I might actually be why Keurig was invented...
November 30, 2017 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I don't drink coffee, but other people do, what kind of coffee maker do I buy?

I don't drink coffee at all but I'm in the position where guests are coming to stay a lot and random friends are coming over semi-frequently and they all do drink coffee. I drink tea and hot chocolate.
It would be awesome if the thing heated water quickly too so I wouldn't have to also buy the electric kettle I'm thinking about for my tea.

Assume I have no idea how to make coffee, because I don't, so it would be great if it was easy to use. Keurig seems like the right idea but want to make sure I'm not missing anything. Is there something else out there that makes more sense? Are there hot chocolate pods? It can just do hot water too, right? How long do the pods last?

If you could also recommend what type of coffee I should keep on hand, what is the least offensive to a lot of people (my friends aren't coffee snobs, they just require caffeine and want it to be reasonably good).

Also assume that people really are here often enough that buying something that provides them with coffee does make sense.
posted by magnetsphere to Food & Drink (74 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think a French Press would do the trick.
posted by Rocket26 at 6:44 PM on November 30, 2017 [14 favorites]

You can make loose leaf tea in a French press too. You can still get a kettle.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:46 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

My mom just came to visit, and she was able to do something with our electric kettle. I think she had some packs of Starbucks Via or something like that. I don't really know much about coffee, but she thought it was fine. Disclaimer that she's not a coffee snob, though. She's more of an old school Folgers person, so her standards of drinkability might not be as high as your friends'.

Regardless, the electric kettle is a good investment. I was skeptical when my wife bought it, but it has been useful.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:51 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Or a plastic pour over cone and filters. A Keurig or other expensive dedicated device seems overkill to me, but I'm cheap.
posted by rodlymight at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [22 favorites]

Get an electric kettle, it's useful for all sorts of things and a coffeepot will inevitably make your tea water taste dank once it's been used for coffee.

Keurigs make bad coffee, bad hot chocolate, and will also make your water taste bad once coffee has been in there.

For coffee:
- Starbucks via packets: pretty decent, dead easy, long shelf life. Frankly, I'm fine with plain ol' instant granules but they have a bad rep.
- Pour over cone ($5), filters (~$3/100), and ground coffee in the smallest increment you can get and kept in the freezer. Cheap, no one will be mad about the quality, but shelf life is a concern
posted by momus_window at 6:54 PM on November 30, 2017 [18 favorites]

Agree - get the electric kettle (just used mine for tea) and a 6-cup (just a suggestion on size) french press. Much less waste for you, and better coffee for your guests. Coffee is easy: your local grocery will likely sell 8- or 10-oz bags of various brand name stuff for $7-10. Usually a medium roast with an innocuous-sounding name like "Breakfast Blend" will do the trick. The bags it comes in will typically keep coffee well enough for a week or so, so I might suggest an airtight container if you have it for much longer.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nthing the cone, a single serving size is convenient and makes good coffee, tucks away easy, $5 on amazon or $1 at the dollar store, just get the smallest batch of fresh ground allowed at any coffee store when needed.
posted by sammyo at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2017

I wouldn’t do French press if you’re not a coffee person; though it’s easy to use, it’s hard to get the proportions right even if you do have a taste for it. I’m always making a weak or bitter cup and I have a decent palate and lots of experience. I also find the clean-up a bit much.

I’d just get a no frills coffeemaker, filters, and pick up mid-range supermarket ground coffee whenever you’re low.
posted by kapers at 7:00 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Several years ago I bought a super basic french press and some Trader Joe's medium roast coffee (kept it in the freezer) for just such occasions. (Already had an electric kettle for tea, etc.) It worked splendidly.

Since then I've started really enjoying coffee and have developed a decent habit. Still have the french press. Have added an electric grinder. Now I buy whole beans (and keep those in the freezer).

A French press is probably the least expensive, least space-requiring, least complicated way to achieve what you want.

In my experience, once you run a couple coffee pods through a Keurig it'll never give you untainted hot water again. It'll always be just a bit coffee-y.
posted by phunniemee at 7:04 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, honestly, Keurig is fine for situations where you might need a cup or two then a few weeks with none, then a day where you need a bunch. It’s not going to replace your kettle but for getting caffeine into non-fussy guests and removing the guesswork of brewing, I think it’s pretty suitable. But a Mr. Coffee was good enough for our grandparents and still does the job.
posted by kapers at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

The advantage of the Keurig when entertaining is that if you have two people who want decaf and one person who prefers regular, you aren't making two separate pots of coffee for people. I think this is an advantage that is less obvious when you're fairly young and more so once you're older--my grandparents for years kept two separate coffee pots for exactly that reason, and the Keurig is what my mom chose for that reason. If I was entertaining--I hate Keurig coffee and I'd probably still get a low-end one or some other single-serving coffee maker.
posted by Sequence at 7:11 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing a French Press. The good way of doing a decent batch of coffee is a half cup of coffee grounds, 3 cups of boiling water, and steep for four minutes, followed by the plunge. Then just throw away (or if you can, compost) the grounds, and throw everything in the dishwasher if you have one.

(As someone who drinks coffee, if you offered me coffee, and then said Keurig, I'd probably decline.)
posted by General Malaise at 7:13 PM on November 30, 2017

Ask your friends what they think, or what they'd prefer - especially the more frequent coffee drinkers, then do that.

