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The Big Business of Coffee

Updated on December 18, 2017
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Out of personal experience, Chris writes practical and helpful articles about how to make items and accomplish tasks.

The magical power of that morning cup of coffee.

The magical power of that morning cup of coffee.
The magical power of that morning cup of coffee. | Source

A Small Cup of Coffee is Big Business

I enjoy a good cup of coffee in the same way that more than half of us over age 18 do. Coffee is big business. Among commodities, coffee is second only to crude oil on the world market according to

Worldwide, we drink 100 billion cups of coffee a year which is 3.1 cups for each coffee drinker per day. That's good, because according to one source, two or more cups per day will protect you against heart disease. Of course another source says that four or more cups per day will send you to an early grave. And for all of this pleasure and for the convenience of coffee shops, around the world we spend $500 billion annually.

The NYSE Began in a Coffee House. Today, Big Coffee is Housed in the NYSE

The Customers' Cost and the Cost Overhead for Coffee Shops

Which is better, home brewed coffee or what we get at our favorite coffee shop? And is it worth the cost? According to ABC News, here is the cost breakdown for a $1.85 cup of regular black coffee.

  • 64 cents for the coffee
  • 16 cents for the cup and lid
  • 4 cents for cream and sugar

That's 84 cents just for ingredients and container. There are other costs to factor in as well, such as labor, building lease, insurance, utilities, marketing, research and general administration. These could add up to more than 90 cents per cup of coffee. The combined costs for doing business are about $1.74 per 16 oz cup that costs you $1.85. Volume is the name of the coffee game it appears.

The Cost of Home Brewed Coffee

How much does it cost to make our coffee at home? After the one time expense of buying the coffee maker of your choice, I suppose the only real expense is the coffee. I can buy whole bean coffee for between $6 and $12 per 12 oz bag. At an average of $9 and 34 cups per bag, we spend about 26 cents plus the cost for cream and sugar for each cup of coffee we brew at home.

The Two Ways of Brewing Coffee: Steeping and Pour Over

So what is the best way to brew our own coffee? There really are only two ways to make a regular cup of coffee, not counting other coffee beverages such as espressos and lattes. We either steep the coffee in water or we pour the water over the coffee.

The French Press: An Example of the Steeping Method for Brewing Coffee

Wait four minutes, two or three minutes if you want less strong coffee, then slowly press the screen filter to the bottom.
Wait four minutes, two or three minutes if you want less strong coffee, then slowly press the screen filter to the bottom. | Source

The Steeping Method of Brewing Coffee

Steeping the coffee in water is the basis for french press coffee. Other ways of steeping coffee are by wrapping one or two tablespoons of coffee in a coffee filter, tying it with string and then emersing it in a cup of hot water. We can also simply put one or two tablesppons of coffee into a saucepan, add a cup of water and heat it to just short of boiling. Then pour it through a coffee filter into a cup. To properly steep coffee, let it sit in the hot water for two to four minutes, depending on how strong you like your coffee. If the grounds are mixed in with the water, such as in a french press, stir the mixture after adding the water.

Pour Over Example of Coffee Brewing

A ceramic pour over coffee system with filter.  This sits directly on top of the cup you will drink from.
A ceramic pour over coffee system with filter. This sits directly on top of the cup you will drink from. | Source

The Pour Over Method of Brewing Coffee

The second way of making coffee is by the pour over method. This is the principle behind both the electric percolator and the drip coffee maker. There are a few manual ways of making coffee by the pour over method as well. The Chemex product is fashioned in an hourglass shape. The top is flared out so that a filter can be placed in it. Coffee is put into the filter and water is then poured over it. The brewed coffee is collected in the bottom of the glass container.

There are other products that make single cups of coffee by the pour over method. These are extremely simple and effective. One involves a filter bag with a handle. That's it. Coffee is put into the filter which is then held over the cup. Pour hot water over the coffee and let it fill the cup. This makes very good tasting coffee.

Water Temperature and Coffee Brewing

No discussion of coffee brewing would be complete without a word concerning water temperature. The Specialty Coffee Association of America says that boiling water makes bad coffee. They recommend that rather than water being at the boiling point of 212 degrees fahrenheit, it be heated to between 195 and 205 degrees. If one chooses to follow this guideline, a meat thermometer or candy thermometer could be put into the water as it heats. You may want to calibrate the thermometer to make sure it will record the boiling point for water accurately. Do this simply by bringing water to a boil and immediately checking the temperature with your thermometer. Use a permanent mark to identify the true 212 degree fahrenheit spot. For coffee, heat the water to about twelve degree marks below your boiling point mark. That will be 200 degrees, which is just right.

Fair Trade Brands of Coffee

Higher Grounds Trading Company of Traverse City, Michigan

Newman's Own is a coffee brand carried by McDonalds and is grown and produced by Nicaraguan company, Corcasan.

Many other brands of Fair Trade coffee can be found at



Fair Trade Coffee

The Fair trade social movement focuses on delivering coffee and other products from underdeveloped countries to industrialized countries who consume most of the products. Promoters of Fair Trade aim for a higher price for exporters, better working conditions and pay for workers as well as environmental sustainability. Coffee production is based mainly in underdeveloped countries and employs more than 25 million people. To learn more about Fair Trade, go to

Coffee: It's Not Just Big Business, It's There for Our Pleasure

Yes, coffee is big business, but it is only so because individuals choose to partake of the product. Whether the choice is to buy Fair Trade or from the traditoinal market, or to purchase from a coffee shop or brew our own, coffee is there for us to enjoy. Try mixing it up this week a little. Buy a Fair Trade brand if you haven't done that before. Make your own coffee or make it a different way. It's all part of the relaxation and enjoyment of drinking coffee.


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