How do I made delicious coffee?
September 2, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Coffeenewbfilter: Good, cheap coffeemaker?

Instead of drinking Coke in the morning (irritates my acid reflux,) I've taken to drinking coffee (which I sort of had to force myself to like, but now I do.) Instead of spending money at Dunkin Donuts every morning, or god forbid, Starbucks, I've decided to buy a coffeemaker.

Problem is, I don't know anything about coffee or coffee makers. I like black coffee from Dunkin Donuts. That's pretty much the only coffee I've ever had, but I really enjoy it. How can I get this experience at home for less than $50? I don't need fancy, but I'd like a programmable one so I don't have to wake up earlier than I already have to for work.
posted by InsanePenguin to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
aeropress + grinder + electric kettle
posted by leotrotsky at 8:01 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also consider roasting your own beans, all you need is a stovetop popcorn popper and a timer. ...takes a little bit of practice, though.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:03 AM on September 2, 2009

Better coffee, should you decide to explore that whole avenue later on, does take more time and involvement in preparation, but not nearly as much as you might think. But, for this specific query, at the cheap range one drip coffeemaker's pretty much the same as any other, in my experience. Go to the store and grab whatever's on sale that has the automatic timer function you want.
posted by Drastic at 8:12 AM on September 2, 2009

I like the aeropress, but I moved it to the camping gear (plastic, fail-safe and small). For every day coffee, I haven't found anything yet that beats a standard french press for brewing. Even mediocre coffee tastes much better pressed, IMHO. It's manual, of course, but it takes about 5 minutes to make it. Well, maybe a little longer to heat the water. Total brewing time is around 4 minutes.
posted by jquinby at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2009

People on AskMe are very particular about coffee. If you're looking for cheap you probably don't need or want to go the roast-your-own-beans method. Dunkin Donuts coffee is good because it's super consistent and piping hot. Both of these you can easily do with just a drip coffee maker at home. The absolute cheapest way to do this is to go to a thrift store and get the first coffee maker you see with a clock/timer. Cost to you: $3. You can even go cheaper and just get one without a clock, set it up the night before and push the "coffee:on" button as you're on your way into the shower and you'll have coffee ready for you when you get out of the shower. Simple.

A basic drip coffee set up is

- one coffee maker. Black and Decker make some decent ones in a variety of sizes and types that are about your price range
- coffee filters. You can either get a zillion paper ones for a few bucks or splurge on a gold filter which means you never need to buy another paper filter.
- beans. If you're looking for fast and you're not super picky you can start with some off the shelf beans, or even go to those big bins at the supermarket and grind your own. Many people prefer grinding coffee on the day they drink it for better taste, but it's definitely not the fast or cheap way to make coffee. Whether you ultimately care about this is up to you. I personally don't

Extra stuff can include: a water filter, a bean grinder, a storage container for your coffee, a fancy brush to clean out your grinder, a french press, an espresso machine, a milk foamer etc etc etc. It can be as complicated as you make it, but you may want to start simple and tweak/adjust from there.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

Mr. Coffee makes a good programmable coffee maker for like $35. You only need the small 4-cup machine. You don't need some $100 monstrosity. You can buy Dunkin Donuts coffee at the supermarket. Grounds and water go in, coffee comes out. Easy as pie.
posted by amethysts at 8:15 AM on September 2, 2009

I'm not sure coffee is going to help with the acid reflux.

Most sub-$50 automatic drip machines are worseless and will break and/or leak on you relatively quickly. I know you don't want to wake up earlier, but a manual drip and an electric kettle makes some damn fine coffee. You might be able to make it the night before and leave in a thermos overnight. I'm not sure; I drink my coffee cold.

If it becomes a habit, invest in a burr grinder.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure coffee is going to help with the acid reflux.

