Help me make my sister less of a bitch in the morning
March 7, 2013 10:13 AM   Subscribe

My sister is going to be staying with us for two months, to help my wife and I with our newborn. I adore my sister, but she is vile in the morning before her coffee. Unfortunately we do not live remotely close to a nice coffee house. We are tea drinkers, so we have none of the appropriate 'stuff'. How can I provide her with a good coffee experience at minimal cost? I know she usually orders a caramel mocha of some sort.

Also possibly relevant, I offered to buy nice beans and a coffee press, she said she had tried those with little success, so she just buys hers. She never drinks unflavored coffee and reports that she can't taste a difference between most roasts. Is this a matter of buying the right syrups?
posted by i am a sock puppeteer to Food & Drink (65 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If she doesn't know how to make coffee and doesn't want to learn, you could get her a Keurig. Or if she is a Starbucks junkie, Starbucks sells similar gear in their stores. They come in flavors and everything.
posted by BibiRose at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

she usually orders a caramel mocha of some sort

Ew. That is not coffee.

A french press and some ground beans should run you less than $40. It's easy to make coffee at home.

If she only likes the sugary, Starbucks coffee-type drinks, Starbucks sells supplies at their stores and online.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

Don't be intimidated by your sister's taste in coffee because it is abysmal.

There are relatively simple recipes:
posted by rocketpup at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would she be interested in making it at home if she had the actual Starbucks stuff? Maybe you could order the mocha powder, caramel, etc. I imagine if you called and explained your predicament, they'd be happy to sell you some supplies.
posted by pointystick at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2013

I actually think the coffee press would be the way to go, and can offer tips depending on her exact definition of "little success". You could then re-use the coffee press to make tea once she leaves (I do that myself).

And for the record, I think that the possibility that she would dare be a diva about requiring carmel mocha coffee on a daily basis with someone who has just given birth to an infant is kind of ridiculous. I know we all have our personal taste standards, but there is the point at which you need to suck it up, adopt, adapt, and move on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [14 favorites]

Excellent, thanks. Do the Keurigs approximate the cafe made coffee drinks well enough?

(And yes, I suspected her taste was less than sophisticated, but ya know, free baby help!)
posted by i am a sock puppeteer at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's really nice for your sister to offer to help.

Starbucks sells the equipment to make their drinks at home. I'd try that. She can mess around til she gets it how she likes. My guess is that she had little success at home is that she either over or under brewed the espresso... Their brand of espresso machine looks pretty idiot-proof so that might help with that.
posted by spunweb at 10:20 AM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

If she ever does iced coffee, you can make up a biiiig batch and store it in the fridge. Basically soak a pound of ground beans in 2 gallons of water overnight. Strain & filter the next morning. And have some kind of delicious creamer on hand, like this.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound like she drinks real coffee, but likes coffee-flavored drinks. How about getting her a couple bottles of Starbucks Frappucino? They can be found in most major grocery stores and it's less of an investment than buying a giant bottle of syrup in case she doesn't like it.
posted by nakedsushi at 10:22 AM on March 7, 2013 [39 favorites]

Wanted to say exactly what nakedsushi said - this is all way too complicated for someone who wants a sugary drink but doesn't want to put in any effort. Why spend all the money on a Keurig or a press and syrups when you can just buy bottled flavored Starbucks drinks at the store if that's what she must have? They're usually meant to be cold but I think they could be heated in a mug.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

A French press leaves grit in the coffee. If she's that much of a diva, she will complain about it. I'd say Keurig for ease, and whatever syrups you can find.
posted by disconnect at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

if she's not discerning, coffee out of a $25 coffee pot and caramel creamer (you find it next to the half and half) will do the job. you can get a coffee maker with a timer so it'll be ready 5 minutes after her alarm, or whatever. you could even buy the starbucks beans so she still feels fancy about it all.
posted by nadawi at 10:25 AM on March 7, 2013 [18 favorites]

