Need to cut your coffee budget? Here’s the ultimate guide to making cafe quality drinks at home

Trust us when we say that these tips and tricks will have you craving coffee from the comfort of your own home

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published June 4, 2023 2:00PM (EDT)

Clinking two coffee mugs (Getty Images/We Are)
Clinking two coffee mugs (Getty Images/We Are)

If you're an avid coffee drinker like me, you understand the importance of a morning cup of joe. Coffee, for us, is a necessity and a vital part of our daily routine — in the same vein as brushing your teeth or getting dressed.  

Whether it's just one cup or multiple cups of coffee per day, fueling your caffeine addiction is certainly gratifying. But it can also get quite pricey pretty quickly. Just think about it: One tall sized latte at Starbucks is $3.45. So, if you were to purchase one drink every single day for a year, you'd be spending approximately $1,259.25 in total. Of course, that cost will increase if you order non-dairy milk or add extra sweeteners and syrups.

The easiest way to save money on coffee is to make it at home. Don't fret though, making coffee on your own doesn't have to be a daunting or arduous task! The secret is to choose an efficient coffee maker and good quality coffee supplies, whether that's instant coffee, ground coffee or whole coffee beans. 

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Here at Salon Food, we're always on the lookout for the best ways to save money while still enjoying all our favorite foods and beverages. To help cut down your coffee budget, we consulted the trusty folks on Reddit along with online experts, who shared their tips for making cafe quality drinks at home. 

Let's get into a few tips and tricks:

Choose your coffee maker wisely

Making coffee is an art and a skill. If you want good quality coffee at home, you have to invest in a good quality coffee maker. Luckily, good quality doesn't equate to expensive — there's plenty of makers that are affordable and get the job done.

Per the New York Times' Wirecutter, the best cheap coffee maker that reliably brews hot, strong coffee is Ninja's 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker CE251.

"The Ninja CE251 consistently brewed the best-tasting coffee among the machines we tested, whether we used pre-ground or freshly ground beans," Wirecutter wrote. "It was the only model we tried that reliably brewed at a hot enough temperature to extract good flavor from the beans and make a pot that was pleasingly hot to drink."

The Ninja coffee maker is also easy-to-use and customizable — there's a scoop, a removable water reservoir and dials for brewing a richer or a smaller batch. On Amazon, the coffee maker is available for $80.

Wirecutter also recommended Cuisinart's DCC-1200, if you're looking to splurge a little. The coffee maker has an adjustable hot plate and a self-clean function. Similar to the Ninja maker, the Cuisinart maker is incredibly customizable. There's user control of the hot plate's holding temperature and a small-batch option.

Don't shy away from instant coffee

Instant coffee tends to get a bad rap for tasting too acidic or bitter. But not all instant coffee brands are atrocious when it comes to taste. They're also a great cheap option for making homemade coffee, especially if you don't want to spend extra moolah on a coffee maker. To make instant coffee, all you need is your preferred coffee and water (hot or cold)!

Wirecutter suggested Mount Hagen's Organic Fair Trade Instant Coffee, which is also my personal favorite brand of instant coffee. Unlike your Folgers or Nescafe, Mount Hagen's Instant Coffee tastes quite similar to a cafe-style espresso. It's smooth and velvety and has a more robust flavor the longer you let your coffee sit. Mount Hagen's Organic Fair Trade Instant Coffee is priced at about $9 for 25 packets, or 36 cents per serving, although, personally, I think the brand's 3.53-ounce jar of coffee is more bang for your buck.

Other great options include Waka's Coffee Quality Instant Coffee, which is priced at $30 for 24 packets, or $1.25 per serving. There's also Café Altura's Instant Organic Coffee, which is available for about $22 for two 3.53-ounce jars, or about 18 cents per serving.     

Ice your coffee with coffee ice cubes

Summer is just around the corner, meaning it's time to enjoy your favorite iced coffee beverages. The tricky part about making iced coffee, however, is figuring out how much ice to add to your drink without making it too watery.

Ren Doughty, the outreach and customer support coordinator at Batdorf & Bronson Roasters, told Salon that it's best to brew your coffee a little stronger than you typically would if you were going to drink it out of the pot and let it come to room temperature before stashing it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

If you're looking to save money and time, Doughty recommends icing your coffee with coffee ice cubes. All you have to do is pour some of your room temperature coffee into an ice cube tray. Then, when it's time to make your iced coffee, add these cubes to your cold coffee or blend them in with your preferred milk and sweeteners. The finished product is an at-home Frappucino that's so good, you'll never run to Starbucks again.

Invest in a Moka Pot (seriously, you won't regret it!)

Looking to up your espresso game and enjoy bold flavored coffee on the daily? Then it's time for you to invest in a Moka Pot — a stove-top coffee maker that brews coffee by using pressure to force hot water through a filter basket filled with finely ground coffee.

The best Moka Pot out there is arguably Bialetti's Moka Espresso Maker, which is available on Amazon for around $30. There's also Primula's Classic Moka Espresso Maker, which is available on Amazon for $17, and OonlyoO's Aluminum Italian Espresso Machine, which is available on Amazon for $22.

While the Moka Pot may be easy to use, there's still a few tricks to follow that will transform a mediocre cup of coffee into a delicious one. Per Reddit user u/chas2354, "There's a lot of sediment in a moka pot and pouring [slowly] helps keep most of it out of your brew. Also, it may be tempting to pour every last drop into your cup but I like to leave a little bit behind since that last bit is full of sediment."

Other users recommended adding an aeropress filter in between the top of the coffee grounds and the gasket. The filter helps eliminate fine coffee grounds in your cup of coffee. It also intensifies the flavor of your espresso and cuts down on some of its bitterness.  

It's worth noting that the Moka Pot is incredibly portable, meaning you can take it with you while traveling. You can also use it while camping!

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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