the water pulses or moves through the machine to increase the contact time of the grounds and the water.


But some features seemed out of place, like they hoped to take advantage of a user’s inability to understand the basics of brewing by adding buttons that weren’t helpful. When I wrote my review of espresso machines, I noted this phenomenon—a lot of the models boasted being able to pull shots at 14, 15, and 16+ bars of pressure, which is entirely unnecessary (most espresso machines apply about 9 bars of pressure when pulling shots). 

The control panel of the Ninja coffee maker.
We found "bold" or "rich" settings to not be useful and that they lead to over-extracted coffee.Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

I was particularly curious about coffee makers that boasted they could brew “bolder” or "richer" coffee, which showed up on a number of the sub-$100 models, including those from Ninja, Braun, Cuisinart, and Black + Decker. I did some research online and couldn’t find anyone who had tested or written about this. I then asked my friend, Steve Rhinehart, e-commerce manager at Acaia and former brand manager at Prima Coffee Equipment, what he thought about these features. He guessed it was an issue of time and thought the brewers were extending their brew cycles so that the water would stay in contact with the grounds longer, but he wasn’t 100% sure. 

So, I did a run with the Braun BrewSense using the “bolder” setting and noticed that the brew time was indeed longer (10 minutes and 46 seconds versus the nine minutes and 32 seconds it took for a standard brewing cycle). However, what I think is being interpreted as a “bolder” flavor is actually over-extraction. So yes, technically, this coffee is “stronger” because water is staying in contact with the grounds for an increased amount of time. But in this case, I’d argue strong isn’t necessarily good and suggest avoiding these types of features. There are other ways you can manipulate the strength of your coffee to deliver a tasty cup—like adjusting your coffee-to-water ratio or grinding finer, which we’ll talk about more below in the FAQ section.

The Criteria: What We Look For in a Great Inexpensive Coffee Maker

an image of one of our favorite coffee makers from Bonavita with brief text explanations and arrows pointing to key traits
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez / Chloe Jeong

A great, budget-friendly coffee brewer should give drinkers exactly what they need: a machine that can properly extract coffee, produce an even brew bed, and keep coffee hot over a long period of time without baking it. The best brewers were able to properly heat water and maintain temperature throughout the length of the brew cycle, made a full pot of coffee in under eight minutes, had a thermal carafe, and had a straightforward, easy-to-use control panel. A good coffee maker should be a cinch to clean, too, and carafes with wide openings are better than something tapered (which requires a bottle brush to scrub).

The Best Coffee Maker for $150: Bonavita 8-Cup One-Touch Coffee Maker

What we liked: I can’t describe how beautiful it is to pull out the brew basket of a coffee brewer and see a perfectly flat bed. And the Bonavita delivers every time. 

The model could not be simpler to use. There’s one button to turn the machine on, and if you hold it down for five seconds, it will activate a bloom cycle. The thermal carafe keeps coffee hot after brewing, and its pared-down design means you get everything you need to brew excellent coffee and nothing more. 

When you’re looking at machines in the $150 range, it’s really a question of where your money is going. With the Bonavita, all the attention and care are in the design of the showerhead and the water heating elements. The showerhead is made to saturate all the coffee grounds evenly, producing clean and well-extracted coffee during each brew cycle. Both the dark and lighter roasted coffees tasted nuanced and fully expressed. The Bonavita also kept water above 195°F throughout the entire brew cycle without spiking and getting really hot towards the end—which did happen a lot on the other brewers. 

Out of all the inexpensive brewers, the Bonavita brewed coffee the fastest by far. Along with our other pick, it was the only brewer that could meet SCA Gold Cup standards, which resulted in a well-balanced drink that had no lingering bitterness. The Bonavita is a snap to clean, too, featuring a wide-mouth top that makes scrubbing the thermal carafe simple. Its compact design also means it’ll fit easily on any countertop and take up minimal space.

What we didn't like: The lid on the Bonavita is a little awkward and can be difficult to pour from—you have to press a button to activate the pouring lip and it has a tendency to dribble a little. The Bonavita has no extra features (like a programmable start setting), which could be a dealbreaker for some. It seems to have supply issues, too, and its price fluctuates (sometimes above $150).