Aside from that, I do think the Keurig is a good fit for what you want. The pods stay fresh, so you can buy them and they won't go stale if you don't have company for a while. And if company pops in, you'll always have coffee. Another nice thing is you can get a sampler pack of pods for your guests - regular, decaf, hazelnut, and will always have on hand what your guests like. There is zero cleanup. I use mine for hot water for my oatmeal and I can't taste coffee in the water, but oatmeal is going to have a stronger taste than tea.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:14 PM on November 30, 2017

I'd get a variable temperature electric kettle and a pourover, french press, or aeropress for making coffee. I'd say in order of preference I'd put the aeropress with the inversion method on top just because it's the easiest to clean up. Just pop the puck and toss. Second would be the pourover and last would be the French Press just because it's messy and I always end up with evil coffee grounds in my garbage disposal despite all my best efforts to prevent such nonsense from occurring.

I have a Keurig, and I use it when I'm too lazy to make aeropress coffee two or three times a week, but it is an evil device that will destroy the planet at some point. If you do go with the Keurig, get the compostable pods made by WIDE AWAKE or San Francisco Bay Coffee.
posted by xyzzy at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get yourself an electric kettle and a jar of Moccona medium roast freeze-dried instant coffee. You'll end up with coffee at least as good as what comes out of a Keurig at vastly lower expense and with much easier cleanup.
posted by flabdablet at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Another point in favor of a Keurig machine or a similar system is that the individual coffee pods are packed with a nitrogen atmosphere to make them last longer.

For someone who constantly drinks coffee there's an environmental concern about the efficiency of the pods but I'd expect that the reverse is the case if you end up throwing away partially-used conventional containers of ground coffee or beans that have gone stale.
posted by XMLicious at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2017

Get a chemex and some filters. The chemex is basically a glass vessel. It's much nicer looking sitting there unused than a french press.

Coffee doesn't have a very long shelf life. If you want to keep coffee around that's any good you'll have to buy it often. I'd keep it in the freezer if you're only rarely going to use it.

I would suggest buying whole bean coffee and a grinder. I may be wrong, but I think whole bean coffee would have a longer shelf life.

Best options for getting coffee, in a general ranking (and this is highly dependent on where you live):

Local indie coffee place that roasts their own beans
Small local chain that roasts their own beans
One of the bigger "indie, still?" places like Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Intelligensia
Peets, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Starbucks
Dunkin Donuts
Supermarket Brands

And to put it gently Keurig sucks. It's like if you offered dinner guests Kool-Aide.
posted by tremspeed at 7:36 PM on November 30, 2017

I'd go for a Bialetti stove top espresso maker because drip, press and filter coffee gives some people the runs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:43 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can't address your guest's feelings, but if they are nice people they will not express displeasure with whatever provision you make. Having said that, all True Coffee Drinkers (closely related to True Scotsmen) know that Keurig is the fastest way to make bad coffee. Also, it takes up counter space that's better used a kettle. And $$$.

So, to agree with the rough consensus, variable-temp kettle and one (or more) single-cup filter holders. If you want to be a big spender, get a Clever Dripper (they're only $22 at Amazon). Just never put it in the dishwasher (the little seal dingus will harden and will leak forevermore). And don't forget some filters--they never go bad.

And, actually, many of your guests would probably be happy to pick up coffee on the way--that way they get something they like and they get to be a Big Spender too. Otherwise, a bag of ground coffee in the freezer in a plastic bag with the air squoze out will be pretty okay for a long time.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:44 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

By the way, you can make awesome hot chocolate on the stove with a pan. Boil milk in the pan and drop a nice chunk of decent chocolate in there, lower the heat and stir continuously until chocolate is melted. You'll have to play with ratios but I guarantee you this method will stomp over Keurig or other instant hot cocoas.
posted by tremspeed at 7:45 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have the space, I'm with kapers on this one. I'd get a Mr Coffee drip machine - $15-$20 at Target, one foolproof button. All your guests will know exactly how to use it. Paired with decent beans you won't have any complaints.
posted by pants tent at 7:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

People are making this way more complicated than it needs to be. You don't have to get fancy beans, based on your description whatever is on sale at the grocery store will be fine. Store it in a ziplock bag. Don't get whole beans, get it pre-ground.

You can get a cone and filters and make a pour-over, but I find is that fussy. The Aeropress is probably the least fussy thing that isn't a Keurig or a drip coffee maker. But honestly, if you can afford a Keurig just got a Keurig. It is the perfect device for the niche that you're trying to fill. It makes passable coffee and is incredibly easy. You can also buy a coffee maker that just makes drip coffee. I have one made by Cuisinart that I really like.
posted by sockermom at 7:54 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Moccona? Oh, it's Douwe Egberts in disguise.

You should get the kettle. Mount Hagen instant is not cheap but it's easy to find, cheaper than Starbucks Via, and doesn't give itself away like Nescafé does. The Wirecutter likes it too. Takes up no real space. Job done.
posted by holgate at 8:17 PM on November 30, 2017

Jeez there's a lot of fussy snobs here. I drink coffee every day and Keurig or Starbucks Via is absolutely fine. If you do make coffee in a Keurig, you're probably gonna want to flush it before you just make hot water for some other purpose. (Run it through a cycle without any pod in it.) My grocery store sells mix-and-match pods so just ask your guests what kind of coffee they like and pick up a few pods on your next trip. That way you don't have a box sitting in your cupboard forever.
posted by AFABulous at 8:19 PM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Another vote for your tea kettle + instant coffee (Starbucks Via or w/e). If your guests just want some decent coffee in the morning, it's fine. If they are expecting something gourmet you could get a french press, a grinder, and stash whole beans in the freezer, but it seems like overkill.

