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Megan Poorman is a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University. You can find her on Twitter @meganpoorman or documenting her travels on her website.

Coffee, tea, java, brew, brain juice, liquid heaven. Caffeine is what makes the world of academia work and the thing guaranteed to bring even the most reclusive grad student to an early morning seminar. Yet somehow I've completely missed the caffeine train. That's right, I'm a 4th year grad student and I don't regularly drink coffee. Tea on occasion or espresso if I need a big pick me up, but usually it's plain old water for me. Sometimes at conferences I'll hold a cup to stay warm and not feel left out, but the majority of the time it doesn't get drunk unless I’m extremely tired. I know, it's shocking.

This all changed when I was unexpectedly given a Keurig a few months ago. Since it was taking up space on my counter anyways, I began experimenting with at-home creations. Turns out, I like coffee when it's covered in milk and spices. Hello grad school, nice to finally join you for real!

Despite the fast talking, sugar intake, and resulting jitters, making a latte every morning is time consuming. I could, of course, purchase one each day, but that $4 really adds up over time. Yet, there's something about that cozy cafe latte foam that is so hard to replicate at home. So I've found a secret weapon to combat my frothy woes, and it only cost me a one-time $6.

To illustrate, here are some of my go-to caffeinated recipes that are easy to make, relatively healthy, and will fit within your frugal grad student lifestyle.

Not only are these recipes frugal and tasty, they allow you to use whatever coffee-making tools you already have on hand. There are also definitely more hipster and affordable ways to make your morning caffeine pill than a Keurig, so feel free to substitute your method of choice—aeropress/mokapot/teapot—for the it. The recipes do not use pre-made mixes, which puts you in control of the amount of sugar you consume and avoids any allergens you may have. I am dairy-free, for example, so these recipes use plant-based milks, although they would be just as tasty with normal milk. I am by no means a latte connoisseur, so if you have suggestions I'd love to hear them in the comments section.

Equipment and Basic Steps
The secret to making all of these recipes extra delicious is well-frothed milk. Who knew a $6 milk-frother (a handheld device that adds air to hot liquids to create foam) from Amazon would 1) actually work and 2) revolutionize my mornings (unaffiliated link). You could theoretically froth your milk with a whisk or blender, but, for the price, a milk-frother is worth it. Normal (dairy) milk froths the best, but I've found soy milk and cashew milk to do a passable job as well. For the dairy-intolerant out there, adding a dairy-free creamer in addition to plant-based milk would help amp up the flavor and froth factor.

You will need:
Keurig (or coffee/tea maker of choice)
1 large mug
​1 normal mug
​Milk frother (or
alternative method)

The basic steps are: First, froth your milk in the normal-sized mug by heating it in the microwave until you see it almost boiling (about 1.5 minutes). Watch carefully to prevent explosions, speaking from experience. Second, froth your hot milk with a frother, blender, or whisk. While the milk is heating, brew your tea or coffee into the large mug. Then, add any extra flavors to your brew and pour the frothed milk into it. Finally, froth another time for good measure and add any extra fun toppings. Enjoy! If the idea of having two mugs to make one latte bothers you, I've found I can brew my coffee/tea directly into the frothed milk. It doesn't look as pretty but achieves the same effect if you double froth.

Some Recipe Ideas
Google has a plethora of at-home flavor ideas but here are a couple of my favorites.

Vanilla Chai Latte
1/2 c milk of choice (unsweetened vanilla cashew is my favorite)
1 chai tea bag
3/4c hot water
Heavy pinch of ground cinnamon
sweetener to taste
vanilla extract

My favorite and also the easiest to make. Follow the basic steps above using about 6 oz (small cup Keurig size) of water to make your tea. You can adjust the water to milk ratio to your liking. Add sweetener to taste (I use a squirt of honey) and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  A vanilla coffee creamer or dash of vanilla extract is a nice treat. Note that this will be significantly less sugary than the store-bought version so prepare yourself now.

Peppermint Mocha Latte (adapted from Mind over Munch)
3/4c milk of choice
1/2 cup coffee (strong)
1.5 Tbsp cocoa powder
peppermint extract

Follow the basic recipe but add your cocoa powder to the milk before heating and frothing. You could substitute hot chocolate powder for the cocoa if you want a treat. I like to sweeten mine with chocolate chips and let them melt in the bottom.  Extract is optional if you want a plain mocha.

Use any kind of tea in place of Chai - green tea or matcha would be awesome here.
Use any kind of extract in place of Peppermint - vanilla is my go-to but I tend not to measure so I end up over-doing it, which isn’t exactly cost effective

Adding a pre-sweetened, flavored creamer would add all sorts of fun flavors.

What are your favorite DIY latte recipes? Got any suggestions to up my coffee game? Let me know in the comments below!

[Image by Flickr user Cheryl Foong and used under Creative Commons licensing.]

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