What kind of cheap coffee maker should I buy?
May 31, 2009 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What kind of cheap coffee maker should I buy?

So the french press I've been using for the last couple of years just broke, I was going to just go out and buy another one but thought I'd ask if there was any alternatives I should check out instead. I would prefer something with a permanent filter (not paper ones) that makes a few cups at a time (for this reason the aeropress is out; 100% plastic with disposable filters that only makes a single cup at a time are three big strikes for me). I was thinking of trying a Moka pot instead as I would prefer something I don't have to plug in, would this taste noticeably different from a french press? If so, better or worse? Any and all reasonable suggestions welcome.
posted by mizike to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you're looking for something cheap and low maintenance, I would go right back to a new French press. In my opinion, that's the best kind of coffee anyhow. I also use a moka pot for espresso, and I couldn't really describe the difference in flavor other than, yes, it does taste marginally different. But a moka pot requires some care to clean. They can get kinda gross on the inside, and you're not supposed to put 'em in a dishwasher.
posted by katillathehun at 8:10 PM on May 31, 2009

I've had success with Melitta's porcelain manual drip, though I usually just put the top part directly over my mug instead of using the carafe. I think other companies make similar products in ceramic or plastic as well. And when you use a permanent filter instead of a paper cone, it lets through a little grit so it will be just like your French press. I clean it by just rinsing with hot water and a little pressure from my fingers. Very easy.
posted by stopgap at 8:25 PM on May 31, 2009

Garage sale percolator. There's no paper filter, and it's old school.

I have two, one large and one small. The first has to be heated on the stove, but the second is electrical. I think I paid $10 total for both. I love the coffee, but there is more technique than you'd think. If you perk too long or at too high a heat it'll get bitter.
posted by citizngkar at 8:31 PM on May 31, 2009

The moka does taste quite different from presspot coffee in my opinion, but bear in mind that there are a lot of variables (grind and tamp with the moka; grind, temperature, and brew time with the press) that could affect your results. I can confirm that the moka is more work, and while I do like it from time to time if I had to choose only one or the other I'd take the French press.

That said, I do want to address two of your Aeropress concerns: first, you can certainly produce several cups at a time. The coffee it makes is concentrated and one typically waters it down as with an Americano. I like my coffee black and very strong and I rarely brew past the "2" (of 4) marking to fill a typical mug. It's not as flexible as a French press, but you could double my recipe without a problem once you get used to the thing. Second, it really doesn't use much paper. The filters are much smaller than even the smallest drip filters, and they can be reused. The small pack it comes with lasted me over a year. The first replacement pack lasted me longer, since I got more diligent about reusing. (Paper is renewable, of course, but I don't know where the Aerobie folks source theirs from, if that's a concern. You could make your own.)

I definitely enjoy French press coffee, but for the last couple of years I've preferred the cleaner cup I get from the Aeropress. Cleanup is different, but about as easy with either.
posted by Songdog at 9:10 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

French Press. We use the Bodum Young Press.

Six months ago, I went searching for the easiest solution for my lazy self. I settled on French Press. When I leave it unclean for a week until it's moldy, the filter is easy and relatively cheap to replace. I love it. :)
posted by ick at 9:11 PM on May 31, 2009

I have a moka express that I really like, but it makes something resembling a latte so that may or may not be what you are into.
posted by whoaali at 9:42 PM on May 31, 2009

Sorry correction it's a Mukka Express. The moka express is just your typical italian stove top espresso maker.
posted by whoaali at 9:44 PM on May 31, 2009

Coffee contains harmful oils that can raise your cholesterol but paper filters will filter out these oils yet leave you with a tasty brew. Unbleached is best as it does not use some harmful chemicals to get it all nice and white. If a reusable filter seems more environmentally friendly I would think that this hemp filter probably also gets those oils. We have a Braun coffee maker that cost something like $10 and makes decent coffee quickly. Cone shaped filter systems save money in my experience as you can use less coffee to get the same strength. The Braun isn't ideal here as it works too quickly. My wife likes that feature. If you can wait a Melitta is a bit slower but a bit more efficient. You probably won't find one for $10 though. French presses make a delicious cup of coffee and very quickly and efficiently but they will not filter out those harmful oils. If you have naturally low cholesterol then who cares?
posted by caddis at 9:50 PM on May 31, 2009

Best answer: I had a nice press but learned when visiting a friend who did not have a press that the best coffee ever is cowboy coffee, use a pyrex container of whatever kind and toss some coffee in it and then some hot, hot water, let it set for a few minutes, give it a bit of a stir so all that nice crema rises to the top, pour it through a fairly tight-screened little kitchen strainer and you're set. Probably you've got it in your kitchen already. It's the best. You get all the crema, you get little bits of coffee, you get a big happy smile on your face, it doesn't cost you a dime.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:56 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: would this taste noticeably different from a french press

Yes, very different. You'll get a thicker liquor that's distinctly stronger and more bitter. You can cut it with hot water, of course, but stove top espresso is not for everyone.

