How to Make Coffee at Home Like a Pro (but Cheaper!)
Every time I read an article about saving money, one of the first tips offered is to immediately stop buying coffee from coffee shops. Sure, I think, that’s all well and good — except for the fact that I never knew how to make coffee at home that remotely compares. Why are you trying to take my latte away from me, money-saving gods? Why can I not just live my life (and drink my breakfast beverages of choice)?
It didn’t help that I assumed making good coffee at home came with a ludicrously high price point of entry. Those fancy machines baristas use must cost a pretty penny, right? Espresso machines can cost hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars. Wired infamously published a list of essentials for the perfect cup of coffee, brewed to the tune of $504 before beans. Yeah, I’ll take my $5 seasonal Starbucks drink, thank you very much.
But after some conversations with a few very smart, coffee-loving people in my life, I learned you don’t need to be a Portlandia-esque coffee aficionado who studies grind size and extraction levels and buys $250 burr grinders to make simple, good coffee and espresso on a budget.
Once I learned how to make espresso at home (and that I could do it without dropping multiple paychecks on an espresso machine!), I turned a new, frugal leaf and embraced the joys of a morning cup of coffee at home.
Here are my tips to make cafe-quality coffee drinks, without spending an arm and a leg to do it.
How to make coffee at home
If you’re the type who orders drip coffee or a pour over rather than more fanciful espresso drinks, you have several options (many of which are SO affordable!) to make delicious coffee at home or on the go. P.S. — once you’re done brewing, you can also pull out your blender to make your coffee bulletproof.
The best budget coffee makers
The Chemex is a popular (and pretty!) choice for brewing pour over coffee at home, using the infusion method. That means the taste of pour over coffee is similar to drip coffee, though the thicker, unbleached coffee filter results in a slower brew — and a richer-tasting coffee than something you’d get from a traditional drip machine.
The Chemex itself will set you back about $40 to $50, depending on where you buy it. A box of 100 unbleached, pre-folded Chemex coffee filters costs about $10.
If pour overs are your thing, here is an in-depth guide to brewing the best pour-over coffee in a Chemex.
Unbleached Prefolded Square Coffee FiltersShop it now
Others swear by the Hario v60 for their cup of pour over joe. Though the general concept of brewing the coffee is the same as the Chemex, the v60 allows brewers to make coffee in smaller quantities, pouring the coffee through the filter and directly into their cup.
A Hario v60 set can typically be found between $30 and $40, though you can buy the ceramic coffee dripper (and park it over your own mug) for $20 on Amazon.
We recommend this guide to learn how to brew pour over coffee in a Hario v60.
Ceramic Coffee DripperShop it now
Though it won’t sit pretty atop your countertops the way some of these other appliances will, several friends of mine absolutely swear by the Aeropress for a perfect cup of coffee. The odd-looking plastic contraption uses vacuum/plunger tech (or witchcraft) to rapidly filter and brew coffee without bitterness or grit in your cup.
Perhaps even more exciting is the price of an Aeropress. One of these babies (complete with everything you need to get started, save for the beans themselves) only costs $30.
Here’s a solid guide on how to make coffee in an Aeropress.
Coffee and Espresso MakerShop it now
The French press is a simple coffee maker consisting of a carafe (typically glass) and plunger tool — pretty enough to display in your kitchen, but functional enough to produce a rich, delicious cup of coffee worth waking up for.
French presses will range in price anywhere from $10 to $50 or more, depending on where you buy it and how pretty you want it to be. For the decor lovers among us, we love this Black Matte French Press from Crate & Barrel or this Glass and Copper French Press from Target. If you prefer your appliances more utilitarian, this sleek stainless steel French press will do the trick.
Here’s a great guide on how to make coffee with a French press.
How to make espresso at home
If you prefer espresso drinks — lattes, cappuccinos, and the like — your daily coffee is going to come with a high price tag. Luckily, there are affordable ways to make espresso at home, and making your own latte is easier than you think (no chemistry degree required!)
Pick your espresso maker
First things first, you need to make your espresso. Some people prefer all-in-one espresso machines that do the work for them. At The Everygirl office, we have a Nespresso machine, which is affordable-ish (as far as espresso machines are concerned).
But if you want a simpler and cheaper method to brewing espresso at home, look no further than the Moka Pot.
A tiny, Italian, cute-as-can be, kettle-like Bialetti Moka Pot brews espresso right on your stovetop. What’s more, they’re not expensive: One will rack you up a whopping $26.99.
We love this helpful guide on how to use a Moka Pot at home.
The Original Bialetti Moka ExpressShop it now
Types of espresso drinks
Latte. Cappuccino. Americano. Macchiato. Figuring out what coffee to order (let alone make) can be overwhelming on its own. However, in the end, it all comes down to how much milk or froth you want in your espresso — the rest is easy. If you love froth, you’ll want a cappuccino. If you love milk, but not froth, lattes are for you. If you hate milk in general, you’ll want an americano, which combines espresso with water.
Here’s our handy guide to help you understand the ratios:
How to steam or froth milk at home
Steaming and frothing milk to your ideal consistency is cheap and easy. Here are the best affordable tools and methods for the job.CHEAP: Use an at-home, electric milk frother. This handy machine does all the work for you to steam or froth milk.
CHEAPER: A handheld milk frother easily froths your milk while it’s warming over a stovetop.
CHEAPEST: Have a glass jar and a microwave? Use this useful hack to froth milk in the microwave without any additional tools.
What to know about coffee beans
It doesn’t matter how technical or specialized your brewing process is — if you don’t use good coffee beans, you won’t make a good cup of coffee.
Where to find good coffee beans
My advice for sourcing coffee beans is you march yourself down to your favorite local coffee shop (preferably one that roasts the beans themselves!). There, you can chat with a barista about what roast and grind size is best for your home brewing method of choice. You can even have them grind the beans for you to your desired size, though you may want to grind your own coffee beans at home for peak freshness.
How to store coffee beans
Don’t just leave your coffee beans in the bag! Store them in a canister to keep them fresh (and up your kitchen decor game while you’re at it). Your local TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Target will have airtight-ish containers for countertop coffee storage, but the Friis Coffee Vault is popular among coffee lovers to keep the beans fresh.
How to grind coffee beans
Ask any barista worth their espresso about grinders, and they’ll tell you a burr grinder is an infinitely better choice than a blade grinder. Unfortunately, burr grinders are costly, making them seem out of reach to the budget-conscious coffee consumers among us.
If you’re willing to take the time to grind the beans by hand, you can find manual burr grinders for less than $15. An electric conical burr grinder will save you time and energy but cost you more money: anywhere from $80 to several hundred.
The coarseness of your coffee beans is critical to a good cup of coffee: You’ll want a very fine grind (like sand) for espresso, a medium grind (like sea salt) for pour overs, and a coarse grind (like breadcrumbs) for French press coffee.
Build a home coffee bar
You’ve taken the time to find coffee beans and buy the right equipment — so why not make space in your kitchen for coffee to become the delightful ritual it was meant to be?
Whether it’s a small corner of your countertop, a shelf, a repurposed bar cart, or its own little nook in your kitchen, designate a space for all your beautiful coffee equipment — from beans, to appliances, to mugs and sweeteners — to proudly live. It’ll make walking into your kitchen for that first cup seem extra special.
Do you make your own coffee at home? What setup do you use?
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