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:
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!
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: