Tips For Coffee Connoisseurs on a Budget

A cup of coffee is a morning ritual for many people. For those who don’t mind microwaving yesterday’s coffee, this article is not for you! If you, Frugalite, are a coffee-fancier and would like some tips for how to stretch your coffee dollar, read on.

Many years ago, I worked for a major coffee retailer. My magical memory of that experience was going to 40 hours of “coffee school,” including coffee tastings. Since then, a good cup of coffee has a special place in my heart, and I enjoy trying new coffees from around the world.

Here are my best thrifty tips on blending, preparing, maintaining equipment, and attending to your coffee.

My Solution is to Create My Own Thrifty Blend

In my local area, we have a coffee roaster in a nearby village. I would love to support them exclusively. However, the price of about CA$15 ($12.05US) per pound of coffee beans is a bit too steep for me right now. Like many Frugalites, I am careful with my grocery budget. 

I usually buy a pound or two of my ideal, high-quality bean, often organic. My preference is to buy coffee that takes care of the local ecosystem of these faraway places and invests in the workers who help produce this tasty bean. 

To balance the high-quality blend with a thrifty bean, I buy a pound or two of the grocery store brand, medium-roast arabica bean. I find a 50-50 blend retains a surprising amount of the unique flavors in the high-end coffee. One reason for this is that a medium roast basic arabica bean won’t have any disproportionate influence on the blend but rather play a supporting role. 

Create an Even Thriftier Blend

More recently, I made this approach even more thrifty. I found a two-pound bag of high-quality organic coffee for a fantastic price at a chain grocery store. About CA$18. ($14.46US) It is a bit darker roast than I usually buy, but the price is right!

I combine this coffee with my medium roast arabica beans, which cost CA$13 for two pounds. ($10.44US) Each pound of my blend coffee averages around CA$7.75.($6.23US) Approximately half the price of the local roastery coffee, yet the taste is high-quality. 

If you prefer flavored coffee and want to have a try at making your own syrups that are healthier for you, check out this great article on The Organic Prepper.

Preparing Your Thrifty Coffee

Preparing a great cup of coffee at home doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! I grind my coffee beans fresh every morning with my hand grinder purchased in a local thrift shop. Since I began grinding my beans fresh for every cup, I would never go back. It really is that good!

The method I choose for brewing is a French Press. Because the grinds sit in hot water, there is more opportunity for the flavor to come out. When I started using a French Press, it was not very common. Every time I go to my local thrift store, I see many on the shelf, just waiting for a Frugalite like you to pick them up.

For an excellent review of the main coffee brewing methods and their pros and cons, click here.

How Much is Enough for a Great Cup of Thrifty Coffee?

When preparing a great cup of coffee, one issue that comes up is how much to grind and brew. There is a classic ratio on most bags of good coffee that goes like this: two tablespoons of ground coffee to six ounces of water. Trying to save money by drastically cutting down on the amount of ground coffee will lead to under-extracted coffee that does not reach its potential.

That is sad!

I like a strong cup of coffee and stick pretty closely to this ratio. However, there is a bit of wiggle room if you like weaker coffee. Much will depend on your taste and the brewing method you use.

Big Savings Ahead: If you are not a brewed coffee person and prefer a latte, you can try making your own pumpkin spice latte at home, too. If you don’t like pumpkin pie, you can also use this idea as a model for spiced lattes you would like.

Maintaining Equipment

While it may not be glamorous, the careful maintenance of your coffee grinding and brewing equipment is key to your good cup of coffee. The oils in coffee build up on your equipment, and they can go rancid, ruining the taste of your coffee. However, with a bit of dish soap, baking soda, and elbow grease, you can make sure you are getting the best taste out of every cup.

Not sure on how to proceed with your drip coffee maker or French press? Here are some tips for cleaning these types of coffee makers. Maintaining your equipment is a low to no-cost way to get a great cup of coffee every time.

Attending to Your Thrifty Coffee and Yourself

Recently, I needed to reduce my grocery bill. Therefore, I decided to drink less coffee and pay MORE attention to it. Please, let me explain!