Maybe not in the long run, I know, but it doesn't severely irritate my throat and stomach like soda does. I drink a crap-ton of water during the day, I just like that one large cup of something to get me going in the morning. I love tea and water, unfortunately neither really help me wake up.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:27 AM on September 2, 2009

Moka pot! Easy to clean, cheap to replace, and portable. If you've got a gas stove you also don't need any electricity. And there are lots of generic brands around.
posted by mdonley at 8:28 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Aeropress! Let me say that again. AEROPRESS!!! It's a little more involved than your typical coffee maker, but the awesome coffee it produces is fantastic! Never again will I drink that Mr. Coffee dreck!
posted by Mach5 at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Would five minutes earlier be too early? Because if it's non-fancy you want, a Chemex is as simple as it gets. It's an open hourglass-looking thing that looks like it comes from amongst the beakers in a lab set. Stick a cone filter in the open top half, a few scoops, microwave a mug of water for a couple minutes and pour it in. A minute later ur drinkin'. Nothing to plug in or that will wear out, short out, etc. No separate parts, no moving parts. My parents have been using the same one for decades and I'm going on a couple of years. You can get a wee personal one or a great big one. The only pro tip is not to position the crease of the filter in the spout channel so the displaced air from the bottom isn't blocked as it tries to come out.
posted by Askr at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

On preview, Askr beat me to it, but it bears repeating: For under $50 you should be able to get a cheap grinder and a Chemex coffee maker. It has no moving parts, and will thus never, ever wear out (you might have to replace the little rawhide tie that holds the handle on, but that's about it.) Plus it makes really, really good coffee.

You can buy Dunkin Donuts coffee at their stores, or in some supermarkets now, so if you're very particular about their blend you'll be all set. (but I'd definitely encourage you to look for a local roaster - there's nothing better than freshly roasted coffee, and you can try lots of different varieties.)

You can buy pre-ground coffee, of course, but you'll find that the coffee you make at home tastes stale and nasty. I bought a Braun blade grinder on ebay for $10 10 or 11 years ago and it's still going strong.
posted by usonian at 8:34 AM on September 2, 2009

I would recommend a French Press - they are relatively cheap, and many people seem to think make the best coffee. Also, they come in many different sizes, so you could buy a 2-cup French press for just the morning, or

A tutorial for making French Press coffee.

If you don't want to spend much time cleaning in the morning, though, I would recommend a drip coffee maker.

Also, check out coffee shops in your town/local metro area, they will have good beans for sale.
posted by baxter_ilion at 8:35 AM on September 2, 2009

OP, if you have acid reflux and are looking to brew coffee on the cheap, look NO FURTHER than cold-brewed coffee. Here's a link to an NYT recipe.

With cold-brewed coffee, you take coarse grounds and leave them to soak in water overnight. You strain the coffee through a filter to get rid of the grounds (I used a fine mesh cooking filter; no need for paper (or gold) filters; stainless steel and cheap). You brew using a mason jar or pasta sauce jar. No electricity is required. You can grind the beans at the supermarket. DILUTE the coffee 1 to 1 when you want to drink it (I forgot once and was bouncing off the ceiling); you can use hot water to make hot coffee, or cold water to make iced coffee.

By using the cold-brew method, you will end up with a coffee that has much lower acidity than hot-brewed coffee. The coffee will also taste more rich, in my experience. I tend to drink coffee with sugar and milk if hot brewed, but cold brewed, I take black. It's mellow and delicious.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:36 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

I am always extremely confused by the notion that a french press is more fuss and bother than a drip coffee maker. Packets of filters? Setting timers? Buy a $25 french press and a cheap electric kettle (if you still don't own an electric kettle) and do this:

1. Fill kettle with water and french press with coffee the night before.
2. Switch kettle on on the way to the shower; pour boiled water into french press on the way out.
3. Once dressed, drink coffee. The french press is easily cleaned with a quick rinse in the sink.

This is cheaper *and* better coffee than a $50 drip maker! (It's true that if you want your coffee before you shower, you'll have to add 10 minutes to your morning schedule though.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:46 AM on September 2, 2009

The Bodum Chambord is a pretty solid french press and is around $30.
posted by electroboy at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2009

A tip I saw...somewhere...for making better coffee with a regular automatic drip pot is to run the water through first without coffee, then put the coffee in and pour the now heated water back into the coffee maker. It seems to make the coffee better and makes it WAY hotter. I don't drink a lot of hot coffee, but my husband does and swears this is better.
posted by artychoke at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2009

This is what I use: single cup cone filter

It's good for me because I am almost always just making coffee for me, and I have no counter space. A kettle can sit nicely on the stove but a coffee maker not really.

