How to Save Money AND Make Better Coffee than Starbucks: PART 1 ESPRESSO

Those who know me do realize I absolutely love good coffee. Even on vacation the goal is to find the shops with the locally roasted beans and well-trained baristas. This series is a how-to for those who want to save money but love good coffee.

Now I have had some friends who were and currently are professional baristas.  Their skill amazes me, from coffee art to their knowledgable experience in brewing and pulling shots. I needed  a budget cut at home. And, when my favorite locally run coffee places disappeared, I was left with Starbucks. Sigh. I did not want to be like other friends who spend a fortune each day or week at the drive-through Starbucks on over-roasted, overpriced coffee. You and I are not likely to make coffee as good as the best barista, but I think you can easily surpass the stuff you get at Starbucks from your very own home and save your bank account.

 

The ingredients for good espresso coffee are the quality of the beans and its roasting, its proper grind and the machine’s ability to provide enough pressure to produce a good head of crema. You need the best beans roasted with skill and ground with a quality burr grinder. Your machine needs to have at least 15 bars of pressure and correct temperature to pull the right stuff out in each espresso shot. Like most of you, I would love to have a fancy $1200 automated machine, or even better yet a decent $600 machine that would do it almost as good as a professional machine. Add another $200 for a decent grinder. We have not added in the cost of beans yet and are nearing at least $1000.

But, go cheap like I did. I use a $99 pump machine with a $5 can of pre-ground espresso coffee beans and it may not be like that gourmet shop in town, but it actually taste far better than your local Starbucks. If you buy two drinks a week at $5 you are spending over $500 a year! So, if you do it my way, you can spend less than half of that and have a gourmet drink everyday. On top of that, you can be green by saving plastic and paper cups from landfills. Here is what you need.

Espresso Machine: Here are a couple options under $100.

  •  $99.95 Delongh DGI EC155  (Pump is better than steam pressure). I have used this machine more than twice a day for over two years and it still works. Like all machines, decalcifying is important.
  • $21.00 Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker  (Makes larger amount of espresso, but cannot froth milk. You can take camping!) I bought my mom one of these when we visited her and the coffee tasted fine. Great if you need a larger amount.

Ground Coffee: Here are two options I use under $5 a can/brick that I think are good.

  • Cafe Bustelo as low as 3.86 a can of 10 oz.! (Found in corner market and local groceries around Southern CA for about $4-$5)
  • Cafe La Llave as low as $4.39 a brick of 10 oz.  (I like this one better, I also have found in the corner market or groceries in Southern CA for about $4-$5)

coffee_can

Accessories: A list of tools you will need.

  •  Tamper $5 or so online or at Target, etc. (to press the grinds into the portafilter)
  • Measuring: $5 A simple 1 oz. and 2 oz. measuring cup for the shots to be moved to your drink.
  • Cups: $5 reusable coffee mugs that can be taken in the car and save the environment.

Any tips you can share? What machines and process do you use? Any questions?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

30 comments

  1. I love your frugal approach! My husband makes our coffee using beans from Panama, grinding with a burr grinder I gave him for his birthday last year. So we’re halfway there. We’ve never tried to make espresso, so this is interesting to read and learn about.
    Could we buy that cheap $21 unit and froth the milk some other way? Or is the steaming, frothing process better using another method?

    1. You cannot froth with the stove top unit. I am going to post in part 2 frothing. So stay tuned. 🙂

  2. I love your frugal approach! My husband makes our coffee using beans from Panama, grinding with a burr grinder I gave him for his birthday last year. So we’re halfway there. We’ve never tried to make espresso, so this is interesting to read and learn about.
    Could we buy that cheap $21 unit and froth the milk some other way? Or is the steaming, frothing process better using another method?

    1. You cannot froth with the stove top unit. I am going to post in part 2 frothing. So stay tuned. 🙂

  3. I love your frugal approach! My husband makes our coffee using beans from Panama, grinding with a burr grinder I gave him for his birthday last year. So we’re halfway there. We’ve never tried to make espresso, so this is interesting to read and learn about.
    Could we buy that cheap $21 unit and froth the milk some other way? Or is the steaming, frothing process better using another method?

