How to Make (Good) Coffee at Home

If you’re anything like me, one of the biggest challenges in your budget boils down to one little problem: the ingrained need for a good cup of coffee.

As someone who’s been addicted to coffee since high school and is now at an age where it’s embarrassing to say that, I know what it’s like to have a coffee budget, but for a barista to pick up whenever the mood is good.

But that’s the way it is. A few years ago, a great cup of coffee cost three or four dollars, and now it can be closer to five dollars and more. Just last month, Starbucks reportedly raised the price of all menu items from anywhere between $0.30 and $0.70 per item, up roughly 10% to 20% since last year.

Add in flavor shots, milk substitutes and all the other jazz surcharges and you’ve got $8 for a coffee, at least that’s what I paid at a local cafe last week, my friends and I Loved (but also painfully) called it the “Ten Dollar Latte Shop.” (With a tip, it’s pretty close).

So how can you stop spending your hard-earned money on coffee drinks? By learning how to make them better at home, at a fraction of the cost. Here’s my guide to making a “ten dollar latte” at home for a third of the price. Yes, the third one.

How much can you save by making coffee at home?

The answer is, quite a lot. In fact, if you don’t buy an expensive latte 47 times, you’re enough to buy a $330 plane ticket. Now since I’m a nerd and because I’m actively fighting a ten dollar latte, I’ve done some math to come to this conclusion.

This is what I found. Using this recipe to make a brown sugar oat milk latte with some very expensive ingredients including cinnamon and vanilla extract, my homemade latte – with oat milk and premium espresso beans – still only cost me $2.70 per cup .

If you don’t need milk substitutes and fancy flavors, at $1.16 a cup, assuming you buy a gallon of regular milk at $4.41 a gallon and use about 18 grams of a 12-ounce, $16 bag of beans. If you can reduce these costs further by buying cheaper beans or just drinking black coffee, you’ll spend less.

Because here’s the thing: You can always save money by cutting corners. But that’s not what it’s about – it’s about making delicious, barista-worthy coffee beverages at home for a fraction of the cost because we all know that if it’s not as good as the drink you can buy , you wouldn’t want it.

Ready for the best tricks from one coffee snob to another? Let’s dive into the water.

Tip 1: Buy good beans

If you want to stop frequenting regular coffee shops, it pays to invest in quality coffee at home. reason? Because if the choice was Folgers or a $10 latte, I can tell you which one we would choose each time.

Good coffee starts with good beans, period. No matter how you jazz it up with a different milk or flavor, fresh whole bean coffee shines in a way that grocery store ground coffee doesn’t. There is a very simple reason for this.

While whole coffee beans can retain their flavor and shelf life for months, ground coffee spoils quickly. So, even if you’re not willing to shell out $16 for a bag of beans from your favorite cafe, do yourself a favor and at least commit to buying whole beans from the store. Many grocery stores carry very tasty local or national brands of beans, and they usually have a grinder on-site that you can use to avoid buying them. On the other hand, any cafe that sells beans should also be able to grind them for you depending on your situation (espresso, french press, pour, etc.).

Otherwise, you might consider buying coffee online and having fresh coffee beans delivered to your door. This might make sense if your favorite bean coffee shop is far from home and you already have a good coffee grinder at home. My current favorite to buy coffee online? Happy Cup of Pennsylvania.

Tip 2: Buy yourself some coffee equipment

Now I realize the point of this is to save money and not buy a bunch of expensive coffee accessories, but the simple truth is – if you’re going to make barista-grade beverages at home, you’re going to need some coffee appliances.

If buying an espresso machine right now isn’t in your budget, consider the $30 Moka. This stovetop coffee maker brews a full-bodied black coffee that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with your favorite milk for a delicious latte.

Another affordable coffee maker I love? This cold brew bottle is $24 from Amazon. I’ve had one of these for years, and once you figure out the ratio of coffee to use, (ie how strong you like it), it’s a super affordable way to make a solid iced coffee drink.

When it comes to hot drinks, it pays to buy a milk frother. You can heat the milk of your choice in the microwave or pot on the stove and use this Zulay Handheld Milk Frother to achieve the perfect froth-to-liquid ratio. This $15 bubbler has the added benefit of being easier to clean than some more expensive container-type bubblers.

Another coffee purchase to consider is a Nespresso coffee machine. I was against these until I spent a few weeks at my in-laws’ house in France and realized how convenient it is to make frothy, dairy-free decaf or caffeinated drinks at the touch of a button. The company will even send you bags that you can mail back to recycle your used pods. These espresso flavors aren’t for everyone, so my advice is to try a few at one of the company’s stores before buying a machine.

last but not least? If you’re a black coffee lover (but prefer a very good black or slightly sweet coffee), consider using a French press or pour over coffee. The pour is best for single-serve gourmet coffee, with the added benefit of instantly making you feel like a pro.

A French press makes more sense in households with more than one heavy coffee drinker (so you don’t make separate cups all morning), and it’s also a better use of coffee. If you do buy one, invest in a metal like this one. I can’t tell you how many glass French presses I broke before finding this metal beaker, which I’ve had for years.

Tip 3: Make your own as much as possible

Once you have good coffee beans and some kitchen coffee tools, the number of different coffee drinks you can make is limitless. But another tip is to be as homemade as possible in your recipes. what do i mean?

Well, if you have a drink that calls for pumpkin spice, go to the store and buy a bottle of pumpkin spice, like the kind you use to bake pies. Not only will this save you money in other areas like baking, but it’s likely to taste better and healthier than any artificial pumpkin-flavored alternative you can find in stores or online.

You can also try canned pumpkin, homemade vanilla extract, or homemade mocha sauce. The key here is to be as homemade as possible while still making things convenient enough that you’d actually choose this over a drive-through.

Another thing to keep in mind if you like flavored drinks is that making your own syrup is actually pretty easy. I made a homemade lavender syrup for my cold brew this summer, and I’ve even enjoyed the $10 version at my local coffee shop. One reason for this is that by making the syrup myself, I can actually control how sweet it is – I like my drink to be less sweet but full of flavor.

Tip 4: Use some good pre-made ingredients

So I know I just said to be homemade, but sometimes this coffee addict isn’t in the mood for Betty Crocker, and I think neither are you. Another thing is that there are some really good coffee accessories in the grocery store these days, and while they’re more expensive than making everything yourself, they’re still far cheaper than buying individual coffee drinks. The point here is to strike a balance between convenience and savings.

Some of my current favorites:

  • Starbucks Blonde Roast Cold Brew (Black, Unsweetened)
  • Stok Cold Brew (unsweetened, yellow label)
  • Califa Oat Creamer
  • Silk Almond Milk Flavoured Creamer

I personally prefer oat milk in coffee over almonds (too runny) or soy (too hard to digest), but you should try what tastes good to you. If you don’t hate dairy, the answer might just be to get good quality whole milk and add some to whatever you’re currently drinking.

Tip 4: Do the math

I could talk about coffee on more pages than I can say here, but the bottom line is: if you want to save money on coffee, spend some time doing the math. Pay attention to how much you pay for a cup of your favorite coffee beverage, then calculate the cost of making it at home.

Try to think about your savings in the long run. For example, if I skip so much coffee, I will be able to pay off my debt by this date, or buy this plane ticket for my dream destination.

last drop

Honestly, coffee lovers. You don’t completely stop buying those $10 lattes, and neither do I. But you might buy a lot less because I came here. Like me, you can also start researching what your barista does to make those fancy drinks taste so good – the secret cinnamon powder, anyone? And you might just take home the power of coffee and make yourself a delicious and satisfying drink for a third of the price.

Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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