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The Best Coffee Gear For College Dorms And Offices
Written by: Garrett Oden
Is it possible to make stellar coffee when you’re limited to a small room and a tiny amount of counter space? Yes! But you won’t find the best coffee gear for college dorms and offices at your local Walmart. You’re going to have to choose wisely from options online.
I’ve handpicked a handful of coffee apparatuses that are especially well-suited for use in small, limited spaces. Though not every single item will work in your particular situation, you’ll certainly be able to find the perfect setup among this list.
At the very least, here’s what you need to brew cafe-quality coffee in your space:
- Hot Water
But, like I said, you can’t just pick any brewer or grinder or water heater. It must be compact, relatively quiet, quick, non-messy, and affordable (at least for you college students). Finding gear that fits all these requirements on your own is frustrating, but we’ve got you covered.
Read: Getting Started With Specialty Coffee: Essential Equipment
You Need A Small Coffee Brewer
Forget big drip coffee pots. They’re clunky, inefficient, and don’t usually make great coffee (that is, unless you’re willing to dish out $200+).
I highly recommend going with a manual brewer.
They’re compact, easy to use, easy to clean, and brew better coffee. Sure, they’re not as simple as throwing grounds in a pot, but the rich results are so worth that 2-3 extra minutes.
Let me share some of the best manual coffee brewers for college dorms and offices
- AeroPress - An enthusiast favorite, the AeroPress is a versatile, compact, and light brewer made of super durable plastic. Though it can only brew 8oz at a time, it’s a relatively fast process with the option to use either paper or metal filters for a painless cleanup.
- French Press - The quintessential manual coffee brewer, the French Press is a world-beloved brewer that makes coffee with a robust flavor and heavy body. They’re typically made of glass, which can be a liability if you’re clumsy, but they can also make 34oz of coffee at a time.
Read: Aeropress VS French Press: Which Is Right For You?
- Clever Dripper - The strong cone-shaped plastic body has a stopper on the bottom of the brewer that keeps your coffee from draining until you set the brewer on a mug or carafe for an immersion-style brew. Thanks to the paper filter, it’s easier to clean than the French Press and has a more rounded flavor and clean body. Can make up to 14oz of coffee per session.
- It’s American Press - This unique brewer features a coffee chamber that you press through the water after a brief immersion period. It’s quick, simple, and cleans up very nicely. Produces up to 14oz of coffee with a medium-heavy body and rich flavor, thanks to the permanent metal filter.
Notice what’s missing? Pour over brewers.
I don’t really suggest pour over devices for small spaces and budgets
To really do well with them, you would also need a special kettle and a scale for certain. And that just requires more space and financial investment. For small spaces, immersion brewing is the way to go.
Read: How Manual Coffee Brewing Can Change Your Life
You Need An Effective Burr Coffee Grinder
Freshly ground coffee is the best coffee—no exceptions. Whole coffee beans only have 2-3 weeks of peak freshness and flavor after being roasted. And pre-ground? 20-30 minutes once you open the bag.
Trust me, grind your own beans! Your taste buds will thank you.
In a small space like an office or dorm room, you don’t want to spring for a big electric grinder. They’re bulky, require an outlet, and are typically very loud and obnoxious. Once again, go manual. Manual burr grinds are very compact, easy to store away, and not difficult to use at all.
(By the way, we're giving away FREE burr coffee grinders that are perfect for dorms and offices -> click here to get yours.)
Thinking about one of those cheap “blade” grinders? Don’t do it!
They don’t really grind your beans… they chop them without any rhyme or rhythm. You need your grounds to be a consistent size for a balanced brew, and a blade grinder will never get you there.
For the same price (~$20), you can get a much more effective JavaPresse burr grinder (the one we're giving away). It’s made of durable stainless steel, yet is super light and compact. It’s a great fit for small spaces and is perfect for immersion brewers.
Other honorable (but more expensive) mentions for good manual grinders are..
- Hario Skerton Pro ($55)
- Handground ($79)
- Porlex Mini ($66)
Buy whole beans and grind them just before brewing them. There’s no alternative if you want stand-out coffee.
You Need A Way To Heat Water
The least space-consuming option is simply to heat up hot water in the microwave. It works, but it’s very inconsistent and difficult to determine if you have the right amount of water.
Read: The Perfect Water Temperature For Coffee Brewing
When it comes to this, I actually do suggest getting a dedicated electric kettle.
- They’re fast
- They tell you exactly how much water you’re using
- And they keep you from spilling water all over the place
For most people, a 0.5-liter kettle is perfect for brewing 1-2 cups. The most popular kettle of this size is the stainless steel one from Bonavita ($30). If you’re going to get a large french press to brew for multiple people, you’re going to want a 1-liter kettle ($20-30).
Consider A Coffee Scale
I strongly recommend getting a scale for brewing. I know, it seems a little crazy to buy a whole scale to brew coffee, but trust me—there’s no better way to brew precisely delicious coffee day after day.
A scale lets you know exactly how much coffee and water you use, which means you can make the exact same cup every day—no guessing required. It also means you can easily make small adjustments to improve the flavor.
Read: The Golden Ratios in Coffee Brewing
A stellar full-size scale is the Jennings CJ-4000 ($27), but there are cheaper options. It’s also possible to use a pocket-size scale like this one from American Weight ($14).
If you go the small scale route, you can weigh your beans with it and use your kettle’s markings to determine how much water you’re using (because 1ml of water = 1g of water, so you don’t necessarily need a scale for the water part—just the coffee).
And, Of Course, Fresh Coffee Beans
There’s nothing like specialty-grade, freshly roasted coffee beans. Flavor notes of blueberries, spices, and flowers are often found in these high-quality beans, so don’t settle for the stale stuff you can find in any supermarket.
The easiest way to get uber-fresh and flavorful beans to your dorm or office? Have them delivered.
Subscribers to our JavaPresse Coffee Club get freshly roasted beans delivered to their door or office every other week (plus a FREE coffee grinder!). We source specialty-grade beans from amazing farms around the world, then we roast them in a way that brings out their best flavors and ship them to you on the same day.
This means you get your coffee while it’s still at peak freshness and flavor, while it’s offering you the best experience it can possibly give. Sounds tasty, right?Check out the Club for yourself.