With the Keurig, there's also a reusable holder & filter you can buy and then put whatever single serving of coffee or tea you want into that... but now you've spent more for a larger, less-versatile electric kettle. So don't do that.
posted by curious nu at 8:19 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

The thing for me is—if it was really all that easy to have on-demand fabulous coffee on hand with minimal effort by someone with no idea how to make coffee, as the OP specifies, then... it seems like you would come across that sort of setup frequently in public places.

I stopped drinking coffee regularly more than a decade ago, and I do concede that many of the suggestions here would make a substantially better cup of coffee than a Keurig machine. But I've also, for various reasons, spent lots of time during the past decade in hospital waiting rooms—circumstances where coffee is usually available and one of the few occasions these days upon which I may end up drinking a cup. However I've never once said to myself, "I'm glad there was just a carafe full of coffee in a regular coffee maker here, rather than a single-serving coffee machine." Even when the coffee was lovingly made by a little old lady hospital volunteer attendant who is also drinking it herself.
posted by XMLicious at 8:22 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just get a little Mister Coffee or something like that and filters and a can of Folgers and half-and-half and sugar in case somebody wants the fixins and turn them loose to make their own. Or instant would be fine, too. I'd be grateful to have anything, really, that would keep me from having to run out to the stabbix at the crack of dawn to fend off a headache. I don't expect normal human people to cater to my insane localbean cloth filter pour-over ritual when I'm a guest in their house, and I doubt your guests will, either. Keurigs are kindof fun when you're on vacation, but they're bulky countertop monsters, and expensive. I would get a little thing you could easily stow til the next visit.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:28 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've only skimmed, so I'm not sure if you've been warned :

If you use a Keurig to make coffee, everything else you make with it will taste like stale coffee. This might be tolerable if you're making hot chocolate, but it will make godawful tea. If you'd only buy a Keurig if you could also use it for hot chocolate and tea, don't.

I don't think I'm a fussy snob. I'll drink Keurig and won't complain if it's what's available. But it does make pretty bad coffee in comparison to other options. I honestly prefer the taste of some instant coffee (like Starbucks Via) to Keurig, and in your shoes I'd get an electric kettle and stock up on a good instant brand. You can use the kettle and the packets don't take up counter space.

I do think French press and pour-over is probably too involved for what you want. It's not hard exactly, but it does take a few minutes, which can be a hassle if you're entertaining guests. Then there's the issue that coffee goes stale eventually, no matter how you store it (no, the freezer doesn't really help).

As a side note: If you do get a Keurig anyway, I've noticed that a lot of brands' "French Roast" tastes like ash. Or ass. There's something about the Keurig process that just doesn't mesh well with darker roasts. I'd recommend getting an unflavored medium roast as a kind of "middle ground" option. Or a variety pack, I guess, but there's always something in those that is terrible...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:33 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Keurig machines are expensive, the coffee tastes like burnt rubber, and the coffee pods are both expensive and wasteful. French press coffee requires good technique to make and the cleanup is annoying. An Aeropress is easier to clean up (I have one at my office for this reason) but also requires some technique and doesn't scale well for large groups.

Take it from a coffee snob who has 3 different coffee-production devices at home and makes a cup of pour-over from single-origin beans every morning: get a basic countertop coffee maker (Mister Coffee, Hamilton Beach, maybe Cuisinart if you're feeling fancy) and some Folgers or (again, if you're feeling fancy) some mid-price, pre-ground french roast coffee from the supermarket. Store the a latter in an air-tight container. This is my grandmother's setup and I will gladly drink her coffee when I visit because it is perfectly acceptable, hot, caffeinated coffee for drinking around the breakfast table.
posted by 4rtemis at 9:04 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Aeropress beats French press for ease-of-cleanup reasons. Some people might not know how to use it, so keep instructions (they are simple to follow).

Definitely get electric kettle plus something though, don’t get a dedicated coffee machine if you don’t use it much. That’s how you get ants. (Or it can be anyhow).
posted by nat at 9:25 PM on November 30, 2017

Here is another suggestion, go with a cold brew and then be able to have coffee concentrate in your fridge ready to go over ice or even mixed and heated. It is easy to make and you can go as cheap or expensive as you want.

But really, get a kettle. I too drink tea and chocolate and it is a pleasure to have one. Blow the dough and get the one that has multiple temp settings.
posted by jadepearl at 9:30 PM on November 30, 2017

I've a French press (mornings), a proper espresso machine (afternoons), and an Aeropress (when I need to make espresso quietly and have plenty of time to spare and clean up). I grind my beans at home and heat water with an electric kettle. The semiautomatic espresso machine is honestly the least hassle (it stores and grinds the beans and steams my milk), but it might be overkill for you since you don't name a budget. In my opinion, Bialetti stovetop coffee is gross and tastes like burnt boiled tar. Don't go that route.

The French press requires that you buy fresh coffee every time your friends visit, and you'd be throwing out leftover ground coffee. You'll need to purchase of an electric kettle it you don't already own one (unless you have a powerful stovetop and don't mind the added hassle of boiling water in a pot). Don't forget having to thoroughly clean and wash a multi-part device. Unless you run your dishwasher twice a day, you'd have to wash it by hand so it's ready for the next use as many people have coffee more than once a day.

