6 of the Cheapest Ways to Make Coffee

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Are you a coffee fanatic on a budget?

For many, coffee drinking isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Finding cheaper ways to make coffee can be difficult. But regardless, if you’re looking for a way to save money on your daily cup of coffee, there are several options.

One of the keys to saving money on coffee is understanding how to brew at home. It can save you a bundle.

French press on a kitchen table

In this article, we will take a closer look at the cheapest ways to make coffee so your daily cup costs less.

Cheap coffee brewing methods

Let’s break down some common inexpensive brew methods, starting with cheapest. For each method, we’ll suggest a piece of equipment that can do the job at a low price.

If you use the gear we suggest, any of these methods will save you considerable money while still enjoying the same delicious cup of coffee.

Instant coffee

Instant coffee isn’t really considered coffee by serious coffee snobs, but it’s certainly the cheapest route if you are really on a budget. All you need to do is add hot water.

How to brew

All you do is stir the instant coffee crystals into your mug, then add either hot water or milk, depending on your taste preference. After letting it sit for 30-60 seconds, stir again until it’s dissolved, and then you’re ready to drink.

Expense

The key to saving on instant coffee is buying in volume. Instant coffee crystals will keep for 18 months after the container is opened, but the option we’ve presented above involves crystals in individual packets, so they will last years. There are 1,000 of them, which is almost three years worth of coffee for most people. At that price, you’d be paying between 15 and 16 cents per cup.

Many other brands offer instant coffee at a low price. This method has become so popular that many leading brands have created their own style of mix-in grounds.

Stir-in coffee is the easiest to use and doesn’t require any previous knowledge on making drinks. Although it isn’t as flavorful as other types of brewed coffee, it’s perfect for those who want a quick drink without spending too much money or time.

Pour-over

Pour-over is a low-tech method that can produce exceptional coffee. The Hario V60 above is a highly respected coffee dripper even among serious coffee aficionados, and it can make a great brew once you know what you’re doing with it.

How to brew

Once you’ve got a pour-over cone, all you need is ground coffee beans, a paper filter and hot water. You set your filter in the cone on your cup and pour your grounds into it. Then you slowly pour hot water over the coffee grounds by hand.

It takes some practice to figure out how much water to pour (especially if you don’t use a scale) and how fast to pour it, but it’s fun to experiment and once you get your method down you’ll be enjoying great coffee.

Expense

The initial investment in equipment is very minimal. The only thing you have to remember with pour-over coffee is that you’ll need to keep a supply of filters on hand. Again, buying as many as possible in bulk will save you money long-term, not just on the filters but also on shipping charges. Filters do not expire.

Pour-over is one of the simplest methods to use and doesn’t require much effort on your part, but you will get better with experience. All you have to do is grind the coffee beans (or use pre-ground beans) and pour hot water over them. Then you’re good to go.

A pour-over is easy to clean and doesn’t ask much of you, so it’s perfect for those who need a quick cup of coffee before running out the door or don’t want to spend too much time making their own drink. It’s a particularly nice way to enjoy medium roast coffees and taste the nuances of different beans.

French press

The French press method may have started in France or it may have started in Italy, but the French got the name to stick. Early versions of the French press were made from glass and/or metal. Today, there are many styles of French press on the market, including some specifically designed for travel.

How to brew

Brewing with a French press is fairly simple: You mix coarsely ground coffee beans with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes before pressing down on a plunger that separates the liquid from the grounds.

Expense

French presses vary widely in cost, depending on the size and material. The most expensive and luxurious option is the French press made of steel. However, there are many beautiful glass designs as well that don’t cost a lot. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, some department stores that sell kitchenware offer French presses for as little as $10-$20.

AeroPress

The AeroPress method is somewhat like the French press in that it employs a plunger within a cylinder. However, the AeroPress’s plunger isn’t merely used for separating coffee from grounds—it actually plays a role in extraction by forcing hot water through the coffee grounds under pressure.

How to brew 

You place a disc of filter paper onto the AeroPress’s plastic filter and then screw it onto the bottom of the cylinder. Pour coffee grounds into the cylinder, place the device onto the rim of a cup and fill it with hot water. Stir for a few seconds to ensure all the grounds are saturated.

