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5 Ways to Transform Your Usual Coffee (for Under $30)

Unlocking New Tastes and Traits from Your Morning Cup

Few things are more comforting than your morning cup of coffee. Oftentimes, the first cup of the day is consumed in the process of doing something else - reading, scrolling through social media, chatting bleary-eyed with a friend or partner - but we firmly believe in the power of making your coffee habit a more mindful experience. 

Sitting with a laptop and a mug of coffee

One way to do that is to put a slight twist on what you’re used to: transform it, tweak it, modify it, and make it new. We love those moments where something new is revealed in something familiar. Like finding out a new fact about a longtime friend, specialty coffee often has something amazing below the surface, just waiting to be unlocked.

Change up your coffee without breaking the bank

Here, we’ll cover 5 ways that are fairly simple and that will help you take your tastes to the next level. These tips are for everyone, but may especially apply to you if:

  • You normally drink the same coffee
  • You prepare your coffee in the same way each day
  • You consider yourself a coffee lover, but perhaps haven’t dabbled that much in manual brewing and tinkering
  • You’re interested in trying coffee in a different way, but don’t want to commit to a lot of new gear or things that are more technical

Or, you just like trying something new! So, grab three $10 bills, sit down with your favorite mug, and find out how to unlock the potential of your coffee by:

  1.  Customizing your water
  2.  Cupping
  3.  Cold brewing
  4.  Changing your filter
  5.  Experiencing Chemex coffee... Without a Chemex!

We also have some free tips and tricks below - view those now.

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5 Ways to Transform Your Usual Coffee


#1 | Try water specially made for coffee extraction 

Perfect Coffee Water, GC Perfect Cup, and Third Wave Water next to a gallon of distilled water

COST:  $12 to $20, + $1 for distilled water

HOW IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COFFEE:  Optimized water pulls out the best flavors in your coffee, maximizing your flavor clarity and sweetness.

Using water specially made for coffee tends to be met with some skepticism. Coffee in and of itself is quite flavorful and robust, so what could water possibly do to make it better? The answer is: potentially a lot.

Beer brewers have known for a long time that the water you use to brew matters. In recent years, specialty coffee has caught onto that fact and several products are now on the market, including Third Wave Water, Perfect Coffee Water, and GC Perfect Cup. Long story short, these products contain the right minerals in the right amount to make your coffee come to life. Generally speaking, they pull out the best compounds in your coffee, making for a cup that has amazing clarity and sweetness.

If you’ve been using tap water for your coffee, you will almost certainly be shocked at how much different your daily cup of Cafe Kaldi can taste. 


#2 | Cup coffees side by side
Breaking the crust on coffee cupping bowls

COST:  $20 - $30

HOW IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COFFEE:  Find something new in your favorite coffee by comparing it to something different.

Context, context, context - it’s the mantra that you’ll see the most in brewing and coffee tasting guides. When trying to discern something as wide-ranging and complex as coffee, side by side comparisons are sometimes the only way to grasp the differences.

Cupping coffee takes a little bit of set up and more than one coffee. We give you some great instructions for how to do it at home in our IGTV video using diner mugs and our Blend Sampler Box. The wider the mouth of your mug or bowl, the better it will go. And we definitely recommend doing with it a coffee loving friend!

Watch our IGTV video: Cupping Coffee at Home

 

Note: If you’re REALLY adventurous, could even try to do this with different waters! 


# 3 | Cold Brew It or Make It Iced

Making cold brew coffee with a French Press

COST:  Free - $20

HOW IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COFFEE:  Cold brewing extracts compounds differently, oftentimes resulting in very sweet and mellow flavors you may not have experienced before. 

If you’ve never tried cold brew before - or had it with anything other than what’s in a can - you might be surprised with how different it can make a coffee taste. The cold brew process - actually ambient temperature - tends to leave acidity muted and sweetness amplified. Besides that, cold brew coffee is incredibly easy and incredibly forgiving - the hardest part of it is the wait. 

See our very easy recipe using your trusty French Press: How to Make Cold Brew with a French Press

 Suggestion Box: 

1) Take some beans from your usual bag of 700 and cold brew it. Dilute to about 50%. You should be left with a delicious, chocolatey, sweet beverage that’s perfect for coffee on the go.