Key Specs

  • Thermal carafe: Yes
  • Temperature loss after one hour: 16°F
  • Average brew time: Four minutes, 56 seconds
Bonavita coffee maker against a white background
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Best Coffee Maker Under $100: Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Coffee Maker

What we liked: The Mr. Coffee was the only other brewer in this price range that brewed a full pot under seven minutes. The brew bed, which you access via a side panel that opens like a dresser drawer, was perfectly flat and the carafe kept coffee hotter than any other brewer. The coffee tasted well extracted, albeit a little thin, but I think that could be adjusted by grinding coffee a little finer. The brewer can be programmed to make coffee at a specified time and features a timer that tells you how long coffee has been sitting in the carafe. 

What we didn’t like: This isn’t the prettiest brewer to look at. It’s a little clunky and tall, and the tapered top of the brewing carafe makes it more difficult to clean.

Key Specs

  • Thermal carafe: Yes
  • Temperature loss after one hour: 6°F
  • Average brew time: Four minutes, 51 seconds
Mr. Coffee Coffee Maker
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

The Competition

  • Braun BrewSense: This was the winner of the budget-friendly category in our 2018 coffee maker testing, but the glass carafe and hot plate baked the coffee and it took over eight minutes to brew. The Mr. Coffee is also about $20 cheaper. 
  • Braun BrewSense with Thermal Carafe: Although this brewer solves the above complaint about the standard Braun BrewSense by switching to a thermal carafe, it still took too long to brew. 
  • Ninja Programmable Brewer: The Ninja has a lot of features (some innocuous, some unhelpful), but the hot plate actually made the coffee hotter than it was when it was first brewed, so the coffee tasted astringent and burnt over time. 
  • Cuisinart Programmable Coffee Brewer: The water on this brewer got really hot and the resulting coffee tasted flat and boring. It doesn't have a thermal carafe, so the coffee tasted baked over time. 
  • Hamilton Beach Programmable Front-Fill Coffee Maker: The front-fill panel was a nice feature, but the showerhead was mostly concentrated on the center of the brew bed, creating a sunken portion in the middle and leading to uneven extraction.
  • BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker: The coffee from this brewer tasted flat, which makes sense: the temperature of the coffee immediately after brewing was lower than any other machine, implying that the water never got quite hot enough.

FAQs

What kind of coffee filters do you need for brewing?

For this review, I used two different types of coffee filters, based on the shape of the brewer: flat bottom filters and the #4 cone filters, both from Melitta. I used bleached filters, mostly because that’s what I had at home, but you can use brown, unbleached filters if you prefer. Some folks report these unbleached filters have a bit of a cardboard taste unless you pre-wet them. 


While I used a paper filter in each brewer, many of the brewers came with a mesh filter. The mesh filter is reusable, but will allow more coffee oils through as you brew. Some folks like this—if you’re into French press brewing, this is a good method to get that same heavy body in the cup. A paper filter will produce a cleaner cup since it catches most of the coffee oils.

How can I keep my coffee hotter?

Invariably, at every cafe I’ve worked at, folks have asked for their coffee to be piping hot. I had a regular customer who’d take a sip and ask us to use the steam wand from the espresso machine to warm their coffee—we obviously didn’t do this because that’d be a huge health code violation. 


I have two tips for keeping coffee hot. One: preheat the carafe. If you have time, run a cycle with just hot water through your brewer and allow it to heat up the machine, including the carafe. You can also heat water in, say, a kettle and then use the hot water to preheat the carafe. 


Two: preheat your mug, especially if you’re drinking out of a ceramic mug. Ceramic absorbs a lot of heat, so if you pour hot coffee into a room temperature mug, it’ll bring down the temperature of your drink quickly. Ceramic also takes a bit to warm up, so I usually let the hot water sit in the mug for at least a minute, if not for the duration of the coffee brewing cycle.

How can I make stronger coffee?

