Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

DIY coffee and ‘something slightly more exotic’

When it comes to coffee, we all assume that do-it-yourself costs less than barrista-brewed, but how much cheaper is DIY exactly? In her post ‘Frugal Coffee Drinking’, Sophie from We Can Have Everything! made the calculations and these are the figures she came up with:

According to Sophie’s calculations, instant coffee is the cheapest option out there: it requires no initial outlay and costs only $0.14 per cup. If you’re a true coffee connoisseur, however, you wouldn’t be seen dead clutching a Nescafe anything. Unfortunately, real espresso machines are beyond most household budgets; plunger-style coffee is probably the best compromise between your taste buds and your hip pocket.

For ‘something slightly more exotic’*, try making your own Vietnamese coffee. Vietnam is a major exporter of coffee beans and the Vietnamese, thanks to their French colonial heritage, love drinking coffee. Unfortunately, fresh milk is hard to get by in the region and most of the population can’t afford food let alone an espresso machine, so their coffee is made with coarsely ground beans, a phin filter, and condensed milk:

You will usually need to buy a phin filter ($2.19 from, but a plunger** will do the job just as well. Premium Vietnamese ground coffee such as Highlands Culi Blend*** costs $0.55 per serve, whilst condensed milk**** costs $0.26 per serve. Hence a homemade cà phê sữa (milk coffee) will cost you $0.81. Pour it over ice for a refreshing warm-weather drink.

Whilst DIY Vietnamese coffee is cheaper than a barrista-brewed coffee, it is also pricier than many of its DIY counterparts. Unlike instant and sachet coffee though, Vietnamese coffee doesn’t sacrifice on flavour:

Like espresso, Vietnamese coffee is deep and rich, and a little goes a long way. What makes it really stand out though in my mind, is its incredible buttery aroma and flavor…[Also] sweetened condensed milk is typically used in lieu of cream and sugar both for practical reasons (it doesn’t have to be refrigerated) and for taste (Have you had sweetened condensed milk lately? Think creamy, thick, dulce de leche goodness…in your coffee…everyday!). This is why Vietnamese coffee is a habit I could really get used to. (via Lick My Spoon‘s ‘Vietnamese Coffee: In Pursuit of the Perfect Cup (Plus Giveaway!)’)

So if you’re like Sophie who’s sick of foul-tasting work coffee but unwilling to spend a fortune on that caffeine habit, make your own cup…Vietnamese style.

*I love this coffee ad. It’s an oldie but a goodie:

**A French Press/plunger can be also used to make Vietnamese coffee:

***Most people swear by Trung Nguyen but my cousins back in Nam seem to prefer Highlands.

****Use the rest of your condensed milk in a crème caramel, lemon slice, or drizzled on toast.

2 thoughts on “DIY coffee and ‘something slightly more exotic’

  1. Thanks for the mention!

    I know that nescafe is meant to be terrible, but I honestly like it. I also enjoy reading celebrity gossip, and watching sunrise (as in the daggy TV show where they show clips of waterskiing dogs and try to scare you about the carbon tax, not as in actual sunrises). I gave up on being cool a long time ago 🙂

    1. No problems. I really liked that post of yours. It gave people comparative costs on all of their coffee options.

      I’m not a coffee person myself but Cheap Geek is. He’s always rolling his eyes up at the thought of ‘real coffee drinkers’ using pod machines at home.

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