As a full-time dual-enrollment student, it’s a rare occurrence that I’m able to make it through the day without caffeine. But unfortunately, I don't have the time or finances to take a trip to my local Starbucks to get my coffee fix every morning. That’s why I taught myself how to make my own delicious, customized, caffeinated beverages. Stay tuned and I’ll be extending my knowledge to you in an easy, five-step process!
Step 1: Power up the right equipment
Here’s where it all begins—the method of bringing your drink into existence. If you already have a coffeemaker in possession, congratulations! You can skip this part. But for those of you in the market for a beginner coffeemaker on a budget, I recommend this single-serve Vimukun. It’s compatible with ready-to-go coffee pods for ease of use, but you could also opt for reusable K Cups to use with your own grinds. If you’re looking for a more professional machine to turn all your caffeinated dreams into realities, set your sights on the Ninja Specialty Coffee Maker, fully equipped with six sizing options, four brewing modes, and a built-in frother. Finally, for the least expensive and least hassle option, I propose a simple electric kettle that you can use to quickly boil up some water and pour right into your coffee or tea.
Step 2: Choose your wake-up factor
The next thing to consider is the base of your drink: the coffee or tea that will balance everything else you add in with a strong, steady flavor. Your options are boundless in this category and there’s no wrong choice, but just in case you aren’t sure where to start, I’ll let you in on a couple of my top picks. I switch out my collection often, but one staple I always keep stocked is Trader Joe’s Shade Grown Ground Espresso Blend, which you can get in-store or on Amazon. If you’re looking to keep it more simple, try Starbucks’ Premium Instant Medium Roast Coffee—same great flavor without the bother of waiting for it to brew.
If you’re interested in supporting a fan-favorite influencer, be sure to check out Chamberlain Coffee, founded by California’s own Emma Chamberlain. You can also find some great options that help others, such as Fire Department Coffee, a company that's run by active and retired firefighters and gives back to first responders who've been mentally and physically injured on the job. As for tea, my go-to for a high-quality, organic brand with a myriad of specialty flavors is The Republic of Tea (make sure to check out their Daily Matcha and Ginger Peach).
Step 3: Fly through the Milky Way
Some opt to skip this step and move right on to sweetener, but in my opinion, a splash of milk (or dairy-free substitute) is essential for balancing the richness of your caffeine and the denseness of your creamer. Personally, I love a good oat milk more than anything else (this Chobani one is perfect), but whatever you keep in your fridge will work!
Step 4: Satisfy your sweet tooth
This is my favorite part of the drink-making process because there are so many different ways to do it. For the most hands-off option, scour your local grocery store for creamers and syrups that you can mix and match until you find the perfect combination. If you’re willing to do some stovetop work, my go-to handmade creamer is a quarter cup of both coconut sugar and brown sugar (plus a dash of vanilla extract to your liking) boiled together into a light syrup. Make sure to let it cool completely before use to let it thicken up. For cooled sweet tea, I like to blend a bit of granulated sugar with a handful of frozen strawberries and a cup of milk. Or, in honor of spooky season, you could forget all the fancy combinations and just use a dash of this Pumpkin Spice Flavoring Syrup to give your drink a cozy, fall feel. Overall, the most important part of this step is to be creative and have fun. Don’t despair if your first attempt doesn’t match up to your expectations—it’s all part of the process!
Step 5: Bring it all together
The portions of your drink ultimately depend on your personal preference, but for a basic frame of reference, I recommend using a cup of coffee/tea (or two shots of espresso), a half cup of milk, and two tablespoons of sweetener. To make it an iced beverage, throw in an extra cup of ice and you’ll be good to go. If you’re interested in pretty layering techniques, take care to add the elements of your drink in the order of sweetener, milk, and caffeine and use an extra tablespoon of your sweet component to keep the layers neatly separated.
With this quick guide, I’m confident you’ll be able to craft your very own caffeinated beverages just as well as any Starbucks barista. Don’t be afraid to try different techniques and products until you find exactly what you’re looking for. Not only will you have a handful of fun drinks to try along the way, but you’ll also develop a brand-new hobby to impress your coffee-obsessed friends with. (And yes, I wrote this while drinking coffee.)
Find the perfect snack to accompany your homemade beverage with our College Cooking playlist on YouTube.