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What is the best coffeemaker for a college student living in a dorm room? I can’t answer that with any authority until we figure out exactly which problem you are trying to solve.
We need some more information and you need to ask yourself some questions. What are your coffee drinking habits? What is most important to you? Making good quality coffee? Making a lot of coffee? What are the limitations of your dorm room? Which is the biggest problem for you? Is it lack of space, lack of time, budget or cost?
We will break this article down into several sections. Each section will address a different student profile and make recommendations based on it. If you like, skip down to the section that best addresses your concerns and problems and check out the recommendations.
In each section, I will make economical budget-friendly recommendations, and a recommendation for quality was budget is not an issue.
Here are the profiles and sections designed to address the problems brought up in each – What problem are you trying to solve?
1. Coffee Made With The Push Of A Button.
2. Great Tasting Coffee With Simple Preparation And Clean Up
3. Coffee Maker Suggestions Where Lack of Space Is the Primary Issue
4. Making Coffee Without A Coffee Maker
1. Coffee Made With The Push Of A Button.
If you perceive yourself as being time crunched in the mornings and having no time to spend thinking about making coffee, you’re in the right place. School is hectic, been there, done that.
You’ll probably want to push a button, be able to finish getting ready for the day, and come back five or 10 minutes later and have coffee ready to go. Grab a cup and scarf it down if you have time and pour the rest into a travel mug and had to class. No muss no fuss.
Or, no offense, you’re not really a sophisticated enough coffee drinker to be with worried about measuring out coffee exactly on a grand scale in sitting with a timer waiting for the exact moment the coffee is ready.
All you really want is decent coffee, fast, hot, with little to no work.
In this case, my recommendation would be an automatic drip coffee maker.
One of the most common appliances is the drip coffeemaker. These are fairly simple machines and easy to use, but you can find them with many features. If you’re on board with that let’s consider a few questions and possibilities. We want you to be set up the machine that will meet your needs and solve your problems in the best way possible.
At first, I was thinking in terms of having a very fast coffee maker. You want to hit the button and have the coffee made quickly. But it was very difficult to determine what “fast” was.
An even better alternative is available and that is to have a programmable coffee maker that you can set for a few minutes before it is time for you to wake up. That way you don’t even have to push the button, the coffee is sitting there waiting for you. The only trick to programmable coffeemakers is that they tend to be a bit more expensive than non-programmable coffeemakers. I did find a budget-friendly solution.
If budget is an issue:
My recommendation would be a 5 cup programmable coffee maker. A suggestion would be the Mr. Coffee Advanced Brew 5-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker. Click on the image below to the left for today’s discounted price.
When I was in school, I had the non-programmable version of this same coffee maker. I like the fact that it made enough coffee that I could pour a cup while I was getting dressed in enjoy it. The rest I would pour into a thermal cup and take it to class with me. It was just enough so there was no waste involved.
It does use paper filters which can be a positive or negative. The negative part is you have to keep them on hand and they are just one more item to add to your shopping list. But at least there is no cleanup, just pop the filter in the grounds in the garbage and you’re good to go. You can buy a permanent filter, (which I use). It eliminates the need for buying paper filters. The drawback to the permanent filter is that it must be rinsed out each time you use it. You might want to consider whether your dorm room has water or would mean a trip to the bathroom to rinse it out every time you make coffee.
Another angle to try if money is holding you back from purchasing a coffee maker – just had to a thrift store. Automatic drip coffee makers are one of the most common items found at the thrift store they can be had for five or $10.
A Flexible Coffee Maker:
The next automatic drip coffee maker recommendation will make provides a lot of options for you- The Hamilton Beach 2-Way FlexBrew Coffeemaker It allows you to brew into a standard-size cup or brew up to a 14-ounce travel mug or a full pot. On the single-serve side, you can use regular ground coffee or K cup packs.
It meets our criteria for pushbutton simplicity in the fact that it is programmable and it has a two-hour automatic shut off. If you run off to class forget to turn off the coffee maker, no worries. It can use K cups (although these are one of the most expensive ways to drink coffee on a daily basis). If you use them, you won’t be messing with coffee beans or coffee grounds. It uses paper filters but you can buy a permanent filter to fit. Click on the center image below for the current price.