No coffee press. She isn't going to use it. I think she would be happier with a Keurig (or other single-cup coffee maker), caramel ice cream topping, and a canister of whipped cream.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:25 AM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'd personally recommend getting Starbucks' own version of the Keurig, which does appear to approximate the drinks they sell in-store. It's called Verismo, and they also sell the pods & syrups to make your own Starbucks drinks at home. At our office, we use Keurig, but it doesn't please my Starbucks-addicted colleagues. Added benefit of this type of machine: pretty much zero learning curve. Once you figure out which pods to use, and how to slot them in, presto - coffee drink.
posted by pammeke at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Get an aeropress and use the inversion method. Buy milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and caramel coffee syrup. Follow this recipe minus the salt. (Unless, of course, she likes salted caramel coffees.) This would be a 5 minute process once you get the hang of the aeropress.
posted by xyzzy at 10:28 AM on March 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

Starbucks makes an instant caramel flavored coffee. Since she doesn't care about the quality of the coffee (those things just taste like sugar) I'd get some decent instant coffee and flavor syrups and half & half.

And speaking as a less than pleasant pre-cafinated person, the thing that enrages me the most is my family (and most especially my sibling!) in anyway insinuating that "Oh, ok here just shut up and drink your coffee". Like I would disembowel you as you stood kind of rage.
posted by fontophilic at 10:28 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

Whatever you do, have her practice making an acceptable version at home before she comes to stay with you. You don't want someone making a fuss over coffee on, like, day two home from the hospital. You will lose your marbles.
posted by Ollie at 10:29 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I sprang for a Senseo (which is basically the same idea as the Keurig, as far as I can tell) when I had a baby specifically for my coffee-drinking helper-guests, because we don't drink coffee either and I wouldn't have the vaguest idea how to go about making it. We got a few different flavors of pods and put the setup on the counter and let people have at it. It's easy enough to use, and everyone was pretty pleased I provided them with easy hot coffee, and I didn't have to mess around with worrying about coffee and a baby. Self-serve! I did have one guest who would make herself a Senseo and drink it so she had enough caffeine in her to drive to get real coffee at the coffee shop, but whatever floats your caffeinated boat in the morning!

I felt the cost of the Senseo was worth it because I've been able to continue to provide morning coffee to houseguests and I've used it for brunches and to offer people after-dinner coffee and whatnot when we have people over. It's a nice thing for a non-coffee-drinker to have available for guests, and I just stick it on a shelf in the basement when I don't need it rather than letting it clutter up my counter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:30 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she drinks a "caramel mocha", something instant like this should be fine. Or the instant Starbucks stuff. There is no need to buy any equipment because she cannot taste the difference.

By the way, as someone who has two children, I might offer that unless there are some extreme circumstances, two months is probably a bit long for a "help with the new baby" visit. House guests get old really fast, and that's going to be compounded if your sister is a bitch in the morning. Please bear in mind that part of "helping with the new baby" means a lot of being suddenly awoken at odd hours.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm with the "buy a regular coffee maker and a bunch of flavored creamer from the grocery store and she can deal" crowd.

A Keurig or similar is easy, and you can get pre-flavored packets, but it's expensive.

A french press or such is for coffee snobs, not half-sugar-half-coffee-mixture junkies. (My family is split about half and half on this, so I've had all the debates.)

And the pre-made Starbucks Frappachino bottles are a great idea too. They make canned flavored espresso drinks too.
posted by celtalitha at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Keurig's are appropriate in this case. I mean, I hate them, but they're all my mother-in-law, who is addicted to sugary WaWa "coffee" will use. There are plenty of gross flavors that taste like something produced in a cappuccino machine at a gas station. And I have to admit that they're the fastest way to get someone coffee. A minute or so for a single cup.

They're still not fast enough for the MiL not to comment on how grumpy I look in the morning, but fast as one can reasonably manage. Please, for the love of god, don't tell your sister to smile, she looks miserable, etc. etc before she's had caffeine.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2013

For the least amount of money, I would buy a small two-cup coffee maker that she can keep in her room to make her coffee. I have this one in my guest room. Add a few of the special makings noted above and you're good to go.
posted by raisingsand at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2013

She never drinks unflavored coffee and reports that she can't taste a difference between most roasts.

Go to Costco and pick her up a few cases of Starbucks' pre-made bottled coffee drinks. I believe there is a caramel flavor of Frappucino available.

