Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brew your own coffee!

Coffee bean prices are not going to get cheaper any time soon because people all over the world are beginning to realize that coffee is very much like wine - different beans from different regions each have a unique taste, just as grapes grown in different places each have their own characteristic flavor, aroma, etc. When I was in Japan in the late 1990's, people there were already willing to spend quite a bit for Blue Mountain coffee because they knew that it tasted better then other varieties. As more people from other parts of the world discover these "better" beans, the prices for good coffee beans (e.g. Blue Mountain, Hawaiian Kona, etc.) are going to keep rising. Recently, it has been reported that coffee inventories are at their lowest levels in 50 years. As a result, coffee shops are going to have a good excuse to jack up their prices. So, if you want to continue drinking coffee without spending more money, learn to make your own coffee at home.

If you live with room mates who also drink coffee regularly, check out Coffee Bean Direct for their 5 lb bags of freshly roasted coffee (they have coffee beans and ground coffee). You'll save quite a bit and be able to taste some amazing coffee. Freshly roasted coffee beans really make a huge difference. The stuff you buy from a store varies in the amount of time they've been sitting on the shelves. At CBD, they don't roast them until you place your order. Since you have to pay a flat $7.50 for shipping anyway, check out their other items on their website. You can get free shipping for orders that weigh over 25 lbs but that's quite a lot of coffee! I like buying the loose tea, tea pouches (for brewing loose tea without making a mess), and empty burlap coffee bags (for bathmats or planting potatoes). Currently (March 2012), they have some new tea-making products and the Ekobrew that substitutes for K-cups in Keurig and other single-cup brewers.

Brewing Coffee
While there are many ways to brew coffee, I'm just going to mention the three that make strong coffee because I'm assuming that you want to drink coffee that has flavor. If you don't care how your brew tastes, boil some water and put some instant coffee in it or use a drip coffee maker that you can probably find in a thrift store for under $10.

Krups espresso machine, stainless steel French press, and burr grinder (behind the press)

Method 1:
The cheapest way to brew flavorful coffee is by using a French press because the press itself is the least expensive and there is no paper filter. Using a drip coffee machine with a permanent filter seems like a good idea but the drip process does not give you a flavorful cup unless you use more coffee beans per cup. The other advantage of the French press is that it doubles as a tea maker. While it's possible to make tea with your drip coffee machine too, you can't control the strength of the tea as easily as with the French press. With the French press, you soak the coffee grounds to let the coffee extract more flavor from the beans.

The trade-off is that most French presses do not have good insulation or a "keep warm" function as drip machines do. However, there are some new stainless steel presses that will keep your coffee warm for at least a few hours. It won't be steaming hot for long but at least it will be warm enough to melt the sugar (in case you take your coffee with that). It's also a little more messy because you can't just dump out a paper filter with the grounds in it. If you want a whole pot of strong coffee sitting by your desk, this is the cheapest way to go.

Method 2:
If the coffee from a French press is not strong enough for you, the next step is the espresso machine. The steam machines don't do a great job because the end product you get will be bitter coffee with no crema. That's just not tasty. Look for a machine that has a 15 bar pump. That will make a nice espresso with crema on top. I have a refurbished Krups machine that I found on eBay and it has been working for at least 3 years. To make the freshest tasting coffee possible, you'll need a burr grinder. I used a regular blade grinder for a couple of years and noticed that the espresso machine would seem to get clogged and sometimes brew very slowly. As soon as I started using coffee ground with my burr grinder, the brewing process has been much more consistent. One place you might find a good deal for an espresso machine or burr grinder is overstock.com. They generally have good deals and their customer service is pretty good too.

The trade-off is that you can't have a whole pot of coffee ready to go as you're studying. But, you'll be able to make espresso or any fancy coffee drinks in the comfort of your own home. It's great for the winter months when you really don't want to trek to the coffee shop for their espresso or other fancy drinks. And, you'll save a lot of money on lattes!

Method 3:
The third way is quite new. The Aeropress came out in the past few years and some people think it's great. There are a few youtube videos of people using it. They seem to make espresso without much crema. It also involves boiling water, which seems like the coffee would probably come out like the stuff from a French press. However, I think the point is that pushing the water through a filter will make the coffee more like espresso. Since I already have an espresso machine, the Aeropress is probably not for me, unless I find one at the thrift store or my espresso machine breaks. Here's a video in case you'd like to see for yourself:

No comments:

Post a Comment