Here are some ways you can make your coffee stronger:

  • Adjust the ratio of coffee to water: For this review, I used a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. If you’d like a stronger cup, try a 1:15 or 1:14 ratio and see if that gives you something richer. 
  • Grind finer: A finer grind means that the water will move through the coffee slower, extracting more from the brew bed. Be careful with this, though: if you go too fine, the water will move really slowly and might overflow the brew bed. 
  • Don’t use pre-ground coffee: I’m constantly surprised by how many people mention loving a “strong brew” but use pre-ground coffee. Coffee aromatics rapidly deteriorate the moment you grind coffee, so you start to lose flavor as soon as you put beans through a grinder. If you’re buying pre-ground coffee at the grocery store, there’s no telling when that coffee was ground. Most of these beans have a “best by” date, but not a roast date. “Best by” dates could be anywhere from six months to two years after roasting.

Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Charred Apricot Achar

*This post was created in partnership with American lamb. Thanks for supporting the brands that support the work I do here. The month of July was filled with menu planning, recipe testing, ingredient gathering and cooking for 60 people in a 7 acre private garden in the middle of Seattle. I’ve had the great pleasure… Read more »

*This post was created in partnership with American lamb. Thanks for supporting the brands that support the work I do here.

The month of July was filled with menu planning, recipe testing, ingredient gathering and cooking for 60 people in a 7 acre private garden in the middle of Seattle.

I’ve had the great pleasure of sitting at a Secret Supper table and I’ve known Jacob and Danielle, the owners, for years. I’m not sure they even knew that I harbored a secret desire to cook for one of their dinners. These dinners are pure magic. Something happens when you gather people at a long table, in a stunning, almost dream-like setting. Flowers run down the center of the wooden tables as the birds sing and the fresh air breathes around you. As much as I loved sitting at that table I wanted to be the one in the outdoor kitchen, standing around the grill and watching the guests at the table from that standpoint.

This July I had the chance to do that very thing twice and while I’m still exhausted I am also incredibly proud. There’s such a sense of accomplishment when you do something that you’ve dreamed of doing even when that thing scares you a bit. Actually, especially when that thing scares you.

The Seattle supper was held at Dunn gardens. A stunning 7 acre garden filled with native plants arranged in a way that is both wild and structured. Before this dinner I never knew this garden existed in my city and the crazy thing is, it’s 10 minutes from my front door.

The menu reflected a life in the northwest. I wanted to feature what is absolutely best of this season at the height of summer and also bring in some flavors of the wild. I had gathered mushrooms and conifer tips in the spring for this very reason. For a chef the menu is how we tell a story and this menu tells the story of the abundance of the northwest. It is the story of a friendship. My sous chef, Hina, spent much of her life growing up in Pakistan and many flavors in this menu reflect her life and what she has taught me and opened my eyes up to over the years. It is the story of the wild that surrounds us and how generous it is but also how fragile if we don’t return the generosity with our own gratitude and gifts.

I’m including the menu from the Seattle dinner below and thanks to our partner for the dinner, American Lamb, I get the pleasure of sharing the recipe of Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Apricot Achar.

This dish tells the story I intended to tell beautifully. This stunning and sustainably raised lamb, sits on a bed of leaves, twigs, mushrooms, berries and earth found while I was hiking near my home. It’s a genius method from friend and fellow forager, Pascal Boudar, that brings the scent we all love while walking through the woods, to the plate. The lamb is finished with a bright, tart and spiced apricot pickle and apricots grilled until charred and slumped. It’s a stunning dish worthy of an occasion.

Secret Supper
July 17, 2021

Seattle

Start

Zucchini blossom and pea pakora, wild mint & cilantro chutney

+
Smoked salmon rilletes on homemade butter cracker, black mustard seed caviar, chive flower

First

Greens, herbs and flowers in a summer goddess dressing

Second

Charred summer squash, smoked raita, candied seeds and spruce tip salt

Pickled salmon, blistered tomatoes, ginger, curried chickpeas

Main

Lamb braised in forest floor with roasted apricot achar, on fresh corn polenta, feta and wild mushroom powder

Vegetarian Option

Charred eggplant curry, on fresh corn polenta, feta and wild mushroom powder

Dessert

Wild rose & raspberry pavlova with fresh bay cream

Thanks to Danielle and Jacob from Secret Supper for making this dinner happen. For American Lamb for helping to bring it to life. And to MilkRun for sourcing the gorgeous produce.

