Coffee is something that has embedded itself into most of my routines, as it has most red-blooded Americans. It started in college with cream-and-sugar concoctions that the thought of makes my stomach churn and has since changed into a purer enjoyment of plain black brews. Nowadays it's a standard, if sometimes annoying, ritual to have a morning cup, whether I'm backpacking or vacationing or just having a normal workday. How I make that cup is slightly more complicated.
Back in college, and even into the first few years of work, I was content with a simple drip coffee maker. Sometimes I'd buy whole bean and grind it and other times I'd just use a large tub already ground. It was simple enough to press one button and then putz around with other things, coming back in five or ten minutes to a steaming pot ready to pour. After a few years of this I began to get annoyed by this system, the daily scrub of a fragile glass pot and the inevitable grime that builds up in the water holder, especially as I'm the only coffee drinker in the house. I wanted something simpler.
One Christmas I got a Keurig, an expensive solution that was definitely better suited for a single drinker. Pop in a flavored K-cup, wait a minute, and you had a warm cup with little mess. This is when I started to get picky. It was great to have different flavor options in the cups with low maintenance, though the system was wasteful and costly. When the Keurig started to leak due to a bad seal I decided to try something more basic.
I now have four ways to make coffee, each one cheap compared to a Keurig and focused on delivering a single cup. Started with the French Press, which generates almost no waste (ignoring coffee grounds, I guess, which can be reused), and then moved onto an Areopress and Hario pour-over. I also have a Bialetti Moka Espresso for special occasions and quick afternoon jolts. Each of these were less than thirty bucks and lets me tweak the heat, strength, and amount of coffee to a delightful degree.
For several years I kept with a French Press, which makes a rich cup with very little effort. Add some grounds, pour in some hot water, bloom if desired, and then plunge and pour. There's no paper filter to dispose of, just used grounds and the press to wash out. The only annoying piece of cleanup is the filter, which is mesh metal, that can fray and catch on cloth. Plus mine is made of very thin glass and I constantly worry that I'm going to break it while cleaning. Otherwise this is one of my favorite methods.
Looking for some variety I then picked up a Hario pour-over, which is basically a de-constructed drip. Put a paper filter in a funnel, pour in some grounds, then add water in slowly so that it drains properly and mixes well with the grounds. It's easier to clean than a drip and does seem a bit less wasteful, with no electricity or anything, though I'm not sure how different the output is in the end. Still, it's an option, and it looks cool.
The Aeropress was purchased on a whim. One weird thing about it is that it only makes about a half-cup of coffee. You mix the grounds and hot water in a plastic cylinder and then press it out in a more-forceful way than the French Press through a small paper filter, ending up with a very strong and small brew that you can water down. Suppose you could add milk or chocolate to it easier this way, or just water it down to make some sort of Americano knock-off. I've heard this tool lauded as one of 'the best cups of coffee', though I'm not terribly impressed. I feel like the French Press stuff tastes better.
For a special afternoon treat I'll use my Bialetti Moka, an adorable little metal contraption that you put on a stove to force steam through grounds, similar to an espresso maker. This thing makes a wickedly strong sip of coffee. It is finicky, though, and the stuff that comes out always seems a bit powdery at the end. I've only used it a few times, for friends or when I have a coffee-centric snack to enjoy (cake, biscuits, etc), so maybe I need to get more used to it in order to make a good shot of faux-espresso.
When I'm home these are the main ways I make coffee, defaulting to the press and then falling back to Hario or Aeropress for some variety. Each method is cheap to get started on and easy to clean up and maintain, especially compared to Keurig or drip. Camping is a different story, as I've been using either instant or caffeine tablets to get the morning fix, but that's a whole other thing. When I'm at home and have a few moments I really enjoy poking around and crafting that morning cup of encouragement.