Updated on 01.14.11

Making Good Coffee at Home Without Breaking the Bank

Trent Hamm

“Have you ever written about coffee?” Sarah asked me one morning.

I haven’t written about coffee, actually, at least not in a direct way. I’m not an avid coffee drinker. I have a cup about once a month or so, and it’s usually in the afternoon. I simply don’t drink it as part of my morning routine, though a coffee shop visit used to be a part of that routine years ago.

“Well, you could write about the coffee that I make at home. I think it’s better than Starbucks and it comes in well under a dollar a cup.”

Sounds like a post idea to me.

The Beans
Sarah believes strongly in whole bean coffees. “When coffee comes already ground, it’s lost a lot of its smell and smell is a huge part of the flavor of anything.”


Her preferred coffee bean of the moment is Cafe Hope dark roast whole bean coffee, given to her as a gift this Christmas. It is very similar to the Ruta Maya whole bean coffee sold at Costco, of which you can get 4.4 lbs. of for $37. Such an amount will make a huge amount of coffee. She typically does not buy that much at once.

In fact, her most common source of coffee beans is gifts. Many of her friends know that she likes beans and thus it makes a convenient gift for her.

As for the best whole bean bargain coffee, Sarah says, “Eight O’Clock. No question. Every kind I’ve tried has been excellent and the price is wonderful.”

The Grinder
What about a grinder? Don’t you need some sort of fancy equipment for that?


Sarah has been using this Hamilton-Beach grinder (very similar to this one for sale at Amazon for less than $30) for years now with no problems whatsoever. She simply grinds the amount on the line for two cups and adds it to her drip coffee pot to start the process in the morning. She originally received this grinder as a gift as well.

The Pot
What about the pot? She typically just uses a very small drip coffee pot with very ordinary filters:

Low end coffee pot

It’s very similar to this one, on sale at Amazon for less than $20.

“The key isn’t in having an expensive pot. I’ve tried very expensive coffee makers and haven’t been able to tell much difference,” she says. Instead, “the key comes from using water that’s just shy of boiling.” Do not add boiling water to the pot. Instead, bring it to a boil, wait for just enough time for it to just stop boiling, then add that to your coffee maker.

The Add-ins
For the most part, Sarah simply adds milk to coffee, along with various flavorings if she happens to have any on hand. She’ll occasionally purchase creamers at the store, but usually only if they’re on sale.

Her most common coffee additive, truthfully, seems to be sugar and just a small squirt of a generic hazelnut flavoring she picked up a long time ago in Amana, IA. She’s been using it for more than a year almost every morning and it’s still not run out. The bottle cost her $7.

“The key is just to find something simple that you like so you can assemble it quick,” she says.

I hope that some of you morning coffee drinkers find some ideas here and perhaps break that $5 a day Starbucks habit.

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  1. Mary says:

    Mmm coffee. Probably one of my favorite things to drink every day. And I do not mind at all making my own coffee. Tastes better when you have control over it, in my opinion.

    I’ve been looking for a grinder for the longest time but haven’t found many cheap deals in the stores. Perhaps I’ll try the online route.

  2. Mary says:

    My boyfriend uses a Toddy cold brew system called the Toddy. It brews a full carafe overnight and he drinks one small cup a day, so a single carafe lasts over a week. It’s also less acidic and slightly less caffienated. Great idea about getting beans for gifts–he’s been watching prices and its still pretty pricey, especially compared to me (I drink milk and water exclusively).

  3. kjc says:

    You’re heating water before putting it in a drip coffee maker? If yes, you’re overheating the water.

    Properly brewed coffee is made with water that’s between 197* – 206*F (92-96*C); if you’re heating your water to near boiling and THEN heating it further in your coffee maker, you’re negatively impacting the flavor the coffee. Skeptical? This, from the National Coffee Association of the U.S.A., should clear up your confusion: bit.ly/TrO2P (The method your wife is using is for manual brewing – as with a French press.)

    In addition, brew time is critical: 5-6 minutes is ideal. You may not be achieving that with a $20 drip coffee maker.

  4. Hannah says:

    I use a k-cup machine and even though it’s a tough sell as a “frugal” solution, it works really well for me. I’m the only one who drinks coffee regularly at home, so buying beans in bulk doesn’t work. I either get free beans from my brother, a Starbucks employee (they grind them in the store for me), or I search online for the best deal on k-cups. I usually find them for about 55 cents each, and the quality is great.