A Keurig-type pod machine is what you want, although I'd go with a Nespresso--much, much better coffee.

And then there's always one of the four coffee shops within a three block radius (Seattle ♥️).

PS. Keurig for hot water? Fuhgeddaboudit.

posted by halogen at 9:33 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

We replaced our Keurig with a Ninja Coffee Bar and are very happy with it.
posted by kindall at 9:35 PM on November 30, 2017

If you decide to go with a French press, I strongly recommend that you spend $14 on a coffee grinder. This lets you buy whole beans and grind them freshly when you need them - takes less than a minute and massively improves the quality of the coffee over ground coffee that has been sitting around for weeks.
posted by metahawk at 9:40 PM on November 30, 2017

Keurig machines are terrible for the environment and I have to rally against them. There's no reason to create a piece of garbage for each individual cup of coffee.

I think people are over-complicating this. All you need is a simple automatic drop coffee machine. They are super cheap too. This is $15. You need to buy basket-shaped coffee filters and ground coffee. Put one heaping tablespoon of coffee into the filter per cup of water you poured in (which you can measure by the line on the machine). Close the lid and turn it on. You can get a nicer one, sure, but this is absolutely the easiest and fastest way to make coffee.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:17 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in sort of the same boat; I primarily drink tea and cocoa, and only coffee occasionally.

Honestly, if I were in your shoes? I'd invest in some quality instant coffee and a kettle. Starbucks makes good quality instant coffees (called VIA) in a variety of flavors, including decaf. They're easy to store, will take years to go bad (instead of weeks), and prevents you from having to deal with coffee equipment that can be temperamental. And it does, IMHO, make a decent cup of coffee. It's what I take with me when I travel.

Another suggestion - if you know that you're getting coffee drinkers for an X amount of time, and you have adequate notice? Make a cold brew concentrate. I've done this before with a couple of Tupperware containers and a strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain the grounds. There's plenty of recipes online for this. Just warn your guests that it's a concentrate, but then they can have it either hot or chilled. It takes about 12-24 hours to make, but the concentrate will last in the fridge for at least a week.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:23 PM on November 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you primarily drink tea get the electric kettle. It is the most versatile choice. If you want to have coffee available for others, that's very nice of you. Get a cheap Melitta cone for pour over. Standard store bought pre-ground coffee, or magic special beans. It is not the best coffee, but it is the beige of coffee - acceptable to anyone who drinks coffee. Requires no dedicated appliance. That's what I make at home. Because I'm basic.

Seriously. Put cone in holder, put coffee in cone, set cone on vessel, pour boiling water on coffee until there is no more water, just coffee.

Instant is not a substitute for real coffee. Don't do that. Unless you are known for your merry pranking and have real coffee in reserve. VIA is closest to adequate, if you are determined to avoid real beans.

Coffee drinkers have no sense of humor. Especially in the morning.

I've owned many coffee making devices and appliances. I own a vacuum pot. It looks like danger and makes the best coffee. I hate french press. A Moka/Bialletti is nice, but only if you want to deal with specialized equipment. An Aeropress would mean that you have to make the coffee for me because I would hurt myself with it again.

If you want a capsule machine, get a Nespresso.
posted by monopas at 10:25 PM on November 30, 2017

With a big enough container you can make coffee with a pour-over cone for a lot of people. We have a 12 cup thermal carafe that we pull out when we need to make a lot of coffee. We also have an old 1960s percolator when we need a lot of coffee. You could go major old school and get a stove-top percolator.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:41 PM on November 30, 2017

I must have extremely low expectations of my friends because if I'm staying with someone who doesn't drink coffee, even having instant and hot water (or a Mr. Coffee type setup) would strike me as quite thoughtful. I guess a Keurig would be fine, if just a more expensive/environmentally unfriendly way to do the job. Cold-brew coffee concentrate in prepackaged cartons/bottles has started appearing in supermarkets where I live - if this is also the case where you are, maybe you could just pick one or two up when you know you'll have coffee drinkers over. Even if you do end up having coffee nerds over, they're likely used to schlepping their aeropress around while travelling anyway, so just give them a heads up and have hot water on hand. Nthing that a kettle is a very useful appliance.
posted by btfreek at 11:07 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

As you can see, coffee is very important to people. So say we all.

I drink about a pot of black coffee from a counter top coffee maker about every morning, but sometimes I use my French press, sometimes I make filter coffee one mug at a time, sometimes I grab a cup of gas station coffee (I prefer the Valero gas station because it's the closest one to my house and they call their coffee "Javalero" which is dumb I find hilarious.) It depends on how much I want, or what I feel like drinking, or who knows what. I don't work in a shared office, so my Keurig experience is limited to waiting rooms with free coffee.

I love a really nice cup of coffee, but all of these are fine. Although the Keurig is probably my least favorite. There have been several/many previous Asks about the perfect cup of coffee and I love them all, but that doesn't really seem to be what you need. If I were at a non-coffee drinking friend's house and they offered me coffee that they kept on hand for just such an occasion, I would be delighted and grateful. Whatever was offered.

But you want want more flair than the bare minimum. This will largely depend on what you mean by "guests are coming to stay a lot and random friends are coming over semi-frequently."