If budget is not an issue AND you want SUPERIOR tasting coffee:
I’ll be honest with you, since I’ve tried other methods of brewing automatic drip coffee makers are not my number one preference. They have some inherent weaknesses in brewing a truly superior cup of coffee.
However the KBG Technivorm overcomes a lot of these objections (for a price). It was voted best automatic drip coffee maker by Americas Test Kitchen. It is push-button simple to operate fast and very quiet. It brews a full carafe in a tad under six minutes.
One of the weaknesses of drip coffeemakers is that the coffee is not being made with the proper water temperature and that can greatly affect the quality of the brew greatly. The Technivorm uses a unique, copper boiling element rapidly heats water to control brewing temperature between 196 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit which is important for coffee soluble extraction, then automatically switches off when the water reservoir is empty.
The independent hot-plate element engineered to hold the coffee temperature between 175 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit for a maximum 100 minutes and then automatically shuts off. It comes in 19, count them, different finishes if you are fashion forward type of person.
It has over 400 reviews on Amazon and averages from 4.5 out of five stars, which is the highest I’ve seen for a drip coffee maker.This is a high-quality coffee maker, built like a tank it will last for years. If anyone suggests what they can get you as a gift for going to college, make this number one on your list. You won’t be sorry. The Technivorm is om the right, click through to see the price. Check out the different models – they have some with hotplates and others with no hotplate but rather, a thermal carafe.
Here are all three automatic drip coffee maker recommendations.
Click through to check today’s discounted prices:
Keurig Coffee Maker
I want to be perfectly clear about this. I do not recommend K cup coffee machines. But I would be doing you a disservice not to speak briefly about them when the topic of this section of the post is one touch convenience. In my mind that is the only selling point K cup machines have going for them, they are mindlessly convenient. I have worked in multiple office settings where this was the only coffee option available. And this is a personal prejudice I freely admit I think they make really terrible coffee.
Furthermore, when I did my post on a cost analysis of various types of coffee comparing a French press to an automatic drip coffee maker to a K cup coffee maker. The K cups were far and away the most expensive way to drink coffee. They are also more expenses in initial equipment investment than most. My recommendation is to stay away from them. But if you insist, I did my research and found one that I think might be appropriate for a college student in dorm room situation.
It is the Keurig K-Mini K15 Single-Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker it is small and much less expensive than a typical Keurig machine. Here are some unique features:
No Water Tank – I know, this may seem a bit odd to you, especially if you’re used to the old-style coffee makers, but this one right here doesn’t have a water tank. Due to this, it is possible to store the machine in a dresser or desk drawer. When it comes time to brew your cup of coffee, all you have to do is add the amount of water you wish to have in your cup.
Multiple Cup Sizes – Speaking in a cup, this machine has multiple cup size options that you can choose from. If you feel as if you don’t need a whole lot of coffee, then 6 ounces should be suitable for you. However, you can also choose between 8 ounces and 10 ounces. If you would like the strongest taste, then we recommend going for the 6-ounce brewing option.
Hot Water Option – With this machine, you’re going to have a hot water option. If you’re fond of turning an espresso into an Americano, then the hot water option would be a great feature for you.
2. Great Tasting Coffee With Simple Preparation And Clean Up
Okay, so you’re willing to put in a little bit of work beyond simply pushing a button. The rewards for putting in just a little effort are a really good tasting cup of coffee. Much more so, than an automatic drip machine in my opinion.
After doing a lot of research in the forums of students at college and how they make their coffee, combined with my own personal experience, to suggestions come to the front:
- An Aeropress coffee maker
- Using a French press
If you are already using either one of those methods just stick to it. You may want to upgrade your equipment to suit your new environment a bit better. For instance there are French presses that have unbreakable carafes. There are also specialty grinders that sit directly into the arrow press.
As far as the time it takes to make a cup of coffee, the ease of use, and the cost of equipment, they are almost dead evenly matched. They both produce really good cups of coffee and lend themselves toward using better beans. Also, student opinions are just about evenly divided between the two. The interesting thing is whichever method was chosen, those folks have become diehard loyal fans to either the French press or the Aeropress.
The hot water kettle we had pictured has a gooseneck spout which is recommended. If you ever want to try pour over coffee techniques such as a Chemex or Melita, these make it so much easier.