    It’s not really right to suggest home brewed coffee as a $5 a day Starbucks replacement. The $5 drinks are espresso based drinks and frapuccinos. Making a quality equivalent at home is not easy.

  5. Kathy says:

    According to Cook’s Illustrated, the French press makes the best coffee. That’s when you heat your water to just under boiling and add it. Plus, the French press doesn’t run on electricity. :-)

    Most manufacturers recommend you add cold water to the coffee maker and then you let the coffee maker heat the water.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a k-cup machine, because I’m also the only person who drinks coffee in the house, but the price of the makers and the cups are what’s keeping me from doing that.

    And I also agree with Hannah on the comparison between home brewed and Starbucks/coffee house coffee. Yes, you could make espresso based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, etc.) and frappucinos at home,but you have to know how to to do it. I’m not suggesting that it’s not cheaper to make your own coffee at home. You’d have to get an espresso maker and then know how to steam the milk, etc, which takes time and that’s not something people have a lot of in the morning. I do visit Starbucks, but not on a daily basis. It’s a once in awhile thing for me.

  6. Riki says:

    At work, we have a K-cup machine. I shop for K-cups online and usually combine orders with friends so we get free shipping. I only use about 3 per week.

    It’s convenient but I dislike the plastic that ends up in landfills, so I found a reusable K-cup that can be filled with regular coffee grounds and creates no plastic waste. It’s the best combination of convenience and responsibility. I plan to switch to it completely when my current batch of Ks are done.

  7. Gena says:

    Trent, do you use a burr grinder or a blade grinder? My husband is a coffee freak [buys green whole beans and roasts them himself even!] and he says that burr grinders give you a very consistent grind = better coffee.

    Also, if you’re buying whole beans, you get MUCH better coffee with fresh beans. Beans are at their best within two weeks of roasting, which are hard to get unless you can find a local roaster [though this can make your coffee more expensive].

  8. Jeff says:

    I would also like to point out that using a reusable (clothe or gold) filter also reduces cost and environmental waste. Last time I bought one of these, it was actually cheaper than a set of 100 paper filters at the grocery store. I’d also like to throw in that coffee grounds make an excellent “greens” base for a compost pile that can be used instead of potting soil or fertilizer.

  9. DeeBee says:

    Some more frugal coffee ideas:

    – Don’t forget about yard sales. I was able to pick up a small coffee pot very similar to the one shown in the photograph for $5 and it works fine. I have various co-workers who use them in their offices and cubicles. I have taken mine on car trips to use in motels and also in the homes of friends of mine who don’t drink coffee.

    – I never knew about the method of cold-brewing iced coffee until this year. From spring through fall, I now brew strong coffee in a french-press pot with cold filtered water and then keep the coffee in my refrigerator in a glass bottle. It has saved me lots of $$$ that I used to spend on iced coffees. The cold-brew method results in a coffee that is much smoother and less bitter while still being strong enough to add to ice cubes and milk. I got my french press pot at Ikea for approximately $13.


  10. Rachel says:

    If I am understanding your correctly, your wife is heating water and then putting it into her Mr. Coffee machine. I thought you were only to add cold water to these drip machines. I remember years ago my parents gave my grandmother her first drip coffee maker. she late told my father that it didn’t work, and he discoverd she was adding hot water to the machine instead of cold.

    Also, has anyone seem Millstone coffee in their stores. To me this is very good coffee, and I recently had some coupons for it, but could not find it in any stores in my area: wal mart, Publix, winn dixie.

  11. Laura L says:

    Have you tried Pears coffee beans? They are roasted in Omaha at Herman’s Nut House. Absolutely the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. It is really fresh. When we moved from Iowa I had to leave them behind, but I wasn’t very happy about it. They were available at all the grocery stores. I wish they would distribute nationally.

  12. KC says:

    The price of coffee is going up – not sure why as I don’t trade commodities, but that’s what they keep saying on CNBC (next time I’ll have to listen for the reason). I find buying coffee in bulk at the warehouse clubs is by far the cheapest way to go. You can buy beans or ground coffee. I really like Dunkin Donuts brand and it is far, far cheaper at Costco in bulk than it is in smaller packages at the grocery store. But there are other brands that are probably quite tasty that can be had cheaper at Costco.

    Another cost saving measure is to only make what you’ll drink. we make 8 cups for 2 of us and I make 4 cups if its only me drinking it. We throw out very little of that.

