I tried them all so you don’t have to
I love really good coffee. When I talk about improving quality of life, to me it is as much about little things like coffee as it is big things like career choice. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk with the sun peeking through the windows. My son is playing happily with his toys and I’ve got a bangin’ cup of coffee. I can honestly say that if I was drinking some weak instant shit, it would take the sparkle off the morning just a little bit!
The problem is that I mainly write about personal finance. How many times have you heard about all the wonderful things you could do with your life for ‘just the cost of a cup of coffee a day’. I can’t very well be forking out my hard earned to Sven, the top knotted legend at my local coffee place, every day. It just wouldn’t feel….sensible!
So I’m on the home brew. My wife doesn’t like coffee. I’ve tried to get her hooked. Suggested she start with a hot chocolate/coffee hybrid of deliciousness. Added 6 sugars and lots of milk. I even baked her a chocolate cake with the world’s smallest amount of espresso powder in it. She noticed. For someone like her, the sheer cost and complexity of a high quality coffee maker is pretty mind boggling. To be honest, I don’t really want something the size and cost of an Italian moped on my kitchen counter either.
So began my quest for the perfect, cheap cup of home coffee.
I hate it when people act too snobby about things like wine and coffee. No, I can’t smell the violets or taste the salted caramel cookie dough. It’s a glass of red wine. It smells like red wine. I can’t tell my Columbian from my Ethiopian. I just know that I like strong, black coffee.
Unfortunately, instant coffee is just a different drink. It’s like comparing your red wine to grape cordial. Technically they are both made from grapes, but really? So instant coffee was out.
The French Press
My first port of call was the French Press. This is the go to for many. It’s cheap, pretty easy to use and you can get lots of different sizes. I tried it for a while. The first few sips weren’t bad. Strong, tart, you can definitely get the flavour of the coffee beans coming though.
Things went downhill pretty rapidly. The second half of a French Press cup feels like swimming through the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Gritty, sludgy coffee grounds fill the bottom of the cup, catching you unawares and getting stuck under your tongue and between your teeth. It’s an absolutely horrible experience. It’s like being woken up from a lovely dream by being slapped in the face with a wet fish.
I tried to take personal responsibility for the situation. I thought it might be my technique, so I persevered. I went slow. I went fast. I used less coffee. I used more coffee. I let it settle. I pressed right away. Nothing works. Maybe you have mastered this contraption, but I couldn’t. On to the next.
My next option was an automatic drip machine. This had promise. You use a filter so the chance of a repeat of the gritty nightmare was slim. Automatic process so no room for the user error/technique question. I gave it a go the first morning, and it was ok.
It was ok. The gift of the automatic machine is also its curse. You either like what it does or you don’t. I like my coffee strong. Even cranked up to maximum strength setting, and putting more coffee in, the stuff from this guy was just a bit weak.
It didn’t help that I left a little bit of coffee in the pot a couple of times and forgot about it. You would be surprised how quickly mould grows on leftover coffee. Pretty gross. It is also a bit of a faff to clean. You’ve got to clean the jug, the filter bit and your cup.
All in all, not a bad option if you’re not too fussy, but I felt like I could do better.
We had to get here didn’t we. This is coffee for the 21st century. I’ve used these plenty of times before, and had a lot of nice coffees from a little silver pod. I even got gifted a machine for Christmas one year. The cups that come out of these bad boys are pretty damn good. There’s no denying it.
The first problem with the pod machines is that this is guide is for the cheapskates. The pod machines aren’t cheap and the cost per cup for the pods themselves is way higher than ground coffee as well. It creates waste, isn’t good for the environment, takes up more space at home and the proper brand pods usually aren’t sold in your regular supermarket.
This is a good option for most people, but it still didn’t feel quite right.
Oh yes. My search is over. I came across this by chance on an Instagram ad (yeh, that targeting shit definitely works). It was a coffee brand that was offering a free Hario V60 with a bag of coffee. I needed some more coffee anyway so I ordered a bag, mainly for the free V60.
If you’ve not seen one of these before, its like an inverted cone with a flared base on the bottom. It has ridges along the inside and it sits on top of your coffee cup. You pop a filter in the top, drop in your coffee grounds and then slowly pour hot water in. It’s single cup drip coffee.
It is damn good. There is a bit of a knack to it. You’ve got to take it slow so you don’t bust a hole in the coffee filter and end up with an Exxon Valdez/French Press situation. I kind of like this. I have to pause for a few minutes at the kitchen counter every morning. Looking out the window, taking a breath, literally waking up and smelling the coffee.
You can make it as strong or as weak as you like. It’s small and light so you can take it with you if you’re going away. Going camping? No problems. It goes in the dishwasher. It’s environmentally friendly, your only waste is the coffee grounds and the paper filter. It’s cheap!
So there you have it. I’ve tried pretty much every coffee solution under the sun to find the perfect, cheap cup to start my morning. If you’ve not tried the Hario V60 and pour over coffee before, do yourself a favour!