Brewing Great Coffee on the Cheap
In the last couple of decades, coffee drinkers in the United States have gotten more and more serious about extracting the best possible flavor from a handful of roasted coffee beans. And, while the era of giant cans of cheap coffee brewed in drip coffee makers is far from over, it seems like we’re finding more and more extravagant (and expensive) ways to enjoy our favorite morning beverage.
We all know there are plenty of ways to go broke brewing coffee at home these days, from $1,400 countertop coffee grinders to $2,300 home espresso machines. But the truth is, you can still get an excellent cup of coffee without breaking the bank. Here’s how to do just that.
Buy the Right Beans
First of all, make sure you always buy whole bean coffee — not ground, not in a pod or packet — just regular, whole bean coffee. If you can afford to spring for extra qualifications in your coffee beans like fair trade certification, shade-grown claims, micro roasting, or organic certification, go for it.
The better the beans you buy, the better your final result will be. Also, try a variety of coffees over time to dial in what you really like and where it comes from.
Store Your Beans Correctly
Never buy more coffee than you can consume in a week. Ideally, you want the freshest beans possible. Oxidation, as is the case with most foods, is the enemy of flavor in coffee. You’ll want to store your whole beans away from light and heat, in an air-tight container.
But don’t put it in the refrigerator or the freezer. The design of your refrigerator will actually work against preserving your coffee, sucking the flavor right out of the beans.
Grind Your Coffee Beans Right
The coffee gurus may tell you that you absolutely need a burr grinder to get uniform-sized coffee grounds no matter what brewing method you’ll be using. And… they’re right. But burr grinders are expensive, compared to blade grinders.
You can get cheap hand crank models on the Internet, but they don’t typically work all that well. Blade grinders are inexpensive and work reasonably well. In the end, it may be better to spend your money on quality beans than an expensive grinder. But whatever you do, make sure that you’re grinding your beans fresh right before you brew, and that you’re grinding to correct consistency for your particular brew method.
Invest in a French Press and Learn How to Use It
The French press coffee maker is still the most reliable, inexpensive way to brew excellent coffee. They cost between eight and thirty dollars new, require the least exactitude in terms of grind, brew coffee in around six minutes, and are very easy to clean and maintain.
But you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. So again, you’ll want quality beans, stored correctly and ground to the right consistency right before brewing, and you’ll want to brew at the correct temperature and for the right amount of time. Once you have your press, take the time to learn how to use it correctly.