2) Flash chill coffee using our Clever Dripper Iced Coffee Recipe. This locks in the acidity but creates a totally new drinking experience.

See our 5 Things to Know About Cold Brew article for even more info on cold brewing.


# 4 | Hand-brewer? Try cloth or Sibarist filters
Sibarist Fast filters with a bag of 700 coffee blend and a v60

COST:  $13 - $20

HOW IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COFFEE:  The mouthfeel or body of a coffee can change dramatically based on the filter you use.

You might be surprised by how much the filter impacts the final experience you have with a coffee. Cloth filters tend to be more porous and therefore let more of the oils - and even some fine sediment - of a coffee through, resulting in a cup that feels slicker and fuller. The newer Sibarist Fast filters accomplish roughly the same feat, but do so with the full convenience of a paper filter.

From this author’s experience, coffee brews with the Sibarist filter live up to their “fast” name, and brews have to be ground much finer in order to achieve proper extraction. The end result is a cup that feels a little juicer.

Cloth filters require some care but can be considered a greener option for their reusability. Sibarist filters are pretty expensive compared to a normal paper filter, but they can be fun to pull out from time to time just to have that new coffee experience. 

Helpful links (Kaldi's Coffee has no affiliation with either):


#5 | (More advanced) V60 + Chemex Filter
V60 with a Chemex filter in it

COST:  $10 - $20, depending on if you have a V60 already

HOW IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR COFFEE:  Experience new clarity and body without having to buy a new Chemex.

The Chemex is renowned for its form just as much as the cup it makes (read our blog: The Chemex vs The Kalita Wave 185 for more). It’s beautiful, and the clarity it can bring to a washed Ethiopian is just as beautiful as its timeless glass and wood appearance.

But a little secret is that you can get close to the taste of a Chemex without the Chemex at all.

The Chemex and V60 filters both use the same angle for brewing (60 degrees, hence the 60 in v60). This means a Chemex filter fits perfectly well in a V60 and you can use the filters interchangeably. For about $10 for a box of Chemex filters (buy here), and about $8 for a plastic V60 02, you can have Chemex-style coffee for less than half the price of a new Chemex. 

Tips for V60 + Chemex Filter: 

  • You can cut the Chemex filters for convenience
  • You do not need to grind as fine for the V60 + Chemex filter combo as you do for a Chemex
  • You can easily make single-cup brews using this combination
  • If you still want to make large batches, V60 makes an 03 model that’s bigger and can make almost as much coffee as a Chemex!
  • The coffees won't be exactly the same simply due to the way a Chemex brews, but you should notice a difference in the mouthfeel and clarity in your brew.  

    Cutting the Chemex Filter so it fits in the V60 coffee brewer

    FREE! Tips and Tricks

    Simple, free tweaks can also make a surprising difference!:

    1. Let your coffee cool down before you drink it. A lot of people love drinking their coffee piping hot, but oftentimes the best flavors reveal themselves after 8-10 minutes of cooling down. 
    2. Take notes! Improving your brews is much more satisfying when you can repeat the process. Note taking lets you compare results and hone in on the most helpful changes to your process.
    3. Heat your water before putting it into your coffee maker (especially important if you use a non-SCA certified coffee maker)
    4. Try different ratios, anywhere from 1:14 to 1:20.
    5. Try different water temps: anywhere from 190 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    6. Always buy fresh roasted coffee. Read our blog on why that matters.
    7. Give it a slurp! Aerating your coffee reveals a lot of new things.

    Heating a Fellow coffee kettle

    Have a bigger budget? Here’s our top tips:

    1. Nothing is more important than your grinder. Making the investment in something like the Baratza Encore or Fellow Ode can make drastic impacts on your cup quality and clarity. 
    2. Invest in an SCA-certified coffee maker - the OXO Coffee Maker has made some waves as an exceptional-coffee-brewer-for-the-price option.
    3. Purchase a variable temp kettle for pour overs. These give you excellent control for your water temperature and extraction. It’s like having a mini-hot water tower in your house! 
    4. Buy a Gesha or look out for our Cupping Room Series releases. These lots often have flavors that many didn't know could be present in coffee, such as florals or big blueberry notes. 

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    READ NEXT: 

    5 TIPS FOR BETTER COLD BREW AT HOME
    5 Tips for Better Cold Brew Coffee

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