I also keep one at work - there's no office coffeemaker (argh), but we do have a hot water dispenser on the water fountain.

Super cheap, super easy, and maybe I'm not super picky but I enjoy the coffee plenty.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you want Dunkin' quality, you don't need all that fancy stuff. Any cheap drip machine will do the job. There are also handy little funnels that you just put over your mug and pour hot water (boiled in a kettle) through, machines be damned. You could probably find one of those for under five bucks.

Put the coffee on first thing in the morning (it only takes about 30 seconds), and by the time you're done showering or whatever, you'll have coffee.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2009

You can get a good french press for $12.99 at IKEA. It will give you better coffee (and take up less counter space) than an electric coffee maker.
posted by iviken at 8:56 AM on September 2, 2009

Aeropress, especially since you have acid reflux.

From the link given above (and to which I can attest),
"Total immersion of the grounds in the water results in rapid yet robust extraction of flavor.

Total immersion permits extraction at a moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.

Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20 seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long processes such as drip brewing.

The air pressure also gently squeezes the last goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.

Because of the lower temperature and short brew time, the acid level of the brew is much lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory pH testing measured AEROPRESS brew's acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee lovers who report that AEROPRESS brew is friendlier to their stomachs."

Also, a good coffee store will often have indicators to tell you about the acidity of each variety of coffee they carry.
posted by notashroom at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Admiral Haddock's advice on cold-brewing is the best thing in this thread. It's simple, it's rich like whoa, it's delicious, and it keeps super-well in the fridge, so you can make a batch at the beginning of the week and have it all week long.

Diluting it 1:1 with water makes it pretty much the strength of regular coffee, but I've found that I really like drinking a very small amount of it in its straight concentrated form. Also, I sometimes use yerba maté tea instead of water for the cold-brewing process, which adds an earthy, foresty flavor, and also kicks up the total amount of stimulants in the brew.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2009

I don't drink or even like coffee, but my girlfriend does -- I decided to get her a coffee maker at the beginning of the year for her birthday since we'd decided to move in together and she wouldn't have access to one at our place otherwise. I googled around and checked Consumer Reports and this surprisingly affordable Michael Graves coffee maker from Target was one of the best-rated.

She's been using it almost daily since March, and she loves it. It is easy to use, easy to clean, apparently makes good coffee, and includes an automatic timer so she'll have hot coffee waiting when she gets out of the shower in the morning.

It looks like Target bumped the price on it a little bit, I don't remember spending $45 to get hers. Still, that's not too bad.
posted by Jinkeez at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2009

If you aren't already overwhelmed by the coffee snobbiness of the average MeFite (one reason I love it here!) and have settled on the drip coffee maker, a suggestion: Grind your beans fresh before using them. It makes a difference. There are any number of machines on the market that feature integrated coffee grinders. Burr grinders are better, but of course also cost more.

Whole beans keep their flavor longer than grounds do, so keeping your beans intact as long as possible prior to making coffee really helps. Anything you get at a decent coffee shop was almost assuredly whole beans up until a few minutes before brewing, then was run through a burr grinder to make grounds. And most coffee you get at a coffee shop was probably drip-brewed unless you specifically asked for cold-press or French press or etc.; if that's what you like, you needn't feel bad buying a drip brew machine.

Beware though. I started years ago with a drip brew machine. About five years back I upgraded to a $200 model with an integrated Swiss burr grinder. It could happen to you. Once the coffee snob bug hits, you start eyeballing the $2000+ fully automatic machines with envy...
posted by caution live frogs at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2009

If you're worried about 1) acid reflux and 2) money - just COLD PRESS YOUR COFFEE!! Seriously. It's delicious and easy. And it's less acidic than hot-brewed coffee, so it won't give you such bad reflux, and it tastes less bitter. Here's what you do:

You want rough ground beans - like an espresso grind. Do it yourself or have it ground for you, either way.