Though they are the bottom of the barrel to a coffee snob, I've drunk them before in a pinch and they're not that bad. If your sister likes sugary sweet flavored coffee, she'll probably love them and think you're the best brother in the world.

There is no really efficient way to make a caramel macchiato or whatever at home while caring for a newborn. Before I got to the part where you said she doesn't get how to use a french press, I was going to suggest a moka pot, some illy espresso, lots of milk, and some Torrini caramel syrup. But if the girl can't make french press, whipping up a caramel latte at home isn't really an option.
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want to do it properly, here is the actual recipe for a Starbucks Caramel Mocha.

So you need to get an espresso machine, caramel syrup, mocha syrup, and a can of whipped cream.
If you get espresso-ground coffee (eg Illy) you don't need to buy a grinder.

Espresso machines start at $40 or so, although you could spend hundreds should you so wish. As you go up the price scale they get more sturdy and steam the milk faster.
posted by w0mbat at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to be "vile in the morning before I got [my] coffee" because I used to be dependent on caffeine. If this is your sister, then any type of coffee (instant, Starbucks, that stuff from the gas station) will be perfectly fine. When staying with non-coffee-drinkers, I was always happy to have any of the above, just to wake myself up. I can't tell from your question if she's demanding the caramel thing or if that's what she usually orders when there's a choice but really she just needs to not get a headache.

If she really needs that particular thing, then I agree with everyone who said the S'bucks bottled drinks. (Or tell her how many calories are in those, she might decide to break the habit!)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:41 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since most of the flavored Starbucks drinks use espresso, not coffee, I'd go with a stovetop espresso maker, a bean grinder, and bulk espresso beans. This would probably be less than $40. You can add caramel creamer to the finished drink.
Electric espresso makers tend to have a lot of issues, especially with heating coils, even at higher price points.
posted by OrderOctopoda at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2013

I don't think you should bend over backwards to accommodate such a specific habit, and I definitely don't think you should drop $100 on a Keurig if it's only for her.

I'd either get a combination of beans, a cheap coffeepot, and caramel syrup, or a few cans of those sugary flavored Maxwell House instant mixes. If she drinks the exact same drink every day, just about anything you make at home will be inferior.

Also, if she is grumpy in the morning, give her a wide berth for the half hour after she wakes up, whatever else you do. It's not necessarily the coffee; some people just need a little time for their brains to wake up.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dump enough of this type of thing into the most basic Keurig/drip coffee and it is indistinguishable from your basic Starbucks sugary coffee drink. Maybe pick up a few flavors? My stepfather, who occasionally takes a little coffee in his sugar, loves the hazelnut flavor.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a coffee snob but the occasional trashy coffee is one of my guilty pleasures. I know, I know. It's the sugar. The caramel Starbucks Via stuff that fontophilic linked to works just fine and suited me well when I lived somewhere with no coffee shops nearby. Keep real half & half in the fridge. McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts also make too-sweet froofy coffee that should fit the bill.

Also, get her her own special coffee mug. I like those tall ceramic to-go mugs with the floppy lids.

I wouldn't buy her a Keurig or a press because she might not even use it.
posted by mochapickle at 10:46 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Add me to those who would not spend $100+ on a Keurig coffeemaker for her. It's not good coffee she's after, it's the sugary caffeine she wants. I agree with those that suggested getting a case of the pre-made Starbucks coffees or you can buy flavored coffee by the half gallon in the supermarket near the creamers. Outside of this, ask her what her preference is in lieu of having a coffee shop nearby.

Good luck, and congrats!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get several tins of Maxwell House International crack and, if you've already got a teapot or a saucepan or a microwave, you're gold.

It seems like it might suit your sister's tastes for at least as long as it takes to pack up the baby and get to town. Also, don't stress out too much -- I too am a seething bitch before my coffee, but I'd also be super-happy-yay-baby-time!!1! if I got to spend two months with my sister and niece.
posted by mibo at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Before investing in a Keurig, I would have her try the Starbucks Via Caramel instant powder (available at Starbucks and in grocery stores here in MN). The Via Mocha is really good (and was my go-to lazy coffee before Mr. Motion bought a Keurig), and while I don't love the Caramel as much, I am not a fan of the caramel that Starbucks uses in their drinks in general.