    I also buy raw sugar in bulk to save. Half and Half would go bad if bought in bulk. I can get a quart of generic fat free for $1.50 usually and it’ll last about 3 weeks in my house. Mu husband prefers Splenda (again bought in bulk at Costco and usually with a coupon). So anything you consume as much as coffee is probably best purchased in bulk.

  13. Laundry Lady says:

    My dad has to be one of the most frugal people I know (approaching cheap at times), and he buys his coffee beans green online. It’s nice because he has more control over where the beans come from, fair trade practices, etc. Then he only roasts as much as they need for a week or so to keep the flavor. He started roasting the beans on a old cookie sheet on the gas grill on the back yard. He even fashioned a rotating drum some sheet metal. He and my mom are seriously coffee drinkers (especially my mom) and they both say they are spoiled now. They hate paying a lot of money for coffee. My mom used to love Dunkin Donuts coffee and now she said it doesn’t even compare to roasting and grinding your own.

  14. Lisa says:

    I am a true coffee snob so this was a fun post for me to read! We were lucky enough to inherit a 2K coffee machine which makes one cup at a time and the BEST coffee. It grinds the beans for each cup and I get the crema on top as well. I have read a lot about coffee and coffee making. Automatic Drip coffee makers are the worst because the water doesn’t get hot enough. A french press is a lot better. Another idea is to do it the old fashioned way, by using a filter and a filter holder, grind the beans then put the filter over the cup and pour hot water over the grounds. Some coffee aficionados swear by this contraption (which I happen to have) called the Aeropress. Last good option is the stove top espresso maker which also makes a good cup. You can have amazing beans but if not prepared properly, the taste gets lost.

  15. Lisa says:

    I forgot to add one more thing. Using filtered water makes much better coffee. The best coffee houses use filtered water.

  16. Matthew says:

    The best advice for better coffee for folks using a drip machine is to use filtered water, and add a pinch of salt to the grounds. Grinding your own beans is good as well.

    Eight O’Clock is very tasty coffee, for the price, I agree.

  17. Kerry D. says:

    A topic close to my heart. :) We drink VAST quantities of coffee at our house, so we buy 5 pound bags at Costco of “Pleasant Hill Farms Restaurant Blend.” It is very tasty, and per pound is extremely inexpensive.

    Our favorite (after ultra expensive Kona beans) is Pinon Nut coffee at Trader Joes, at around $7 for a 12 ounce can. It is a lovely coffee with a hint of nutty flavor, but not nearly so much as a flavored coffee.

    I prefer a nice cup of coffee to the blended drinks at Starbucks–I only order them there because their ordinary coffee tastes horrible to me. I suspect it may be a business strategy to sell more high priced drinks.

    Although a french press makes excellent coffee, we feel we get pretty darn good coffee from the inexpensive Mr. Coffee, which we have on a timer to be ready when we wake up. Happy sigh.

  18. funder says:

    A tip if you’re a coffee lover who moves from sea level to the mountains: your drip coffeemaker will suck. Water boils at a lower temp at altitude, so the water that drips onto the grounds will be cooler, resulting in a noticeably suckier cup of joe. Invest in a French press. (At this point, I think FB coffee is noticeably better even at sea level, but it’s CRUCIAL at higher altitudes.)

  19. Amy K. says:

    I usually prep my coffee maker the night before so bleary-eyed me can just flip the switch before I hop in the shower. Would you still boil the water the night before, or is the goal the temperature rather than eliminating gasses/chlorine?

  20. Michele says:

    We use a K-cup, too. Got the machine for free. I buy from a local business coffee provider, and each cup averages 40 cents per cup.
    I was buying beans, grinding them, making a pot of coffee and refrigerating the leftovers for iced coffee at a later time and putting the grounds in my composter…but I ended up wasting a lot of coffee. We decided to switch to the K-Cup since the machine was free ( usually 90 dollars here) and we have both cut back on our consumption. Probably a good idea for me with high blood pressure :)

  21. Alex says:

    I’m not a coffee drinker but I do love Starbucks chai latte. At $3.75 (in Canada) for a tall it is a pricey daily habit. But you can buy Tazo Chai concentrate at the grocery store, same brand Starbucks uses, for about $7. Mix it 50-50 with milk, heat in a saucepan until almost frothy, add a squirt of honey and it tastes exactly the same as the store drink. You can get about 8 “tall” cups out of one carton. I’m saving myself $20 a week this way.

