Drip coffee, which 99.9% of the time is what you get when you walk into a coffee shop and order a coffee, is usually pretty poor.
The minimal steeping time and paper filters deprive coffee of its natural and delicious essential oils, and often fail to impart much flavor besides bitterness (this is especially true of Starbucks, whose beans are already a bit over-roasted).
There is, however, a very old and very simple method that nonetheless makes better coffee than even a drip machine with the fanciest of pants: the French Press.
The French press is basically a jug with a mesh plunger. Dump coarse-ground beans (which also give a mellower flavor than fine-ground for a drip machine) into the jug, pour hot water over them, wait a few minutes, then push the plunger down. The plunger is attached to a piece of mesh which pushes the grounds down to the bottom of the jug, away from the steeped coffee. Then pour. It’s about the lowest of the low-fi ways to make coffee, but ask any coffee nerd and they’ll tell you it’s one of the best.
There are personal French press travel mugs, like this $18 Bodum example, but a French press is a risky thing to be carrying around at all times. It’s not all that cheap, it’s often dirty or leaky, and if you just want to grab a quick cup on the road, you’re not very likely to be carrying it with you. So New York “coffee bar” BKoffie is now offering a fully recyclable French press to-go cup instead. They’ll give you beans of your choosing and water (and sugar, if you’re some kind of heathen) and send you on your way with your 16-ounce cup. Three or four minutes later, you push the plunger down, and you’ve got fresh French press coffee.
BKoffie sells 16-ounce French press to-go cups for $2 to $4 (depending on the price of the bean) and is located at 370 West 51st Street in Manhattan.