Electric Gooseneck Kettle with Preset Variable Heat Settings for Drip Coffee and Tea, Quick Boil, Stainless Steel with LCD Display, Auto Shut-off, Keep Warm Function
This particular kettle has temperature control and a warming function, it is one of the more deluxe models out there. A basic hot water kettle is around $25.
Now that we have our source of water set, the decision is whether to go with an AeroPress or French press.
My personal preference is for the French press. It is easy to use, there are no mechanical parts to break, you do not need electricity (except for heating the hot water in the kettle. In the brewing process is fairly quick and about five minutes.
One of the best ways to prepare coffee is by using a French press coffee maker.
A French press coffee maker is perfectly named for what it does.
The basic operation of how it functions goes like this: You add your coffee grinds into the pot and then you add the boiling water. You then you are ready to begin applying the pressure on the plunging type tool which presses down on the coffee, filtering out the grinds with the screen on the plunging tool and brewing up a tasty cup of wonderful coffee.
It really is that easy. You might be wondering what the benefit of a French press coffee maker, so let me tell you. French press coffee makers produce a stronger cup of coffee then would your traditional electric coffee maker. It is great for those who like their coffee full of that robust coffee flavor. It is recommended that you drink your cup of coffee right away, while it is still piping hot, to get the best results.
Never used a French press? Check out this short ‘How To’ video’
An upgrade recommendation for the dorm room would be to go for an unbreakable French press. Just about the only way people mess up the equipment is to break the carafe. Down below are 3 recommendations taht are all inexpensive and unbreakable, a French press travel mug, a smaller 3 to 4 cup, unbreakable French press or a full size model. Click images below for current pricing
Bodum Travel Tea and Coffee Press, Stainless Steel Insulated Travel Mug, Black, 15 OunceBonJour Coffee Unbreakable Plastic French Press, 12.7-Ounce, Ami-Matin(tm), BlackBonJour Coffee Unbreakable Plastic French Press, 33.8-Ounce, Ami-Matin(tm), Black
The Aeropress coffee maker
like the French press has tons of people that swear by it. I think one of the primary differences between the two is the arrow press only allows you to make one cup at a time. If you are going to actually brew coffee this is probably the fastest way to do it.
Admittedly, it’s not a big deal to “reload” the coffee maker and shoot out another cup. Once you have hot water, brewing time is 30 seconds. It’s total-immersion system permits extraction at a moderate temperature and a short brew time. Water and grounds are mixed together for 10 seconds, then gentle air pressure pushes the mix through a micro-filter in just 20 seconds, which avoids the bitterness of long processes such as drip brewing.
The air pressure also gently squeezes the last goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor. This coffee maker also utilizes specialty filters.
If you like a cup of coffee in the morning and are in the habit of taking a travel mug with you to class this is a little bit redundant and double work. One owner stated “I don’t think I’ve ever washed my Aeropress. The rubber seal really does keep the coffee maker clean. You could really just wipe it with a wet paper towel and dry it off before you store it.”
One owner stated “I don’t think I’ve ever washed my Aeropress. The rubber seal really does keep the coffee maker clean. You could really just wipe it with a wet paper towel and dry it off before you store it.”
Never used an Aeropress? Check out this short ‘How To’ video’
3. Coffee Maker Suggestions Where Lack of Space Is the Primary Issue.
To tell you the truth, when I was first thinking about the best coffeemaker for school in a dorm room my first consideration ran to how much space is it going to take up.
In my college and grad school days, desktop and dresser top space was absolutely precious.
The French press and Aeropress are small enough that they can actually be stored in a dresser drawer and just brought out as needed. The trade-off though is you’re going to have to find room for your hot water kettle.
You might want to click through on some of our suggested coffeemakers and take a look at the dimensions which are usually way down the bottom of Amazon listing.
A 4 cup automatic drip coffee maker does not take up a lot of space. The space hogs that we have mentioned in this post are the Technivorm KBG higher end automatic drip coffee maker and a full size Chemex. Ironically, they both have a beautiful design and are interesting to have on display.
Here are the coffeemakers ranked in terms of space they take up, moving from the most compact up to the space hogs.