  22. ChrisD says:

    I have a Nespresso machine. Though it’s not the cheapest the cost was still ok (200EUR new) and I’ve had it for about 4 years now so the cost is good and low per cup. As I DON’T drink a lot of coffee (maximum one per day and sometimes 1 per week) then the system of individually packaged coffee that is always fresh works very well for me (plus the coffee is quite good). I love the push button simplicity of making a cup. Before I had a cafettier/french press and ground coffee, but making it was too high a passive barrier so I would never make coffe and then the entire packet would just get stale, costing far more per cup in the end.
    For milk I have an aerolatter, which heats the milk and froths it up with a spinning disk of spiral wire. I probably got my moneys worth from that in the first three months and I’ve also had it for 4 years now. Though using it does mean cleaning the machine every time, I really love it and the milk seems as good to me as milk made properly with steam.
    Of course the down side is that Nestle is evil, and you are locked into getting their coffee capsules, though I do clean out and recycle them so the aluminium is not lost.

  23. amanda says:

    I buy beans (and my favorite PG Tips Tea)when Amazon has sales.I usually pay less than 5.00/lb for beans, and I pay for it with Amazon gift cards tht I earn by trading in used books that I find cheaply at library sales.

  24. LeahGG says:

    If you buy nescafe espresso gold instant, it’s not nearly as bad as other instant coffees. For those of us who don’t have sensitive palettes, it’s a decent option.

  25. Janis says:

    We buy whole, organically grown, fair trade beans at our local co-op. We’ll buy whatever dark roast or “breakfast blend” that is on sale, which is usually from the bulk bin, but sometimes pre-packaged.

    We haven’t graduated to roasting our own beans, but I swear by our burr grinder and filtered water. I love my French Press (and will remember to use it come iced coffee weather), but almost always opt for the convenience of the drip maker which has an extra hot setting. If your coffee is really good (both in beans and preparation), you won’t need sugar or flavorings – though I admit that we still put a dash of milk in ours.

    Amanda (#23), you are my coffee hero. What a wonderfully creative and frugal method of funding your coffee fix!

  26. Lisa says:

    How funny, read this as I was working on my 2011 budget, enjoying a cup of homemade coffee and a muffin (from a mix, so I don’t blow $3 on a scone every day this week!) :)

  27. Bill says:

    I don’t drink coffee but the worms in my compost pile love the spent grounds and the paper filter. I collect all the remnants from the 3 coffee stations near my office, a lady from HR claims the other side of the building.

  28. kristine says:

    We buy beans at Fairway (Like a whole foods, but less expensive). They have sacks and sacks of beans, an the smell is amazing! The grind it for you there, and you take it hoe ready to use. I cannot imagine grinding and washing out a grinder every single morning-too much added time overhead for the return.

    For decaf, there is nothing better than Decaf Sumatra from Starbucks. But we cut it with cheaper stuff, as it is too expensive. Believe it or not, Sam’s club (you get this at walmart) dark french is pretty good. I find even the cheaper brands acceptable if you get a very dark roast. We blend caf and decaf as we wish, and better brands with cheap brand dark roast all the time, with good results.

    We have a coffee maker that brews into a thermal carafe. Due to the lack of over-time oxygen exposure, and no burner underneath, the coffee stays yummy all day, and hubby even says it is good the next morning! (That I will not do.) If it gets cool. Microwave it for 50 seconds in your cup, and it’s a good, not best, cup.

    When we move to the woods, we will get a hand grinder- expensive, but they exist, and a french press. No electricity needed for a great cup of joe!

  29. Maria says:

    For all of you drinking Starbucks and dark roasts (as I used to before being sent to Europe for work for a month) do yourself a flavor, try coffeebean direct (their city roast Columbian 5lb for $34 is outstanding) or really – any other FRESH whole bean MEDIUM roasted coffee. I was shocked to find the espresso in Italy was not nearly as dark roasted as the dark Sumatra COFFEE I was drinking at home and WOW did it taste fabulous! That stuff tastes like charcoal now – I use a french roast for espresso and it is perfect.
    Hemp reusable filter in a filter holder (Melitta has one on amazon) and a plug in tea kettle does a wonderful job – dump the water in every couple minutes using your favorite thermal carafe.

    That said, most people drinking a dark roast are looking for a stronger flavor in their cup but for some reason, don’t realize you need MORE GROUNDS to get more flavor, not darker beans. SIX tablespoons to 8-6 ounce cups is a minimum brew strength. If that is two strong, make the same strength, then add hot water to taste AFTER but use the same recipe, it will keep it from getting bitter like restaurant ‘hot brown folgers water’. Try it ONCE, but not with a dark roast! They are bitter to start with!