Use about 1 cup of grinds per 3 cups water. Get a gallon glass jar. Put in the grinds and the coffee - yep, just all together.

Let it sit for about 12 hours or to taste, but at least 8 or 9.

Strain the liquid out using cheesecloth.

And there you go. Delicious, cheap, appliance-free, low-acid coffee.

(Cut it with water, however, it's like espresso).
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2009

Espresso is not a coarse grind.
posted by electroboy at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2009

Espresso is not a coarse grind.

oops. i meant coffee grind.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:54 AM on September 2, 2009

I was given a gift cert. to Bloomingdales for Christmas, and wound up buying a Keurig K-Cup machine with it. Before the glares of the coffee enthusiasts here burn me to a crisp, let me state some of the oddities I found that made it wonderful...

Aside from the obvious "one cup at a time" thing, you can buy your own empty, reusable K-Cup that lets you use your own coffee, avoiding the expensive and possibly poor tasting K-Cups. This lets you keep all the benefits of brew-your-own (variety, inexpensive cost, etc.) while keeping the ease of making one cup at a time, and cleaning it up is a snap (I just rinse the grinds into the garbage disposal, and the filter is ready for the next cup). It also does tea, and - surprisingly - Ramen very well. Just run it without a coffee in the holder, and you have a measured amount of hot water. Much, much easier than a kettle or microwave.

The downside is cost. It's an investment, but in my household, it's paid off in spades. We use it multiple times a day, for coffee, tea, cup-o-soups, etc. Ours has a timer that turns it on and warms it up in the morning before we wake up. It's also a fun gimmie in that people who don't know what to get us for Christmas can get us a gift pack of K-Cups, and we'll use it. ;-) Just do some online shopping or check eBay / Craigslist, and you may be able to get one cheap.

Before that, I had a Cuisinart grinder / brewer combo that could be loaded the night before, and would then wake up, grind the beans, and brew a pot at a pre-programmed time, and keep it warm in case I was running late.
posted by GJSchaller at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2009

InsanePenguin, as the sane penguin around here :) I'd recommend French press with grinding the beans right before. My wife gets up at 6, leaves for work at 7, and still has plenty of time to enjoy her coffee before leaving doing it this way. She starts the water boiling, and while it's heating up she'll dump the old grounds out of the press into the garden, rinse the press, grind the beans and put the grounds in the press. A couple of minutes later the water is done boiling, let it sit off of the hot stove for a minute, then pour over grounds. Four minutes later press the plunger down and ta-da! Awesome coffee in about 10 minutes.

Good beans make a difference. The stuff we buy is from a local roaster and it's $12 a pound. Sounds expensive, but a pound lasts us two weeks, which makes it $3 per person per week for fantastic coffee. ($3 won't get you two days at Dunkin.) I think you can still get Dunkin whole bean at their stores, or if you find a local coffee house with coffee you really like, find out if they sell it by the pound.

Good coffee is one of those little luxuries you can enjoy every day for not much money. Enjoy!
posted by azpenguin at 10:33 AM on September 2, 2009

Grinder, scales and and Aeropress. Don't forget the grinder.

Great brewing guide Here, at Tim Wendelboe's site.
posted by flippant at 11:06 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't drink coffee myself, but I had fun reading this recent Gizmodo post on many of the different popular methods and devices available for brewing coffee.
posted by strangecargo at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have to vouch both for the cold brewed method, and the NYTimes link listed above. I have made cold brewed coffee with that recipe countless times, and it always comes out flawless.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:24 PM on September 2, 2009

I share this method with Alton Brown. Follow his simple steps. A Melita is maybe the least expensive, most portable, most maintenance-free coffee making device you can buy. It will last forever and in my opinion it will make coffee as good as the beans you deliver unto it.
posted by quarterframer at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, I am one of the aforementioned coffee snobs, and I find the Keurig as mentioned by GJSchaller to be surprisingly drinkable and pleasantly fuss-free. This might be a good choice if you like the different k-cup varieties they offer and you don't want to mess with grinding your own coffee.