I think dancestoblue's suggestion is a good one. All coffee was made this way until some clever person decided that a dedicated device for straining the grounds out would be nicer.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:09 PM on May 31, 2009

If you decide on a new French press, I recommend the Bodum "Columbia" style. Since it's all stainless steel, you don't have to worry about breaking the glass. And it's double-walled so it keeps coffee hot longer than a glass carafe. Also, it's beautiful!
posted by transporter accident amy at 12:23 AM on June 1, 2009

You could go with a French press (Bodums are always popular; Ikea makes a good and really inexpensive model), but I'm going to recommend a Chemex. It makes really spectacular coffee, though it does use paper filters. Still, I implore you to try one.
posted by The Michael The at 4:14 AM on June 1, 2009

Check out the Aeropress by Aerobie at http://www.aerobie.com/Products/aeropress_story.htm

Lots of folks say its great. I have NO connection with Aerobie or any coffee maker sellers.
posted by mbarryf at 5:07 AM on June 1, 2009

I think moka pots make terrible coffee. If you've ruled out the Aeropress I think you're best off getting another French press.

(But I am just one more Aeropress user saying you can reuse the filters a ton of times. We use them until they wear out and then compost them. That pack of filters you get will last for years and years; I don't think we've used even half of ours and we've had an Aeropress since right after they came out.)
posted by bink at 6:04 AM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: My defaults for coffee making are a French press and stove top moka pot. Current French press is a basic Bodum one that I've had for 10 years ever since my parents dropped my last one. I've two stove top moka pots, one is the classic Bialetti 4 cup and the other is a larger 6 cup Philippe Starck one we got as a wedding present.
Both French press and moka pots are easy to maintain, new seals for the moka pots cost very little. Only issue with a moka pot is that if you leave it for a few days without using regularly the oils might get rancid, simply give it a gentle clean.
posted by arcticseal at 6:59 AM on June 1, 2009

There are a few other options that haven't been explored yet, that all cost about the same as a new Bodum pot:

  • The Vacuum pot, scroll down, the Yuma stovetop ones can be had for about $40. Fussy but make great American-style coffee.

  • The manual drip method, or "Chemex" style. This makes better coffee than an automatic because you can control the water temperature and can stir the coffee in the filter to ensure even extraction. It's about as fussy as a press pot, but can make more coffee, which is nice if you're having guests, for example. Bodum also makes a couple varieties, but they're a bit more than you're looking to spend.

  • An ibrik. Makes a very concentrated cup, comparable to that of the Moka or Aeropress, but can be very gritty. Fussy and takes a lot of practice to get right. The best, most memorable cup of coffee I've ever had was a Turkish cup on the train from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo, though.

    I own and use most of the varieties you're deciding amongst, but I return to my trusty 15-year old Chambourd press-pot time and again. The Aeropress is cute, the Moka good for a quick shot, the manual drip is ok, but fussy and the ibrik too demanding (for me) to use every day. I don't (yet) own a vacuum system, but I lust after one.

  • posted by bonehead at 7:51 AM on June 1, 2009

    Seconding the Bodum Columbia. It's pretty fantastic. Absolutely bulletproof.
    posted by electroboy at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2009

    I love our manual drip filter. If you get a thermal carafe, you can make enough to fill the carafe and it stays warm longer. We have a #4 for multiple cups and #2 for one or two cups. Combine with one of these stainless steel filters for re-usability.
    posted by fiercekitten at 10:10 AM on June 1, 2009

    Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, there were a few things I hadn't considered. I think I'm just going to pick up another press when I get the chance, and maybe a Moka pot as well for when I'm craving something more espresso like (I imagine it would work well for lattes too). I ended up making a pot of "cowboy coffee" this morning and was surprised at how easy it was, and how good it ended up tasting (it was a bit weak but that was my fault). Next time I go camping I'll definitely use that method; it doesn't even need to be strained it if you pour carefully.
    posted by mizike at 1:38 PM on June 1, 2009

    FWIW, my three cup Bialetti Moka was pretty cheap and is easily my favourite type of coffee. Pour it into a mug of warm milk (1 min in the microwave) for a beautiful cup. The skin you get on the top is just lovely.
    posted by Magnakai at 3:26 PM on June 1, 2009

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