  30. Terry says:

    I just bought a Bodon French press and it’s great. Use coarse ground and enjoy delicious coffee. The reason I bought it is because I didn’t want to use anything with plastic any more. Thought about getting a stainless steel percolator but nixed that. The Bodon is great. Also, one theory about coffee use and storage is only buy as much as you will use in a week and don’t store in the refrigerator. I grind mine at the store as it’s just more convenient. Also: organic and better quality coffees are healthier — the cheaper brands have a lot of insecticides. Thank you!

  31. valleycat1 says:

    On American’s Test Kitchen, they did a standardized blind taste test of brewed coffees from a varied range of prices. The 2 rated best by the audience and their tasting experts were Maxwell House & 8 O’clock. The pricier ones didn’t rate well with anyone in a direct side-by-side test.

    We very rarely drink coffee – to have some on hand for those rare occasions & for visitors, we buy the coffee bags (like tea bags) which are individually sealed & they make a good cup.

  32. GJW says:

    I love coffee, but I’m in no way a coffee purist like you posters above! I usually do an oddly mixed blend of some cheap coffee…yes, Folger’s, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers (I do draw the line at generic)some more expensive coffee (Starbucks, 8 O’Clock, Caribou – whatever I’ve been able to get on sale, and some kind of decaf. No, it isn’t coffee shop quality, but I do like how it tastes and that it’s pennies a cup.

    My tip is to get a stainless steel French press. I think they’re the ones sold for camping. They may be a little pricier…I think mine years ago was around $30, but they keep the coffee hot for over an hour and there is no danger of breaking the glass ‘pot’. (Between my son and I, we broke 4 of the glass inserts on regular French presses). I have a glass one too, for back up, or if I want things to look nicer, and a cute blue ceramic one (found both at thrift stores) but I’m always disappointed at how fast the coffee gets cold in them.

  33. Christine says:

    To those who say you can’t compare coffee at home to the espresso drinks at Starbucks: I had the $3/day latte habit for many years. Since I would usually buy one of my kids a scone, it was really a $5/day habit.

    I kicked it in 2008 by buying an Aerolatte, a little hand held milk foamer. It’s about $13 on Amazon. I brew Trader Joe’s coffee in my little Mr. Coffee, microwave half a cup of milk for 50 seconds, foam it, then fill the cup with coffee. Ahh. And I use Penzeys Vanilla Sugar to sweeten it. You can get that online if you don’t have a Penzeys store near you. Now I actually prefer this to anything at Starbucks. I can’t bear to think of all the money I spent there.

  34. kjc says:

    @Christine: it’s actually the Aeroccino. I have one, along with the Nespresso machine, we’re able to make a VERY nice cup of espresso or (with the Aeroccino) cappuccino.

    As long as many have chimed in with what equipment and beans they use, I might as well describe our regular coffee set-up (and yes, I recognize that we represent the lunatic fringe if you’re looking at this from a frugality standpoint). We use a Danish made Technivorm MoccaMaster drip coffee maker, and a Capresso burr grinder. Our beans are from the local Caribou Coffee or from Old Bisbee Roasters in Bisbee, AZ. We use filtered water with unbleached paper filters. If you’ve only had coffee made with a low quality machine and beans, a good cup is a revelation.

  35. Michelle says:

    I disagree with the people saying not to heat your water before putting it into the coffee maker. I had a really cheap tiny coffee maker in college, and it made the worst coffee I had ever tasted. I later realized that the drip was running cold and the water only heated as it dripped into the pot, and was heated from the bottom there. When I started adding hot water to the machine, the coffee improved a lot, and I saved a ton of money by continuing to make coffee at home instead of running to starbucks.

  36. kjc says:

    @Michelle: your really cheap tiny coffee maker was BROKEN.

    Drip coffee makers heat water which is then passed through coffee grounds. The heater beneath the pot merely keeps the coffee warm.

  37. Jan says:

    Boy Trent you sure stirred up some coffee drinkers!

  38. ChrisD says:

    Trent we hijacked your thread! You wanted to talk about coffee and frugality and we are all talking about coffee and coffee. :-)

  39. Wes says:

    I don’t use coffee pots because I usually make one or two cups of coffee at a time, and the pots aren’t designed to make this small amount very well. You can definately make small quantities in a pot, but the flavor will not be as good as a full pot.