Depending on how much she likes cream in her coffee, you'll probably want to keep half and half in stock as well. I can do the Mocha without any cream or sugar required, but it is definitely missing that milky texture.

The vanilla is terrible though.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

The cold brew method that specialagentwebb mentions above works for hot coffee drinkers, too. It makes a concentrate and you can add either hot or cold water (or milk or whatever) added to it (you may have to experiment a little to find the ratio you like). The concentrate lasts for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and can be frozen to help it last even longer. You can even buy kits for it if you don't want to cobble together your own; we have one called a Toddy.

In order of easiness, I'd say it's somewhere between the instant stuff and brewing your own. You still have to deal with some clean-up, but only once every few weeks instead of daily. If she doesn't like the instant, it's probably worth trying (along with some flavored creamer).
posted by amarynth at 10:55 AM on March 7, 2013

I agree that McDonald's is probably as simple a solution as you could get, if you don't have a Starbucks nearby. It's likely that her morning dependence is for 350-400 calories accompanied by caffeine, rather than anything that tastes like coffee, as caramel mochas don't.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:56 AM on March 7, 2013

If your sister can't tell the difference between roasts and drinks super-sugary drinks, don't bother with getting an espresso maker. You can make very strong coffee with a ceramic 1-cup dripper like this, a milk frother like this (microwave the milk, then froth) and get the mocha and caramel stuff directly from Starbucks. I'd buy a lb of fresh, ground beans and the stuff above, and call it a day.
posted by quince at 10:58 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that you all will be busy with the baby, and that Keurig and the like make tea and hot chocolate, not just coffee, and you can get k-cups for those. If you got one, you all might just find yourself using it sometimes (grabbing a cuppa at 3 AM crying baby time, for example), and it would be potentially useful for other guests, grandparents, etc.. You might even be able to convince someone to give it to you as a kind of baby gift.

(Note that I am a tea drinking/brewing snob, but sometimes convenience is key.)
posted by gudrun at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to do it properly, here is the actual recipe for a Starbucks Caramel Mocha.

So you need to get an espresso machine, caramel syrup, mocha syrup, and a can of whipped cream.

She will NOT be able to tell the difference between strong coffee and espresso in this sort of drink. Brew up some Folger's in a thrift store coffee pot; add milk, caramel and chocolate syrup, and canned whipped cream. Bam.

Flavored coffee with sugar won't cut it, most likely.

Also, I buy locally roasted coffee and used to be a barista, and I think the people in this thread are being total snobs. Some people like sugary bullshit drinks, big deal, the Republic remains strong.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2013 [26 favorites]

a Tassimo would be more what you want than a keurig I think. they have all the milk and flavours built in. my sis is a froofy coffee drinker and she loves hers.

I also second the recommendation for maxwell house's international crack instant coffee. I can be a bit of a coffee snob, but I will occasionally drink those. they're more like candy than coffee, but tasty.

otherwise, someone suggested the aeropress, and it's great. it makes really good, smooth, soft-tasting coffee and it's super easy cleanup and it's a pretty fun process. I make an aeropress approximation of a latte most days, and it takes 4 minutes and would be great with a shot of caramel syrup.
posted by euphoria066 at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do the Keurigs approximate the cafe made coffee drinks well enough?

There are K-Cups that have the "cafe mocha" flavors. They're terrible, though.
posted by jmd82 at 11:15 AM on March 7, 2013

How can I provide her with a good coffee experience at minimal cost?

Honestly, tell her, "there are no nearby coffee shops. Bring your preferred coffee machine and beans to make it yourself. Let us know if you need anything." Or you could ask her if she had a preferred make-at-home coffee solution and get that one. She seems to have poor, but specific, personal tastes in what she likes. So it's going to be difficult for us to divine what the solution is without her input.
posted by deanc at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can do this relatively cheaply AND come out with a really good espresso pot!

First buy one of these.

It works on a stove top and is VERY fast.

