Splurge or Save: Coffee Edition

While breakfast is indisputably the most important meal of the day, the average person will tell you; they’re not starting their morning without coffee.

Because coffee is such an essential and integral part of most people’s daily lives, how you make it and what you make it with is just as important to budget. With daily coffee routines, some people like a quick and easy process, while others prefer a much bigger production. And there’s no wrong way to go about it.

What matters most is that you’re getting the most out of your coffee contraptions without spending way more than they’re worth. Here’s what you need to know.

Coffee Pot

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You don’t need to spend a fortune on a coffee machine to get a great cup of Joe. Because the brewing process is straightforward and automatic, it’s all going to come out the same way.

If you want to get the most out of your basic coffee maker, just be sure to use quality beans.

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With your budget in mind, spend no more than $40 on a nice Coffee-Mate and splurge on quality coffee grounds or beans. The biggest difference between cheaper coffee pots and luxury options is usually that a fancier pot might last longer. But then again, it might not.

Considering how unpredictable coffee makers’ lifespans are known to be, it’s better not to spend too much, but go with a brand you trust.

French Press

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This is a classic and simple way to brew coffee. And if you want a solid French press that’ll last you, you definitely don’t need to overspend. There are quality options out there between $12 and $20. But even the higher-end varieties won’t cost much more than that.

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In other words, splurging on a French press won’t be much of a splurge. If you want the best model, you’ll be spending around $30. For instance, this Veken French Press is Amazon’s Choice and an all-around quality option for just $26.

The most important aspects of a French press are the materials. No matter the cost, you should find out what the carafe, plunger, and lid are made of before you buy it. Opt for a glass carafe with stainless steel surrounding parts.

Anything made with too much plastic will not stand the test of time.

Chemex/Pour Over Method

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This is another classic and easy way to get a robust and potent pot of coffee. The Chemex was invented by a chemist named Dr. Peter Schlumbohm in 1941. His life goal was to make daily tasks more functional, but also more pleasant to do.

Due to its overall simplicity and built-to-last design, this is not something you ever need to spend much on.

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The pro coffee maker’s rule of thumb is that if the brewing method is electricity-free, don’t overspend. After all, you’re the main one doing the work.

The official Chemex brand sells its basic model for about $47 on Amazon, but you’re mostly paying for the brand name. This pour-over coffee maker from Bodum is under $20, gets the job done just as well, and comes with a dishwasher-safe filter and cork collar so you won’t burn your hands.

Aeropress

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If you like the concentrated flavor of espresso but aren’t really sure you want to invest in an espresso machine, the AeroPress might be for you. Luckily, they’re generally inexpensive, especially when compared to top-notch espresso machines.

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With an Aeropress, you’re paying for quickness, convenience, and storability. On top of getting an espresso machine-like result, you can also use an AeroPress to brew one really nice cup of coffee at time, if you’d like. Most of these handy devices will cost between $20-$40.

While that might sound like a splurge, upgrading to a quality espresso machine will undoubtedly cost much more, so you’re saving big time when you think about it.

Water Kettles

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If you’re not using an instant coffee maker or pod machine, you’re going to need a kettle. And the options for a quality kettle are endless. Heating up water is pretty basic, and so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting this Mr. Coffee Whistling Tea Kettle for $11. It’ll get the job done.

But if you’re looking to refine your brewing method and control the water temp, you might want to look into something electric.

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With that said, it doesn’t have to cost you. This stainless steel cordless kettle from Comfee is only about $25. This Mueller Ultra Kettle is the #1 bestseller on Amazon. It’s made of borosilicate glass, has a boil dry detector, LED light, and will only set you back $30.

However, if you’re ready to take your pour-over process to the next level, it’s time to invest in a gooseneck water kettle. It gives you a higher degree of control over your water flow that a basic water kettle cannot.

Most times, it’s more of a splurge, but there are some affordable options worth noting.