    1. You cannot froth with the stove top unit. I am going to post in part 2 frothing. So stay tuned. 🙂

  4. I love your frugal approach! My husband makes our coffee using beans from Panama, grinding with a burr grinder I gave him for his birthday last year. So we’re halfway there. We’ve never tried to make espresso, so this is interesting to read and learn about.
    Could we buy that cheap $21 unit and froth the milk some other way? Or is the steaming, frothing process better using another method?

    1. You cannot froth with the stove top unit. I am going to post in part 2 frothing. So stay tuned. 🙂

  5. I love your frugal approach! My husband makes our coffee using beans from Panama, grinding with a burr grinder I gave him for his birthday last year. So we’re halfway there. We’ve never tried to make espresso, so this is interesting to read and learn about.
    Could we buy that cheap $21 unit and froth the milk some other way? Or is the steaming, frothing process better using another method?

    1. You cannot froth with the stove top unit. I am going to post in part 2 frothing. So stay tuned. 🙂

  6. Don’t forget about fresh roasted beans…hard to come by locally, which is why I home roast. Home roasting is also quite cheap, and it guarantees not only fresh beans but also the exact roast level you want! We need to get my roasted coffee together with your espresso machine!

    1. I have not forgotten 😉 fresh roasted beans you can bring over anytime Gavin… one of the series will include a post on beans. For a start, this is a frugal way to enjoy espresso. But, of course fresh roasted…yum.

  7. Don’t forget about fresh roasted beans…hard to come by locally, which is why I home roast. Home roasting is also quite cheap, and it guarantees not only fresh beans but also the exact roast level you want! We need to get my roasted coffee together with your espresso machine!

    1. I have not forgotten 😉 fresh roasted beans you can bring over anytime Gavin… one of the series will include a post on beans. For a start, this is a frugal way to enjoy espresso. But, of course fresh roasted…yum.

  8. Don’t forget about fresh roasted beans…hard to come by locally, which is why I home roast. Home roasting is also quite cheap, and it guarantees not only fresh beans but also the exact roast level you want! We need to get my roasted coffee together with your espresso machine!

    1. I have not forgotten 😉 fresh roasted beans you can bring over anytime Gavin… one of the series will include a post on beans. For a start, this is a frugal way to enjoy espresso. But, of course fresh roasted…yum.

  9. Don’t forget about fresh roasted beans…hard to come by locally, which is why I home roast. Home roasting is also quite cheap, and it guarantees not only fresh beans but also the exact roast level you want! We need to get my roasted coffee together with your espresso machine!

    1. I have not forgotten 😉 fresh roasted beans you can bring over anytime Gavin… one of the series will include a post on beans. For a start, this is a frugal way to enjoy espresso. But, of course fresh roasted…yum.

  10. Don’t forget about fresh roasted beans…hard to come by locally, which is why I home roast. Home roasting is also quite cheap, and it guarantees not only fresh beans but also the exact roast level you want! We need to get my roasted coffee together with your espresso machine!

    1. I have not forgotten 😉 fresh roasted beans you can bring over anytime Gavin… one of the series will include a post on beans. For a start, this is a frugal way to enjoy espresso. But, of course fresh roasted…yum.

  11. Cafe La Llave thanks Rich Kirkpatrick for our Profile Picture this week!

    1. You guys are welcome! I just finished a cup of your coffee this morning. How did you know? ;)RK

  12. Cafe La Llave thanks Rich Kirkpatrick for our Profile Picture this week!

    1. You guys are welcome! I just finished a cup of your coffee this morning. How did you know? ;)RK

  13. Cafe La Llave thanks Rich Kirkpatrick for our Profile Picture this week!

    1. You guys are welcome! I just finished a cup of your coffee this morning. How did you know? ;)RK

  14. Cafe La Llave thanks Rich Kirkpatrick for our Profile Picture this week!

    1. You guys are welcome! I just finished a cup of your coffee this morning. How did you know? ;)RK

  15. Cafe La Llave thanks Rich Kirkpatrick for our Profile Picture this week!

    1. You guys are welcome! I just finished a cup of your coffee this morning. How did you know? ;)RK

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