You can use whatever pre-ground coffee your sister may like. You can buy Starbucks at the grocery with a coupon.

Get a Caramel-Flavored syrup. Also found in the grocery store.

For the latte part, warm milk in the microwave.

A can of whip, and a drizzle of caramel (ice cream aisle) and you've got a Starbucks in your kitchen!

Unless you plan on offering random strangers cups of very expensive coffee, skip the pod machine!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Aren't those caramel latte/macchiato things basically just a latte or cappuccino with caramel syrup in it? I think the easiest solution may be to buy her a stovetop cappuccino maker, like this one, and some caramel syrup to put in it (and maybe a can of whipped cream). I used to own something similar by Bialetti and it's really easy to make a latte.
posted by echo0720 at 11:21 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

For the record, the Keurig "cafe mocha" k-cups have almost no caffeine. I was sad to discover this as my partner's dad gave us a ton of them for Christmas, and I still had to go buy real coffee to satisfy my caffeine needs.
posted by celtalitha at 11:23 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Folks, please give answers that are mostly about coffee. You can MeMail the OP other helpful advice.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2013

Here's another idea which involves zero equipment. Get instant espresso (Ferrara or Medaglia D'oro, available at the supermarket) make it with a small amount of hot water, pour in your hot milk and flavoring. Or stick in the microwave to heat. That's what I do to make a latte when I don't have my espresso machine. If you get the proportions right, it is not horrible. Buy her syrups and drinking chocolate or whatever and she should be fine.
posted by BibiRose at 11:26 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had to favorite the stovetop one linked to by echo0720. Those are adorable and if she likes it, it would be a really nice thank you gift to take home with her.
posted by BibiRose at 11:33 AM on March 7, 2013

She isn't demanding the fancy coffee at all, but I know she missed it last time when she stayed with us when our son was born. Thanks everyone, keep the possible solutions coming.
posted by i am a sock puppeteer at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

to add a little ontext to my my coffeepot suggestion upthread - i'm a fancy coffee drinker. i also like the sugar bomb of a starbucks type drink sometimes. for years i did the coffee beans from starbucks + cheap coffeepot + caramel creamer (or hersheys and 1/2&1/2) for ease. load the beans the night before, pour the water on in the morning, turn it on, wait 3 minutes, add cream to the cup and pour in the coffee (no need to even stir!). it's a fine substitute.
posted by nadawi at 11:39 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you ever have other guests who would like coffee, then it might be worth buying some kind of coffee machine to have on hand. But make it small and easy to use. Keurigs and their ilk make terrible coffee, and are a countertop-hog. A stovetop maker is small, but way more complicated than your sister probably wants. A french press or a very small drip machine would be fine for occasional guests.

Honestly though, I think you should try the crate of starbucks frappucino bottles, or the various instant coffee mixes suggested above. Keep it simple!
posted by Joh at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2013

i don't know when not liking your coffee black became such a hot button issue. i like my coffee with milk and splenda. it tastes like melted coffee ice cream and i generally prefer to start my mornings with things that taste like ice cream. sorry not sorry, i love it.

i say buy her a basic, cheap coffeepot, buy a couple of fun-flavored refrigerated creamers from the supermarket, and let her go to town. if you want to get really fancy, buy some whipped cream and caramel sauce. i feel those will more than satiate her craving for fancy coffee. maybe if you guys are ever near a mcdonalds or something, buy her a coffee drink there as a treat. it's only 2 months, and she'll totally get by with those flavored creamers - seriously.

i absolutely do not recommend buying her a crate of starbucks frappuccino bottles. i like the feeling of hot coffee in a stone mug, the smell of coffee brewing. and i wouldn't buy the VIA packs either - they're good for a guest who is staying a couple days, but for 2 months? no thanks.

i don't know why liking your coffee sweet means that you are relegated to second-class coffee citizen status and you should be ok with packets of instant coffee and bottles of processed drinks. i like my coffee light and sweet and i am NOT OK with either of those things.
posted by kerning at 12:11 PM on March 7, 2013 [11 favorites]

Definitely regular coffee and flavored creamers are the way to go. People love those!
posted by radioamy at 12:35 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for others, but I went in that direction because i am a sock puppeteer said that she only buys her coffee, never makes it at home, and balks at the idea of using a french press. To me, that says "this person is not interested in preparing their own coffee". Thus, the advice not require her to prepare her own coffee.