    Probably the cheapest method for a quality brew would be to get one of those plastic filter holders that sits on top of your cup. The “manual pourover” is a great way to make one cup, and is even being used in some higher-end coffee shops.

    French press is also good for making one cup at a time, but the coffee looses a lot of heat in the 4-5 minuets it takes to steep if it’s not insulated.

    I currently use a kuerig. The first one I had broke after just a few months, but I was very impressed with their warranty. After the fourth one broke (yes, the fourth replacement broke less than one week after I recieved it), I was more frustrated at the inconvenience of having to spend a culmination of several hours on the phone with kuerig to get them to replace my coffee maker every few months. I will not be buying another kuerig.

    I have to agree with everyone’s point that brewing coffee at home is not as direct a substitute for $5 at Starbucks as trent seems to think it is. A cup of coffee at starbucks cost $1.50, and making a cup of similar quality coffee at home will cost about 50 cents. So there’s still some savings, but not as much as $5.

  40. kristine says:

    You can buy a manual coffee grinder online. With that and a press, no electricity used!

    I also mix big brand and expensive brands to my taste, and save a bundle. Cheap brands are OK if you get a very dark roast.

  41. Kate says:

    For those who live in the few areas that have Sunflower Markets, they have *excellent* organic, fair-trade coffee for around seven a pound.

    I’ll agree with all those who prefer whole beans, ground fresh each time. And I eschew all the artificial flavors. But occasionally I’ll put a bit of vanilla bean, or stick cinnamon, in the grinder. Delicious!

    And don’t forget good teas! Tea bags are filled with floor sweepings, basically; you can get whole-leaf teas for amazingly low (per serving) prices. Pre-heat the pot; bring the water to a full boil then let it cool just a minute; let it steep five minutes.

    I dislike all forms of soda. Our most common drink is water, followed by coffee and tea. When you aren’t wasting money on flavored sugar-waters, delicious beverages are amazingly cheap.

  42. Sue says:

    We buy organic beans, different varieties depending on what’s on sale, for roughly $5-10/lb.

    We have a burr grinder which I found at Value Village; works well but is a bit messy. The difference in the flavour to regular grinders is noticeably better.

    We bought a Cuisinart espresso machine (no pods – hate those things – they taste terrible, are expensive, and wasteful), and hubby has learned how to brew all kinds of lovely drinks to anyone’s specifications.

    We only use organic milk and sugar, and it’s all worth it. Costs a fraction of what you’d pay at a coffee shop, and is every bit as good, or better.

  43. Pat says:

    @kjc – It really IS an Aerolatte as I have one too and love it!!

  44. Wes says:

    So this thread got me interested in roasting my own beans. I did some research online, and it looks like an actual coffee roaster cost at least $100, but a cheap hot air popcorn popper works almost as well. Let’s say $15 for the popper, and $6-7 per pound for green coffee beans, and let’s assume the beans are of a similar quality after being roasted as Starbucks or any other $10-13 per pound coffee. It looks like you can have access to very fresh coffee for cheaper than it costs to buy the good stuff.

    Can anyone attest to these numbers or any other pros/cons of home-roasting? If I haven’t left any considerations out of my analysis, I might be buying an air-popper soon.

    Also, Trent, this looks like it fits nicely into the homemade beer/jelly/gifts/etc. kind of stuff you’re into. Why don’t you or your wife give it a shot and tell us how it goes?

  45. Katie Morse says:

    I’m a big coffee drinker (I work at a marketing agency, it comes with the territory and office culture!), but I HATE drip coffee.

    My winning coffee combination has been: buy whole beans (I live in NYC and have numerous wholesale suppliers in my neighborhood).

    Grind about 1/4 cup whole beans in my grinder (bought for about $40 at Target years ago).

    Put beans in the bottom of a french press (bought about a year ago for $35).

    Boil water in my electric kettle (bought about a year ago for $50 – used almost daily for… everything you’d need hot water for).

    Pour water in the french press, put the top on but don’t push the plunger down.

    Wait about 10 minutes (I shower during this time) and then push the plunger down SLOWLY.

    Aside from the initial outlay for the grinder, french press and electric kettle, my coffee regularly costs less than $1.00 per cup – and it tastes better and can be brewed stronger or weaker depending on my needs.

