Turn your home into a charming (and quieter) indoor café with these tips


coffee cups on wooden table

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Cafés are everywhere, and they are the perfect spots for grabbing a quick cup of coffee, getting work done or just lounging around for a while. It’s easy for café visits to become a daily habit, but it can get very expensive. Skip the lines this weekend and transform your home into a cozy café without fancy equipment or pricey gadgets.


Beverage basics

Coffee and tea are essential to the café experience, so it’s important to stock your cupboards with quality beverages. Note: quality does not mean pricey. Check out my article on specialty tea for some great affordable options. Grocery stores also have some wonderful tea and coffee choices. Twinings Earl Grey is full-bodied with a hint of citrus and stands up to even the fanciest earl grey. Café Bustelo is a robust, flavorful coffee that is inexpensive and easy to find at your local grocery store. Trader Joe’s has an excellent selection of tea and coffee, particularly if you are looking for fair trade and organic options. The Organic Mint Mélange Tea is a great herbal tea to have on hand.

If you absolutely won’t go for supermarket coffee, buy coffee beans or ground coffee directly from your café of choice and you’ll still save money by brewing your own cup of joe at home. Many cafés will grind the beans for you upon request, so owning a coffee grinder isn’t necessary.

Lattes are a lot easier to make at home than you think. The Perfect Tea Latte from One Ingredient Chef’s cookbook, also available on the One Ingredient Chef website, could not be simpler or cheaper. The Kitchn’s tutorial on How to Make a Latte At Home Without an Espresso Machine will blow your mind. While dairy milk drinkers will be delighted, nondairy milk drinkers may not be as impressed. I attempted this with almond milk, and I got frothy milk but no foam. The Aerolatte milk whisk is less than $20 and works with both dairy and nondairy milk.

Warmer months require iced coffee. Please, for the love of caffeine, cold brew your iced coffee. Cold brewing iced coffee results in a tastier, full-bodied beverage. I use Gimme Some Oven’s cold brew coffee method to make my iced coffee. Sweeten your beverage with one of these delicious homemade coffee syrups from A Beautiful Mess and say good-bye to the usual gritty sugar residue in your iced coffee. The lavender syrup is divine.


Set the mood

Have you ever been in a café that isn’t playing music, or one without any hustle and bustle? It’s a sad scene. Don’t let this happen to your home café. Coffitivity, a website and app that emulates the ambient sounds of a café, will make your tiny coffee house feel like a friendly neighborhood spot without the overpriced beverages and long waits for a table. Coffitivity points to a study published by the Journal of Consumer Research showing that low to moderate levels of ambient noise actually boost creativity as proof of the website’s effectiveness. The sounds of a café are magical, and Coffitivity really helps me focus.

I like to layer Coffitivity over a relaxing playlist of chill café music. 8tracks.com, a user-generated playlist site, has some great café style mixes. Try this Coffee Shop playlist featuring mellow music by Jack Johnson, Birdy and other indie folk favorites.


Little bites

Photo by Jessica Mendez

What’s a visit to a café without a pastry or two? Scones are flaky, rich and filling enough to keep me from being hungry an hour after I eat one. Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones recipe is so easy to follow and results in the perfect scone. For a savory spin, try the Whole Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar scone recipe from Leanne Brown’s free cookbook, Good and Cheap, and pair with a cup of soup for a hearty lunch.

A good coffee cake is essential to life. I am truly impressed with Yummy Healthy Easy’s Oatmeal Coffee Cake, a moist cake topped with a sweet, nutty mix which gives it an appealing crunch. It’s a healthy take on a classic that is perfect for breakfast.

I also whipped up mini versions of these gorgeous Baked Doughnuts from Design Love Fest for my home café. For minis, I only needed half the glaze recipe. I then halved that and made one batch chocolate by adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

I love a good, flavorful muffin. These Flourless Peanut Butter Mini Blender Muffins from Averie Cooks are healthy and ridiculously easy to prep. For a bit of spice, substitute cinnamon chips for some or all of the chocolate chips.

There you have it! Enjoy the café experience without leaving home. Tell us: what are some of your favorite café treats?