Simple tips to bring the coffee shop to your kitchen

As the days grow shorter and the temperature gets cooler, more and more University of Ottawa students will find themselves in line at Starbucks or Second Cup before class. But all those lattes and coffees can quickly add up. So, to help you save some cash, here are five ways you can get started on making your favourite coffee or tea drinks at home.

1. Invest in hardware

First, make sure you have the machine that will meet your caffeine needs. Do some homework and figure out whether a regular drip machine, french press, or espresso machine will do it for you. You can find some reliable, affordable coffee machines at your local Walmart or Loblaws. Espresso machines are pretty pricey for the average student, but they could be a good investment if you’re a devout coffee convert.

2. Better beans

The next step is to find the best blend of beans for the best price. Loblaws and Metro do have a nice selection of more expensive coffees for a decent price. Cheap brands are good for a lot of things but, when it comes to coffee, treat yourself. You could also go to your favourite independent coffee house and get a pound for around $15. Keep in mind the darker the roast, the less caffeine content.

3. Milk

Any barista will tell you that milk is the most important part of making a delicious beverage. If you do invest in an espresso machine, make sure to get one with a built-in steamer. If not, you can find cheaper handheld steamers anywhere. Most coffee shops use 2 per cent or 3.25 per cent, but you can substitute whichever milk you prefer. Keep in mind that skim, almond, and most other milk alternatives are much thinner than regular milk, so you’ll either have to add more milk or less coffee.

One thing you can do with milk to create a great coffee is simply warm it up. In many parts of the world (including my household) you usually heat up the milk before pouring it into a strong, dark cup of joe. If you aren’t a huge fan of coffee, steamed milk is a great addition to tea.

4. Flavoured syrups  

Now that you’ve got a snazzy machine, great beans, and are steaming milk like a pro, it’s time to really amp things up. Try out some interesting flavour syrups (Monin or Torani are good brands) to make a traditional pumpkin spice latte or your own concoction. Flavoured syrups can be good for other things as well. For example, I like to have a bottle of vanilla on hand to sweeten up smoothies or use in baking. You can also get it organic or sugar-free to cut out all the excess sugars that are packed into the average coffee.

5. Holiday touches

Finally, it’s time to get into the holiday spirit with a mug of your favourite festive coffee. Even for those who religiously drink their coffee black, the holidays can be a great time to experiment. Try steaming chocolate milk with regular milk to make a mocha, or add any crazy syrup that suits your fancy.

Gingerbread latte, anyone?