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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Even best equipment won't make great coffee if you don't start with quality beans

Coffee from Habit Coffee in Victoria is pictured in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

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Coffee from Habit Coffee in Victoria is pictured in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

VICTORIA - When it comes to kitchen appliances many people put as much emphasis on their coffee maker as their refrigerator. But good coffee doesn't have to come from expensive machines.

Shane Devereaux, owner of Habit Coffee in Victoria, makes his morning coffee with a press, using freshly ground coffee.

"It takes a bit of understanding of how coffee works," says Devereaux. "It is a particular little beast. Coffee and wine are two of the most complex foods in the world, and are not as straightforward as some people may have thought."

The french press is a popular coffee brewing method where grounds are extracted in hot water before being pressed to the bottom of the pot with a plunger.

While it is easy to get drawn in by the various coffee makers on the market, Devereaux said the most important place to start when it comes to good coffee is the beans.

"At the end of the day you can't make a good cup of coffee if you don't have great beans to start with, which is something people are starting to wrap their heads around," says Devereaux. "You can't make great coffee even with the best equipment if you're using low-grade or old coffee."

A piece of equipment that is often disregarded when it comes to making coffee is a grinder, and Devereaux says a good grinder can make a significant difference.

"Grind quality and consistency is the most important thing," he says. "You can get a little machine that will chop your coffee into a million little pieces and feel like you're grinding it fresh, but when coffee is ground inconsistently it brews inconsistently."

Sam James, owner of Toronto's Sam James Coffee Bar, says it is important to either grind coffee daily or use ground coffee as quickly as possible.

Like Devereaux, James' attitude toward making good coffee at home is based on simplicity.

"The more complex you get you run into a lot more problems," says James.

With so many coffee makers on the market now, it is difficult to know which product to buy. James says even though espresso drinkers may try to replicate their favourite drink at home, he rarely recommends they invest in an espresso machine.

"As far as making good coffee at home, if you like espresso you can achieve that with a little stovetop espresso maker," he says. "It will never be the same as it would be in a store but is a close alternative."

Both Devereaux and James say buying trendy automated machines may mean making concessions.

"A lot of the products on the market are very convenient, and coffee is one of those things where convenience always comes with a compromise," says James. "I always find those pod coffees taste a bit flat and dull."

James also says the cost breakdown for pods versus coffee beans is significant. He says it can end up costing between $60 and $70 for 500 grams (one pound) for pod coffee, compared to buying premium beans for under $20 per 500 grams (one pound) at an independent coffee shop.

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