If you have frequent visits of one guest at a time I would recommend just getting a plastic cone and some No.4 paper coffee filters. This will be the cheapest and simplest solution and takes up approximately zero space. I used to make pour over coffee like this for my mom every morning when I was seven years old. You can do this. I would probably also recommend this if you have frequent visits of 2 coffee drinkers, but might get a second cone if it became a thing. They also make larger cones.

A French press is nice for 2 or 3 people to have a bit of coffee, but some people find them messy or a pain to use. I would still probably go for that larger cone.

If you are having 3 or more people over to stay with you who will all be drinking coffee I would go for a counter top coffee maker. You can get an el cheapo or spring for something nice, depending on your budget and your audience.

If you are a tea drinker and not a coffee drinker I would treat yourself to an electric kettle. You can use it every day and it will quickly heat up water for pour over or a French press. I used to have a well loved little ceramic teapot for brewing loose leaf tea. I broke it and now I make loose leaf tea in my French press.

Buy a bag of ground coffee and keep it in the freezer. You can get something fine from the grocery store or a local coffee place. Ask your favorite coffee guest what they like and get some of that.

For quick hot cocoa, get packets of instant cocoa and use the electric kettle.

For nice hot cocoa, heat some milk in a pan and make some Ibarra. Wikipedia says to boil the milk and pour it into a blender with the chocolate, but we never did that in my family. We used a lower temperature and a child stirred it. You can just stir it with a wooden spoon but I love my molinillo.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:08 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am a lonely tea drinker in a sea of un-snobby coffee drinkers. I got a French press for the purpose you describe and it was a terrible disaster. You have to get a different grind of bean or something?? People who just want a cup of coffee don't want to have to learn a new and fiddly-seeming device just to get their fix, and it doesn't scale well at all. Pour-over was slightly less bad, but still a hassle, especially when doing coffee for more than one person at a time. Unfortunately Keurigs make awful tea and you can't get the coffee taste out of the hot water (people who are coffee drinkers will lie about this, I've found.) I don't know so much about the hot chocolate situation.

Anyway, my solution was to get a cheapo mr coffee at target when it was on sale and keep an airtight container of ground coffee in the back of the freezer. Everybody knows how to use it, it takes a second to set it up, I can keep it in the back of a cupboard or whatever when not in use and not worry about it at all, and it's not trying hard to be something it's not.

For tea, one of the best gifts I ever got was a fancy tea brewing machine made by Breville that heats my water to the exact temperature I need for different types of tea. But that is outrageously expensive and a simple $20 electric kettle will serve wonderfully, especially if you primarily drink teas that call for a full rolling boil like black teas and herbals like mint. It'll also be very handy for anything that calls for a little bit of hot water, like, say, hot cocoa (or mac and cheese or to thin out a sauce or soup without bringing the temperature down). To do hot cocoa with a kettle zap half a mug of milk in the microwave until warm. Mix your cocoa powder with sugar and spices to whatever ratio you like (I suggest cardamom, cinnamon and a teeny bit of salt) in a small measuring cup (or bowl with a pouring spout) and pour a bit of boiling water from the kettle on top. Mix that until the sugar and cocoa have melted together and you have a chocolate sauce. Pour more hot water in to thin it out and then mix that into your hot milk. Add more hot water to fill the mug - I find with 2% milk that I want cocoa that's about half water and half milk. The act of doing the milk + chocolate sauce + spices + boiling water thing will blow people's minds - watch as they watch you and next time request that instead of coffee. You can premix your cocoa blend and keep it in a tin so you only need to scoop it out by the spoonful and not do any measuring when company's over.
posted by Mizu at 11:27 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Typo in my previous comment. You just want an automatic drip coffee machine.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:14 AM on December 1, 2017

Unfortunately Keurigs make awful tea and you can't get the coffee taste out of the hot water (people who are coffee drinkers will lie about this, I've found.)

Oh, man, I'm a committed coffee drinker, and I'd never drink tea from a Keurig (or Tassimo or whatever) - it tastes like watery coffee. It's not a good all-rounder.

I don't mind Keurig coffee as a guest, but it doesn't sound like a great solution in your case - it is expensive and wasteful, so buying a cheaper solution and possibly having to throw out the ground coffee from your freezer occasionally would be better on both fronts. If your friends are coffee snobs, get a V60 or an aeropress, and if they're not, get a drip pot like a Mr. Coffee. High quality instant is good for infrequent visitors, but you've already mentioned that you get plenty of guests, so I think it would be a miss here.
posted by carbide at 1:27 AM on December 1, 2017

I'm sort of in your position in that I rarely drink coffee at home - my husband only drinks tea and so we default to that. I drink lattes occasionally during the week, and at home I use the Starbucks via packets. I find the coffee decent (waaaay better than Keurig). I don't have to use any special equipment besides the electric tea kettle we already have, I don't have to make an entire pot for a single cup and if guests are there too I can offer them their choice of roast, decaf vs not etc. To me it's a no-brainer except for the cost, but for the kind of occasional use you're talking about, that's fine - you're unlikely to use a dedicated coffee maker enough to recoup the cost.
posted by peacheater at 3:47 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please don't buy a keurig thing. They are an environmental catastrophe. Get some good coffee beans, and carefully wrap them up and put them in the freezer so they stay fresh. Then just have enough out for a cup or three of java. A hand powered burr grinder and a french press will have you making superb coffee in no time, and not have packs and packs of dried out pre-ground coffee sitting in your cupboards. When you know guests are coming, get more beans out of the freezer.
posted by 0bvious at 4:36 AM on December 1, 2017

For the love of God, whatever you do, please ignore the suggestions above to get instant. It is vile, and few things are more crushing than happily accepting an offer of coffee from someone and getting a mug of that in return. I am not a coffee snob; I'll happily drink coffee from a Keurig, Folgers from a drip maker when I visit my mom, whatever, but instant--it's something, but it isn't coffee.