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This $70 gooseneck kettle from Cosari is Amazon’s choice. But I’d highly recommend this Bodum model for $30. Here are the 5 top gooseneck kettles of 2021, all of which are currently available on Amazon.

Coffee Filters

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Generally, coffee filters are cheap. What matters more is using filters that are unbleached and biodegradable, which are pretty cheap as well. But if you really want to save money, invest in a reusable filter.

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When you factor in how many coffee filters you throw away and replace consistently, it can really add up. This organic hemp reusable filter costs about $8, which costs the same as about 100 eco-friendly filters. They come in a variety of sizes to perfectly pair with your traditional coffee maker, pour-over, or single-serve machine.

It might seem like a splurge for a singular coffee filter, but it’ll last you for years. In turn, you’ll save a significant chunk of change in the long run.

Espresso Machine

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An espresso machine is always an investment that comes with a fair amount of upkeep. So if you’re going to buy one, you might as well go all the way. Otherwise, you’re better off with alternative methods, like the aforementioned Aeropress.

While you should always go for a quality buy, that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a $700 Breville, go for it. Any seasoned barista will tell you that any Breville is a worthy investment that’ll last you a lifetime. But know your options.

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The fact is, coffee shop-level espresso machines cost thousands of dollars. Spending that much for your home brewed batch is not ideal, to put it mildly. If you want something coffee shop quality, make your splurge going to the coffee shop to get it. If you want something pretty close, easy to use, and reliable, look for machines in the $200 range.

Getting the most out of your espresso machine means that you want it to last. And so, it’s important to pick something without too many bells and whistles. Generally, the more technologically advanced, the worse the espresso and the shorter the lifespan. Across the board, the Calphalon BVCLECMP1 Temp iQ Espresso Machine is consistently voted best bang for your buck. If you’re not looking to spend $300 just yet, the DeLonghi EC155 15 is a close second.

Also, The Mr. Coffee Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is a great place to start if you want to invest in a quality machine, but don’t foresee yourself using it every day. While you’re thinking it over, read this helpful review of the 10 best espresso machines for beginners.

Coffee Grinder

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Nothing beats freshly ground coffee beans, but a finicky or lackluster grinder can seriously undercut the joy that can come with doing it yourself. In turn, the quality is important. Much like kitchen knives, if the blades are dull, it won’t matter how fancy your machines are or how nice your beans might be.

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Cheap grinders are infamous for generating bitterness. They’re also difficult to control, often grinding even the best beans unevenly, affecting the taste for the worst. The bottom line is: if you want better coffee, buy a better grinder.

You’ll be amazed at what a quality electric grinder can do. Personally, I prefer something a little more basic. With a manual grinder, turning the crank is definitely more work, but it’s cheaper and will outlive even the best electric models.

If you’re looking for something electric, here’s a well-rounded list of the best grinders of 2021, compliments of Serious Eats.

Pod Machines and K-Cups

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In recent years, pod machines have gotten pretty popular. And it’s no mystery why. They’re quick, easy to use, and single-serve oriented. With the push of a button, you can have coffee, espresso, or tea. But overall, what you’re paying for is convenience, so don’t overspend.

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At minimum, a coveted Keurig will set you back about $100. But for $20-$40, you can brew a cup of coffee that is indistinguishable. As with basic coffee makers, the trick is going with a brand you trust. For a truly quality brew, opt for quality reusable k-cups.

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You’ll not only save money when you stop throwing k-cups away on a daily basis, but you’ll also be able to control the quality of coffee you’re brewing when they’re not prepackaged. Because above all else, the coffee itself is what really matters.

Coffee Beans

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Hear me out on this one. While any ole coffee will do the trick, better beans make all the difference. Whether you are using a pricey machine or a $10 coffee pot, quality grounds will ensure that your coffee tastes like a million bucks.

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If you splurge in no other area, this is one that will always be worth it. Nothing is more important to your coffee-making process than the coffee itself. The good news is, a splurge on good beans can still be affordable.

Here are the 10 best budget coffee brands (whole bean and ground), compliments of Coffee Affection.

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