Introduction: How to Enjoy Your Coffee More at Home & Work

About: I love thinking of ways to make my everyday life more pleasant and efficient. Thanks to those who chose to subscribe to me, it's a big honor!

Up until a few years ago I made trips to Starbucks several times week, believing that their coffee was better than coffee I brewed at home. After making a few adjustments to my coffee making process, I now believe that coffee I brew myself is much better than Starbucks at a fraction of the cost. This Instructable shows my tips for making better coffee at home and work. 

Step 1: Basic Tips

A few basic tips:
  • Use filtered or purified water. I typically use reverse osmosis water, but I think distilled makes the smoothest cup of coffee. Using reverse osmosis water also cuts down on how often you'll need to clean your coffee maker.
  • Buy whole bean coffee, and grind only the amount you need for each pot or cup. 
  • For coffee that comes in bags, always close as tightly as possible leaving very little air space for the remaining beans. Store the closed bag inside of a gallon ziplock bag for a little extra freshness protection. 
  • Use the same scoop every time with a level, not rounded, amount of grounds. This way you'll have a good standard coffee recipe that you can scale up or down easily, depending on the type of coffee and who you're brewing for.
  • Use unbleached filters (beware of filters that have been dyed brown to appear "unbleached")
  • Small mason jars are perfect for taking ground coffee with you to work. The slight heat of freshly ground beans helps create a vacuum seal for your ground coffee. 
  • Travel mugs can get funky pretty quickly. Don't let this be an excuse to hit the Starbucks drive through! Use a splash of white vinegar and water to fill your mug and let it sit for 30 mins (or overnight) before washing with soap and water. You'll never have fresh coffee tainted by "old coffee smell" again. 
  • If you take milk in your coffee, invest in nice quality milk (or cream). Organic milk tastes creamier than conventional milk at the same fat percentage. 

Step 2: The Machines

If you're ready to take it to the next level and invest in some nice coffee preparation machines, I've done the testing for you. As you may know, water temperature and drip speed are two very important factors for making good coffee. Typically you need 200 degrees (F) to brew flavorful coffee, and many of the machines on the market don't come close (I'm looking at you, Cuisinart).

My coffee machines are:
  • Bodum Burr Grinder $60-$80. Has many grind settings, is durable and easy to clean. Grinds more evenly than a $12 canister grinder. 
  • Capresso Coffee Maker for home, $87 - Brews at 196 degrees and above. Has a 3-5 cup setting which is essential if you're only making small pots.
  • Brew & Go Coffee Maker for work, $17!! - Brews over 200 degrees, and maxes out at 207

So you're reluctant to drop $175 on new coffee appliances. That's understandable, but let's do the math... 
  • Cost of a grande coffee at Starbucks - $2.11 (here in Houston) x 4 trips a week x 52 weeks a year = $438.88. You'll spend considerably more if you guzzle coffee the way I do. 
  • In my example, the coffee appliances have paid for themselves in about 2.5 months. Of course, you'll have the cost of coffee beans, filters, and possibly water. When I'm not treating myself to mail order Peet's, I get single origin coffee from Trader Joe's for $7/can, and one can lasts me about one week. Filters are $3/pack of 100, which last about 10 weeks. By skipping Starbucks, I spend about $7.80 per week for 28 cups of coffee.

Step 3: Get the Most From Your Brew & Go

The Brew & Go comes with a mesh filter but I prefer to use paper filters. The size it would need, #1 cone filters, are very hard to find and are actually too small to allow the coffee to bloom properly. You can cut #2 or #4 filters to fit. They should measure about 3 inches tall at the seam. 

Step 4: Drink Up!

In closing, here are a few more tips for brewing good coffee:
  • Buy cone-style drip machines, rather than basket style. They allow for the most thorough saturation of grounds.
  • Clean the carafe and filter holder frequently so that you don't have the lingering taste of previous brews tainting your fresh coffee.
  • I don't fill my burr grinder's hopper to capacity because the oil from the beans can go rancid quickly. I use a paper towel to wipe down the sides of the hopper every few days before adding more beans.
  • I tested several coffee makers before choosing the Capresso for my home coffee maker. Here's my full review if you're interested. 
  • Curious to see how hot your machine brews? You can use a meat thermometer to test it.
Drip coffee not your style? Check out these Instructables about other methods of brewing:

Aeropress method
French press

and even... Acorn Coffee

Do you have any good tips for making coffee? Let me know!

*Edit: When I posted this Instructable earlier today, Amazon had two color choices of Bodum grinders for less than $70, but now all colors are over $100. If you're thinking of buying it, wait for the price to drop (it will... I found mine for about $60).