 

 

Photos provided by:

Alba Betancourt – Absence Studio

Gabe Rodriguez

Lamb Braised in Forest Floor with Charred Apricot Achar

Ingredients

Serves 8-10

1 6-8 pound American lamb shoulder

2 1/2 tablespoons garam masala

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Enough forest floor* to fill the bottom of the roasting pan or Dutch oven

1 onion, cut into large chunks

6 garlic cloves

3 inch piece of ginger, sliced

*Forest floor is meant to mimic the intoxicating scent of a forest hike. You can use most varieties of spruce branches, fir, maple, and alder. If you’re lucky enough to find a few edible mushrooms, throw those in there. Fallen maple leaves add a lovely flavor. You could also use woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and time. 

Charred Apricot Achar

 

3 pounds apricots, halved and pits removed

1 large red onion, sliced

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup – 3/4 cup brown sugar

Juice and zest of two limes

1 inch piece of ginger

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch fresh nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Sea salt

2 cups white wine

Instructions

For the lamb:

The day before you plan to cook the lamb season with garam masala and kosher salt. 

Refrigerate overnight or up to two days before cooking.

Bring the lamb out of the fridge one hour before you start to cook.

Preheat your oven or grill to 350*F

Line the bottom of the pot with your forest floor. Set the lamb on time. Add the onion, garlic and ginger around the lamb. Then pour in the white wine. 

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid then roast for 3 – 4 hours, until tender but not quite falling off of the bone.  Remove the lid, turn the oven up to 450*F and continue to roast for one hour more, until deeply charred and the lamb is fork tender. 

Let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving with the Charred Apricot Achar.

For the achar:

Preheat your oven or grill to 425*F

In a large roasting dish combine 2 pounds of the apricot halves, red onion, vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest and juice, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili and a hearty pinch of salt.

Roast in an oven or grill until the apricots and onions are deeply charred in parts and the brine is bubbly. 

Let cool before pureeing in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Grill the remaining apricots then add those to the purée. Serve with lamb. 

*USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F followed by a 3 minute rest.

New Year

It feels a bit surreal to write a new year. I recognize that a new year doesn’t mean much more than a shifting page on the calendar except with it also comes a collective consciousness of hope, prayers of peace and intentions for growth. And that, I believe, is where the shift happens. There is… Read more »

It feels a bit surreal to write a new year. I recognize that a new year doesn’t mean much more than a shifting page on the calendar except with it also comes a collective consciousness of hope, prayers of peace and intentions for growth. And that, I believe, is where the shift happens.

There is great power in hope. In a deep belief that better days are ahead of us. There is massive strength in intention. With it brings a listening ear, seeing eyes and an open heart for where to live out of that intention.

We also know that after a year like 2020 whatever we think we can control and aspire to is ultimately outside of us and yet, here we are. We not only survived but I’m sure in many areas, ways that most likely surprised us, we thrived.

2020 was a year of great discomfort. Because we felt the lack of control so fundamentally and daily, I’m sure many of you, like myself, felt the body tightening anxiety and apathetic ache of depression at times. Every day revealed death, suffering and an end to normalcy. The privileged and comfortable lenses that hid my eyes from injustice fell away and the world will never look the same. And still beauty exists. We may have had to look harder or see it in simplicity; like a perfectly made cup of coffee, a profound sentence that shifts us to the core, or a sweet cherry tomato grown in your own garden. But it’s there.

In that great discomfort and dis-ease I found a truer version of me. And I’m certain many of you could say the same.

As the calendar has steadily, albeit slowly, marched towards a new year, a new beginning, I’ve thought often of myself standing at the cusp of 2020. I imagine myself like Ebenezer Scrooge, getting visited by a ghost from the future. This ghosts paints a dire picture of the coming year. The death, loss, heartbreak, isolation, financial stress, division… okay, I’ll stop.

I would have punched that ghost in the face and ran for cover.

I can’t help but think that had I known all that were to happen in 2020 I’m not sure I would believe it to be survivable and yet here we are.

