College coffee craft: Ranking the best and worst coffee brewing methods for a college dorm

Chris Markham, Copy Editor

During this first week of classes, after a nice and long break, you may have found yourself struggling to stay awake. In your struggle, you may have reached for a cup of coffee to help caffeinate your consciousness. However, you may not be all that eager to spend two, three, four or even five dollars at Starbucks or Dunkin’. So, what are your other options? 

Making coffee at home is one of the best ways to save money. Though the initial investment in a coffee maker may take a chunk out of your wallet, it will pay off in the long run. There’s lots of debate about which coffee brewing maker is the best. But which method is the best for, specifically, use in a college dorm? 

We’ll figure that out through an evaluation of factors impacting each brewing method, such as cost, size, ease of use and taste. Our rankings list will start with the worst option and work its way up to the best.

Worst: Espresso machine.

As divine as a good espresso drink can taste, buying an espresso machine is probably one of the worst decisions a college student can make. First of all, an espresso machine can cost several hundreds of dollars, and there are lots of other things college students need that money for. Such machines also tend to take up a significant amount of space, which a student may not have, especially if that student lives in a cramped first-year dorm room. Furthermore, many espresso makers require time and effort that a student may not want to put into making coffee. However, the taste of a high-quality espresso is unmatched. So, if you do have the money, space, time and drive to invest in an espresso machine, it may very well be worth it. Otherwise, you’re probably better off sticking to Starbucks for your lattes and cappuccinos. 

Next: Keurig

A Keurig is just about the worst way to make coffee. To be fair, a Keurig machine does have a lot of things going for it. You can easily buy a Keurig for under a hundred dollars. Some are even as cheap as twenty. Additionally, Keurigs are extremely easy to use and they take up next to no space. They can easily go on a shelf, desk or dresser. However, if you want a good-tasting cup of coffee, then, for the love of all that is holy, do not get a Keurig. The way the machine shoots water through the coffee grounds in the K-cup is not conducive for a good brew of coffee. Beyond that, those grounds inside the cup are already stale by the time you buy them, so it is next to impossible to get a good cup of coffee out of them. Also, K-cups are more expensive than packaged ground coffee. But worst of all, these machines are horrible for the environment, as the K-cups are not recyclable. If you already have a Keurig, though, don’t just throw the whole thing away. Some of these problems can be mitigated by buying a reusable K-cup. As the name suggests, you can fill a reusable K-cup with your own coffee grounds and use it over and over again, making it better for the environment, your wallet and your taste buds. The brewing process itself is still not great, but you can still get a decent cup of coffee with a reusable K-cup. So, with the regular K-cups, a Keurig machine is an awful way to brew coffee. With a reusable K-cup, however, the Keurig can move up the list a few spots.

Mid-Tier: Drip Coffee

A drip coffee maker is your standard coffee maker. This is probably what your parents have at home. They can range anywhere from twenty dollars to several hundred dollars and vary in sizes, from tiny to extra large. They are easy, simple and quick to use. The brewing process is nothing special, but also nothing horrendous. A drip coffee maker makes a good cup of coffee. If you’re short on space and money, you can get an inexpensive and small one. If you don’t have to worry about either, you can go as all-out as you want. A big perk of the drip coffee maker is that it can make several cups of coffee at once, which is nice if you need to drink a lot or you’re making coffee for more than one person. 

Best: Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee is the ultimate way to make coffee. You don’t even need a machine or fancy apparatus to make it. All you need to make a cup of cold brew is two drink containers (cups, bottles, mason jars, etc.), a paper coffee filter and ground coffee beans. The brewing process is long, but not difficult, and it is definitely worth it. Simply put coffee grounds and either cold or room temperature water into one of the drink containers. Then, let it steep for anywhere from twelve to twenty-four hours, depending on how strong you like your coffee and whether you’re steeping it in the refrigerator or at room temperature. When the time is up, secure a coffee filter to the empty container (I like to use a rubber band to do so) and slowly pour the coffee from the full container into the empty one. When you’re done, you’ll have an amazing cup of coffee. 

By steeping the coffee grounds over a long period of time in low-temperature water, the resulting cup of coffee is less acidic and less bitter than a cup brewed in a short period of time with hot water. Less acidity and bitterness means the resulting cup of cold brew coffee will taste smoother and better than a hot brew coffee. Once brewed, the coffee can be enjoyed cold or hot, which  makes the cold brew method more versatile than other methods. And, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of using various containers, you can buy a cold brew pitcher with a built-in filter basket for as little as 11 dollars.