Better Brewing: 12 Ways to Make Coffee at Home
With all the time us frugal-living people spend harping on how smart it is to make coffee at home, you think we'd devote a little more time to how to actually make that coffee. After all, one of my big beliefs about frugal living is that you do not have to be miserable while saving money — frugality is about enjoying life while finding ways to spend less. To that end, making coffee at home doesn't mean that your only option is to plug in the ol' drip-drip maker (although drip machines can make some darn fine coffee).
Of course, I must note that the method of preparation is only one factor in the taste of your coffee. The beans you choose, whether you grind them fresh or buy them pre-ground, and even your water can affect your brew. But for the moment, let's focus (no matter how caffeine jittery we are) — here are 12 different methods for brewing your beans. (See also: 5 Reasons to Drink Coffee)
1. French Press
I begin with the French press for one very unscientific reason — it's what I use. Most days, I only drink one cup of coffee, and my little Bodum French press makes that one cup so nicely. I really dig the way French press coffee tastes, although some people rag on the French press because it can leave more sediment in the coffee than some other methods. Others, however, point out that French presses preserve coffee oils better than drip coffee makers, although that's true of more than one of the methods listed here.
To get started with a French press, check out my colleague Greg's step-by-step guide to French press coffee.
2. Drip Coffee Maker
I don't mean to rag on the drip coffee maker too much — I think that the ubiquitous kitchen appliance is a darn fine piece of machinery, especially if you want to make a large amount of coffee at once or want to program your machine to have coffee waiting for you in the morning.
To make sure you're getting the best brew out of a drip coffee maker, consider cleaning it with white vinegar.
3. Single-Serving Coffee Makers
Similar to drip coffee makers are the newer coffee makers that produce one cup at a time. These machines often use premade coffee pods, although you can buy filters to use your own coffee. They're especially convenient for families where everyone likes a different kind of coffee, or for people who only want one cup at a time.
4. Filter Cup
This was actually my first coffee "machine" when I started drinking the stuff — a simple plastic cup that sits over your coffee mug and uses a paper filter. Just add the beans to the filter, pour hot water over it, and let the coffee drip into the mug. While I'm not a fan of the disposable filters — part of my reason for switching to a French press — filter cups are incredibly cheap and simple.
This glass brewer looks more like a vase than a traditional coffeemaker. But it has several ardent devotees — including our own Kentin Waits, who wrote a piece about why he loves his Chemex. He speaks of its simple design, and, moreover, the taste — "no bitterness, no grounds, perfect every time."
There are ways to make cold-brewed coffee from other coffeemakers, like this tutorial from America's Test Kitchen that uses a French press. The aforementioned Chemex is also a popular tool for cold brewing. But some companies, like Toddy, make devices specifically for cold-brewing. Cold brew proponents cite less acidity in the coffee, and despite its name, the machine can be used to make hot coffee as well.
I have mixed feelings about pour-over coffee right now. I've had it once, recently, and it was delicious — the method really helped highlight the taste of the beans. It was also served to my friends and me by an extremely snippy man who was not pleased that we weren't familiar with pour-over coffee and didn't know how to order it. But hey — we all have bad days. Adam over at the Amateur Gourmet has an article about his introduction to pour-over coffee, and The Kitchn tells you how to do the pour-over method yourself.
8. Espresso Machine
Those gleaming espresso machines, outfitted with their hissing milk steamers, are often considered synonymous with indulgence and luxury. But if you're a regular fan of espresso drinks, a machine can still be a frugal investment. Wise Bread writer Kate Lister wrote about her frugal experience with an espresso machine.
This is what my dad made coffee in when I was a kid, and I strongly associate the morning bubble-bubble noise with childhood. They may have fallen somewhat out of fashion, but you can still find them, whether you want a stand-alone electric machine or one for the stovetop.
10. Stovetop Espresso Maker
Also known as a caffettiera or moka pot, these little stovetop coffeemakers create a strong coffee that's very similar to espresso. If you like the occasional espresso, but buying a big espresso maker isn't financially sensible, this stovetop option might be right for you.
This Turkish device is used for brewing, well, Turkish coffee — a strong coffee made with very finely ground beans. Basically a small pot with a handle, the Ibrik is held over a heat source for multiple boils. CoffeeGeek has full instructions for brewing Turkish coffee.
12. Cowboy Coffee
Whether "home on the range" means the outdoor range or the oven range for you, making coffee like the cowboys did is pretty simple — you just boil coarse coffee grounds with water. Epicurious has instructions for cowboy coffee with eggshells, which help "the grounds to settle."
How do you brew your coffee? What's your favorite method?