  46. Mary Scott says:

    Re#44 Wes
    Could you tell us how to roast beans with the hot air popper?
    I am the only coffee drinker in the family; my husband will occasionally have a cup. I love my Cuisinart Grind and Brew with the thermal carafe. Set it for the next morning the night before, and have 1 or 2 cups. Then I will leave the coffee in the carafe and microwave a cup when I want one, tastes great even the next day because the air doesn’t get at it in the carafe-no more glass pots for me! I priced them at Kohl’s,etc for $139 but found 1 on Overstock.com for $79 w/free shipping. I can also put ground coffee in it (using up some at I got on sale). The only downsides (not really for me) are that the grinder sounds like a jet taking off for about 10 seconds,and it takes a few minutes to clean out the grounds.

  47. MoneyStar says:

    Tongue and cheek calculator on how much Starbucks coffee costs, but eye opening, too.


  48. Gary says:

    I worked at a coffeeshop for years and this is what I learned.

    Regular ground coffee has about 9 different flavor compounds in it or less, freezing it does not protect these.
    Freshly ground coffee has around 30 flavor compounds, this explains why freshly ground coffee is some much better. Sara is definitely on the right track.
    The best cup possible comes from freshly roasted beans though. This is financially unrealistic for most though, but if you ever find yourself in a shop that fresh roasts it’s beans give it a shot. The 100+ flavor compounds make you realize why people started drinking the muddy water to begin with. I have only had one cup of freshly roasted coffee ever and this was in a Annemasse, France at a small tea house. Luckily I live near enough to go back and try it again. It had flavors I couldn’t even identify, the coffee was so bright and refreshing, chocolate, nuts, fruit, and no hint of that familiar bitterness.
    I tried to find some links to corroborate my numbers, but it’s been years since I read the research that I quoted. You’ll just have to take my word for it or go pick up a coffee coffee table book.

  49. Wes says:

    Mary Scott,

    At first I thought it sounded nutty, but evidently it’s pretty effective. You just throw a few ounces of green coffee beans in there and run the thing for a few minuets. The skill, apparently, is being able to guage the strength of the roast by both the sound of the beans “cracking” and change in color. One small hazard is that, since you’re using the popper to do something it wasn’t designed to do, you end up running the machine longer than it was ever meant to be run and risk warping some of the plastic components. This doesn’t seem to be much of a problem, though. You can read all about it, and watch some videos, at “sweetmarias” commercial website. They also have info on the roasting process, different types of beans, and all that.

  50. the duchess says:

    I am a true Coffee Snot and drink about 8 cups a day. Where I work, people will go for their “Timmie”s (Tim Hortons, a popular coffee chain in Canada) several times a day – a large one costs around 1.50. I have been dragging in a large Thermos for years, that holds 6 cups of coffee. I use a Hazlenut blend of beans (Zavida) I get at Costco for around 14.00 for a large bag. This last me up to 6 weeks. I once calcuated I pay about 11 cents a cup! I have a Braun coffee grinder, get this, that is about 20 years old. It has served me excellently over the years, and is used almost daily. In fact, I once found another one at a garage sale that ran perfectly, and I have it stored away for the day mine breaks. I can’t believe that people will pay 3 to 4.50 daily for their coffee breaks AND they usually also buy a muffin etc. I sit at my desk, drinking my most excellent Hazlenut brew (yes, I also use cold water in my drip, and I set it up the night before so I wake to piping hot coffee) and LAUGH because these are often the same people who are crying about how they have no cash!

  51. The temperature is crucial. The right temperature depends on the darkness of your roast: lighter roasts = higher temperature (like #3 said), darker roast (like French) = lower temperature (like 194F or so).

    I use a thermometer to get it right, no kidding. It makes a world of difference.

    The second most important factor is the fineness of the grind.

    The third is the actual type of coffee. In other words, if you don’t get the temperature (and not all coffee machines do) and the grind (a blender won’t) right, there’s little reason to spend money on good coffee, because the taste is not brought out very well anyway.

    Here’s a thread with some inside/barista knowledge


  52. Joe says:

    My wife & I decided to kick the coffee shop habit in 2011 (we figured we were spending $50+ a week, easy to do with the added snacks and smoothies for the kids). We’ve done a few weeks of grinding costco beans now, with a blade grinder that we picked up for $10 at the cuisinart warehouse sale. We keep the beans in the freezer, and grind a batch each Sunday, then keep the ground coffee in a tightly sealed plastic container in the cabinet. So far, so good. The coffee tastes just as good at the end of the week as at the beginning.
    (It’s too bad the coffee at work tastes awful, otherwise I could get it for free most mornings.)

  53. Kris says:

    +1 for me on the Keurig.

    I’ve had the Keurig mini at home for over a year, it gets used every day and has not given us any problems.

