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How can I make a fantastic cup of coffee at my desk at work? What equipment do I need?

We’ve recently changed our offices at work and are sort of starting fresh. When I first started here I as one of 5 coffee drinkers, but now I’m more or less the only one, so we got rid of our old and gross Mr. Coffee. I’m sick of buying coffee from one of the nearby coffee shops (Peets or some small local ones), because the coffee isn’t that great for the money.

Last year at home we decided to stop wasting our time at home on bad coffee. We ditched the blade grinder and drip coffee maker in favour of a burr grinder and Chemex, and the coffee is good! The problem is that it’s not always convenient to bring a cup to work, and I really like it fresh. How can I relatively easily make pour-over coffee at my desk? I don’t have a ton of space, but I’d like a hot water kettle, brewer, and maybe a hand grinder. I was thinking about maybe a Clever Coffee, but I’m open to suggestions. I’d like not to spend more than $100 all told. Part of this is to have awesome coffee and part of this is to have a sort of ridiculous set up at work to really make a cup of coffee a ritual and not an after thought. I am something of a coffee snob, so getting good beans isn’t really an issue.

posted by kendrak to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Hot water, coffee, french press. Best cup of coffee you’ll ever drink.
posted by ellF at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2012 [13 favorites]
I use a Hario ceramic pour-over filter holder thing (on phone, can’t link,sorry!) when I want a cup at a non-standard time. It somehow makes the shitty Folgers/Hills Bros office coffee taste much better.
posted by Fig at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2012
French press is what I’m using (to the envy of all who are drinking the sludge which comes out of the office coffee pot).

Added bonus – your office will smell fab.
posted by 26.2 at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

They make a one pint Chemex pot and similar single cup pour overs, which I used to do at my desk. I find Chemex or other pour over much easier to clean without a proper kitchen than a french press.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2012
Hot water, coffee, french press. Best cup of coffee you’ll ever drink.
A thousand times, this.

As an added bonus, you can opt to share your bit of French-pressed heaven with a highly-favored co-worker. I used an all-metal French press (as opposed to the one with a glass carafe), as I tend to be a bit clumsy.

I also used an Aeropress for awhile, but it’s a little too fussy for me. The coffee is good, but I wasn’t wild about having to lay in a supply of the little filters. So: French press all the way.
posted by jquinby at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

French press, grinder and hot water will yield a nice cup. A really solid cup. But you asked for ridiculously good coffee. A medium-gear-intensive solution that will produce a superlative cup is as follows:

Hand grinder.
Low flow kettle, electric.
Able Brewing Kone (if you want to reduce the amount of waste, in terms of coffee filters)
-Really good coffee (too many options to link. your profile suggests you’re in the bay area? Try sightglass, or Four Barrel)

You’ll probably get some coffee converts out of a setup like this.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I loves my aeropress for work, it’s easy to clean up and makes a nice cup.
posted by chrispy108 at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]
Nth-ing the Aeropress. Yes, it’s fussy but the coffee is great and the cleanup isn’t bad at all. Great for making iced coffee, too, if you like that.
posted by tommasz at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2012
it’s been awhile since I had an office job but I used to cold brew coffee everyday. Grind, wet and refrigerate at night for use t the office tomorrow. Fault tolerant and required only a filter and hot water at work.
posted by mce at 1:10 PM on August 20, 2012
I have a French Press at my desk and I always get comments about how good the coffee smells. A pourover might be a good choice, too, but I like not having to tend to the coffee – just pour in hot water and wait a few minutes.

I don’t necessarily think you need a grinder at work. I grind my beans at home each morning before leaving for the office and that seems to get the job done.

I also think that an important aspect of the coffee ritual that is often overlooked is having the proper drinking vessel. If you can keep it clean and safe, maybe get a bone china cup and saucer (Goodwill can be a good place to get individual pieces like that) or a favorite mug from home.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:15 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Melitta cone. You put the coffee in a filter in the cone, and the cone sits on top of your cup. Pour in your water and voila.
posted by scratch at 1:15 PM on August 20, 2012 [10 favorites]
Yeah, a french press is great. I had a tiny one that you could also use as a cup to sip from. Have a bag of coffee on your desk, pour in some hot water if you’ve got one of those water dispensers in your office, and voila!
posted by mlle valentine at 1:19 PM on August 20, 2012
+1 French press! So easy, so good!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2012
I have both an AeroPress and a french press (although neither at work). I’m the only person who drinks coffee at my house, and I use the AeroPress every day, saving the french press for when someone’s over who also wants coffee. (And a big coffee maker for when my parents come.)

I really like the quality of the AeroPress coffee, and I like that it neatly makes a single cup.

If you’re ok with using a filter every day, the AeroPress is super-easy to clean: just pop out the little disk of grounds and filter into a trash can. For me, the french press is much harder to clean, because I don’t have a garbage disposal, so I have to rinse the french press in the sink, and then clean the sink.

Also, the AeroPress actually recommends brewing with 170 degree water, so I imagine that it would work just fine to brew with the hot water that comes out of a water cooler, if your work runs to a water cooler. They also have quantity markings on the plunger part for people who heat their water in a microwave (like if you’re at work without a kettle).

Both a french press and an AeroPress are pretty inexpensive.

