The $3 Treasure Hunt: At-Home Coffee Bar Fixings

By | Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Recently, I’ve kicked my at-home coffee situation up several notches, in effort to rid myself of any last desire I have to buy hot beverages when I’m out. I don’t buy coffee out often, but when I do, I tend to gravitate toward expensive cold brew, or fancy, flavored drinks that are $3 more expensive than everything else on the menu. So, just making standard drip coffee at home wasn’t going to be enough to stop my temptation to buy a soy vanilla latte. I needed an at-home coffee bar with more pizazz that would cost much less than expensive coffee. During our last $3 treasure hunt, I made my dream makeup table using cleaning products and household items for under $3. This week, for our 15th week of the $3 treasures hunts, I wanted to find the perfect at-home coffee fixings for under $3. So, I found specific buys and little tricks to elevate your at-home coffee experience that will quell your craving for seasonal lattes.

Here is what I have in my at-home coffee station:

Milk or half and half. Half gallon of 2% milk: $1.83

Personally, I like Trader Joe’s Coconut Beverage as a substitute: $2.19

You can also grab almond milk if you prefer. (The one I buy at Trader Joe’s is $1.79.)

Homemade simple syrup. To make this, you combine one part sugar to two parts water, and bring them to a boil on the stove. Once the mixture has boiled for approximately three to five minutes, bring it down to a lower heat, and stir until the sugar has fully dissolved in the water.

It’s also fun to have flavored syrups on hand, but unfortunately, the fancy glass bottled syrups can run on the expensive side. Instead, I prefer to make my own, especially because once you’ve already made a simple syrup, there’s really only one more step. Once you bring the simple syrup down to low heat, add a small amount of vanilla extract, or almond extract, depending on what flavor you’re partial to. (For measurements, I think 1/4 tsp of extract for every cup of simple syrup is plenty, but it depends how much you want the flavor to come through.) Make enough for the week, and store it in a glass jar.


Premium Vanilla Extract (McCormick’s brand): $2.16

I also like to make mochas, so I have Trader Joe’s Organic Midnight Moo Chocolate Flavored Syrup: $3.49. (Forgive me, for I have sinned and gone 49 cents over $3 with that buy.)

For those of you who like fruity coffees, you might want to keep a fruit-flavored syrup on hand, instead of vanilla, almond, or chocolate syrup. Just thaw a handful of blueberries, and then mash them (as fine as possible) and mix them into the simple syrup when it’s back on low heat. The frozen blueberries I buy are $2.99.

To add flair to your at-home coffee bar, make your own coffee ice cubes. Personally, I can’t do coffee ice cubes, because it’s too much caffeine. (I actually need to use a lot of ice cubes because I need them to dilute my coffee.) However, for caffeine fiends, I can’t recommend coffee cubes enough. Designate one of your ice cube trays as the Coffee Tray, and pour some brewed coffee, or diluted cold brew, into the tray. Freeze overnight.

For making the actual coffee, you have a few different options. Unfortunately, buying cold brew isn’t the most cost effective solution. However, I will admit that it’s something I like to splurge on. I buy a large jug of cold brew concentrate for about $8, but because I dilute it heavily, and it lasts me about three weeks (so if it’s $8 for a large jug of cold brew, I essentially spend $2.75 on coffee per week). I can also build my fancy coffee concoctions using coffee (hot or cold) that I make at home. I use a french press, which cost exactly zero dollars because it was a hand-me-down to my roommate. (If you are in the market for a french press, ask around for friends who might be getting rid of theirs. You also don’t have to get a $45 french press. I now own a french press for tea, which I found for $12.99 at T.J. Maxx, and it works perfectly.)

To make cold brew overnight, here’s my routine:

– Add the grounds (coarsely ground, not finely ground), and pour water into the cold brew press, but do not press the grounds until the next morning.
– Let sit overnight for 12 hours in the fridge (others prefer to leave it at room temperature outside of the fridge)

I think this is the best way to get concentrated coffee, but if you’re in the mood for a warm beverage, you can always reheat your concentrated cold brew, and use it like espresso when making your drinks throughout the week.


For making a warm latte:

– Warm the concentrated coffee on the stove

– Add your syrup of choice (I like to do about 3/4 of a tbsp, but it depends on your taste)

– Once the syrup is mixed in, add your preferred milk, and let it froth a little

– Pour into your mug or take it to go!

For making iced beverages:

– Pour your cold brew/coffee concentrate into the cup first

– Mix in your syrup, and make sure it combines fully with the coffee

– Add the ice cubes

– Fill to the brim with water, or milk.

Personally, I like to have my drinks with one part cold brew, two parts water or milk, because my stomach can’t deal with super strong coffee. However, for those that crave coffee that packs a punch, the one to one ratio is pretty delicious.

If you’re looking for some good concoction ideas, here are my two favorites:

Iced Coconut Mochas

– 3/4 tbsp of chocolate syrup

– Half a cup of cold brew

– One full cup of coconut milk

– A handful of ice


Vanilla Lattes

– Vanilla-flavored simple syrup (3/4 or to taste)

– One full cup of milk

– Half a cup of cold brew

I prefer this one as a warm drink, and it’s great with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Adjust the portions to your taste, and enjoy!

Image via Pexels

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