(And there is no "really good instant." I have been served "really good instant," multiple times by people who didn't mention it was instant and I wondered why the coffee was undrinkably bad and later found out it was instant. It's just...it's a hot beverage with caffeine, but it doesn't taste like coffee.)

The packets are really not very good either, but what they make is drinkable, if you're desperate, unlike instant. If I had to use a packet, I would, but my first stop after leaving your house would be to go get a decent cup of coffee somewhere.

In your situation, I would go with a Mr. Coffee/another automatic drip maker or a plastic cone/filter (because a French press can be a bit of a messy hassle and a Keurig for all the reasons mentioned above), but mostly I just want to beg you not to serve instant coffee to your coffee-loving guests unless you secretly hate them.
posted by tiger tiger at 5:01 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am mostly a tea drinker, but occasional coffee drinker. I love that I have an electric kettle in my kitchen; I couldn't imagine life without it. I also love that my neighbor whom I cat sit for has a Keurig. It's just the easiest for guests, hands down. And it's not a huge environmental problem if you use it infrequently or if you get a reusable pod for it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:56 AM on December 1, 2017

Nespressos all seem to be on discount right now.
posted by BibiRose at 6:12 AM on December 1, 2017

Wifey and I do not drink coffee, but we have a little $10 4-cup coffee maker that we've owned for years which comes out only when coffee-drinking relatives are staying with us. We buy some filters and a little pack of ground coffee before the guest arrive, based on their pre-learned flavor preference. They make their own coffee while visiting, and we clean the coffeemaker really good before it goes back in storage. I don't think it needs to be complicated like a french press or chemex or whatever, most people are appreciative of Mr. Coffee style coffeemaker coffee versus not having coffee at all or having to go to the coffeeshop every morning.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:17 AM on December 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

Agreeing with Mizu that a French Press is not a good solution for a guest not familiar with the how-to. My wife and I have used a filter cone, and also bought a 2-cup Mr. Coffee ($17) for my daughter to keep in her closet for when we visit.

You can't be expected to cater to the whims of every coffee snob that happens by.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:25 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

+1 get the electric kettle and some decent instant coffee (Starbucks Via or similar). The kettle will be useful to you, unlike anything else you could buy.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:31 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, for God's sake don't get a dag Chemex. They're beautiful and I love mine, but it's enormous and would be a gigantic pain in the ass to store. That's no problem for me because I like looking at it. But you're not a coffee-drinker! You probably don't want to put a Chemex on your mantle. Plus they're glass and they therefore break, which for a Chemex worshiper is a tragedy. For you it would just be supremely annoying. French presses make muddy coffee that gets cold in two seconds, and if you mess up and try to plunger too soon, you can shoot a geyser of gritty boilinghot black coffeesludge all over yourself. They also break easily, and cleaning the fiddly little filters sucks. I hate them with a passionate fury. Aeropresses make good coffee, supposedly, but I am too stupid to master them. It's unlikely that your guests are as stupid as I am, but it's possible, so I'd err on the safe side. (On the other hand, they are tiny, so storage wouldn't be a problem.) Get a Mr. Coffee for $10. I amend my Folgers advice: you should get a tiny bag of snobcoffee and if they don't use it up, send it on with them. Don't give up freezer space to coffee--you don't drink coffee!
posted by Don Pepino at 6:41 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are tons of good suggestions on here. Really, if you're purchasing gear, you should be just fine getting whatever you're comfortable with and whatever compliments your tea-infrastructure. If you're looking at getting a nice electric kettle, there's likely not going to be a huge difference to get one that works for coffee and tea. If kettle can pull double duty, getting something as simple as a Melitta or a v60, or the aforementioned Clever will likely be the most minimally intensive gear purchases you'll need to make. My direct suggestion for you, would be to go with a Clever. They're fairly foolproof and make a good cup of coffee, with minimal amounts of skill. It is the least fussy of the small footprint brewers, and finding filters for it is pretty damn easy (they take Melitta filters, which can be found at most grocery stores).

Ack. Pod machines aren't cheap, the pods themselves clock in at nearly $25+/lb of coffee, brew coffee poorly, and are an environmental trainwreck. Here's a (slightly dated) great breakdown of how expensive those things are. This is the only option I would avoid. If you're going to spend $25/lb on coffee, you can buy some goddamn awesome coffee for your guests and blow their goddamn socks off.

If you'd rather not clutter your house up with gear, there are a fleet of new, quality minded companies that have been birthed out of the specialty coffee industry really recently with their primary goal being 'good instant' coffee. I'm a coffee roaster by trade, and I have had instant coffee from all three of the above companies, and I'll say while they're not The Perfect Cup, they're good, and I personally have a stash of Sudden coffee for traveling. These have routinely been better even than good coffee, frozen and brewed poorly. They are also not really that cheap; if your situation favors budget over quality, I would not go this route.

