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The Coffee Nerdist: School’s BaaaAAAck

Well, fall is careening towards us and if you’re not already back in the school saddle (or more accurately, under the saddle feeling the weight of your teachers riding you — Yee Haw! Yeeee Haw!) you’re at least getting your school supplies in order. Don’t forget the only supply that can deliver both the caffeinated excitement of success AND the scalding pain of failure, all in a cup: your coffee.

Maybe those halcyon days of school are behind you and you’re thinking “back to school is for suckers,” which is true until you realize that while you may not have finals staring you down in December, you most certainly have annual job performance reviews which only determine what — Your status at work, pay, and future? Yeah, you, too, will want to read on for how to prepare for a caffeinated autumn.

While there is about to be a parade of places selling you on their coffee intelligence, or the addictive flavor of their coffee-style pumpkin beverages, you don’t need them. You can do this yourself and as cheap-tastically as you want. But HOW, you ask? “I’m so tired of my summer routine and I need a brewing method that can travel with me.” Look no further.

Cheap and dirty, but not for long

Arguably the grand-mammy of pourover coffee, Melitta angle-bottom drippers are readily available at drug stores for as cheap as $3. You’ll need to pony up for some filters, but at 4 cents each, the beer budget will emerge unscathed.

Sure, sure, but I’m looking for something a little more, how you say? METAL!

One of the newer kids on the block, in this country anyway, is the Kalita Wave flat-bottom dripper.

The 155 model will hold enough coffee to brew your usual 12 oz cup, but it will take a few more small pours to get the job done. You’ll need to grab a box of (the right size) filters, which will add 12 cents to each cup, but that’s the less-than-a-dime price difference you pay for flat-bottom brewing and the ridged, shiny, stainless steel bling of the Wave.

All over campus class (or meeting) trekker?

If you have space for only a solitary mug and bag of coffee, this personal presspot/mug might be the thing that saves your day. You’ll need to grind your day’s coffee before leaving the house and steal a few moments with the hot water tap in the teachers’ lounge or office kitchen, but it will definitely do the trick.

But, the coffee

If your local coffee shops haven’t already filled your themed messenger bag with coffee, there are some stellar options available from the mailman. From where I sit, it appears that East African and Central American coffees are in season right now and they taste good.

Velton’s Coffee in Seattle is doing a dandy job roasting up killer blends and single origin coffees alike. And! He sells full 1lb bags of coffee, which is approaching unheard-of in this 12 oz. world. The Rwanda Kanzu is indeed both sweet and savory.


Tonx is one of those LA roastery startups whose coffee offerings keep selling out in a matter of minutes. Luckily, they’re starting a subscription, so you don’t have to hover above the keyboard like you’re waiting for a Woot BOC.

I hope these options will keep you simultaneously caffeinated on the sweet coffees and away from the rabbit hole of free Starbucks refills.

If you have burning coffee questions that would make interesting Nerdist Coffee fodder, please @ me — or add a comment below.

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  1. will says:

    * the glass/ceramic wave is preferable to the steel (just my opinion). the steel is hard to clean well manually; i’ve had to put mine in the (automatic) dishwater, which seems inappropriate on so many levels.

    * velton’s sells 1 lb. bags? that’s not a plus. for most, the end of the bag will stale before it’ll be finished. i wish roasters would just sell in ~1/2# quantities, coava-style.

    * the hassle of ordering Tonx’s “limited-edition” (i.e., we can’t afford to buy big lots) stuff is kind of annoying. come on, it’s not that special.

  2. Brett Hanson says:

    @Jim- There is no shortage of nut-ball methods identified as “cowboy coffee”. My favorites involve egg shells and the like. Of course I can’t think about cowboy coffee without flashing back to The Far Side’s “Latte, Jed?” strip. I’d link to it, but the firehose of random crap that’s returned with those search terms at google has destroyed my will to search. Happy coffeeing.

  3. Jim says:

    Boil your water, drop in the grounds, drop in an ice cube which drops the majority grinds to the bottom. Take it like man! …and maybe take some nexium 🙂

    Seriously I saw this in some random cookbook calling it cowboy coffee.