We survived and I truly believe that in many ways were stronger than ever. I’m taking that truth with me into the new year and all the years to come. Whatever comes we can survive it. Even when it feels un-survive-able. Hour by hour. Day by day. And in a few moments of grace you’ll forget you’re simply surviving and you’ll notice goodness, beauty, love and these are the things that keep pushing us forward.

So I am leaving 2021 plans without resolutions. Without specific goals. Instead I want to focus on the values and intentions I want to bring to each and every day. How I see the world and what I can bring to it; these are the things I can control.

One of my resounding values that I hold dear is to find the beauty in each and every day. I hope that perhaps together we can find and bring beauty to a world that so desperately needs it.

Happy New Year.

 

Camp Cooking Essentials + Lamb Kofte with Feta Tzatziki

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Albertsons and Safeway. All opinions are 100% my own. *I’m beyond excited to partner with Safeway and Albertsons and their line of Open Nature® products to bring you this post about feasting in the outdoors. These products are created with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients… Read more »

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Albertsons and Safeway. All opinions are 100% my own.

*I’m beyond excited to partner with Safeway and Albertsons and their line of Open Nature® products to bring you this post about feasting in the outdoors. These products are created with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, just as nature intended. These products are available in my area at Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions stores., and you can find them exclusively at Albertsons Companies family of stores, including ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets and Carrs/Safeway. Visit safeway.com to find a store near you

Camping season in the PNW may be coming to a close, but we still have one more epic adventure left in us. This summer has been full of outdoor adventures. I’ve pushed myself in the outdoors in ways that have made me feel stronger and less fearful. From camping alone, to camping with a couple of moms and a whole lot of kids, to mastering the art of baking sourdough over the fire. It has been a summer filled with joyful and delicious memories, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Through all these adventures I’ve learned how to refine our pack list, what’s necessary and what isn’t, and I can guarantee you throughout every adventure we’ve eaten so very well.
So as our family is about to embark on our biggest camping trip yet, I thought I’d take you along in the planning process. If you’re just here for the food, that’s fine too. There is a Lamb Kofte recipe below that is equally delicious prepared over the fire or in the warmth of your kitchen. Click “recipe” above and you’ll be brought right to it.
For those of you who aspire to camp and want to do so with memorable meals then read on, my friends.

 

Create a plan.

My first step in preparing for camping is always to create a Google Doc with a plan for our meals. If we’re going with a small group, I also include links to the campsite and activities that we may want to consider while camping but the bulk of the doc is all about food.
Generally, if we are camping with other families, we do breakfast and dinner as a group then leave each family to take care of their own lunch.
Breakfast is usually a mix of yogurt and homemade granola and some sort of egg and potato scramble. And in our family, it’s also lots and lots of coffee enjoyed around a morning campfire.
I divide the doc into days and list out what is for dinner each day. Then, I write out a grocery list for each family and include the specifics of how the ingredients should come to the campsite. For example, we generally will have some salad with each meal so the greens should already be washed and chopped; ready to dress. This saves so much time and hassle trying to chop and clean on the campsite. Generally, I’ll ask that vegetables be already chopped as well. It saves so much time in the cooking process so we can enjoy that leisurely afternoon hike instead of having to rush back to the campsite to cook for hours – although I often don’t mind that either.
Plan your meals in such a way that the most perishable or vulnerable food items will be enjoyed first. For example, on a recent trip our first dinner was mussels in a fennel cream broth with sausage and potatoes. I picked up the mussels on the way to the campsite and kept them on ice for a couple of hours. It’s too stressful to worry if the ice in the cooler will hold long enough to keep fragile items fresh. For our last meal, on day three, we enjoyed potatoes baked in the coals with all the fixings. It’s a great meal to use up remaining ingredients and leftovers that may have accrued during the trip.

 

Know your limits.