As for what coffees to carry that are crowd pleasers I would stick to Latin American coffees. These have a tendency to be chocolately, mellow, inoffensive and non-polarizing. Go with the classics: Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador. Key terms I would avoid: Natural Process coffees (These have a tendency to be overly fruity and kind of polarizing); Pulp-Natural, Honey or Miel process coffees (Same sort of vibe. Slightly more fruit flavors and acidity).
posted by furnace.heart at 6:45 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a daily coffee drinker, and pour over cone coffee is better than Keurig, and requires much less washing of things than a regular coffee maker or french press or aeropress. (Also a lot of people are obsessed with aeropress, but every time one of them makes me a cup it is full of grit.)

Buy some ground free trade coffee, keep it in your freezer, and spend your real money on a lovely kettle that you will get to make every day. The cone (I have a Melitta) will take up a tiny bit of space and more than meet your needs.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:00 AM on December 1, 2017

I think the issue here is you asked a bunch of coffee snobs what to get nonsnobs.

There is skill to french press. It exposes the skill of the brewer and the size of the grind and the quality of the beans. It goes muddy in one second. You need to decant immediately or it goes cold and odd (more gear to buy.) Are people really recommending a noncoffee person grind and brew french press on the fly? It took me months to find the right roast and grind for the press and it still sucks half the time.

An automatic drip machine takes no skill. It's what you get at a restaurant or diner and you love it. It's what I drink at my parents' for the holidays. It tastes fine. It tastes like fuckin Christmas morning. Who are you people.
posted by kapers at 7:11 AM on December 1, 2017 [25 favorites]

I'd classify myself as an opportunistic coffee snob; if hipster artisinal coffee is available to me it will always be my first choice, but I'm also happy enough to drink a cup of McDonald's coffee if that's all that's around. That being said... Keurig coffee is pretty awful. I would feel bad if a friend bought a machine to have on hand just for me because it's a really thoughtful and generous gesture, but given a choice between Keurig and no coffee at all, I'll usually opt for no coffee.
An automatic drip machine takes no skill. It's what you get at a restaurant or diner and you love it. It's what I drink at my parents' for the holidays. It tastes fine.
Drip coffee is great! I'm drinking some right now. But the problem with any fresh-brewing scenario is that unless you have the turnover of a restaurant or houseful of people drinking coffee regularly, the beans/grounds are going to go stale really fast, and that makes for terrible bitter coffee no matter how you brew it.

I'm with everyone suggesting that you just get the electric kettle and a supply of Starbucks Via. Anyone who came of age with Sanka and Folger's Crystals will be understandably skeptical of instant coffee, but Via is really very good - definitely better than Keurig! They make regular and decaf. Best of all, you don't have to spend a bunch of money, devote a bunch of counter space, or fuss with brewing apparatus, filters, etc... you just heat up some water and pour it into a mug.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 7:32 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

The smaller vacuum sealed packets of ground coffee (not the big bags) have never gone stale on me. If you buy the big bags they might go off before you use them up. But ground coffee comes in smaller size packets and if you use them before the expiry date, they will taste fresh and good.
posted by kapers at 7:37 AM on December 1, 2017

It tastes fine. It tastes like fuckin Christmas morning.
Yes, exactly! Exactly. I go to my aunt's and drink drip coffee for a week and it's FINE, it makes it fun to come home and drink hot strong good coffee. Keurig coffee is better than no coffee. Instant coffee is better than no coffee. Gas station coffee is better than no coffee. Any coffee is better than no coffee.

Coffee is better than no coffee; therefore anything you do for these people they will appreciate.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:38 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thank you all, reading through these has definitely been an interesting way to start the morning :)

I think for now I'm going with kettle and having some starbucks via on hand. I might up to a small drip machine if I have someone staying with me for a longer period of time. My friends are definitely more the "whatever" type of coffee drinkers (but just try not having name brand, non-diet Dr. Pepper in the house and watch out).
posted by magnetsphere at 7:48 AM on December 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

My friends are definitely more the "whatever" type of coffee drinkers

Then the answer should be something that works for you. Your solution sounds great to me. I am someone who likes coffee and can recognize good coffee but does not care whether what I am drinking is "good" or not most of the time. I host people a lot. Even my coffee snob friends don't expect me to have snobby coffee for their particular use if I haven't invited them for a special meal sort of event. Other observations...

- If they're espresso and not coffee drinkers, you can get decent cheap espresso machines which can steam milk and do fun things. This presumes you have places to store things. If you have no space to store things, ignore this. I also like those aluminum stovetop thingies for this purpose.
- I use an AeroPress at home right now but would not offer it as a solution for someone who just wanted a cup of coffee unless you know this is their thing, but it would delight someone if it was their thing. I like mine.
- French presses to me are the great line between ease and actually good coffee, plus you can get ones that make a cup or two, get the measurements set once and then you're good. Small drip machines, likewise great and are the go-to in AirBnB situations because most people can manage them.
- Keurigs are fine. No, hear me out. You can get good coffee to put in reuseable pods which addresses both the waste issue and (mostly) the taste issue. They go easy on electricity. Sometimes people like being able to choose from a variety of flavors and styles. You would know if your friends are this type but it's the easiest way to make four different types of coffee for four different people quickly.
- I have a Chemex and never use it, I'm sure it works for people who love it, for me it's big and slightly fiddly.
- There is no reason to buy a coffee grinder unless you're really looking for "coffee hookup" level of attention. Get good ground coffee, keep it in an airtight container and don't let it get too old.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I drink lots of coffee, but also tea sometimes, and I have guests pretty regularly. My setup consists of an electric kettle, a pourover cone that I set on top of a thermos carafe for coffee, a tea pot for loose teas, and then just tea bags. I don't really drink powdered hot chocolate, but that's perfectly doable too, of course.

