Channel Your Cheap Barista: Frugal Tips for Fancy Coffee

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and What to Eat When You’re Broke

It’s no secret that the Frugalite team loves our coffee. We’ve had tons of articles that mention it, from Colette’s special mug to my recipes for fancy creamers. The nice thing about a cup of Joe is that you don’t have to break the bank to feel like a million bucks. I’ve made a few investments that I use every single day to serve up a cup of sweet, frothy delight in the form of a fancy coffee.

You’ve heard of the TV show, Pimp My Ride?

Well, here’s how I Pimp My Coffee.

Pick your favorite plain coffee

I personally LOATHE flavored coffee. It always has an artificial tinge to it that I just can’t handle. So, to me, the perfect cup of coffee – even if it’s going to be flavored before it hits the palate – starts with a good-tasting plain coffee. Obviously, coffee preferences are highly personal – I’m sharing the ones I like.

I used to drink only blonde roast coffee, and Amazon’s Just Bright was my favorite. It is a fraction of the price of the blonde roast from Starbucks. But my last trip to Europe seems to have changed my preferences, and I’ve switched to Happy Belly Columbian Roast. The French Roast is also good if you like it darker. These are (in my opinion) tastier than Grandpa-standbys like Folgers but less expensive than the designer coffees.

For the freshest taste, it’s best to grind your own beans. However, I don’t currently have a grinder, so I have my ground coffee deliveries set up on Subscribe & Save, and it is brought to my door by Amazon every three weeks.

Get a frother/steamer.

The best coffee investment I’ve made in ages is a milk frother. This rather frivolous little piece of equipment allows me to add my cream at the perfect, piping-hot temperature with a thick layer of foam just like you’d get from your favorite coffee house. The price has gone up since I purchased mine for $20, but I own this one and use it every single day. If it’s just the froth you’re after and you don’t care about the temperature, you can grab one of these little whisks to froth your milk with for less than $10.

I’ve used my frother/steamer for half and half, cream, milk, and oat milk, and had great results with all of them.

Sweet, sweet flavor

Now, as I mentioned, I don’t like flavored coffee. But sometimes, I still want a sweet treat in the form of fancy coffee. Instead of going to the refrigerator section of my local grocery store and spending a fortune for artificially flavored creamers with questionable ingredients, I make my own creamers. I have recipes for every flavor of creamer you can imagine in this article.

But what if you only want flavor occasionally? That’s where syrups come in. Just ask the baristas at your favorite fancy coffee bar. You can easily make your own syrups.

You need to make a syrup base with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, then add 1-2 tsp of any kind of extract you want – you are only limited by the extracts available to you: vanilla, rum, coconut, cherry, almond, etc.  Look for pure extracts without artificial ingredients. I store these in the refrigerator, where they last a very, very long time.

If you want to go a little bit further afield with flavors, you can also buy syrups readymade and you can even get pump inserts for them to channel your inner barista. The very best prices I’ve found for syrups are at places like TJ Maxx, where you can get a bottle of Irish Cream flavor or Salted Caramel flavor for about $7. If you aren’t near a store like this, you can also order from Amazon. I like this little 5-pack for variety or if you know what you want and it’s just one flavor, all the time, always, you can order a larger bottle of that.

Create a coffee bar to make your fancy coffee.

Coffee bars are all the rage these days, but I have had some kind of fun set up for years. I keep my favorite mugs, my coffee in a beautiful canister, a fancy sugar dish, a tray for mixing up my concoctions without a mess, an array of syrups, and my beloved frother/steamer displayed beside my coffee pot. Make it a place that makes you smile when you see it.

Coffee accessories are something I can never go wrong with. I also keep on hand a French Press coffee maker for unfortunate events like the death of my coffee maker or a power outage. Some people like to sprinkle stuff on top of their froth like cinnamon or nutmeg. If that’s you, add some in a pretty little salt shaker that you picked up at a thrift store.

A little splurgy but still budget-friendly

If you want to ramp up your coffee game, you may want to try some of the suggestions listed here. Yes, you’ll spend a bit of money to get going on your fancy coffee. But if you compare it to regularly visiting a coffee shop for your favorite frothy confections, you’ll find that the investments pay for themselves in very short order. If you buy one $5 cup of coffee each weekday, within a month of going DIY you’ll have paid for your syrup, pump, and frother-steamer. After that, you’re paying pennies on the dollar for your personalized fancy coffee, and you’ll be the envy of all your friends.  Okay, maybe not the actual, outright envy, but at least the coffee bar goals.

This is also a great way to break spendy family members of the spendy coffee habit. If you can make it better at home, why would you spend all that money going out for it?

Do you have any coffee gadgets that you swear by? Do you have any tricks for a splurgy-seeming cup of Joe on a dime? Is creating a home coffee bar worthwhile for you? Are you into fancy coffee? Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

3 thoughts on “Channel Your Cheap Barista: Frugal Tips for Fancy Coffee”

  1. Thanks, Daisy. You have great ideas and some tips I didn’t know. I love fancy coffee, but can’t bring myself to spend that much on a drink.

  2. I like fancy coffee. And I like going out with friends. So sometimes I have fancy coffee at home and sometimes it is at a cafe. One thing I don’t like is too much stuff on my counters though so my frother, syrup and mugs are all in the cupboard above my coffee pot.

  3. I’m with you on artificial flavored coffee! Yuck! I did copy your way to make flavored creams. I purchased a Nespresso coffee maker, which I adore. But………..the coffee pods are like $1 each!! So, I purchased a stainless steel reusable coffee pod from Amazon, and will try the Happy Belly Coffee. I love Starbucks blonde-sheesh the pods are way too speedy! And a coffee steamer is the best way to get a rich creamy milk. I even use nonfat and get that creamy!

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