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How to Make the Best Coffee at Home on a Budget

By Jiří Kaloč

If you love cycling, you are probably a fan of coffee as well, and as a true fan you always find a way to enjoy your passion. Just like you can revitalize your dad’s old bike from the garage if you can’t afford the latest carbon marvel – you can make great coffee at home without an insanely expensive espresso machine.

Coffee making and cycling grew up together

Coffee making has become almost an art-form in recent years. The perfect cup of coffee requires a highly skilled barista plus state-of-the-art equipment, and the sport of cycling is partly responsible. Italian espresso machine manufacturer Faema sponsored a pro cycling team all the way back in the 1960s in order to promote their innovative machines. The Faema E61 espresso maker introduced feature, such as the delivery of pressurized water through a mechanical pump, that are still used in espresso machines today. So we, cycling enthusiasts, can enjoy a good espresso in the fanciest coffee shops with the smug feeling we helped spread the innovations. That being said, we should be able to make good coffee without a high-end espresso machine too. There are other options, cheaper, much lower-tech, but nearly just as effective.

Roasted coffee beans in ceramic cups on vintage wooden background., Image: 185807335, License: Royalty-free, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Profimedia, Stock Budget

Forget espresso, French press is the answer

While a good barista can seem like an artist at work, making coffee is still a mechanical process just like any other. Controlled heat is applied on coffee beans and they release their essential oils and flavors as a result. You can achieve that by using many different instruments, some surprisingly simple. The classic French press, a laboratorial glass beaker with a plunger lid set in a stainless-steel case with handles, popularized in Paris in the 1950s, is a great example. If used right, it is more than capable of producing a great cup of coffee, and it costs a fraction of what a high quality espresso machine does. A master roaster and resident palate at La Colombe Torrefaction, the venerated Philadelphia-based coffee company, Jean Philippe Iberti offers the following 5 tips for French press use.


Temperature, water, grind, pour, and timing

Temperature – The water should be brought to a boil, 212 °F (100 °C), then removed from the heat and let sit for thirty seconds so that it falls into the 200 – 208 °F (93 – 97 °C) range. Any higher and the heat will give your coffee a slightly bitter flavor and a silty quality on the tongue.

Water – Add ground coffee to the beaker so it looks like one part coffee to six parts water.

Grind – Fine grounds have more surface area and will release flavor quicker than coarse ones. If you want a uniform extraction of flavor, use a conical burr grinder instead of a blade grinder. The heat from the motor of a blade grinder can partially activate the essential oils in the beans and therefore produce uneven results.

Pour – On the first pour, cover the grounds by just an inch of water, which will make the gases rise, creating the top foam, and aromas will be created. After that add the remaining water, stir once or twice with a long spoon to break the top foam and create a homogenous suspension of the grounds in the water. Put the lid on after that.

Timing – After you put the lid on, let your coffee steep for just one more minute. If you let it sit for longer, it develops unwanted flavors because it will continue to brew. When it’s ready, decant your coffee into your favorite cup.