With coffee prices so high, tightening the belt on your coffee habit probably seems like a wise choice. There is nothing less frugal than brewing a cup of mud and then dumping in a week’s worth of creamer and sugar. Before you focus on cutting back, learn how you can drastically increase the quality of your morning Joe without buying gourmet coffee or expensive equipment.
1. Clean your coffee maker the right way
Wine is one thing that gets better with time, but coffee isn’t one of them. Sediment and other gunk collect in a typical drip coffee maker over time, adding a bit of nastiness to each fresh brew. Clean your coffee maker regularly with a 2:1 mixture of water and white vinegar. Pour the mixture in your coffee maker’s water basin and turn the machine on so that it runs through. Afterward run several brews with water to remove any lingering vinegar, something you certainly don’t want to taste the next morning. You can also substitute plain water or a mixture of dish soap and water if you don’t have any white vinegar. Clean the carafe by hand or throw it in the dishwasher. You’d be surprised how many people know their coffee machine needs a cleaning but never get around to it. Don’t be lazy.
2. Buy the right coffee
What you get out of your coffee machine will only be as good as what you put in. Coffee quality is not necessarily linked to price, however. Despite being one of the cheapest brands on the market, Eight O’Clock coffee beat out Starbucks, Folgers and other brands in a 2009 Consumer Reports taste test. This is the coffee I recommend to anyone seeking the best bang for the buck. While it may be tempting to buy in bulk, ground coffee deteriorates quickly. Store big bags of coffee in air tight containers or better yet, buy whole bean coffee. Manual
hand-crank ceramic coffee grinders are available for $20- $30 and provide a grind that rivals more expensive electric grinders. Using freshly ground coffee beans each time is the cheapest way to get a better cup of Joe.
3. Ditch the drip brewer
Truth be told, that automatic drip coffee maker sitting in your kitchen right now is causing more harm than good. Not only do they suck electricity, but even the best ones produce an inferior cup of coffee. Drip brewers use too much heat, which extracts bitter flavors. They also don’t distribute water through the grounds very efficiently. Capsule-based machines are generally just as bad. The overpriced pods make them an even less frugal choice.
Instead, consider a stovetop espresso maker, French press or similarly-designed Aeropress for your next coffee maker. They cost the same as your cheapest drip brewer and the final product is superior, especially when combined with freshly ground coffee. You can sometimes find stovetop brewers at thrift stores or in Grandma’s attic.
4. Don’t Rebrew Coffee Grounds
Some frugalites have thrown around the idea of rebrewing old coffee grounds. Don’t do this. You will generally be left with a very bitter cup of coffee containing less caffeine. Your productivity is more important than saving a few dimes. Old coffee makers do make for an excellent fertilizer, however. You can also dry them and place them anywhere as a deodorizer. Some people also use them for cosmetic purposes, such as exfoliating skin and adding depth to hair.
Daniel Foster is a freelance writer and student living in Berlin, Germany. When he’s not writing for his coffee blog, he enjoys photography, swimming and traveling.