Assembling The Perfect Coffee Station

Coffee has been everything from a treat to a job to a hobby for me.  So tomorrow being National Coffee Day is a joyous celebration for me, and the perfect time to share my newest coffee related journey – my coffee station!

I truly believe coffee cart should be the new bar cart.  However, I don’t love the functionality of ‘carts’, so Bryan built me a gorgeous side table to house everything in (follow him on Instagram for more furniture and wood projects @thinkwoodthoughts).

Step One: The Coffee.  If you already have bags of coffee haphazardly stored all over your apartment, you can skip this section.  If you’re looking to get into making coffee at home, but aren’t quite sure where to start, then keep reading.

Craft coffee can be quite the expensive hobby to get into, but there are plenty of ways to get decent coffee without totally bleeding your bank account to try.  While it’s great to brew coffee within two weeks of its roast date, the average person isn’t going to notice a difference, meaning your options for coffee beans are seemingly endless.  Starbucks is always a safe bet for quite a few reasons.  The accessibility is unmatched, you can walk into the cafe or grocery store of your choosing and out with a bag of coffee without probably straying too much from your daily routine.  The downside of Starbucks is, while they are all perfectly fine, none of the coffees are truly great.

For coffee beans on a budget, there is no better place to go than Trader Joe’s.

Your local coffee shop is the best place to start.  You can test out some of the roasts by the cup before committing to a full bag of it.  Plus, you’re more likely to get beans within that sweet two week roasting period for maximum flavor.

For the Very Serious coffee drinker, a subscription service may be the best way to go.  I’ve been dying to try one from Blue Bottle, but there are many others available such as Stumptown and Counter Culture.

Step Two: The Equipment.  I could probably go on FOR.EVER. about the nuances of different coffee brewing equipment, but I will save you all the headache (for now).  I don’t have a Keurig, since they are both terrible for the environment and not very good at making tasty coffee.  An espresso machine is on my ultimate wish list.  While this one is sort of the creme de la creme for attentive espresso making, everyone I know with a DeLonghi is very happy with whichever model they have.  I’d also love to get my hands on a Chemex Ottomatic… Perhaps someday.  *sighs wistfully*

Of the methods available for brewing classic coffee, these are my rankings.

#1: Chemex.  Scientists tend to recognize Chemex coffee makers as a glorified erlenmeyer flask, which is fitting since Chemex was actually designed by a chemist looking to leverage his experience into creating a superior cup of coffee (he succeeded).  If you’re looking to make multiple cups at the same time, the Chemex is pure gold.  It makes the same amount as your average Mr. Coffee, which means about two mugs for two people.  The cone method of brewing by far delivers the best flavor, but the Chemex takes it one step further.  Besides being aesthetically pleasing, their benefit is two-fold.  The glass doesn’t absorb oils the way plastic does, and their filters are thicker than all others, doing a substantially better job at keeping the grounds out of your coffee.  This tech pairing really enhances the flavor and produces a clean tasting cup.  It’s also relatively easy to clean, and if your second cups get a little cold, they’re pretty easy to re-heat directly on the stovetop (on a low setting!) later on.  The con list is pretty short: they are a bit pricey and the filters can be a bit difficult to find (they aren’t sold in most of the grocery stores I go to, I have only seen them in Williams Sonoma, local coffee shops, and on Amazon).

#2: Pour Over Cone.  The cheap plastic may not look as cool as the Chemex, but your standard pour over cone is much cheaper and (almost) as tasty.  You also will have a super easy time finding affordable filters in the grocery store, and an even easier time cleaning it.  To top, a cone is also the easiest way to make iced coffee.  Just make your coffee at double the strength, and put your iced cup directly under.  Pour-overs give you maximum control over your coffee than any other brewing method, but a conventional cone just lacks the thicker filters and the glass of a Chemex, at a lesser price point.  There are also some ceramic ones available, if you’re looking for a more aesthetically pleasing option.

#3: The Aeropress.  This is the newest method of coffee brewing to me.  If you’re tight on time, the Aeropress is the way to go, since it makes coffee almost instantly.  It’s also super easy to clean, and makes pretty decent Americanos.

#4: Drip Machine.  Drip machine coffee makers aren’t too exciting, but they get the job done.  A lot of the art is taken away by this method, but if you’re looking for something you can set a timer for in the morning and set up with relative ease, this is for you.  This one is on sale now for a great price!