Not sure what to tell you about a grinding setup. I have a Bodum Bistro burr grinder and like it well enough, although the beans on top don’t go down into the machine as well as I would like (because I use french roast coffee), but that seems rather extravagant (and loud) for a work setup.

Of course, if you want to spring for a kettle, you could use a Melitta cone, but I like the AeroPress better, and it’s less work. And it brews up fast.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:53 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I own a Clever Coffee Dripper and it does a great job. I think in turns of bang for the buck, it’s hard to beat. It’s also fairly low effort and easy to clean, something I cannot say of hand grinding or french presses. My local coffee shops uses them as well and sells them for $14.

The only downsides are that it isn’t terribly tough and it can leak if the rubber stopper isn’t perfectly seated. I would not make coffee on my desk with one due to the risk of a leak.
posted by chairface at 2:01 PM on August 20, 2012

Just use a French press. It’s easy and tasty.
posted by Ted Maul at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2012
One big thing regardless of the method that works best for you
– use filtered water. This makes a huge taste difference.
posted by Fig at 2:56 PM on August 20, 2012
Aeropress or French press. I have a few unconventional high performance low-fuss tips for the aeropress. MeMail me if you’re interested.

As for the coffee grounds from the French press: don’t put them in the sink even if it has a disposal. Dump the majority in the trash or compost, then add a little more water, swirl around and dump the rest in the toilet. This works for me where the bathroom is closer than any kitchen/caf and the toilet is a device already optimized for the disposal of organic waste.

The aeropress sidesteps the issue of bringing beverage preparation equipment into the bathroom, on account of the neat little pucks you can eject into the trash can when you’re done.
posted by KevCed at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2012

Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ll look at the aeropress. To all the french press people – I have one, it’s fine, but it’s not pour-over. I really like the taste and clarity of that style of brewing.
posted by kendrak at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2012
The Aeropress people recently started selling a stainless steel filter (scroll all the way to the bottom), which I am pretty excited about having bought. No more paper filters cluttering up the drawer I keep it in yay!

When I was a student who had access to a kettle in a tiny office but no coffee machine and a fifty-yard walk to running water, I used my Aeropress really extensively. I had been married to my French press before and thought the cleanup wasn’t arduous, but being able to eject the puck of coffee grounds and put the press back in my desk drawer was a whole new level of convenience. It makes beautiful coffee too.
posted by bewilderbeast at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2012

I have a little 3-cup Chemex that I use at work. The kitchen has a hot-pot to boil water. I spring for the fancy unfolded-half-moon filters. I get a half-pound of fresh beans ground every week or so, I keep it double wrapped in the fridge.

The french press vs. pour-over is apples vs. oranges; my opinion is that pour-over makes a superior cup. All other differences aside, I find that lifting a spent filter from the Chemex and dropping it into the compost is far more pleasant than rinsing out grounds from a french press. ymmv.
posted by gyusan at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2012

Pour over, been using the sweet marias clever dripper for over a year (just be careful, dont clean it with cold water right after a brew, expansion will weaken the plastic)

Grinding: Those Japanese Hario manual bur grinders are not fun after awhile and I do not think they are a uniform enough of grind to be worth it. I get a lot of different sized particles in the grind with mine.

Kettle, any will do, just get a temp Gage or just wait a bit after the boil.

I think the grinding is going to be the problem, unless your willing to export some pre-grinded from home via jar or something, you looking at money. Hand grinders that work are expensive, and well you know how much the electric ones cost.
posted by couchdive at 4:59 PM on August 20, 2012

 Hario V60 Coffee Dripper. I use the Glass kind with the plastic bottom.

* Use filtered water. Temp 192 – 205 deg F. (below boiling point of 212deg)

* Before brewing, poor at least half a cup of hot water through the empty filter to remove bleach from the filter and pre-heat the cup.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

A few ideas: I have been using an Aeropress for a couple of years, but as noted it is a bit fussy.

Then last winter a bunch of us pitched in and bought a Keurig machine — which I use with my own (good!) coffee grounds and a reusable filter cup. I only use a couple of tablespoons per cup, so I can splurge like crazy and still be thrifty.

But an even betterer technique is cold-pressed coffee in my fridge overnight that I cut with water. (Put 3/4 cups of coffee in a 1-quart French Press pot and mostly fill it with filtered water. Put this in the fridge without depressing the plunger and leave it there until morning. Push down the filter and dilute the resulting brew to taste. Heaven!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:29 PM on August 20, 2012

http://www.nespresso.com/ ?
posted by TrinsicWS at 2:27 AM on August 21, 2012
I’ve been using a Melitta cone for, well, decades. The big trick in using a cone is to use a good filter and to soak the grounds in the bottom of the cone/filter with a small amount of dribbled-in boiling water water for 10-20 sec, discard the weak stuff that comes out of that first quick soak, and then *slowly* fill the filter. I get best results when I only let the coffee ground/boiling water slurry get about 1/2-2/3 of the way up the side of the cone. When I’ve talked to people dissatisfied with Melitta cone brewing, I have usually discovered that they quickly filled the cone to the brim without wetting the grounds at all (which results in a lot of the grounds floating to the top and not contributing to the brew, a weak and bitter version of what they should have gotten).
posted by aught at 7:50 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]
Grindripper. Grinder and pour over in one.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:49 AM on August 22, 2012
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