My Best Tips for A Dorm-Friendly Coffee Setup

As you may or may not know, I am a college student. I am also a budding coffee addict and, selectively, a coffee snob. What I mean by “selective” is that although I enjoy quality (and, let’s face it, expensive) lattes in coffee shops, my at-home coffee game is pretty basic.

Some people who are extremely knowledgeable about coffee may cringe at my current routine or at least contest my true level of coffee snobbery. I do use a French press rather than a drip coffee machine, and sometimes I try out local roasters, but that’s pretty much where my fussiness stops. I’m excited to learn more about coffee, and I’m experimenting with local (and small or sustainable) roasters, single origin coffees, freshly grinding my beans, and other things that are hallmarks of brewing a really quality cup. For now, though, I’m along for the ride and willing to accept that sometimes my grocery-store coffee will taste sad and burnt even when drowned in milk and sugar. But hey, at least it has caffeine!

More often than not, at college, yes, I will simply use pre-ground beans, if I brew my own coffee at all. After all, it makes life easier. There are a few other products that others use to get a high quality cup of coffee and many consider essentials that I simply don’t have. These include a digital scale or a brewing setup such as a Chemex, V60 or Aeropress.

Like many others, I entered college this year during a global pandemic and my campus is essentially locked down for at least the first few weeks of each semester. I’m not going to be going out to cafés for the considerable future. I want– no, I need– to have a solid coffee option in my dorm room, and I’m going to talk through my thought process with you all. What follows are some dorm-friendly coffee brewing options and the pros and cons of each. 

Cold Brew Pitcher

A cold brew pitcher is exactly what it sounds like: a pitcher with a special chamber for coffee in the middle. You just put in your beans and wait. 

Pros:

  • Inexpensive– You can find a special cold brew pitcher on Amazon or Target for something like $15 to $20 and use whatever coffee you’d like
  • Easy to Use– Chuck in some coffee, keep it in the mini fridge overnight, and you’re done. Also seems fairly simple to clean since the grounds are contained in the little filter piece. It also isn’t necessary to measure out coffee too specifically because cold brew is not a very exact science– no measuring cups or scales.
  • Quantity– You can make a whole pitcher at a time, which is always good.

Cons:

  • No hot coffee– While I normally prefer cold coffee, be it simple iced coffee or cold brew, I am also going to school in Vermont, so I can imagine wanting hot coffee in the winter, which would be hard to achieve with  a pitcher alone.

  French Press

The French press is a classic, tried-and-true way to brew and comes in a variety of styles and sizes that could work for any person and any dorm. It’s what I currently use at home, and I’m very comfortable using it in a dorm setting too.

Pros

  • Inexpensive– You can find a decent French press online starting at around $20
  • Simple to Use

Cons

  • Cleanup– In a dorm room, dealing with the grounds and cleaning up can be a bit of a pain, although in my humble opinion it’s definitely worth it
  • Requires slightly more precise measuring

Premade Coffee Drinks and/or Coffee Tea Bags

Instead of going through the hassle of brewing coffee every morning, I also sometimes just buy a bottle of premade latte or iced coffee, a canned cold brew, or steep a coffee bags (á la Chamberlain Coffee, essentially a tea bag but with coffee). 

Pros:

  • Easy– since you aren’t doing, well, anything, you cannot mess it up
  • Convenient– Instantly ready, or ready in just a few minutes if using a coffee bag

Cons

  • Finite and limited supply– once you’re out of a premade coffee, you’re out
  • Expensive– it costs a lot more to buy a premade coffee drink that to make your own, and you get a lot less for your money

Some of my favorite options are Brew Bike coffee tea bags, local New England cold brew cans (for example, NOBL Beverages, Atomic Coffee Roasters, iced coffee from Broadsheet– and Elemental Bev. Co. collabs in general) and premade lattes from Califia Farms. Yum! There is a whole wide world of exciting pre-made coffee to try, especially iced coffee and cold brew. 

Keurig Machine

A Keurig can be a solid option for a super streamline coffee-making process, and comes in super cute colors (minty blue-green, anyone?)

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Consistent coffee

Cons

  • Expensive– buying the machine is a bit of an investment, and you have to keep buying K-cups, which can definitely add up
  • Only brews a single cup at a time
  • Not environmentally friendly– K-cups create a lot of trash; yes, you can use reusable K-cups, but that sort of diminishes the convenience factor

Electric Kettle

I swear by my electric kettle. It is perfect for brewing a cozy cup of tea or to use in conjunction with the French press.

Pros:

  • Convenient
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Literally none– highly recommend to all!


Fun and optional coffee-adjacent products to consider: milk frother, flavor syrups, reusable metal straws and cute mugs or tumblers

Other options include a drip coffee machine, which can be cheap, easy and convenient but wasn’t really something I was super excited about, or an espresso machine, which can be used to make delicious lattes and espresso-based drinks, but would also be a significant investment both financially and space-wise in a dorm. Plus, cleanup can be a pain. What’s your coffee setup of choice, whether dorm/apartment-friendly or at home?

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