 

I started upping our camp food game because for me, good food adds to the experience. I take great joy in feeding the people I love food that delights and wows them. The campfire became a fun challenge; could I create the same or similar food I do with ease back in my kitchen at home around the fire? The answer is YES! And often it is so much better prepared over the fire.
Something happens to me when I’m cooking with flames lapping at my cast iron and smoke is dancing around me while I move around the fire pit. I’m connecting to something primal, an instinctual nature kicks in and it satisfies me to my core. But listen, no one needs fresh baked sourdough baked over coals in order to have a memorable camping trip. You need to find what delights you in the outdoors and lean into that.
When I started cooking elaborate meals for my family over the fire, I may have taken it a little too far. There were 17 of us on the campsite and I brought real plates – not fine china mind you – but actual plates that needed washing. Lucky for me as the cook I don’t need to do the dishes but I’m quite certain my brothers were not my biggest fans when they had to hand wash 17 sets of dishes in cold camp water. Since then I’ve embraced compostable plates and utensils. My heart for the environment would prefer to use all reusable, and I do if it’s just me camping or a rather small group, but I don’t want to miss the smell of the pine, the dull roar of the waves and the time sitting around the campfire because everyone is too busy doing the dishes. I’ve found my limit and am now bringing all the Open Nature compostable products that can fit in my car.
Start small. Wrap some russet potatoes in aluminum and toss them into the coals without a care. Turn them every 10 minutes or so then top the fluffy potatoes with crisp bacon, sour cream and whatever you may have lingering in your cooler. This is one of the easiest and most satisfying meals we have had on the campsite.
Know your own limits. Find what works for you and your family and friends and lean into that.

 

Divide and conquer.

 

For us the point of the Google doc is to create a shared plan. While I tend to do the majority of the dinner cooking while camping, I’m using ingredients that everyone contributed. And since I’ve done the cooking, after dinner I’m sitting around the fire drinking a glass of wine while the dishes are being cleaned.
After many camping trips we have found what works best for our family. A system that feels equitable and shared so that we all get to enjoy our time outdoors as much as possible.
Don’t be a hero, share the tasks and divvy up the responsibilities.

Go, enjoy and let whatever may be, be.

A loaf of sourdough baked over coals is one of the most rewarding things there is but inevitably that loaf contains at least a part that is a bit charred and may require a bit of shaving unless someone is quite partial to burnt bread. But char or not it is still a loaf of fresh baked bread that has been cooked in the fire!
Embrace the char. Embrace the dirt. Embrace what is beyond your control so that you may breathe in the smell of cedar warmed by the sun, the laughter of kids who are not playing on devices, the leisurely hours spent not checking anything off of a to-do list. This is what truly delights and this is what camping is all about.

Pack List

Every trip will be different and every pack list will vary as well. It depends greatly on what is on the menu but I’ve created an extensive list of products and tools that I always bring with me when cooking outdoors and I’ll also add our pack list from a recent camping trip. Leave any questions you may have in the comments below or come find me on Instagram. I’d be happy to answer any questions. My heart is for getting everyone in the outdoors so I’m delighted to do whatever I can to make that feel accessible to all.

Outdoor Cooking Essentials

Sample Google Doc Meal Plan:

Dinner:

Sunday

Mussels in a Fennel Cream with Potatoes and Sausage
Sourdough bread
Salad
Stone Fruit Cobbler with Butter Biscuits

Monday

Roasted Mushroom & Truffle Macaroni & Cheese
Bread
Salad

Tuesday

Coal Baked Potatoes and alllllll the fixings
Salad

 

TO BRING:

Gerald & Lynne:
Firewood
Beer
Wine
Ax
Tablecloth
Paper plates
Utensils
Napkins
Aluminum foil
Salad greens, washed and chopped
Sour cream
Bacon
Cream
Briquettes/charcoal

 

Chris & Deb:
Marshmallows
Graham crackers
Chocolate
Wine
Beer
Salad greens, washed and chopped
Sausages (or Brauts)
3 Onions, diced
3 Red peppers, diced
Cream
Briquettes/charcoal
Grated sharp cheddar

 

Geoff & Amy:
Bacon
Eggs
Granola
Yogurt
Dish bin
Paper bowls (? – for granola/yogurt)

Ashley & Gabe:
Russet potatoes
Garden potatoes
Fennel
Salad dressing
Sourdough bread dough
Ritz crackers
Water
Beer
Wine
Paper plates
Salad greens
Chives
Pasta ingredients
Mama lil’s
Large cast iron
Medium cast iron
Dutch oven
Cooking utensils
Cobbler ingredients

