Starbucks for Less Bucks: Weekend Edition

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by Ed

There is a fine line to walk in being frugal with some of life's necessities. Coffee is a clear example. Everyone knows the best price on coffee is a big tub of Maxwell House or Folgers from the W-mart. Lots of people drink that every day and are perfectly happy.

I'm not writing for them. I'm writing for the people who drink Starbucks or the like. You probably doubt than anything made at home can match it. I'd like to convince you otherwise. Because you can - and without a waste-producing Keurig one-cupper, an overpriced espresso machine or a lot of work. I am not one of those people.

Many house guests have complimented my coffee. Below is my weekend brew routine. Weekends allow a ritual that I can actually savour. (I don't follow these steps weekdays, but I used to. I stopped when I realized I appreciate the extra minutes of sleep more than a fresh grind. I still brew my coffee weekdays, but a modified work week system. My weekday process is also frugal and tasty enough to drink black. I will post on my basic brew later.)

So here are my (pretty straightforward) steps.

  1. Use a clean machine. I don't care what type; a $20 basic model will do.
  2. Use a paper filter. Only on a frugal blog would I have to suggest you stray from a reusable one. (Editor's note: "I don't approve of this step. If I got up early enough on the weekend I would stop the one-use paper filter process. Reusable trumps one-use, every time. However, this Editor will sell out her principles for sleeping in, every time. Robin)
  3. Buy good coffee and fresh grind your beans. This is one of the key steps. I try to buy Kicking Horse when it is on sale. It ain't frugal, but at $12.99 on sale, it is still way cheaper than any take-out coffee. If you want a Starbucks Bold style, try finding the darkest beans you can. French, Dark or Expresso Roast can all do the job.
  4. Fresh beans mean you need to grind, so you'll also need a grinder. Again, a $20 one will do. I have wasted money on a variety of different styles over the years, but technique matters more than brand. The key is to 'pulse' frequently as opposed to one long grind. Shake periodically too.
  5. Finally, use clean, hard water. I have a Brita on tap, but for added frugality, just fill the coffee carafe with water and let it sit overnight. Most of the 'city water' taste will dissipate. Do not use soft water. Hard water just tastes better - I have done lots of testing on this.
Sounds like a lot, but most of the steps are things you are likely doing. In fact, you could have made a pot using this technique faster than it took you to read it, I'm sure. If I had to sum up, the keys are:

  • Clean equipment
  • Fresh beans, ground before you brew
  • Good, hard water

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