Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know of society’s obsession with coffee. It’s the way we start our days, the way we prolong our nights, and the way we catch up with friends. A far cry from the canned Maxwell House of yesterday, today’s coffee culture is now epitomized by a Starbucks on every block and the proliferation of independent coffee houses. The stuff is quite literally the reason many people get out of bed in the morning.
Coffee is also sacred on college campuses. Between recent addicts and those who’ve been drinking it since high school, coffee is a necessity for countless students. In fact, I don’t think it’d be an overstatement to divide up college kids into three groups based on their preferences. First, there are those who actively avoid the stuff. Perhaps they’re trying not to get addicted to caffeine, or maybe they just don’t like the taste, but there are some people who just don’t do coffee. Next, there are the casual drinkers. They’re always down for Starbucks with friends, or maybe they drink some as an extra boost to finish that paper late at night. Coffee is their ally. Finally, there are the addicts. These are the people who wake up in the morning already planning their first latte, who use caffeine not simply to boost their productivity but because they *need it*. Maybe they’re not physically addicted—maybe they simply love the ritual of sipping the perfect drink. Either way, coffee to them is a necessity in the same vein as food and clothing.
No matter which of the pro-coffee groups you fall into, you’ll probably find yourself in need of a good brew on campus. In general, there are two options: on campus or off. Your school may provide coffee in the dining halls, perfect to use with your own mug and whisk to the library. Or maybe there are separate cafes where you can pay with school currency to grab a cup. Either way, this stuff is likely cheaper and more plentiful than anything brewed by a private coffee house. But it’s also worth noting that letting the brew sit around in big dispensers can make it a bit bitter—I know I’ve suffered an stomach or two. But if you’re not overly picky about quality, this is a budget-friendly option that can’t be beat.
Your second option is to go off campus. Whether it’s Starbucks or an independent coffee shop, this is your chance to really drink something special. Coffeehouses can also be great places to study—plus you’ll be able to grab an espresso drink to sip. While they don’t offer the same competitive pricing as your dining hall (read: aren’t free), this is the best option for someone who’s fanatic about their coffee.
Of course, there are ways to combat the off-campus/on-campus dichotomy. One option is brewing your own. “But I can barely fit anything in my dorm room as it is!” you say. I hear you. One option is a small Keurig—it whips up your drink in seconds. If you want to brew a better coffee, you’re in luck—single cup brewing methods are highly portable. Some of my favorites include the Aeropress and Chemex, both of which simply require hot water, a paper filter, and a mug to work. And if you want to take your brewing to the next level with fresh grounds, a simple manual grinder will do the trick.
Making all this coffee in your dorm room may sound absurd, but it’s been done before. My school is home to Two G’s Coffee, a small business started out of an upperclassman dorm. Dissatisfied by the nearby coffee scene, these two Columbia students opted to start making their own—and now they’re selling it to others! While they’ve taken their passion to the extreme, it’s evident that anyone can take the time to make a good cup of joe.
The coffee culture of college is whatever you make it. You can guzzle down dining hall coffee, savor a bougie cafe’s cappuccino, or make your own. It’s about what works for you—and what’s going to help you stay up all night to finish that problem set.