I don't want to spend big bucks on coffee equipment for the home, and I'm looking for something that will be consistent despite my lack of coffee-making skill and technique. This question led me to think maybe French Press might be a good starter at-home brew method for a novice coffee snob, but the asker was asking specifically about becoming a barista. I just want to become someone who drinks decent coffee at home!

If there's no clear winner, what are some pros and cons of some of the less expensive options out there?

(If relevant, I have to stick to decaf mostly for health reasons, and I like a splash of oat milk. I prefer a lighter and fruitier flavor with some roastiness, but not overly acidic.)

  • 1
    Counter question - what kinds of coffee do you usually enjoy? All preparation methods have their usual flavor profile and it’s obviously a matter of taste. As someone who will in most cases pick something espresso-based (or related) I would pick and recommend a different setup than someone aiming for fruity and light pour-over kinds.
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 19:40
  • Good counter question; I'll add that to my question. Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 20:24
  • What do you use now to make coffee? Do you buy ground coffee or grind your own? Do you care if the method involves manual procedures as long as you get consistently good coffee that doesn't rely on skill? What ballpark upper limit on price are you thinking of? Do you own a grinder? digital scale? digital thermometer? Would you prefer fast and convenient, or whatever it takes to produce good coffee? Is the goal to make better coffee than you have now, or explore the world of coffee?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 8:54
  • @fixer1234 I don’t make any coffee at home and am looking to start. Total noob, with only a digital scale (for tea) at hand. Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 18:30
  • Just one more thing: Do you plan on making coffee a cup at a time or a pot at a time?
    – hardmath
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 1:15

3 Answers 3


Assuming they're done properly, one brewing method isn't better than another in the sense it produces better coffee. Different brewing methods produce different flavor profiles, and work best with certain kinds of roasts and grinds because of the mechanics of how they work. People can have a preference for the nature of the taste a particular method produces, or the flavors of the kind of roast that is normally used with a method. Pick the method that produces the kind of flavor you like, and involves a level of hands-on activity and technique you are willing to put in every time you use it.

If I understand correctly, the question describes not wanting a hands-on process where skill and technique could produce inconsistent results. And you prefer a lighter and fruitier flavor with some roastiness, but not overly acidic. That narrows down the options, and you can do that without breaking the bank.

One key to great coffee is fresh coffee, rather than working your way through a big canister of stale ground coffee. That's part of the decision on method at low cost. If you choose a method that relies on precision grinding, you've already built in a chunk of money for a decent grinder (plus the time to grind it). There are three practical ways to have fresh coffee without an expensive grinder:

  • Pods. They're hermetically sealed and stay fresh until they're used. A variety of coffees are available.
  • Commercial brewer pouches. These are hermetically sealed packages of medium grind coffee. They're sized to be the right amount for a large carafe in a commercial drip brewer. For brewing small batches, you can reseal the remainder of the pouch. The remainder won't be the same as fresh coffee; it will lose a lot of the aromatics. But using it up over a few days, there will be minimal degradation from oxidation, and it will be much closer to fresh than weeks-old coffee in a canister. You can find popular coffee brands at places that sell office supplies (a big market is commercial drip machines in offices). You might be able to buy higher-end coffee from a restaurant supplier if they will sell it to you.
  • Whole beans ground with an inexpensive grinder. An inexpensive grinder won't do a good job with uniform particle sizes. But even a mediocre coarse grind will do well in a French press. You might even find a medium grind OK for a drip brew (it will affect the flavor profile, but could still produce good coffee). Coarse grinding coffee for a single serving takes trivial time with a hand grinder.

It seems like there are three obvious options that could fit your requirements (only you can determine whether the taste satisfies what you're looking for). In order of least time and effort to make coffee:

  1. A coffee pod machine like a Keurig

    Pros: The simplest, most convenient way to make coffee. Zero skill or technique required. Very drinkable coffee, consistently made every time. No problem with ground coffee going stale or a need to grind your own. Wide variety of coffees (and other beverages) readily available, so you're likely to find one with a flavor profile you like. No need for other coffee making paraphernalia (grinder, scale, thermometer, etc.). Makes a single serving at a time; each cup is fresh, no dregs or reheating.

    Cons: Cost. You pay for the convenience and other benefits. The coffee is more expensive, and that is ongoing. The machines aren't cheap, but they're now competitive with good quality brewers, especially when you don't have to buy the other paraphernalia.