I am a MASSIVE coffee snob and prefer only the finest locally roasted home-ground beans, which I cold brew for optimum smoothness and drink with only a little milk. I still enjoy a bottle of caramel frappucino from a gas station cooler every now and again. If the OP's sister actually enjoys that as her go-to style of coffee, more power to her.
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

As a frequent Starbucks artifical-sugar-sweetened-drink customer, at home I use:

Drip coffeemaker (in other words, standard cheap coffeemaker)
Pre-ground bags of Starbucks coffee
Nestle Coffee-Mate creamer (sugar-free for me, but w/e)

As someone who is not functional until I've had like 2 cups of coffee in the morning, this is a quick and easy thing to do.

I sometimes visit a friend who only has a French press. For me, operating that thing before having coffee is frustrating, and my body and mind don't want to do anything but collapse on a chair and fuel up. But this leads to an obvious bootstrapping problem. In fact, at home I've gotten into the habit of loading up my drip coffeemaker with grounds and water before going to bed. All I have to do is wake up and press a button, then dump in my pre-mixed milk-like/sugar-like flavoring.

It sounds like your sister is closer to me than the coffee purists on here.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like wildcrdj's idea, because I think you want to avoid spending a massive amount of money on something that your sis may or may not like/use. When someone has really specific likes it can be hard to predict what they will accept as a substitute.

If possible, ask her to try some options before she comes over, and let you know what she likes best.

Failing that, a coffeemaker with a timer seems like a good idea, and you can stock the fridge with some whipped cream and maybe an inexpensive syrup sampler like this.

And if she's like me - she might have a couple of days of ARGH this is not what I am used to! And then get over it and grow to like newthing.
posted by bunderful at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another thing that might make her feel welcome: get her a nice large coffee mug, if you don't own any. And maybe offer to take her shopping for coffee supplies soon after she arrives.
posted by BibiRose at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2013

I wouldn't spend the money on a Keurig just for her. The International Delights iced coffee from the grocery store isn't bad (even heated up in a mug in the microwave) and would be a much, much cheaper option.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:23 PM on March 7, 2013

I gotta say, as a person who is shortly going to be dealing with a newborn and a toddler, if a family member offered me free in-house baby help for TWO MONTHS and all they wanted to keep them happy was their favourite coffee, they'd have it in front of them so fast their head would spin. Also speaking as someone who is not my best self before coffee, I would ask sister how she would like it before she gets there and if flavoured syrup, cream etc will work for her. So she's not a coffee purist - considering what she is offering, accommodating her on this minor issue is really not that big a deal, good on the OP for doing it. I also like the idea of a special mug - 'best aunty in the world' would do it for me! Oh, and congrats on the baby and good luck!
posted by Jubey at 3:36 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

i am a sock puppeteer: "Also possibly relevant, I offered to buy nice beans and a coffee press, she said she had tried those with little success, so she just buys hers."

Does "with little success" mean she can't duplicate the flavor she wants, or that she's just not into the whole coffee-making thing? If it's the former, I would present her with all the great options here and ask her which she'd like to try. It would make more sense to tailor the solution to the problem rather than just guess what might work. If it's the latter I think you need to have a talk before she gets there to see how you can help her adjust to a new routine -- just as everyone else in the house will be doing! -- before mornings turn ugly.

Unfortunately we do not live remotely close to a nice coffee house.

These days you don't need nice coffee houses to get the type of coffee drinks she likes, even McDonalds and 7-11 offers them. At 7-11 she could even bring that great mug you're going to buy her instead of the paper cups.