My favorite coffee mug holds about 10 ounces of coffee, so about a cup and a quarter. Every morning, I was drinking close to two of these mugs. However, I noticed I wasn’t enjoying my coffee as much as I could. I would drink my coffee, do many other things on the computer, look at my phone (pre-flip phone days!), and read the local newspaper. 

Every morning, I drink ONE mug of coffee, savor it, and taste it. Now, every morning, instead of five scoops of coffee beans, I only grind three scoops. While I drink my coffee, I only drink my coffee while I sit in my favorite chair and look out over the small pond and forest across the way. I enjoy my coffee and this quiet “pause” from the busyness that I have gifted myself. The result? I enjoy my morning cup of coffee a hundred times more. (Yes, I’m also saving money, which is quite Frugalite of me.) 

Your Daily Grind

After reading this, I hope you might reflect on how you drink your coffee and how much you enjoy it. After all, if what you need is a hot beverage in your hand and you don’t really taste it, many drinks would be less expensive and easier than brewing coffee. I have a cousin who likes to drink hot water. Yes, hot water. That’s it. She loves it. Frugal! Unlimited! 

How much coffee do you drink, and how much do you enjoy it? Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.

Tips For Coffee Connoisseurs on a Budget
Colette

Colette

Colette is a seventh-generation farmer and homesteader. She grew up in the suburbs of a large Canadian city, but spent summers in her childhood visiting her family farm. She has worked professionally as a researcher and writer for decades, all the while travelling the world. She always knew she would return to the area near her family farm in Eastern Ontario, Canada and is now happily living not far from there on her Half-Acre Homestead. Soon, she will be launching a website full of tips for Frugalites and homesteaders alike. If you subscribe to the Frugalite email list, keep an eye on your inbox to be one of the first to see it!

10 thoughts on “Tips For Coffee Connoisseurs on a Budget”

  1. Hi, I grew up drinking coffee in Brazil! The secret of a good tasting strong coffe comes from grinding it into a very fine powder. Of course, this is called “expresso”, but from this comes all kind of different personal preferences. A too strong cup can be minimized with a little more water. You also use less coffee. Also, the best way to brew it is with a cone filter—we used a cone made of linen and poured boiling water into it for a “one-pass”. This manner of making coffee is almost duplicated with a drip coffee maker, as long as the filter is a cone. The flat filters invite more coffee to be used for no reason except to make you buy more coffee. If you really look at the store-bought package coffee, the grind is very coarse, again making you use more.

    1. How wonderful! Brazilian coffee is famous for a reason. Does anyone in Brazil put dulche de leche in their coffee, I wonder? I love that your cone was made of linen and reusable. Thank you for your tips and brewing information.

  2. Hi Collette,
    We roast our own coffee in a cheap thrift store popcorn popper. We are fortunate to be able to buy green beans from a local fair trade organization. The cost is about a quarter of the cost of the roasted beans they sell and about a third of the price I can get for high quality organic roasted beans if I shop the sales. I’ve had to replace the popcorn popper a few times because they eventually burn out.
    Look for an air popper that is at least 1200 watts. You may need to cover the vents with tape to restrict the air flow and increase the heat. If it’s not hot enough your beans won’t get to dark or even medium. A single batch is around 3/4 c of green beans (you may need to experiment with this as if varies with the machines) and we roast about 3 batches once a week for the two of us.
    My favourite part is that I can buy organic fair trade coffee exclusively and still come out ahead on my coffee budget. The fresh roasted coffee is delicious too.

    1. Claire, I’m rendered speechless! Roasting your own fair trade beans in a thrift store popcorn popper! I’m giving you the official Frugalite curtsy right now. Somehow, I just have to try this. I’m imagining the smell of the roasting coffee would be amazing, too. How satisfying, and great for your coffee budget. I shall tip my mug to you tomorrow morning. Good for you!

    1. Hi Redbranch, Totally cool that you cold brew your coffee overnight in the fridge (pun intended). I would love to try this. Would you be able to share the method? I am clueless! I am going to check out the article you recommend about campfire coffee. I am sure I can get some green beans from our local roastery if I beg. I don’t want to miss a chance to experience this: it sounds interesting AND tasty!

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