Coffee time

22 May

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the United States.  Some studies estimate that over 50% of adults in the US drink multiple cups of coffee every day.  It’s not a phenomenon that is specific to the US, as it is widely consumed throughout the world.

I started drinking coffee sporadically my senior year of college.  I rarely drank any the few years directly after, but over the past few years I have settled into a regular, every day coffee drinker.  I think that if you were to graph my coffee consumption (which I have conveniently done), it would strongly correlate to the distance between Em and I:

amateur sketch

amateur sketch

All of this coffee drinking doesn’t come for free.  In fact, for many people it’s quite an expensive habit (as you’ll soon see).

Since I am now a consistent coffee drinker, I decided to do a little cost-effectiveness calculation to see how our coffee consumption added up.  We have a little baby coffee pot machine (4 cup size), that we brew coffee in each day.  On average we brew 2-3 of these little baby pots each day (1-2 in the morning, and occassionally 1 in the evening).  We usually get the big tins of coffee, and we are totally fine with the cheap stuff (~$5.00 – $8.00/tin depending on brand).

So we tried to keep track for a couple of tins to see how fast we go through them and how many pots we get out of each tin.  We found out that it’s really easy to lose track and forget to put down tally marks for each pot we made.  It was much easier to track the dates that we started and finished the tins.  It comes out to between 3-4 weeks, but closer to four that each tin lasts for us.  So let’s try the math for this one:

2.5 pots/day X 4 cups/pot X 7days/wk X 52wks/yr = ~3,640 cups/yr  (essentially all the coffee that we can/want to drink for a year)

$6.50/tin X 15tins/year (52wks / 3.5wks each tin) = ~$97.50 per year

$97.50 / 3,640 cups = ~$0.03 / cup

Just from looking at that and having a general idea of coffee prices, you probably already know that it’s pretty darn cheap.  But let’s play a little game and do some approximate comparisons if you were to buy coffee out.


People who go to Starbucks will pay ~$1.50 – $2.50 for a cup of “regular” coffee and ~$2.50 – $5.00 for any number of flavored or specialty coffees/lattes/espressos/cappuccinos.  That adds up.  Now you probably aren’t drinking 3,640 cups a year (and admittedly the size cups I’m referencing are probably 6-8oz, while Starbucks’ are 12oz and up).  But let’s pretend that you only drink regular coffee and you average 1.5 cups each day for the year:

~$2.00/cup  X  547 cups/yr.  =  $1,094 per year (ouch!)

Let’s scale it back and check it one other way from Starbucks.  Let’s say that you only get one each day during the work week (Monday – Friday).  Let’s also say that you usually get a regular coffee, but occassionally splurge at Starbucks:

4days X $2.00/cup + 1day X $3.00/fancy =  $11/wk X 50wks = $550/year  (for 250 cups total for the year)

Again, this assumes only one cup each day for Monday – Friday.  It also assumes that most of the time, you can resist the temptation of all of the wonderful concoctions available and go with a regular coffee.  So it’s a conservative estimate.


If you go “cheap” and get a McDonald’s coffee, it’s a bit more manageable.  You can get a coffee for $1.00, and iced coffee for ~$2.00, or a choice of several “specialty” frappes, etc. ~$2.50 and up.  Let’s try it again with 1.5 cups per day of regular coffee for the year:

$1.00/cup  X  547 cups/yr  =  $547 per year

Now let’s try a similar situation as above where you only drink one per day during the work week:

3days X $1.00/cup + 1day X $2.00/iced + 1day X $2.50/frappe = $7.50/wk X 50wks = $375/year  (for 250 cups total)

Cheaper, but again this assumes only one cup for Monday – Friday only.  A pretty conservative estimate.  (This also doesn’t take into account that the coffee drinks, especially the frappes, are some of the least healthy items on the McDonald’s menu!)  It’s still a good chunk of change that you’d be spending on coffee.

Also, keep in mind that the home brewed coffee takes care of both Em and I, while the Starbucks and McDonalds estimates only account for a single individual.  We would have to double each of those estimates to account for the two of us consuming coffee.  Yikes!  We get much much much more coffee for a fraction of the cost.