I have a pretty small kitchen, so counter space is precious, and even as a coffee drinker, I don't need a whole separate setup just for coffee.

The water kettle is just hot water that can be used for anything and doesn't come in contact with anything else (so no leftover taste). It also gets the water hotter than most electric coffeemakers, which is good.

You can get a pour over cone for $5 and up (this one is $11, and is similar to mine), and then just get the right sized filters for that and keep some pre-ground coffee in the freezer or just buy a small bag before guests come.

I used to have a Chemex, but 1) it's a bit of a PITA because you have to order special filters for it, and 2) I groggily picked mine up one morning and hit it on the underside of the counter, smashing it to bits.

If I were visiting someone who only had instant coffee, I'd be polite about it and it would be OK, but I'd also be figuring out how to sneak out and get some real coffee ASAP. I can deal with suboptimal brewed coffee and all, but not instant. It's just not the same. I wish it were, but it isn't.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

There is also the option, if your friends are in it for the caffeine more than the specific coffee drink, of buying cold brew coffee concentrate (available at almost any grocery store or trader joe's) and diluting that with water or milk. It can be drunk cold or heated, and it's a very different style of coffee than drip or something, but it's delicious. And it's just as convenient as buying a bottle of juice - no special equipment or process.
posted by mosst at 9:32 AM on December 1, 2017

Or bottled coffee beverages exist - I'm partial to these canned illy espresso drinks myself.
posted by mosst at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2017

Anecdata1: My brother is a barista (going on almost 10 years now). According to him, outside of the hand-pulled shot, brewing coffee via the pour-over method (ala chemex) produces the best coffee.

Anecdata2: My parents are life-long coffee drinkers. The best coffee they've ever had, outside of the above (which my brother has served them) was made via a percolator like the Bialetti mentioned above.
posted by koucha at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2017

The value of Keurig is being able to make a single cup of coffee. (We use reusable pods and grind our own; the result is ok but not great - you can't adjust the strength of the coffee much.) If you often want to make 2-5 cups at a time, get something else - a drip machine, a French press, whatever; the nuisance of each person having to wait for their cup, combined with the other drawbacks (expense, never great coffee), make them less than optimal.

K-cups also have mediocre hot chocolate and mediocre tea-based beverages; I can enjoy their chai latte thing, but it's not a substitute for real tea.

French press is easy to learn, easy to adjust amounts or strength of coffee; it's a nuisance to clean. I'm one of the rare few who doesn't like the pour-over method; the resulting coffee is always cooler than I prefer. (The flavor is good, though. I just like coffee hotter than that.) Cold brew - either made yourself, or purchased - is also an option.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2017

Came in to say Nespresso pods, which make a good espresso or long black and the little machines are perfect for what you want. But perhaps this is a European thing?
posted by katrielalex at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2017

I put a vote in for Nespresso as well. It makes good espresso-ish shots and the pods are recyclable (they're made out of aluminum). We have one at work. The company provides us with a pre-paid plastic bag mailer. We put used pods in there and send it back when it's full.
posted by moxiequz at 2:33 PM on December 1, 2017

Elite brand instant coffee from Israel, in the red container, is definitely worth a try.
posted by 8603 at 4:12 PM on December 1, 2017

I am not a coffee snob but I want to discourage you from relying on instant coffee packets like Via as the solution. They really are gross.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a 5 cup Blask and Decker cheapo drip coffee maker. 5 cups is really like 2 mugs. I make a mug a day, pour a mug of water in, grind some beans, use the mug instead of the carafe, easy peasy (and the mug is warmed). When I go home for the holidays, I drink instant just like everybody else. There's some strange mexican version of Nescafe that's slightly more enjoyable than you would expect, like european chocolate or mexican coke before that was a thing.

With a bit of practice, there's cowboy coffee. Smash/grind/whatver beans, dump in a pot of hot water, wait, add some cold water to make the grains settle, pour off coffee. I have smashed beans in a ziplock bag and made cowboy coffee.

Any of these is better than Keurig crap.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:31 PM on December 2, 2017

One important thing to note about "cowboy coffee" and other unfiltered preparations like Turkish coffee is that repeated consumption of them can elevate cholesterol levels.
posted by XMLicious at 4:50 PM on December 2, 2017

A Moka pot as recommended above, a brick of Bustelo and some sort of airtight container you can pop in the freezer between guests is by far the cheapest reasonably convenient and quick method of having non-instant coffee on hand for guests. No disposable filters, just reasonably cheap but reasonably good coffee purchased every 6 months to a year or so for $4 and a $10 piece of aluminum that will last you 20 years.
posted by wierdo at 9:10 PM on December 2, 2017

Instant coffee isn't good. If that's what you're leaning toward, I would buy individual bottles or cans of cold brew and just keep those on hand. Stumptown, if you can find it, is the best.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:23 PM on December 3, 2017

Instant coffee is available on a spectrum from battery acid (Nescafe) to at least as good as a Keurig pod (Moccona).

Many people with pretensions to appreciating good coffee apparently have taste buds that are quite easily duped. I've had visiting coffee snobs ask me what that nice grind I just served was, when it was just Moccona.

Admittedly it does make better milky coffee than black.
posted by flabdablet at 12:15 AM on December 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

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