    The way it brews doesn't produce the quality of taste you can get from the coffee by other methods. The coffee is very drinkable and consistent, but I doubt anybody reacts to it with "Wow, that was the best coffee I ever had!" The coffee is good, enough so that a lot of people go with it for the convenience because no other method comes close to that.

  2. A drip brewing machine will give you good coffee. A good quality machine will do a more sophisticated brew than what a cheap machine does, and extracts better flavor from the coffee. That's what you drink in most restaurants. A bottom-of-the line machine will be substantially cheaper. These cut cost by simplifying the brewing process, and often don't brew with optimum-temperature water. The coffee they produce won't be as good, but it will still be pleasant and very drinkable.

    There's no reliance on the user's skill or technique. You don't need any other equipment for this option. But you might benefit from an inexpensive digital scale. Measuring the coffee with a scoop, it's hard to be consistent, or to adjust the ratio of coffee to water to change the concentration. A digital scale lets you precisely measure the coffee, and accurately adjust in less-than-scoop increments.

    Many automatic drip brewers on the consumer market justify a high price by adding tons of bells and whistles that have nothing to do with brewing good coffee (and those are additional things that can fail). Focus on features that relate to how it brews.

    An automatic drip brewer is not a good single-serving machine. Consider how many servings you will make at a time. If you brew just for yourself, and typically drink several large cups in close proximity, look for a small-capacity brewer like a 4-cup model. If you normally drink one cup, or a second cup is much later in the day, an automatic drip brewer is not a good choice. A drip coffee maker, especially with a basket-shaped filter, won't brew properly unless you make at least half its capacity; the coffee layer won't be thick enough to properly control the extraction time.

  3. French press uses an inexpensive brewer. It doesn't really require skill or technique, but there is procedure, and it's more hands-on than a drip machine. The brew method is very similar to what's used in "cupping", a coffee tasting procedure that evaluates the flavors in the coffee without the influence of the brewer's technique. You can be imprecise with a French press and still get very good-tasting coffee, just not necessarily the specific good taste you want.

    The nature of a French press brew is a rich taste that's well-extracted (a broad, well-balanced range of flavors). The light, fruity flavors you like are highlighted by a lighter extraction (a drip brewer would highlight them more); they can get hidden by the kinds of flavors that come later in the extraction. You can adjust the French press extraction to make it a little lighter, but to do that, you need to brew with more precision.

  • I like a lot about this answer and think it could benefit from at least some mention of pour over coffee. For me the experience of pour over (e.g., Chemex) has been very similar to French press with a few key differences. Namely, when using paper filters, I find pour over brewing to be much easier to clean up after, have zero fining, and to be better suited for darker roasts. The last point is my own subjective take and works be a downside for the asker, but overall for cost, ease, and convenience I see it as a viable option. Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 3:37
  • @ToddWilcox, I considered mentioning pour over, but a basic requirement for the OP was a method that would produce consistently good coffee without relying on the user's technique or skill. If you think pour over would be something for them to consider, why not post an answer so you can do justice for the case? :-)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 3:49

I agree with Stephie's comment that it will depend on what type of coffee you like and how you prefer to have it prepared. You'll also want to consider ease of use and cleaning method.

I use a French Press on the weekend. It's great for darker roasts but be prepared that they aren't fun to clean.

If you like a lighter roast than a pour over might be better for you. If you don't want to invest in a full pour over kit you can always start with a dripper. Depending on the materials these can be fairly inexpensive.


I'd guess that the absolute cheapest method would be "Cowboy coffee". You add the ground coffee and water to a pot and heat it up with whatever heating apparatus you have. Remove from the heat just before boiling and stir. And to be a real cowboy, don't fret if it does boil a little -- it saves you the chore of stirring. Letting the pot sit for a few minutes should allow most of the grounds to settle to the bottom and then pour off the liquid from the top.

If instead you heat the water first and then stir in your ground coffee, the result ought to be close to the result of James Hoffmann's french press technique (where you give the grounds time to settle, just like the cowboys did).

Single vessel. Single heat source. Cheap. Works with preground coffee, to save the expense of a grinder.

  • 1
    I'll give it cheap and easy. I'll give it credit for potentially being consistent without relying on the user's skill or technique. But ever tried to get "lighter and fruitier flavor" from cowboy coffee? :-)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 3:54

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