    The coffee is excellent. To me the biggest attraction is that I am not locked into one or a few different kinds of coffee. Since the pods are sealed they do not go stale as fast as regular ground coffee or even beans. I have used pods that are several months old and they taste as good as the first day I got them.

    As far as landfill fodder goes, the pod is smaller than a paper or foam cup from a coffee house. I recycle what I can and try to be responsible without going all out aka Ed Begly Jr. – who says that he can put a whole week’s worth of non-recyclable trash into the glove box of his car.

    I’ve also read that the pods can be reused a few times by cutting off the top foil, rinsing out the grounds, drying the inside filter, then after filling with your own coffee, putting two or three layers of Glad Press ‘n Seal over the top. I have not tried this yet, YMMV.

  54. My favorite “splurge” coffees are: Fair Trade coffee from my church’s coffee vending booth, and whole beans from my favorite coffee shop. There are wonderful flavors in both shops.

    Then I grind the beans at home with a $13 grinder and perk them in a $10 coffee pot.

  55. kjc says:

    @Pat #43 My apologies; I should have Googled Aerolatte before commenting. I own the Aeroccino – it heats the milk and then froths it. Fantastic.

  56. ysabet says:

    Reading this thread – I feel so privileged to live in Brisbane, Australia.

    I can name off the top of my head 3 coffee shops within 5km of where I am sitting right now that roast their own coffee, and have it for sale at very reasonable prices. You can sample a cup before you buy, too, and they’re often willing to give you a bean sample (enough for a single cup) to take home, if you’re a regular customer. Oh, and they supply green beans for those who want those.

    My usual coffeemaking apparatus (since I don’t like drip coffee, and french presses are annoying to clean) is a stovetop espresso maker. My current one is 10 years old, needs a new seal (which will set me back ~$2). Fill the bottom with cold filtered water, the basket with ground coffee, put on stove, wait until it makes noises, pour coffee. Because the lower chamber is under pressure (~10kpa, if I recall correctly), the water boils before 100C, so is the correct temperature for brewing. Also, this thing is impossible to break, and I can easily see it lasting (with the occasional replacement seal) for another 30 years. It takes up almost no space on the bench or in my cupboard.

    A great way to start the day for me :)

  57. Jenny says:

    I like to add a few sprinkles of cinnamon and/or nutmeg to my coffee grounds before brewing it (regular drip coffeemaker). I find that it makes even cheap ground coffee taste gourmet.

    I also like to use vanilla milk to go in place of coffee cream and some of the sugar. It is way healthier than the trans fat laden coffee mate and is almost as good. Sometimes I also go half and half with the vanilla milk and cream, and it is excellent that way.

  58. Maya says:

    I’m not a coffee drinker, so my comment is slightly off track of the discussion here. But Trent, thanks for using (and posting a picture of) a Fair Trade certified coffee.

  59. Liz says:

    I started buying the super-cheap Cafe Bustelo at the grocery store in my (mostly-Latino) neighborhood. That’s my weekday coffee. It’s already ground, and it’s serviceable enough taste-wise to get me going in the a.m. Right now, my weekend and holiday coffee is some nice beans that my sister and brother-in-law brought back from Hawaii. Those I don’t mind grinding fresh, since I only drink it on a day when I’m not in a hurry. Once those are gone, I’ll have to find someone else to give me some fancy beans :)

    BTW, my grinder is a black and decker blade grinder that came free from my parents, who had no idea how it got into their kitchen cupboard (they’re not big coffee drinkers at all and would never have purchased it) and assumed it must be mine (which I guess it is now…)

    And, I’ve started adding leftover coffee to baked goods (you know, where it’ll work … muffins, cookies) to replace part of the liquid.

  60. robinzita says:

    Breville espresso machine is a good and cheap one.
    It is less expensive than the Roma but is nevertheless a favorite among coffee lovers. Like the Café Roma it has a Thermoblock heating system, a 15-bar pump and a dual crema system maintained at a 15-bar pressure throughout the brewing process. The steam wand ideally provides a constant steam for quality coffee. As with the Café Roma Breville espresso maker, it has a stainless warming plate for warming up 2 espresso cups. The espresso machine can clog-up at times but as long as the machine is cleaned up after use, clogging should not be a problem.
    The steam wand does spew out water at times but as soon as the water heats up the spewing stops. The water level indicator is almost impossible to see through the small viewing window.
    Generally, the Cafe Modena Breville espresso machines are good value for the money.

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