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 Greg's step-by-step guide to French press coffee.

2. Drip Coffee Maker

There's nothing wrong with using this ubiquitous kitchen appliance, 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. (See also: The 5 Best Coffeemakers)

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.

5. Chemex

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."

6. Cold-Brewer

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.

7. Pour-Over

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. (See also: The 5 Best Espresso Makers)

9. Percolator

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.

11. Ibrik

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?

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Guest's picture

I use (sigh) a drip coffee maker, and have for years. My dad has a Keurig, and it makes pretty darn good coffee, but the price tag makes me woozy. I only drink a cup a day, and I've been curious about the French press for years, but I was sort of intimidated by it. Thanks to this post, and the link to the other post about using a French press, I just might take that leap. Great post!

Guest's picture

You forgot this french press like variation.

Guest's picture

Keys to better coffee:
1. Buy freshly roasted beans. Coffee beans lose much of their flavor in the first 2-3 weeks after roasting, becoming "flat" and bitter tasting. Freshly roasted coffee can have amazing fruit, pastry, herbal, and candy flavors and aromas.
2. Grind the coffee right before brewing. Even grinding the night before will let a lot of the flavor be lost.
3. Use the right amount of ground coffee. The "gold standard" is 7 grams (1/4 ounce) of grounds per 4oz of brewed coffee. Use less, and the coffee will be more bitter and astringent. Use more and you're just wasting it.
4. Brew at the right temperature. 195F - 200F. Most drip coffee makers don't get this hot, which leads to weak, acidic coffee.

Guest's picture

I've been using a Ca phe Phin for the last couple of weeks for single-cup brewing, and it's hands-down my favorite, in terms of flavor and ease of use (and cleanup).

Guest's picture

AeroPress! It makes absolutely delicious coffee, with the easiest cleanup ever (you just push the grounds right out into the trash).

When I'm not near my AeroPress I use the pour-over method, but I don't like the amount of sediment you get that way.

My boyfriend's mother also makes really amazing variation on cowboy coffee, but all of my attempts to replicate it have failed miserably.

Guest's picture

I love my Chemex pot! I've done French press, ibrik, and a regular old drip coffee maker and Chemex always wins. Very clean taste; no plastic parts to clean or to retain rancid coffee oils. The pot itself is beautiful. Win.

Guest's picture

How could you miss the aeropress?

Lynn Truong's picture

I love my siphon vacuum pot. Looks intimidating but easy to use and you get lots of control over the brewing time which makes all the difference.

Guest's picture

I initially thought the article was about some recipes on how to make different types of coffee like that in coffee shops. Still, it was an interesting read. Thanks. :)

Meg Favreau's picture

Oooh, that's a great idea! I'll put that on the to-do list.

Guest's picture

Looking forward to it, Meg.. :)

Meg Favreau's picture

Sorry I missed the AeroPress, guys! But I'm glad you're all here to speak up for its awesomeness. =)

Andrea Karim's picture

What is WITH pour-over people? Such snobs.

I like South Indian and Vietnamese style coffees. A bit sweet, but delish. I guess they are pour-over styles technically, but the filters are different.

Meg Favreau's picture

Those both sound awesome.

My boyfriend and I have a (delicious) problem with Thai iced coffee, and it doesn't help that we live on the edge of Thai Town. As he puts it, "These are like my milkshakes." I would never say that, though, because I love milkshakes on their own merits.

Guest's picture

I received a Keurig as a gift a few years ago and enjoyed the diversity of the different flavored pods, but THIS year I took the plunge and finally purchased a used French Press extremely cheap off Craigslist.

I will never go back.

Now part of our weekend ritual, after strolling through the farmers market, is making a quick pit stop at our local co-op on the way home and buying freshly roasted beans. A bit pricier, yes, but simply marvelous with the Press, and well worth the indulgence.

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