#5: The French Press.  For some reason, everyone decided that the french press was *The Coffee Method* you needed to prove your adulthood.  Honestly I’m just not that into it.  It’s hard to clean, makes extremely thick coffee, and doesn’t make much of it.

Grinder.  If you’ve decided to purchase a grinder, I would definitely recommend a burr grinder (over a blade model).  Blades will chop up the beans into uneven sizes, so the smaller pieces can be problematic, especially in french press brewing.  Burr grinders, on the other hand, dispense perfectly even sized pieces, leading to an even extraction of flavor.  The size of your coffee grounds is HUGE for extraction flavor: uneven grounds can lead to a bitter or bland tasting coffee.  The one I have pictured above is a blade model, and it works okay, but is definitely not as good as the burr one Bryan has.  This one gets pretty good reviews for the price, and will probably be the one I try next.

Electric Kettle.  A standard kettle would heat up water just fine, or even a saucepan for that matter.  But I happen to love the ease of electric kettles.

Frother.  While not necessary, a milk frother can be a pretty cool thing to have.  There are manual, electric, and hand held models that are great if you prefer lattes or cafe au laits.

Storage Jar.  If you want to keep you beans in an aesthetically pleasing jar, I’m partial to this one from Bodum that matches my frother and french press.

Mugs.  I don’t know what you guys want me to say.  Mugs are mugs.  Everyone seems to have 40 mugs, but we only use what, one or two a day, max?!

Thanks so much for stopping by – hope you all have a wonderful time celebrating tomorrow!

xo, C


The Sol Compass turns 3!!

Hello everyone, welcome back!  I can’t believe that today is the third birthday of The Sol Compass!  Well, technically Monday was, but I didn’t post because of the holiday.  I had no idea what this blog would turn out to be when I started it back in 2014.  All I knew was that I wanted a place to document and share the things that I was inspired by.  I thought I would do a lot of food posts, what I was cooking and how I eat seasonally to stretch my dollars.  Or maybe share some places that inspired me in my travels.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I would have the artistic freedoms of creating content to inspire people or that I would some day get paid to get dressed in the morning.  This endeavor has been an absolute dream come true and I cannot thank you all enough for following along and fueling my passions.  You all create sunshine for me and I will never be able to thank you enough.

In celebration of The Sol Compass’ third birthday, I have three giveaways planned for you this month!  Without a big blogger budget they’re nothing huge but just something small to say thanks for coming along on this journey with me and for allowing me to do this thing that I love so much.

Today’s giveaway is all about the great love of my life… Coffee!  This journal and a $20 Starbucks gift card could be yours in just three easy steps!  The giveaway will run until Sunday, and next Monday (9/11) I’ll announce the winner and the next giveaway!!

To enter the giveaway you just need to follow these three steps!
1) Like The Sol Compass on Facebook!
2) Follow The Sol Compass on Instagram!
3) Leave a comment on this blog post when you’re done!

The winner will be announced in Monday’s post, and also contacted by email!  Good luck, and thank you for following along with The Sol Compass!

xo, C

At Home Cold Brew

Hello everyone, welcome back!  Today I’m sharing something I have a lot of experience with: making coffee.  I was a shift manager at Starbucks for four years through college, and finding new coffee shops and coffee beans to try is one of my favorite ways to explore new cities.  I always get asked to make coffee at holidays and parties, which has gotten somewhat comical at this point, but it’s true that I can whip out a latte (or 75) in my sleep.  Today, I’m putting that experience to good use and sharing how you can make Cold Brewed Coffee at home, which is great whether you want to elevate your coffee game or save some money on your daily coffee!

The main difference between a cold brew and a traditional iced coffee is the way that it’s made.  A traditional iced coffee is brewed hot and then refrigerated or poured over ice.  Cold brew, however, is brewed in cold water and steeped for several hours, resulting in a sweeter and smoother taste.  You have to make it the day before, which makes the morning much easier since the heavy lifting has already been done by past you (well done).

Today I’m going to share two ways to make cold brew, using these pitcher packs and using a french press!

For the first batch, I used my copper french press and Starbucks’ Kenya roast, which tastes amazing over ice!

