So, you like caffeine, eh? Me too. Guess who has two thumbs and doesn’t like paying $4 for a latte? This girl. Actually, I’ve found I prefer the coffee I prepare at home. But I know what you’re thinking: either a) this is going to be a lot of work, or b) if it’s a regular old coffee maker, puh-lease; that crap is nasty. Well, you’re right about coffee-pot coffee tasting gross. It does. But as for work? I’ll bet I can trim your routine so much you’ll think the drive-thru window at Starbucks is a royal pain. Take a look at some of my tips for trimming your spending on your morning coffee, and having a better cup, too.
Have you ever had a cup of airport coffee without anything dressing it up? You know, no pumps of syrup, no frothy milk — it tastes like a charcoal briquet. I don’t know why, but places like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best have managed to take over the world with coffee that doesn’t actually taste good. And guess what it’s costing you besides money? The “c” word: Calories. The breakdown on the calorie counts is for another post, but let’s just imagine for a second you could drink your coffee by itself. Maybe a touch of something here and there, even, but nothing mysterious or cookie-flavored. That’s an attainable dream, actually. My coffee costs me around… zero calories every morning. Gosh, talk about trimming the fat. Let’s jump in.
Try out the Toddy. Ever wonder how your iced coffee is so freaking potent when you buy it at a coffee shop? Sometimes it’s too much. It’s because cold-brewing takes hours. Many shops use a device called a Toddy. It steeps coffee in cold water for up to 12 hours before pressing. The bad news? Sometimes shops will let them steep way too long, and that’s why your coffee makes you jittery, instead of just pleasantly awake. The good news is that you can brew your own (the whole system is under $40) and make your own concentrate. Then you just… add water to it in the morning, pour it over ice if you want, and dress it up however you like. But the best part is that this process removes more than half of the normal acidity you’d get from hot-brewed coffee. It’s a smoother cup, better tasting, and perfectly good with or without anything in it. I told you this was going to be easy.
Buy nice coffee; Grind your own beans if you can. Buying nice coffee is absolutely imperative. I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Find a local roaster in your area that you like their coffee, and then buy a bag of it. It shouldn’t be too pricey if you find someone local. It’ll certainly be cheaper than buying it by the cup. If you are willing to spring for a grinder (some grinders are pricier than others) get the beans whole; if not, have the shop burr grind them for you. Don’t store your coffee in the freezer. Put it in something air-tight and keep it on the counter. Coffee is supposed to age. The flavor hits different notes as it ages, so it’s okay to keep it out. If, for some reason, you only make coffee once in a blue moon, sure. Store it in the freezer. It won’t hurt it, it’ll just keep it from aging naturally.
Filter your water. Ugh, the tap water in Austin is guh-ross. So if your tap water is tasty, you don’t have to worry about this. But if your coffee is coming out sour or bitter, it might just be your water. A faucet filter or a filtered pitcher in your fridge are a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of the coffee you just bought.
If it’s hot coffee you like, get a countertop water boiler. Remember the old info-mercials — “set it and forget it”? Well if you’re making hot coffee using a press or a pour-over, get something you can fill up with water and then hit a button to make it boil. That way the water is on auto-pilot. It’ll beep when it’s ready and you’re able to go do something else. As for hot brewing methods, I encourage you to check out the Aero-press. It’s a great alternative to the normal French press, makes a shot at a time, and produces extremely smooth coffee.
Clean your tools. All the expensive coffee and awesome filtration in the world can’t save you from a corroded press. Water, filtered or not, leaves residue. Mineral buildup can taste really crappy. The easiest thing to do is to run some hot water mixed with white vinegar through your press one good time if your coffee starts tasting gross (or every few weeks or so) before you brew. That’ll save you from your coffee tasting like you got it at a diner.
These are some springboard tips to help you get into making your own coffee at home. It’s quicker to have iced coffee concentrate on hand in the fridge than to stop by and fork over $2 or more for a cup of it at the coffee shop. And you can trim totally unnecessary calories from your daily routine, simply by making a better-tasting cup of coffee from the get-go. Plus, who knows? You might just get into it. Preparing your own coffee in the morning can be a really Zen sort of ceremony, a nice meditation. And kicking it at your house a little longer in the morning can improve your mood all day. It’s win-win.
Do you prepare your own coffee at home? What tips do you have for the perfect cup?