 

Lamb Kofte with Feta Tzatziki

If lamb is not your jam feel free to substitute any ground meat here. I often like to use a mix of ground lamb and chicken or pork. If preparing this to bring to a campsite bring the seasoned meat with you along with the prepared yogurt. You can warm store-bought naan over the fire or if you want to take it next level prepare the dough at home then bake the naan over the fire. This is my favorite recipe: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/homemade-naan-recipe/

Ingredients

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground fennel

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon chili flake

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt

16 ounces Open Nature Ground Lamb

Feta Tzatziki

1 cup Open Nature whole milk yogurt

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1 teaspoon dried mint

1/4 cup crumbled feta

Pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 pita

Fresh cilantro, mint or other greens

Hot sauce, optional

Instructions

In a large bowl combine all the spices with the yogurt and stir well. Stir in the meat. If you are planning to cook over the fire, have everyone at the campsite gather sturdy roasting sticks.

Take about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture then form the meat around the top 4-6 inches of the stick. Roast the meat over a fire of coals (avoid cooking in the flames as it won’t cook evenly and the flavor won’t be as good). Roast until the meat is completely cooked through. This will take about 10 minutes of steady heat. Serve the kofte in a warm pita with the yogurt sauce and greens.

Prepare the yogurt sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl. The yogurt can be made up to three days in advance.

 

Esquites Tacos

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh organic spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients in its spices, spice blends, and herbs…. Read more »

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh organic spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients in its spices, spice blends, and herbs. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and select stores nationwide.

As always, the words and photos are mine. I appreciate your support and the companies who graciously partner with me so I can continue to share my stories through the recipes that fill our table.

 

You may have heard of the popular street food recipe in Mexico called Elote. If not, it’s an incredible dish that starts with corn on the cob; grilled until blackened and smoky then slathered in a creamy and spicy sauce before being rolled in cheese then finished with fresh lime juice. It is now absolutely my preferred way of eating corn. Esquites is the same idea but minus the cob. Corn kernels are blackened (or the cobs are grilled then the kernels removed) and then mixed with mayonnaise, cheese, chili powder, cilantro leaves, ground cumin, adobo seasoning and lots of lime.

Because I’m a believer in “all things are better when wrapped in a tortilla” we’ve turned this classic Mexican corn dish into a taco. It’s paired with what is basically a chunky guacamole that is loaded with scallions and a touch of sour cream (or if you’re an Antoni fan you can use Greek yogurt).

This recipe is written to feed a crowd or to have plenty of leftovers. I also added slow simmered pinto beans to bulk up the tacos but you can add grilled fish, chicken, steak, or carnitas – the options are endless.

 

 

Esquites Tacos

Ingredients

Esquites

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija or Parmesan cheese

2 tsp lime zest

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 tsp salt1 tsp Watkins Organic Chili Powder

2 TBL butter

8 corn cobs, kernels removed (or about 24 ounces corn kernels – you can use frozen corn here too)

Instructions

In a medium size bowl stir together the mayonnaise, cheese, lime zest, juice, salt and chili powder. Feel free to add more chili powder if you want more heat.

Add the butter to a large skillet set over medium high heat. When the butter sizzles add the corn then let blacken. Give a quick stir after a couple of minutes then let sit again. Add a hefty pinch of salt then turn off the heat.

Stir the blackened corn into the creamy mayonnaise mixture.

Alternately you can grill the corn cobs then let cool and remove the kernels from the cob before stirring into the creamy sauce.

Creamy Avocado and Scallion Salsa

2 large avocados, peeled and diced

5 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

2 TBL sour cream

1/2 tsp Watkins Organic Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Watkins Organic Adobo Seasoning Pinch salt

1 TBL fresh lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBL minced jalapeño (more or less depending on your spice preference)

1 TBL Watkins Organic Cilantro Leaves

In a medium size bowl stir together the avocado, scallions, cumin, adobo, salt, lime juice, garlic, jalapeño and dried cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired

Tacos

12 small flour or corn tortillas

Meat or beans (optional)

Crumbled cotija or queso fresco

Pickled jalapeños

Warm the tortillas then serve with meat or beans, esquites, salsa and whatever other toppings you prefer. I’ve listed my favorites.

