Poor Man's Guide to Inexpensive, Award-Winning Coffee
Programmable coffee machines are all the rage
Judging from the enormous sums being spent on TV advertising, relatively inexpensive, programmable coffee machines are all the rage, with Keurig leading the pack.
I love coffee - REAL coffee, not the floor sweepings that pass for coffee that you'll find at your local supermarket in abundance - so I've been thinking about these computer-controlled, barcode reading luxury toys for a year or so. Hey, those cute, convenient little one-shot coffee pods appealed to me!
Then I ran across a website that included not only the machines, but the coffee pods, too. The price of the coffee pods provided a real wake up call, and got me wondering about the per-cup cost of the Starbuck's Sumatra I've been drinking for years.
I decided it would be interesting to compare my present cost per cup to the cost per cup using one of the marvellous coffee robots...so, my friends, here we are...
Don't make more coffee than you can consume in 20 minutes.
Let's Start With The Beans...
My methodology here is simple. I buy rich, dark roasted beans that I'm happily addicted to. I have them ground to a fine Expresso grind, and brew it in an inexpensive ($10) 2-cup coffee maker.
I drink two cups a day, on average, both in the morning. I'm a Senior, and watch my pennies, but that isn't why I only drink two cups... I drink two because two are enough to satisfy my caffeine habit and wake me to a productive state in the morning.
NOTE: If you brew super market floor sweepings, which are ground from the beans left after the gourmet coffee companies have bought the good stuff, there's no way you're going to get away with two cups a day - the beans just don't have the mojo needed to get the job done.
Disclaimer: It really doesn't matter where you buy your coffee, as long as you know what you're looking for. I just happen to buy mine (most of the time) from the same company, probably because there's a frfanchise outlet conveniently located a few blocks from my home.
Legend has it...Ethiopian shepherds first noticed the effects of caffeine when they saw their goats getting frisky and "dancing" after eating coffee berries.
Buy it on Amazon
Brews great coffee, one cup at a time, for pennies.
The Convenience Factor
How much is it worth to you?
OK - let's get to the numbers. My vendor recommends two tablespoons coffee per 6 ounce cup, but I find that a bit too rich for my taste, so I use one and a half measures for an 8 ounce mug, or, if you will, three tablespoons for two mugs of great java. This is a matter of personal taste, of course, but this is the consumption level I'm going to use to determine the cost of a single cup of great coffee.
The Baseline - What I'm Spending Now...
I pay $16.96 for a pound of coffee, I drink two cups a day, and it lasts me a month. That works out to $0.565 a day or just over $0.25 a cup... for simplicity's sake, I'm ignoring the cost of the thirty #2 coffee filters I go through every month. It's inconsequential in any event.
Also inconsequential is the cost of my coffee maker, one of which cost me ten bucks five years ago. (I also have two French Presses, which I've owned for more than 15 years.)
UPDATE: I recently started buying my beans at a major big box store and grinding them myself...when I have a few minutes to spare, I'll provide cost data for you here.
Keurig 15508 K-Cup Mini-Brewers: Green Mountain Nantucket Blend
Let's Compare Costs...
Although I haven't had an opportunity to sample any of the coffees available for the Keurig machines, I'm going to stipulate that they are of high quality - on a par with any other premium coffee. Keurig's includes two packs of 24 cups each, or 48 cups. Green Mountain Nantucket Blend
Assuming you purchase this product at your local market, so freight isn't a factor, that works out to $0.648, or $0.65 a cup. Several varieties of K-Cup coffee are available at a local big box store for $0.50 and $0.60 per cup. respectively.
A wide variety of Keurig pods can be found at a slightly higher - and slightly lower - price, so this particular brand is about average.
My current cost: $0.25 a cup.
Keurig cost: $0.50 to $0.65 a cup.
The French Press
When only the very best will do...
I break out the Bodum (the brand has become synonymous with French press coffee makers) when company arrives...company, at least, known to appreciate gourmet coffee. That's because I think the French press produces the most flavorful coffee possible from the bean. I use the same ratio for my Bodums, 1 and a half tablespoons per 8-ounce cup, but the grind needs to be coarse - my fine Expresso grind tends to sneak through the broad Bodum filter and cloud the drink.
Other than that, the cost per cup is the same - better than half the cost of the Keurig pods.
I recommend adding one large Bodum and one small one to your coffee arsenal to complement your one or two-cup coffee pot.
A 41-inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee - a lot more.
for the Purists among you...
When you have the time - and the patience - it's nice to be able to grind your own beans. In all honesty, I've found that to be a messy - and noisy - process. Since my coffee retailer grinds my coffee for nothing, I can't be bothered to roll my own.
I do own a Krups grinder (like the one shown), and use it regularly to grind Flax seeds for my morning cereal :-)
Frankly, while I appreciate the automated, barcode-reading, computer-controlled caffeinated kitchen robots, I simply can't justify the cost of the finished product, let alone the $80 to $200 cost of the machine itself.
Your mileage may vary - if you're willing to pay extra (plus the cost of the machine) in exchange for the convenience, then the machines are perfect for you.
If you do find an automated coffee machine under your tree this Christmas, think about the environment - millions of used plastic K-Cups end up in landfills every day - and obtain some reusable filters. You'll find them online at Amazon and eBay; they're inexpensive and effective - and you'll feel a lot better about yourself because you won't be adding plastic to the local landfill.
All the best,
"Almost all my middle-aged and elderly acquaintances, including me, feel about 25, unless we haven't had our coffee, in which case we feel 107." (Martha Beck)
Charles II banned coffee houses in England because he believed people went there to conspire against him.
Reusable Filter Systems
Inexpensive reusable filter systems are widely available online. I've listed a few products here to introduce them to you, If you have a Keurig, you'll really appreciate the dramatic reduction in cost they can provide.
Reusable Filter Systems
African tribes combined coffee berries with fat, which formed edible "energy balls."