In the test kitchen, our love for good coffee is only rivaled by our enjoyment of a terrific kitchen tip. Here are 10 of our best handy coffee maker hacks that should make your caffeinated life better and easier. Got a good kitchen hack to share? Send your best quick tips to

Coffee Maker Hacks

How to Build a Timer Into Your Coffee Maker

Would you like to wake up to fresh coffee—but lack a coffee maker with a built-in timer? Here's a crafty workaround. Buy an inexpensive appliance timer (the kind that turns lights on and off when you go on vacation) at the local hardware store. You can set the brewing time before you go to bed and also set a time for the machine to turn off, so you don't have to worry that you left the machine on.

→ Read our review of automatic drip coffee makers

How to Clean a French Press Coffee Maker

French presses are hard to clean as the spent grounds cling to the bottom of the carafe. To easily get rid of all the grounds without having any go down the garbage disposal (usually considered inadvisable), try this tip:

1. Fill the carafe with water.

2. Pour its contents into a fine-mesh strainer over the sink, and then dump the grounds into the trash.

→ Read our review of fine-mesh strainers

How to Clean a French Press Plunger

Making coffee in a French press can be an enjoyable experience—but trying to remove the tiny grinds from between the plates and screen of the plunger after use isn't always fun. Here's a way to simplify the cleanup. First, fill the empty carafe halfway with soapy water. Then insert the plunger and rapidly move it up and down a few times. The force of the water dislodges any stuck grounds—and scrubs the sides of the carafe.

→ Read our review of French press coffee makers

How to Make Foamed Milk in a French Press

Don't have a milk steamer? You can make creamy, foamy steamed milk—and café au lait or whatever your heart desires—with just a French press coffee maker and a microwave. Here's what to do: Fill a French press's glass beaker no more than one-third full with cold milk. Froth vigorously with the plunger until the milk doubles in volume (about 20 seconds). Remove the plunger and microwave the beaker on full power for 30 to 45 seconds or until the foam rises nearly to the top. You can also use a sealable glass jar: Shake cold milk forcefully in the tightly sealed jar for about 20 seconds, remove the lid, and microwave the jar. (This method produces a slightly coarser foam.)

→ Watch our video on how to make homemade hot chocolate mix

How to Heat Milk While Brewing Coffee

Like your coffee with milk, but also like it piping hot? Instead of pouring cold milk into your cup for a tepid drink, do the following.

1. Measure the desired amount of milk into the empty carafe of an electric coffee maker before brewing.

2. As the hot coffee drips in, the warming plate of the coffee maker heats the milk, resulting in a pot of steaming hot coffee with milk.

→ Read our review of thermal carafes

How to Make a Single Cup of Coffee

Instead of using a large coffee maker to brew a single cup, here's a creative alternative using a funnel.

1. Fit an appropriately sized plastic funnel over a mug and place a cone-shaped filter inside the funnel. Fill it with the desired amount of ground coffee. (The test kitchen prefers 2 tablespoons of coffee for 6 ounces of water.)

2. Pour just-boiling water into the funnel and let the coffee “brew” into the mug.

→ Read our review of pour-over coffee brewers and review of electric kettles

How to Grind Coffee More Efficiently

Many blade-type coffee grinders grind the beans unevenly, producing some powder and some large pieces of bean. Here's one way to even out the grind:

  1. Grasp the coffee grinder with one hand over the hopper.
  2. Lift the whole unit off the counter, shaking it gently while grinding. This moves the beans around and helps the machine grind more evenly.

→ Read our review of coffee grinders

How to Easily Remove Excess Water from a Coffee Maker

Do you ever occasionally add too much water to your drip coffee maker’s reservoir? Rather than precariously tip the entire machine over to empty just the right amount into the sink, use a turkey baster to remove the water, checking against the machine’s water gauge until there is just the right amount of water left.

→ Science: Is basting a chicken or turkey really worth it?

How to Make DIY Vanilla-Flavored Coffee

Here's a great way to reuse spent vanilla beans: make your own homemade vanilla-flavored coffee. After air-drying empty vanilla bean pods for two to three days, add half of a pod to a coffee grinder full of enough coffee beans for a pot and process it before brewing as usual.

→ Read our taste test of vanilla beans

How to Make Cleaning a Percolator Easier

Hate the messy chore of cleaning damp coffee grounds out of the plastic basket of your coffee percolator? Here's how to make cleanup easier:

1. Snip a small hole in the center of a small (4- to 6-cup) basket-style coffee filter.

2. Fit the filter over the percolator tube and into the basket. Fill the filter-lined basket with ground coffee and brew as directed.

3. When it's time to clean up, just dump out the filter with the grounds.

Kitchen Hacks

Craving more hacks? Our book Kitchen Hacks: How Clever Cooks Get Things Done is packed with more than 1,000 solutions to tricky kitchen challenges, including creative ingredient substitutions, speedy food prep tips, and last-minute emergency cooking fixes. The tips in this book don’t just make things easier—they also make things better.