[Current as of January 2020.]
I’m a big fan of coffee.
My current brewing setup is a Hario grinder and an Aeropress, and I’m pretty happy with it. With the latter, you’ll definitely want a variable-temperature Kettle. I use an Epica kettle at home and a Bonavita kettle in the office, and they have both served me well.
I’ve also used french presses and moka pots in the past, with nice results. French presses require a bit more cleaning, though, and moka pots work great on gas stoves (which I used to have) but not so much on electric stove (which I have now, much to my chagrin).
After a few attempts, I think I found a roasting setup I’m happy with. Specifically, I’m now using the Fresh Roast SR540 roaster.
It’s a pretty simple roaster to operate, yet it still offers nice flexibility (and so room to experiment). It’s more manual than my old Nesco (see below), and needs a bit more care to get uniform roasts, but you get a lot more control (which is more fun!).
I can’t speak about its durability (I’ve only had it since December 2019), but the fact that replacement parts are available is a good sign. It doesn’t have any smoke suppression mechanism, so it may trigger a smoke detector. I’ve been sealing off my smoke detector with a plastic bag while roasting; just don’t forget to take it off when you’re done!
I started roasting with a plain old popcorn popper (just get the one Sweet Maria’s sells). It’s a simple and cheap way to get started, and there’s just enough manual control (timing and stirring, basically) to make things interesting. Roasts would not be very consistent (higher highs, but lower lows) or very uniform, though. Without any chaff collection or smoke suppression (it’s a popcorn popper), I would only roast outside. So roasting during the winter was not an option, and the weather (temperature and humidity) would affect the roast.
Chaff collection: no more chaff flying all around.
Smoke suppression: I could use it indoors without setting off my smoke detector.
It made pretty consistent (if unexciting) roasts with very little effort.
Unfortunately, it was not the most reliable of appliances, breaking down three times over maybe two years and change. The first time was during the warranty period, so I got it repaired. The second time, my father and I managed to repair it. The third time I just gave up. For what it’s worth, Nesco doesn’t sell it anymore.
I’m partial to Ethiopian beans, in particular Yirgacheffe beans. In a pinch, other Ethiopian or East African varieties work too. Lightly roasted, of course.
I get my beans from Sweet Maria’s. They have pretty good prices (even with shipping from Oakland), and a great selection.
In the past, I’ve also gotten beans from The Coffee and Tea Exchange, which is a nice, local business. In store, the only green beans they sell are Yirgacheffe, but why would you want anything else anyway. You can get other varieties by calling their warehouse. I ended up being disappointed by the quality of their beans, though: uneven sizes, cracked beans, etc. So I went back to Sweet Maria’s.