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Making pod coffee (Keurig-style) without waste or hassle or undue expense: my frugal coffee process  RSS feed

 
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Paul Wheaton has a long-running coffee thread: the most eco and last coffee maker - cowgirl coffee.  Using his method, nothing but glass and stainless steel touches the coffee, which is important to Paul's dietary preferences for eliminating plastic from his life.

My own relationship with plastic is more complex.  I don't believe in buying new things made of plastic, but I am happy to have plastic items in my life (and in my food processes) that are second-hand, reused, recycled, bought for next to nothing. 

My relationship with coffee is very simple.  I want/need it when I'm driving. A big tall one, strong.  Sweetened, flavored.  Well-caffeinated.

When I lived west of the Rockies, in the Pacific Northwest coffee culture, and had money, a mocha grande from a coffee shop was just the ticket.  20 ounces of beverage, four shots of espresso, beans so freshly ground you could smell the beans cooking in the roastery from the coffee bar where you ordered the mocha.  Yes, the cup would cost you seven dollars ... so what?  It was damned fine.

Now, the nearest public espresso machine to where I live is an hour's drive away, and they don't know how to to operate it there.  The drink is lukewarm, and tastes of stale mud and soured chocolate milk.  Sure, it only costs four bucks, but it's not drinkable. 

Two hours away, a passable espresso drink can perhaps be had, in one of the two real cities this state boasts.  But I don't get there often enough to scope out the possibilities. 

I'm a frugal garage sale hound in darkest red-state heck.  It's possible that a home/countertop espresso machine will turn up at a garage sale for a price I'm willing to pay, one fine day... but it hasn't happened yet.

For a long time, I just made filter coffee in a Mr. Coffee machine, poured in some dark chocolate almond milk, and went about my business.  I bought cheap coffee, I bought expensive coffee, I bought beans and ground them, honestly it didn't matter: it was all a disappointment compared to a good espresso drink, so as times got lean, I settled on the cheapest ground coffee money could buy, and didn't really care.

Then, a year ago, I went on a lightning trip back to the Pacific Northwest to clear up some old business.  I got my first real coffee in almost ten years while waiting for a ferry, sat there watching the seagulls and felt it coursing through my veins.  On the ferry I noticed that the old coffee vending machine had been replaced by a Keurig pod machine.  Espresso-bar quality it was NOT, but those environmental-disaster plastic pods were convenient as hell and the quality of coffee delivered was blowing away my Mr. Coffee filter/carafe unit. 

Those Keurig machines are stupid-expensive and the pods, too, cost almost as much as buying a cup of coffee in a convenience store or restaurant.  Plus the plastic environmental nightmare of the whole business.  Right-thinking people take one look at the Keurig coffee system and say "nope nope nope HELLS to the nope!"

But I never was a right-thinking person.  I love the convenience, and they do make good coffee, very fast and conveniently...

So I kept my eyes open at the garage sales, and within weeks, I had a perfectly functional used Keurig machine for three bucks.  Somebody got tired of buying expensive pods, I'm guessing.

First thing I did was go looking for the little refillable pod baskets that you can put your own coffee in.  Keurig even sells these, for a stupid $10 price; but Ebay from China (wait three weeks for free delivery) can deliver the same thing for just about a buck:



I got two.  Because now I have a fast and convenient coffee process to make precisely the amount of "mocha" I want for my driving mug, when I want it, no waste, no stale coffee left over to burn in my Mr. Coffee carafe, no dishes to do.

I have a coffee can in my freezer.  In it, I keep a cheap supermarket-brand "espresso grind" dark roast coffee, mixed with whatever dirt cheap ground coffee has turned up lately in my garage sale shenanigans.  Flavor doesn't matter; my expectations are low, and I'm adding my own flavor and sweetener.

When it's time to make the coffee, I tap the dry grounds from last time out of my two refillable Keurig baskets into my compost bin, and rinse the baskets under my tap.

I then charge my two refillable Keurig pods with fresh coffee, packing them semi-tight.

I run 12oz of cold water through the Keurig and throw it away.  This gets the unit heated up, makes the coffee better, and clears out any ants that may have climbed up in there since the last time I made coffee.

I put in one charged pod and 6-8 oz water, run it, and put the coffee in my mug.  I also put 6 oz of dark chocolate flavored almond milk in my microwave and set for two minutes.

I put in the second charged pod and 6-8 oz water, run it, and put that coffee in my mug.  I add one spoon of cane sugar and the now-hot almond milk, and stir. 

I rinse under the tap the two Pyrex measuring cups I used (the one that catches the coffee and the one that I heated the almond milk in) and set them upside down beside the Keurig unit.  I set the two used/full pods of hot grounds into a glass bowl I maintain there for that purpose, to drip/dry/drain.  I snap the lid on my coffee mug.  I'm done.  There is no mess, there is no dirty dish.  The whole drink costs considerably less than a buck, and most of the expense is the almond milk. 

Flavor?  It's way better than carafe coffee from my local convenience store.  It's way better than I could make in a Mr. Coffee filter unit with equivalent ingredients.  It's as close as I can get to a "real" espresso mocha drink without having an espresso machine and using decent beans.  It keeps me caffeinated and satisfies my current need for frugality.  It's quick and it's easy and it doesn't create dirty dishes.  Is it perfect? Far from it!  But it's meeting all my coffee needs at the present time.



 
Dan Boone
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Dan Boone wrote:I'm a frugal garage sale hound in darkest red-state heck.  It's possible that a home/countertop espresso machine will turn up at a garage sale for a price I'm willing to pay, one fine day... but it hasn't happened yet.



Talk about bread upon the waters!  Picked one up from a church rummage sale this morning for five bucks.  (I do love a good church rummage sale.)  It was filthy and I'm still working on cleaning it up, but the nice church lady who was helping run the sale assured me it works, because her husband donated it to the sale.  Church ladies never lie. 

The internet tells me that serious espresso drinkers sneer at these steam machines, but then, they weren't very impressed with my Keurig hot-water pump-through-a-basket stuff either.  It's a tiny-dollars upgrade.  I'll throw some bread back out there: maybe next week a nine-bars-of-atmospheric-pressure restaurant-quality pump-type made-in-Italy restaurant-quality chrome-and-brass espresso machine will fall into my clutches for twenty bucks.  Not holding my breath, though.
ecm250.jpg
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ecm250 mr coffee espresso machine
 
Dan Boone
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Posts: 2146
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Update: The pump-machine snobs can sneer all they want, but this morning's mocha was the first real cup of coffee I've had since I crossed the spine of the Rocky Mountains heading east in May of 2017.  I may actually have to start caring about beans and grind again, but even with the crap on hand, this machine blew away what I've been drinking.  It's a royal pain in the ass to *use*, but a note for fellow frugality-hounds: it extracts a great deal more virtue from the grind than the tepid hot water of the Keurig does.  My overall mug was at least twice as strong as usual, on the amount of grounds that would fit in a single Keurig cup or reusable basket.

(Note that what is currently on hand is a mixture of espresso-grind dark roast generic supermarket coffee and mystery flavored crap ground for drip brewing. Once I've worked through that I'll treat myself to a bag of real beans -- can't get anything too special here but I can go to the city and find something fairly freshly roasted in a vacuum pack -- and grind it myself for a proper test of this new toy.)
 
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