The At-Home Coffee Survival Guide 


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“Roasted coffee beans” by AndreasPoike is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Jen Anderson, Staff Reporter

How can a college student enjoy good coffee in their dorm or apartment without breaking the bank? 

While coffee houses and restaurants often have big, fancy machines with five-digit price tags, here are a few simple, economical items that can help you brew the perfect cup of Joe. 

What is a perfect cup? 

According to Areli Barrera de Grodski, co-owner of a coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, “The perfect cup of coffee is the one you enjoy.” So, think of your favorite coffee house brew. For me, that’s the Salted Caramel Cold Brew from Starbucks or the Log Cabin Latte from Starlight Coffee Co. in Sellersburg. Both are excellent, but at $5 to $7 a cup, this can blow your budget! 

Quality Beans 

Jim Brook, owner and master roaster at Starlight Coffee Co with locations in Floyds Knobs, Sellersburg and New Albany, said making affordable, quality coffee starts with quality beans. Buy whole beans and grind them at home; it’s the best way. Beans should be used within two weeks of roasting and within two hours of grinding. A pound of fresh roasted coffee from a local roaster will run about $15 to $20. Also, if transportation poses a problem, Good Folks Coffee in Louisville will ship the coffee beans right to you for about $7 for shipping. 

At-home Equipment 

Grinders are a must. Sure, you can spend $3,000 or more on one, but what college student has that kind of cash? For a mere $10, you can buy a manual coffee grinder. Or, spend $20 for an electric one. Burr grinders are preferred over blade grinders. Get one that lets you change the coarseness of the grind. These are available at local stores as well as many online retailers. 

Brewing Coffee  

What’s the best way? Go back to what Barrera de Grodski said. Which method do you prefer?

Moka Pot
Moka Pot – Jen Anderson

Now, you might wonder, “What do you mean, what method do I prefer? Put grounds and water in a drip coffee maker and hit ‘start?’ Yes. That’s one way. A conventional drip coffee maker will run about $24. Here are more brewing options: 

  • French Press – Put coarse grounds in the press, fill with water and wait about 5 to 8 minutes. Press the plunger and pour the coffee. A French Press runs about $15 to $25. 
  • Moka Pot – Use fine grounds and make espresso strength coffee on your stove top! These cost $12 and up. 
  • Pour-Over – Basically a filter that sits on top of a coffee mug. Place the grinds in the filter and slowly pour water over it. The coffee brews as the water moves through the grounds and into the cup. Pour-over filters run about $10. 
  • Kettle – All these methods require boiling water. Buy a simple water kettle for the stove or buy an electric one. A stove top kettle will cost about $10, and an electric one about $15. 
  • Cold Brew – This is coffee that’s brewed in cold water in the refrigerator. It takes 12 to 24 hours to brew the coffee, so you must plan ahead. However, if you are a fan of iced coffee, this is a great option. Cold Brew coffee carafes run about $20. 

All this may seem confusing, but all you really need to do is pick one grinder, one brewer and one kettle. That’s an investing about $65 or less. Buy some quality, fresh roasted beans and you are good to go! 

Specialty Drinks  

For these, you will need a couple of other items. 

  • Frother – can be as simple as a mini whisk or an electric frother and will cost $2 to $20. 
  • Syrups and Flavors – these are available in most grocery stores, or you can buy them online in large bottles with pumps. 

Homemade versions of the drinks in this article can be made with some of the items listed above. 

The Log Cabin Latte at home is easy. It’s coffee (iced or hot), maple syrup and cinnamon. No special equipment needed. 

The Salted Caramel Cold Brew is a bit trickier, but still doable at home. You will need cold brew coffee, caramel syrup, heavy cream and vanilla. Add the caramel to the cold brew and stir. Froth the heavy cream and vanilla together. Pour the cold brew over ice and top with the frothed cream. 

Find recipes for many of your coffee house favorites by just searching the internet. Start enjoying affordable, coffee-house drinks right in your dorm — just in time to study for finals, too!