The best ways to make coffee for one person

There are many times when you need to make a solo cup of coffee for one person but don't necessarily need to brew a whole pot. We get enough questions about this while we're out at markets that we wanted to make sure we put together a solid guide to help you get the best coffee for one person!

Whether you live alone, have a guest coming over who drinks coffee (but you don't) or just like to enjoy a single cup of coffee every morning, there are many different methods for making coffee that are perfect for one person. From the classic pour over method or French press to the more modern AeroPress method, there are plenty of options for creating your perfect cup of coffee.

Here's the three main methods we'll go over in this post:

  • The pour over method
  • The AeroPress method
  • The French press method

Scroll to the bottom if you just want a quick reference chart based on each method.

As a bonus, we'll also share how to keep your beans fresher longer.


Coffee sitting in a pour over maker ready to be brewed

The pour over method

One popular method is the pour over method, which involves pouring hot water slowly over ground coffee beans to produce a rich and flavorful cup of coffee. This method originated in Japan, where it is still widely used today. It has become increasingly popular in the West in recent years due to its simplicity and ease of use.

There are two standard ways we'll cover when it comes to pour overs: the single coffee dripper method or the larger pour over coffee maker method.


A coffee mug with a Hario V60 on top

Using a Hario V60 coffee dripper (or similar one-cup pour over coffee maker)

The Hario V60 is one of the most popular pour over coffee makers on the market today. Made from heat-resistant borosilicate glass or plastic, it allows you to control every aspect of the brewing process, allowing you to achieve a perfectly balanced cup with just a few simple steps. To put it simply, it's the perfect way to brew a really solid single cup of coffee.

To use the V60, simply place your coffee grounds in the cone-shaped filter and slowly pour hot water over them in a circular motion. The water should drip down through the grounds and into your coffee mug or carafe below. You can adjust the flow rate by using a finer or coarser grind, depending on what kind of flavor profile you want to achieve. Start with a medium grind, then go a little finer or coarser on the grind and see how you like the coffee, then adjust accordingly. Try starting using around 3 tablespoons of coffee to make a 10 oz cup of coffee, as a baseline.

We're featuring the V60 because it's the most well-known of this style, but there are many other similar types of single-cup pour over brewers. Another popular one is the Kalita Wave Series, which is made by another Japanese company called Kalita. No matter which brand of coffee maker you choose, they're all designed to make an excellent cup of coffee.

Small side note: Starbucks's CEO, Howard Schultz, discovered drip coffee making in this way when he worked for Hammarplast. The founders of Starbucks used to buy Hammarplast drip coffee makers in large numbers, which intrigued Schultz, so he went out to Seattle to meet them. The rest is history!


Coffee brewing using the pour over method

Using a Chemex (or similar pour over coffee maker)

The Chemex-style coffee maker is a versatile way to either make a single cup of coffee or a larger pot of coffee depending on how many people are drinking. This is great for when you're normally the only one drinking coffee, but then you have a guest over who also drinks coffee. In contrast to the single-cup pour over method mentioned above, you can save time by brewing more coffee when needed instead of having to brew one cup, then brew the next one for your guest.

Our recommendation to do this method really well for one person requires a scale and using grams to get really precise. You've probably seen us recommend the 1:15 ratio for coffee to water, and that's easier done with grams than it is with ounces and all that.

Here's the way we do the pour-over method for a single cup of coffee:

  1. Boil water in a kettle and get your scale ready.
  2. While the water is boiling, measure out 15 grams of coffee and grind to a medium grind.
  3. Wet the coffee filter if you're using one (you might be using a mesh filter, which is fine, too). You can do this in the coffee maker itself, then just dump the water in the pot out and set it back together with the filter in.
  4. Add the 15 grams of coffee into the coffee maker, level them out and then set the scale to zero out (TARE) with the coffee maker on it.
  5. When the water is ready, slowly add about 50 grams of water to the coffee so that it blooms. The scale should read "50g" after the water goes in. Let it sit for like 20-30 seconds.
  6. Keep slowly pouring in water until you get to 240 grams. That'll give you a decent cup of coffee for one person.


Making Runyon Coffee using an AeroPress

The AeroPress method

Another great option for making coffee for one person is the AeroPress. This method was invented in 2005 by Alan Adler and boasts that it makes a smoother, richer flavor of coffee without bitterness. In fact, the box claims that it has 1/9th the acidity of French press coffee, too.

Regardless, the AeroPress is perfect for those who want a quick and easy way to make coffee, as it only takes a few minutes to brew a cup. It's also awesome for traveling; we recently took the AeroPress Go on an Amtrak trip through California and were able to enjoy a really good cup of coffee on the train multiple times.