Congrats on the new baby!
posted by Room 641-A at 3:57 PM on March 7, 2013

Ikea has a frother for 3 bucks. That and an Aeropress will make decent coffee.
posted by rdr at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2013

I've been thinking about your question more... It's super sweet of you to want to make your sister happy with coffee. And coffee/that ritual will mean a lot to her when she's helping out with the kid. Can you ask her what she would like handy at the house, and set a budget (thinking 100-150)? I think she'd be touched by your thoughtfulness. (I avoid a particular food group, and my folks always humor me when I visit -- it's sweet of them.)
posted by mochapickle at 4:00 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. Going to buy the Starbucks rig. As my wife pointed out, this will more than pay for itself in the sleep we get while sis is here. I didn't want to ask her what to get because she will just say not to bother.

Hopefully I can convince her to take the thing home with her when she goes, she is pretty much the best sister ever.
posted by i am a sock puppeteer at 4:32 PM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]

So I feel like I should chime in because I'm more or less your sister or I was. Now I drink unflavored skim lattes to cut calories, but I hate drip coffee. And the only thing worse than drip coffee to me is a french press ugggh disgusting. I never by choice drink anything other than espresso based drinks and I've been made some supposedly amazing drip and french press coffee.

Anyway, the idea that she won't be able to tell the difference between drip coffee or instant because of all the milk and sugar is just patronizing snobbery. Espresso based drinks, even drowned in caramel mmmmm, has a distinctly different taste. And honestly french press and drip coffee with syrups is really gross. If I have to drink it, I drown it in milk, but I never add any sweetener, for some reason french press and drip coffee turns bizarrely sickeningly sweet in a way that espresso doesn't at all. I don't particularly like the fancy flavored creamers you can get, but it's worth asking if she does because I know plenty of people with similar coffee tastes to me that like them.

Good call on getting the Starbucks machine, you could also just go for a cheaper espresso machine with a milk frother. I bought one for about $60 and you could even go cheaper. Buy the actual syrups from Starbucks though, she'll be able to taste the difference if that's what she likes (and whatever you do do not get the ghirardelli chocolate syrup, it's at most "high end" independent places, but it has a weird and awful after taste). The espresso + steamed milk + syrups is probably the taste she's looking for even if it doesn't exactly duplicate what you get at the coffee shop, it'll probably be good enough.
posted by whoaali at 4:59 PM on March 7, 2013

My emergency backup for when I can't get my morning coffee is a bottle of caffeine pills. Yeah, I'm an addict, but it beats withdrawal headaches. While the coffee maker is clearly a better option, it's a thought.
posted by unix at 6:29 PM on March 7, 2013

Since you guys don't drink coffee, I recommend getting the set up for a manual pour over because it's single cup, cheap as hell (buy a washable gold filter and the filter holder that sits over the coffee cup, should cost less than $10 easy), and hardly takes up any space at all. If boiling water on the stove is too much effort first thing in the morning, get an electric kettle too (maybe you already have one for tea...if you don't and you get one, it'll benefit you guys too). All you do is put a scoop or so (to taste) of ground coffee she likes (you can get Starbucks if that's her thing, or Dunkin Donuts, or anything) in the filter, which is nested in the holder, which is sitting on top of her coffee mug. You slowly, a bit at a time to let the coffee "bloom", pour the near-boiling water over the coffee until the mug's full.

And since she loves caramel flavored whatevers, you can get a bottle of the right flavored sugary creamer or Torani/DaVinci/whatever syrup + cream/half and half/milk/whatever and dump some in too (most ho-hum supermarkets now carry those things, including the syrups). Boom. As simple and fast as making a cup of tea with a teabag, and you get less of the sediment and other "gourmet" complications (which she does not seem to want any part of and really, who does first thing in the morning) of something like French press.
posted by ifjuly at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2013

Hm, I see now that you're concerned her taste may be most picky about the syrup, not the coffee (still stand by my rec of manual pour-over for all reasons stated, plus it makes a perfect middle-of-the-road "safe" tasting inoffensive but not watery cup of coffee you can tweak based on coffee used and amount). If none of the easy-to-find syrups are to her liking, you might want to research making one. It should be pretty damn simple, about as simple as making simple cocktail syrup. On an uber-cursory googling, there's this for example. You could make it in advance and it should last quite a while (few weeks at the very least, possibly months) in the fridge. Store there along with some dairy et voila.
posted by ifjuly at 6:46 PM on March 7, 2013

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