Should you *never* go to Starbucks or McDonalds or any other place for your coffee?  No.  Go get some as a treat on occassion if that’s your thing.  But if you find yourself there once or twice a day every day (even if it’s only during the work week, or even it’s only for the “regular” or “cheap” coffee), it may be worth taking a look at how much you’re spending on your coffee consumption!

coffee station.  ps. with a classy glass jar, no one will know it's the cheap stuff!

coffee station.
ps. with a classy glass jar, no one will know it’s the cheap stuff!

So my advice is to brew your own.  There are no lines or hassle to get your coffee, and I really don’t believe that you sacrifice much quality either.  If you want to “class up your home brew” then buy a little flavored syrup and add a teaspoon or so to each pot you brew (we have done that and the extra $4-$5 gave us flavored coffee that lasted for a month…you still come out far ahead!).

On a different note (though still coffee-related), I saw this little chart about coffee today:

from "i f***ing love science" group on facebook

from “i f***ing love science” group on facebook


Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Advice, Budget/$$, Food, Projects/Activities


Tags: , , , ,

12 responses to “Coffee time

  1. talkavino

    May 22, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Great post – you did a lot of analysis! I’m completely with you – I probably drink Starbucks 15-20 times a year, only when I’m on the business trips (lots of hotel coffees just beyond terrible). In general, we make our own coffee at home…

    Also, very interesting infographics. I should start using coffee grinds in the garden, see if my tomatoes will grow faster 🙂


    • trokspot

      May 22, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      Thanks! Maybe that means that I currently have too much time on my hands…haha.

      I’m also curious to see if there is any truth to the coffee grounds being helpful for gardens trick that was mentioned. Let me know if you see a difference!


  2. Lex

    May 22, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Your coffee consumption is inversely correlated to your distance from Em… Stats guy.


    • trokspot

      May 22, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      I never said that it was positive/negative/inversely correlated. Just that there was a strong correlation…


      • trokspot

        May 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        (I’ll give you that it could/should have been clearer)


  3. Buddy

    May 22, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    You forgot to factor in the cost of not being cool when you aren’t seen drinking Starbucks or not able to tell your coworkers that you drink Starbucks. Although, you could lie about the latter.

    I would estimate that you would have to purchase designer clothes or an expensive hybrid motor vehicle to offset the loss of coolness. I don’t know if some people could afford it.

    I am not a big coffee fan, but caffeine has to be the cheapest and safest sympathetic drug and it helped me get through school.

    I am happy that Mike didn’t take random pictures and write small captions to pass off as a blog entry.


    • trokspot

      May 22, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Starbucks is a lifestyle. You may be right about that.


  4. Robert Wilson

    May 22, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Starbucks is cheaper for Buddy than making his own coffee. Assume he buys two cups of coffee a year from Starbucks, that’s $2.50 X2 or $5. To make his own cup of coffee he needs to go out and buy filters $5, a coffee maker $30, a mug $1, pay for grinds $5, water $0.02, and electricity $0.01 for a grand total of $41.03. So in other words buddy not only can you look cool but you can save money going to Starbucks 😛

    And this doesn’t even begin to factor in the benefits Buddy gets from his costly signalling to all the ladies that he is so rich he can afford Starbucks.


    • trokspot

      May 22, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      This is true that there are some start-up costs….our baby coffee maker was only ~$15. But if you’re only going to get your 2 cups per year then, I agree, just go with Starbucks.

      Plus I think we all agree that Buddy wants to fit in with the Starbucks crowd, so you’re right it’s probably invaluable for him to go with the Starbucks! 🙂


    • Buddy

      May 22, 2013 at 7:27 PM

      I secretly hate Starbuck’s because they wouldn’t accept me. Before I had an iphone, I walked in with a PC and they wouldn’t serve me. Ever since, I have worked hard to some day be in a position to get the Starbuck’s Platinum Card.


  5. Buddy

    May 22, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Poll: Is Mike addicted to Coffee?
    Yes: 1
    No: 2
    Maybe: 3
    Two of the above: 4



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