Here's the easy way we make coffee using the AeroPress:

  1. Boil water in a kettle. We just eyeball the amount we think we'll need; do like 16 oz of water in the kettle.
  2. Wet the paper AeroPress filter. We usually do this by sticking it in the little cap thing and running it under the faucet, or pouring some of our hot water on it. Either way, you just want to get it wet before pushing coffee through it so you remove the paper taste.
  3. Screw the filter piece onto the chamber with the numbers in circles on it. Set it on top of your cup.
  4. Use the scoop to gauge how much coffee you'll need to grind. We use one scoop = one cup of coffee. This will make more sense in a minute.
  5. Grind the coffee medium-fine and add however many scoops of it you want (start with 1 scoop) to the chamber. Shake the AeroPress to level the grinds out and set it back on the cup.
  6. Add water up to the number 1 in the circle on the chamber. Go to like the middle or top of the circle.
  7. Stir the mixture of coffee and water around in the chamber for 10 seconds or so.
  8. Insert the plunger and push down slowly so that the coffee mixture passes through the filter and into your cup in the bottom.
  9. Voila! You have REALLY strong coffee. You can drink it like this, but it's better if you...
  10. Add water to the mixture similar to how you'd make an Americano with espresso. Maybe around 8 oz. of water? It's really up to you and how strong you want your coffee.

Our last piece of advice on this would be to do two or three scoops and fill up the water to the circled 2 or 3 on the AeroPress chamber. That'll make you a good, solid cup and you can add more water to it as you desire.


Making coffee using a small French press

The French press method

If you prefer a more traditional method of making coffee, the French press may be the perfect choice. This time-tested method is simple and straightforward, requiring you to steep coffee grounds in hot water for several minutes before pressing them down with a plunger. While this process may take a bit longer than other methods, it results in a rich and robust cup of coffee that's great for single coffee drinkers.

The other good thing about the French press is you can get a smaller one especially for yourself for pretty cheap. For example, I got mine from IKEA is a 13.5 oz size, so it's exactly perfect for one cup of coffee.

Here's the easy method to brew coffee for one using the French press:

  1. Boil 16 oz. or so of water in your kettle.
  2. Grind two tablespoons of coffee coarse for every six ounces of water you're going to use. So, if you're using the IKEA French press as an example, make sure you have 3-4 tablespoons of coarse-ground coffee for 12 oz. of water or so.
  3. Take your water off once it starts boiling and let it cool just a minute. You don't want it quite boiling, but just under boiling (and still plenty hot).
  4. While you're letting the water cool, add your coffee to the container (with the plunger thing out of it).
  5. Pour some of the hot water in to cover the grinds, but not all the hot water. You just want to "prepare" the grinds with a little bit of water first and wait like 30 seconds.
  6. Add the rest of the water into the chamber and stir it around (sort of like the AeroPress method mentioned earlier) for around 10 seconds or so.
  7. Add the plunger piece back on and let the coffee steep for like 3 minutes or so.
  8. Gently push the plunger down so that you're pushing the grounds down to the bottom, but the coffee stays on top (I always think this part is pretty cool).
  9. Pour into your cup and enjoy!


Helpful recap table:

(Note that these are just starting guides - you'll need to adjust a bit to figure out what you like best)

 Brewing method Grind size Amount of coffee (tbsp) Amount of water (fl oz) Amount of coffee (g) Amount of water (g/ml)
Pour over, Hario V60 Medium-coarse 3 tbsp 10 oz 15g 240g
Pour over, Chemex (or similar) Medium-coarse 3 tbsp 10 oz 15g 240g
AeroPress (Tim Wendelboe recipe) Medium-fine 3 tbsp (1 heaping AeroPress scoop) 8 oz 14g 200g
French Press Coarse 3 tbsp 12 oz 18g 270g


BONUS: How to keep your beans fresh so they last longer

Since most coffee is sold in 12 oz. or 16 oz. bags, it's obviously going to take longer for a solo person to go through a bag of coffee than it is if you're making coffee for two or more people. Here are the best ways to keep that coffee fresh:

Buy Runyon Coffee each time

One of the things we're really proud of is the extra step we take to help keep your coffee fresher for longer. That includes two things: only buying bags with a one-way valve built in, and specifically buying bags that have the resealable zipper closure on each bag.

If you reseal the bag properly after grinding your beans each time, you should be able to keep that coffee fresh for at least a month or so. The valve will let any additional de-gassing occur by letting that carbon dioxide out, and your beans will stay fresh because outside air won't be able to get in.

Need some fresh coffee to try out these recipes? We recommend our Payday Roast made with beans from Finca Agua Fresca in Nicaragua.

Use an Airscape container

Airscape containers are another great way to keep your coffee fresh for longer. These containers use a patented all-metal lid that forces the air out of the container and prevents oxygen from entering, helping to maintain the flavor and quality of your coffee. Airscape containers also have an inner lid, which further reduces exposure to outside air and helps to prevent moisture from damaging your beans.

Unlike zip-top or other types of plastic bags, Airspace containers are durable and easy to store, so you can always have fresh coffee at hand. We use them to keep our own coffee fresh after roasting so that we don't have to waste Runyon Coffee bags on ourselves. We're also exploring a system of reducing packaging where you can buy beans at the farmers market to put directly in your own container, saving packaging and saving you money. More on that later!

We hope you found this blog post informative and helpful - thanks for being a Runyon Coffee fan!