But, if it's cheap and easy you're after, and a cup at a time is fine - then get the single-cup pourover brewer recommended above. The Melitta ones can be found in the coffee aisle of many supermarkets.
posted by cabingirl at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2009

300 million (or more) Melitta No. 6 users (and me!) can't be wrong. You can get No. 6 (Melitta and a dozen other brands, including store brands) filters in nearly any grocery store on the planet. But, if you're only making a cup or two, the smaller No. 4 filters are cut on the same angles, and work fine in a No. 6 filter cone, too. How clever is that? Add an inexpensive blade grinder, and a good stainless steel kettle, and you're all set for years of coffee making excellence.

You can get bleached (white) or unbleached (brown) paper filters, as you like. Melitta aficionados generally prefer disposable paper filters, because they give a smooth, sediment free cup every time, but you can spring for the big bucks (well, $17 or so) and get a permanent, gold plated filter insert for your Melitta drip cone, if you prefer not buying paper filters. Wherever you come out on the filter issue, the great thing about using a manual drip coffee maker like a Melitta or the previously mention Chemex, is that you can easily tailor your water temperature to the type of bean you use.

A medium roasted arabica blend like your Dunkin' Donuts favorite will really taste full bodied and rich when brewed with a 205° F water temperature, which you'll have when your tea kettle is making a certain pre-boil rumbling sound. A dark French roast is going to want a little cooler water (say about 190° to 195° F), and a bright, slightly acid Costa Rican or Columbian light roast will really snap when brewed with water just off the full boil, say 210° F, which you'll come to recognize is just the point (at sea level, of course) when steam starts rising sharply, but the water is not roiling in the kettle. You can use a fast digital thermometer to accurately judge your water temperature while you are learning, but you'll soon get to be able to very accurately gauge your water temp by a combination of time and kettle sounds.

You can't do that easily with any automatic, thermostatically controlled coffee maker.
posted by paulsc at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2009

I use a drip coffeemaker. It drips the coffee into a stainless steel thermal carafe, so the coffee doesn't cook. That's been a plus. I find that good quality beans are the key to good coffee. There are a lot of ways to tweak coffeemaking for slight gains in quality; good beans provide a huge gain in quality.
posted by theora55 at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2009

Okay, so you guys have helped me decide that I can't suffice with just a drip coffeemaker if I want decent coffee.

I've decided on a Chemex and an electric kettle. If I want to get more in depth later on, I'll add in a burr grinder, but for now I think I'll be okay with pre-ground. I know, I know, that sounds terrible to you guys!

Thanks for all the help!
posted by InsanePenguin at 1:53 PM on September 2, 2009

Happy coffeemaking, MisunderstoodPenguin. Having only ever used the Chemex at home and the drip machine at work, I'm only aware of two kinds of filter, the square-which-turns-into-a-cone-when-opened-up kind by Chemex, and the jumbo cupcake wrapper kind for the machine at work. What I don't know is whether other companies than Chemex make the filters that fit the Chemex or if they have them at the grocery store. It doesn't seem like their filters would fit most other kinds of differently-shaped coffee maker. Anyway, just saying, you'll want to make sure you get filters made to fit the thing. You should be able to buy them wherever you buy the Chemex.
posted by Askr at 7:31 PM on September 2, 2009

Not at all, sir - I wouldn't turn my nose up at a Chemex! Happy coffee drinking and welcome to the club.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:25 AM on September 3, 2009

As a coffee nut I have to say that it all starts with the bean. Right now one of the best roasters in the country is stumptown. Every single item they sell is exquisite and the price is not much different than anywhere else.

Of course coffee does not keep, so only order what you can drink in about 30 days or less.

I use the Vac Pot system and have been for a a few years. Of course it is more complicated than anything outlined above, but it also makes the cleanest cup of coffee you can find, there are now "slow" coffee bars in LA that feature Vac Pot brewing.

I have heard great things about Aero Press and I used to use Chemex myself, but the coffee was never hot enough when the brew was done.

I also was into the Technovorm brews for awhile, they are considered the best auto drip pots in the world, but of course they are also some of the most expensive.

Great beans
Keep them fresh (I use a vacuum canister)
Simple brewing at proper heat


posted by silsurf at 8:36 AM on September 7, 2009

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