Many people think that making great coffee at home is unaffordable - because they can't afford a decent espresso machine. Espresso is only one method of brewing coffee - which has its up sides and down sides. If has become so popular in cafes primarily because it is faster than any other method (not so fast, however, if you are trying to make 4 espresso drinks on a small home espresso machine).
If you are looking to brew extraordinary coffee at home, the most important piece of equipment you will need, and should invest in, is a burr grinder. While you can purchase pre-ground coffee, and it will be a consistent particle size (probably better than any home grinder), but your coffee will not taste as fresh as when you grind it just prior to brewing your coffee. On the opposite end of the scale, if you have a blade grinder, you will find your particle size will never be consistent, and your coffee will be heated during the grind process thereby impacting the end brew.
You can get a relatively cheap burr grinder from department stores, or you can go straight to a REALLY good grinder. We sell Mazzer Grinders - it's what we use, and probably what we will always use.
Things You Need to Understand
Things you need to know about brewing great coffee are:
a) Time. Whichever brewing method you use, you are aiming to expose your coffee grinds to hot water for enough time (for that brewing method) to extract the flavour, but not the bitterness
b) Coffee : Water Ratio. You should start at a 1:17 ratio (approximately 20g - a double shot - per 350ml of water).
c) Water Temperature. Again you are aiming to extract the maximum flavour - without over extracting the bitterness of the coffee by having your water to hot.
d) Remove the Grinds. You need to ensure that none of the remaining grinds (out of which you have extracted your coffee) make further contact with your coffee.
Which Brewing Method
Factors when considering which brewing method(s) you want to use for brewing coffee include:
a) Cost. How much will the equipment I need cost? What is the initial cost, and what will be the ongoing / maintenance cost?
b) Time. How much time do you have to make coffee? Also consider how many coffees you are making - as espresso may not always be the fastest method for a group of people.
c) Body vs. Flavour. Below is a broad guideline indicating where some common brewing methods sit in terms of body vs. flavour.