 

Rosemary Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and… Read more »

*I’m proud to partner with Watkins to bring you this story and recipe. It’s quite evident in my recipes that I’m a big fan of flavor and I rely on good, fresh spices and dried herbs. Watkins uses only USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. You can find their products at Watkins1868.com and select grocery stores nationwide.

As always, the words and photos are mine. I appreciate your support and the companies who graciously partner with me so I can continue to share my stories through the recipes that fill our table.

 

We dump the flour on the table, a simple action that is right but feels a bit defiant. With our hands, they are in fact the best tool for the job, we dip into the cool powder to form a soft bowl to hold the eggs. While Ivy cracks the fragile white shells, I anticipate the day when we can cross our backyard and visit our hens (who are now chicks) to gather eggs, still warm with yolks that practically glow. I’m interrupted from this dream as the last egg runs out of our flour bowl and onto the table. Ivy and I both laugh while we attempt to capture the runaway egg. Once safely contained she generously shakes fragrant rosemary onto the dough. We both breathe in deep, taking in the piney scent that now surrounds us.

While kneading the sturdy dough I take in the simplicity of this moment, these ingredients. It’s a rare reprieve from the noise and chaos that has grown familiar in my mind. Here in this moment, with all my senses engaged, I can be at the table, fingers covered in dough, laughing with my daughter while stories of past pasta making memories entertain us during our kneading.

We knead the dough until smooth then tuck it in for rest. This is not a rushed process, nor is it complicated. It’s simple yet asks you to be present, to adjust an otherwise busy schedule around its timing, not ours. I gladly accept this offer for it is also an invitation to be here now. To meditate while covered in flour and bask in gratitude with a fragrant bowl of homemade pasta under our nose.

It’s a simple act, humble, messy and imperfect but as with so much in life these are the ones that make all the difference.

 

 

 

Rosemary Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Yield 6-8 Servings

The pasta dough quantity here is enough for 6 – 8 servings. The sauce quantity below is enough for about 1/3 of the dough. You can easily double or triple the sauce to feed a crowd. The pasta dough can be made in advance. The dough and any leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for one day. The color may shift just slightly.

Ingredients

400 grams all-purpose flour4 large eggs1 tablespoon Watkins Organic Rosemary

For 2 large or 4 small servings (about 1/3 of the above pasta dough)

60 grams/4 tablespoons unsalted butter1 tablespoon fresh lemon juiceSea saltWatkins Organic Ground Black Pepper2 teaspoons lemon zest1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

For the pasta.Dump the flour on a large surface. Make a shallow and wide bowl in the middle of the flour. Crack the four eggs directly into the flour bowl. Add the Watkins Organic Rosemary to the eggs.Using a fork gently start to whisk the eggs, incorporating a little bit of the flour at a time. Continue to do this until the eggs and flour are the consistency of waffle batter. At this point it’s best to get your hands dirty and start kneading. Pasta dough should feel quite stiff. If it’s too dry you may add a touch of water but not too much, we don’t want a sticky dough. Knead until smooth, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Wrap well in plastic wrap then let the dough rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes. During this rest the gluten will relax and absorb the liquid. The dough will feel much smoother and cohesive after its nap.

You may use a rolling pin to make the pasta dough but if you have a pasta machine it will go quite a bit faster.Take about 1/10th of the pasta dough and keep the rest covered. On the widest setting of your pasta maker run the dough through then fold in half and run through again. Repeat at least three times. This is another way to knead the dough which will strengthen the gluten and give the pasta a pleasant bite in the end. Continue rolling the dough until you reach the desired thickness, for my pasta machine that is a 6 out of 8 settings. Add a little flour to the dough if there is any stickiness. Fold the pasta sheet in half, then half again, and again, until it’s about 2 inches wide. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in rough 1/2-inch strips. Set aside on a lightly floured sheet pan.

Prepare the sauce.