How To Make a Great Cup of Coffee For About a Quarter

How To Make An Amazing Cup of Coffee For About 26 Cents

Coffee tech has improved dramatically in the last decade or so, but this coffee brewing method is one of the few things I still prefer doing the “old” way.  I think it tastes as good or better than coffee I pay $2-4 for at coffee shops, and it’s a better deal than pod-based coffee that costs around 50 cents a cup minimum.    It’s going to take you about 4 minutes per cup–which I grant is a big time commitment these days–to create, but I think it’s worth it.  Here’s how it works:

Microwave a cup of water until it’s just boiling.  At our house this is 2½ minutes for a 10 ounce mug.

Take the mug out of the microwave and let it cool a few seconds while you get your cone filter ready.  You want the water to be just below the boiling point, but not still boiling, as this would burn the coffee.

Put your cone filter (you can buy plastic single cup cone filters for as little as $3, or if you want something nicer you can spend $7 on a ceramic version) on top of your preferred mug.  I always use a travel cup as I usually take my coffee out the door with me in the morning.


Put a paper filter in the plastic/ceramic cone filter, then add 2 level tbsp. (regular grind or a little finer) coffee per 6 oz of water.   (I poured a measuring cup into my favorite mug to figure out how many ounces it held).  I only had to actually measure the coffee out once or twice; after that you can just eyeball it.

Pour a little bit of the boiling water (about 2 ounces; just enough to wet all of the grounds) in the filter, and wait about 10-15 seconds for the grounds to expand.   Then pour the rest of the water over the grounds in 2 or 3 stages (every 30 seconds or so) trying to keep as much water going through the grounds as possible .

Then just add any desired cream/sugar/half and half/whatever, and enjoy!  I typically use half and half–I just put it in the bottom of my travel mug first, so I don’t have to stir it; the coffee does this for me as it brews.

The quality of coffee you use is hugely important.   Costco’s Starbucks roast ended up being the best tasting bean for the money in my mind (at about $6/pound instead of $14/pound for some other comparable products).  You also want to use fresh coffee–it does get stale so you’re better off storing it in an airtight container, and keeping it away from moisture.

If you’re really serious, use whole bean coffee and grind only as much as you need, and not until you are actually boiling the water for the coffee.   This will give you the freshest coffee possible.   If you’re even more serious than that, use a conical burr grinder.  We bought ours years ago for about $90 and it’s worked great since.   This specific type of grinder is more expensive, but it’ll give a uniform coffee blend.   This is important because cheaper grinders can give you various assorted sizes of grounds.   Too fine=bitter.  Too large=weak.    (Note:  The cost of the better grinder is not factored into my $0.26 a cup estimate, but we still think it has paid for itself over time.)

I wandered into a local coffee shop a couple of years ago and saw “Homemade Coffee” advertised for sale.  It was being made the exact same way (with a nicer ceramic filter for presentation) I just described.     They were charging $4 cup.  You can have the same experience for about $0.26 (this factors in the price of the coffee and paper filters but not the upfront of any grinder and plastic/ceramic filter you buy)  if you’re willing to take a few minutes to make a great cup of coffee.

2 comments on “How To Make a Great Cup of Coffee For About a Quarter

  1. I remember recording at the One Car Gararage Studio many years ago and you making me a cup of coffee with intentional bits of unground coffee in it—coffee buzz!

    Thanks for sharing your blog 🙂

  2. We use a similar method for single cups with a contraption called an aeropress. It uses a little circle filter. One difference is that after pouring the 192° water into the tube with the grounds, you stir and put the plunger on top but wait to push for 4 minutes while the coffee brews to max flavor. I’ve found a whole bean at Aldi that I like that’s $3.99 / lb! Hard to beat for that quality level, and it rivals what I just brought home fresh from Guatemala!

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