  1. Make sure the coffee is ground for a french press.  If you don’t have a grinder at home, Starbucks will always grind it for you at the store!
  2. My preferred ratio of grounds to water is 1:5, so for my 34oz French Press, I made about 32oz of cold brew, and used six 1 ounce scoops of coffee (which came with the french press, but equates to just less than one cup of grounds).
  3. Add coffee grounds to the french press, and pour in the water making sure all of the grounds are wet, stirring them with a wooden spoon.
  4. Cover the french press without plunging and store in the fridge.  Ideally it should steep for 16-20 hours, but 12 will do just fine in a pinch.
  5. When it’s ready, plunge, pour, and enjoy!  If you make extra, I recommend keeping it in a separate refrigerated container.  I use a mason jar, but Starbucks also has a Cold Brew Growler

Starbucks KenyaBodum French Press (also available at Starbucks in silver!)

This next method is actually (somehow) even easier!  I picked up two of these boxes of prepared Cold Brew at the Starbucks store, but they’re also available online.  My pitcher is an old Tazo tea pitcher (which really shows how long ago I was working with Starbucks), but they have a really similar one here!

  1. Take one bag out of the box (two pitcher packs) and put it in four cups of water.
  2. Let sit in the fridge for 16-20 hours.
  3. Remove pitcher packs.
  4. Add four more cups of water.
  5. Serve over ice and enjoy!  Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Narino 70 Cold Brew Coffee | Acrylic Pitcher | Cold Brew Glass | Cold Brew Growler

I happen to love super cold iced coffee during the summer, so a frequent problem I face is the watering down that inevitably happens if I don’t drink my iced coffee quickly enough.  My next investment for my coffee corner will be these soft silicone ice trays, so I can make coffee iced cubes that don’t dilute the flavor at all!


I hope you all enjoyed today’s post!  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Have a great week!

xo, C

Gift Guide: The Foodie

Foodies can certainly be stressful to shop for.  It’s tempting to buy them a monthly club membership, but then they can miss out on the fun of opening something tangible.  So I’ve rounded up my favorite items to add to their favorite hobby!


one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight // nine

For the coffee lover, I adore this color-blocked espresso set (I also love this black and white set) and this cute elephant creamer to add some spice to the morning cup.  For the homemade pizza enthusiast, this whimsical bike pizza cutter and state cutting board bring some more excitement to the cooking process.  For some after dinner fun, The Chillsner keeps beers cold without a coozy, and this electric wine bottle opener makes for a great conversation starter as the party gets going.  I love this Moscow Mule mug and Mint Julep cup for those who like to go all out with their cocktails.  For the chef of any caliber, this stylish tablet stand makes following an internet recipe or video hands-free a breeze (bonus that they can use it outside of the kitchen, too!)

Follow my Pinterest board for gift ideas for everyone all season long!  Happy Holidays!

xo, Caitlin

Rain Storm in Fall Form


An autumnal storm like last night’s is the perfect excuse to stay inside for an evening with a few of my favorite comforting items.  “Heart of the City” is one of my all-time favorite re-reads.  Ariel Sabar uses an intriguing summary of environmental psychology as an introduction for his collection of true short stories, documenting nine couple’s first encounters in New York City.  Its juxtaposition with science and romance make it easy for me to come back to time and time again, especially on simple, rainy nights in.IMG_2330

Leftover from my last trip to New York City is this marvelous African tea from Ambessa.  Given as a gift after a delightful meal at Red Rooster by the remarkable Marcus Samuelsson, this Safari breakfast blend stays true to the passion and quality Marcus so highly values in all of his endeavors.  To boot, every Ambessa purchase gives back to a charity that brings clean water to a community in need.

The siren mug from Starbucks embodies one of my favorite Starbucks traditions of the romantic sea and makes me long for summer, but balances with cool tones of fall and is the perfect container for a hot cup of tea.

If you are anything like me, seasonal candles are one of your top-purchased decor items every time the weather turns.  I love how this Vanilla Chai candle from Bath and Body Works embodies the fall atmosphere with the vanilla, chai, and subtle cinnamon notes in a welcoming and warm aroma. It’s a great way to enhance the natural scents of apples and pumpkins while maintaining the seasonal appeal.  The adorable mason jar can only add to the appeal!

IMG_2335PS: the coaster, vase, and flower are all super affordable and from Ikea!

XO, Caitlin