You do NOT need to buy specialty coffee to make good coffee.
You can use pre-ground, store-bought coffee to make good coffee.
I probably just offended some third-wave coffee fanatics, but I stand by what I say. Let me explain.
Certainly I’m not crazy. I know buying freshly roasted coffee and grinding it just before brewing is clearly the way to go. What I am saying is that you can dramatically increase the quality of store-bought coffee by brewing it manually.
Have you ever read any of those posts telling you about how much money you can save if you switch to manually brewing your own coffee? If you’re like me, those are super frustrating to read because they assume you buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks (or a place like it) every day and thus can afford buying coffee at $20 per pound. No doubt. If you go to Starbucks daily, you can buy whatever coffee you please and still save money, but what if I can’t afford buying coffee at $10-$20 per pound? Am I supposed to just not drink coffee? Am I not qualified to enter into the manual brewing world because I can’t afford the best coffee? No. That’s ridiculous. Instead, I will commit the ultimate coffee sin and buy stale, pre-ground beans and have fun doing it. It’s not as bad as they make it seem.
Yes. The taste is way different and a much lower quality, but don’t fret. It can still be enjoyable.
Note: store-bought coffee is always dark roast, so don’t expect to ever really get acidity or sweetness. By the nature of the beast, the coffee will always be more bitter but can have great body. Focus on the positives!
For example, I brew coffee every morning with an AeroPress, but I don’t have some fancy coffee. In fact, I bought a one kilogram bag of arabica-robusta blend of Java coffee. Who knows how old? No doubt, this coffee is stale, and to make it worse, it’s mostly robusta beans. *Gasp* But I greatly enjoy my coffee every morning, so much so I look forward to it the night before. However, I remember having this very same coffee brewed in a machine by a friend, and it was awful. It tasted burnt and was extremely bitter. I am in wonder how the AeroPress could make that terrible coffee good, but it did. It’s literally magic!
As an example (and a bit of a control), I used to enjoy Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Not anymore. I can say definitively that my mostly robusta, stale, pre-ground coffee is far and away better than DD (at least the one in Indonesia).
With all that said, obviously you get what you pay for. I still greatly enjoy an occasional cup of fresh coffee at a coffee shop. I lovingly welcome the sweetness and acidity that I don’t get with my cheap coffee, but at the end of the day, you can still make good coffee with bad coffee if done right.
Perhaps the coffee experts would detest my morning jo and pour it down the drain, but for the average person, you don’t need expensive coffee (I’m curious to try popular American brands like Folgers and Maxwell House when I get home). The truth is if you’re new to manual brew, you’re probably used to drinking coffee from your Mr. Coffee machine, Keurig, or something like it. You will be surprised by just how much better that very same coffee you’ve been using will taste when brewed manually.
So to enter into the manual brewing world, do you have to buy expensive coffee? NO! Any coffee will work. If you cannot afford specialty coffee (like myself), use what you can afford. It will be far and away better than using a drip machine and is more fun! Experiment. See what recipes/conditions bring out the best tastes in whatever coffee you use.
Note: I cannot guarantee store-bought coffee will perform well in all manual brewers. I can only attest to the AeroPress (and French press as well although grind is more of a problem here) as of now. Also I cannot speak to American brands. I only assume that the coffee that I am using is of similar quality, but there is the chance that it’s actually better; however, I doubt it. And hey…at least American store-bought coffee is 100% arabica.