- Aeropress (+ kettle)
- French Press travel mug (+ kettle)
- French press (+ kettle)
- 4 –cup automatic drip coffee maker
- Full size automatic drip coffee maker
4. Making Coffee Without A Coffee Maker.
Making coffee without a coffee maker is moving into the realm of improvisation. The really interesting thing is you can make great tasting coffee without a dedicated coffee maker if you choose to do so.
Cold Brewed Coffee
If you have a dorm room refrigerator or access to one this could be the solution to your coffee problems.
Cold brew coffee is the fastest-growing segment of the coffee industry for a few really important reasons. It makes really good tasting coffee No special equipment is needed. It is drop-dead simple to make. In a nutshell, here is how it works. You will be using an infusion method, which is a fancy way of saying you’re going to put the coffee in water and let it sit overnight the water becomes infused with a coffee flavor. What you are making is a “coffee concentrate”.
When you’re ready for a hot cup of coffee you will just add some water to your concentrate and heat it up. If you prefer iced coffees or frozen coffees with flavorings this becomes the base to make them with. It will hold in the refrigerator as a concentrate for quite some time. Just add your favorite flavors ice – you have great ice coffee. Take your base, add ice, flavorings or choice, and run it through the blender and you have a frozen coffee drink.
Here are a couple ways to make it:
1. Add 2 cups of coarsely ground coffee to 7 cups of cold water. (use a gallon pitcher) Stir. Put in refrigerator for at least 12 hours, 24 hours is better. Strain out the grounds. Makes just under a half gallon.
2. Smaller amount: Make in a 1 quart mason jar. ¾ cup coarse ground coffee – 1 quart of water.
When you’re reconstituting the cold brew concentrate it will take a bit of experimentation at first. But once you get the flavor profile down it’s really easy.
Here’s a quick video that explains the process we just outlined.
Use New-School Instant Coffee
Another alternative to making coffee without a coffee maker is to use instant coffee. Now, if you just rolled your eyes and went Yuck! In your mind you’re probably thinking about old school instant coffee. The kind of instant coffee that was stored in a jar in the back of the cupboard and would cake up from being used so infrequently.
There is a new emerging market called Specialty Instant Coffee. Some intrepid brewers are working with local brewers and small-batch brewing high quality beans. They are then using new, modern, processes to extract the moisture leaving as much of the flavor qualities as possible available.
These are boutique coffees. On a per cup basis they are not cheap but they are a huge improvement on any instant coffee that was formerly available. We investigated three companies offering the boutique instant coffee. Two of them were membership sites and one sold coffees by the package.
One of the real advancements these companies have made it is in the packaging. They are in single serve packets that can be slipped into your purse or wallet and easily carried with you and used when ready.
On a per cup basis these are very expensive. In terms of convenience they are exceptional new products. You might want to give them a try. I can see quite easily how they could fit into a lifestyle of a busy college or grad student.
For more information here is the post we rode on the instant coffees. Click Specialty Instant Coffees.
Or, you can click through directly to the companies themselves:
This option might not be for everyone but I thought it was worth bringing to your attention because not too many people are aware of these specialty instant coffee companies. Most of them are small startups and were started through crowd-sourcing, they are environmentally aware, and passionate coffee people.
Summary & Conclusion
This post started out with what I thought was a relatively simple problem to be solved. What is the best coffeemaker for a college student heading to their dorm.
As I talk to people, read forums, and thought about it a bit, it became evident that this was actually a complicated question. The first thing we had to sort out is exactly what sort of problem we are trying to solve for the student.
Is it one of convenience? Is the time involved in making coffee the motivating factor? Is the space, water supply, and clean up the primary factors? And, with all this going on which will make the best cup of coffee?
We’re going to sum up some things that we learned and make some recommendations based on our research. Will give you the short note, bullet point version.
If your emphasis is on:
- The best cup of coffee possible – KBG Technivorm , French press
- The fastest cup of coffee possible – Aeropress, cold brew, instant coffee
- The most convenient cup of coffee – automatic drip coffee maker
- The cheapest cup of coffee possible (poor taste)– Folgers or Maxwell house with automatic drip coffee maker, instant
- The cheapest cup of coffee possible (good taste) – French press, Aeropress
- Fast, good taste, but expensive – specialty instant coffee
- Good coffee with no equipment hassle at all – cold brew coffee.
We hope you enjoyed our post. We wish you the best of luck at school and in your coffee drinking adventures.