After letting it sit for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes (again, you’ll want to experiment with different grind sizes and brew times), insert the plunger and press down with steady, even pressure until you hear a hissing sound. The coffee will exit through the filter and screen at the bottom, landing in your cup.

Expense

The AeroPress typically goes for between $30-$40, and you can buy its little paper filters in packages of 700 or 1,400. It usually works out to less than two cents per filter. That and your kettle are all you need—the AeroPress does the rest.

The AeroPress is among the easiest brewing devices to use and clean, so it won’t slow down your morning routine. It does produce quite a strong cup of coffee, so it’s recommended that you dilute it with hot water, milk or cream.

Drip coffee maker

Drip coffee makers are the most common brewing method in America, with around two-thirds of the population owning these machines.

How to brew

To brew with a drip coffee maker, you place your ground coffee inside a basket or cone lined with a filter, fill the machine with cold water and switch it on. The machine heats the water and sprinkles it over the coffee grounds, where it drips through, extracting flavor as it goes. When all the water has passed through the coffee and landed in the carafe, it’s done brewing.

Expense

Drip coffee makers can vary widely in both price and quality, but plenty of people have gotten lucky with a $50 coffee maker that lasts them 10 years. What you pay will depend on the brewer”s capacity and the build materials. The more plastic, the cheaper it will be. Many come with a permanent built-in filter that will save you the expense of paper refills. If you want an insulated thermal steel carafe, expect to pay a little bit more.

A drip coffee maker is simple to use and doesn’t require much involvement from the user. Spend a minute or two on setup and then you can just flip the switch and turn your attention to making breakfast.

Espresso machine

Espresso machines make strong, concentrated cups of coffee. They’re also great for those who aren’t used to the taste of drip or pour-over and want a drink that’s closer to coffee-shop quality.

How to brew

You need coffee that is ground very fine, plus hot water and a way to force that water through the coffee at high pressure. Capsule espresso systems such as Nespresso automate this process, or you can use a traditional espresso machine where you tamp the coffee into a portafilter and lock it into place on the machine.

If you’re using a traditional machine, variables such as grind size, tamping pressure and brew time play a huge part in the outcome and take some practice to get right.

Price

Espresso machines vary greatly in price. Single-serve espresso makers using pods are often at the cheaper end, while high-end “prosumer” espresso machines can set you back thousands.

An espresso machine is great for those who want a more intense, flavorful cup of coffee. It does require some know-how and for many people becomes more of a hobby than a morning routine.

How to save money on coffee

The cheapest way to get coffee is by either making it yourself or buying instant coffee. However, if you want a stronger cup of coffee without spending too much money, consider investing in equipment such as an AeroPress or an espresso machine.

Buy whole beans

You can save money if you buy whole beans instead of pre-ground coffee. Most grocery stores sell them in bulk, meaning that you can grind beans at home and save money in the long term. Keep in mind that the more volume you buy, the less fresh it will be when you get to the end.

Whole coffee beans inside a bag

If you go this route, you’ll have to account for the cost of a coffee grinder. A quality burr grinder isn’t cheap, but if you’re not making fine espresso you can find a used one that’s serviceable for less than $100. A blade grinder is much cheaper and will work fine for everyday use, if not for connoisseurs.

Buy filters in bulk

If your brewing method requires paper filters, buy as many as you can at a time. Coffee deteriorates in quality, but coffee filters do not.

Buy used equipment

Another option is to buy used equipment off websites such as Craigslist or eBay. If you’re still in college or just want cheaper equipment, don’t be afraid to buy second-hand. You might find a French press or an electric kettle at a great price. Often these devices are in great condition and work like new.

Skip the line and brew at home

Nothing will set back your coffee savings like spending too much money at high-end coffee shops. Although the drinks are usually delicious, you don’t need to pay $5 for a cup of coffee when there are many cheaper alternatives that offer similar quality.

Making your own drinks at home is a fun way to experiment and learn how to get the best possible flavor out of your coffee.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to save money on coffee, whether you want an espresso shot or just a regular old black coffee. By using what you’ve got right in your kitchen, you can enjoy delicious coffee without having to worry about the cost.

 

Sidewalk tables and chairs outside a Caffe Nero espresso bar in London
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