By March 15, 2011

The economics of making coffee three different ways

We love coffee over at Outpost Gibberish. A lot of my favorite gadgets are coffee-related, and making good coffee for my guests is one of my top domestic pleasures.

Over the years I’ve acquired a variety of coffee-making contraptions. I have a French Press, two Italian stovetop makers, a Bunn NXBH drip maker, and two Aerobie AeroPresses. There is Keurig K-Cup machine at work, which I use.

A few of my co-workers bought AeroPresses based on my recommendation. They don’t like using the Keurig at work for taste, economic, and ecological reasons — and the drip coffee at work makes the gas station variety seem gourmet.

It got me to thinking — what’s the cost per cup of making coffee via a drip machine, AeroPress, and the Keurig?

Let’s start with some assumptions here:

  • I won’t consider the cost of water.
  • Cost will be calculated by adding up the total cost of coffee and filter divided by the number of cups brewed.
  • A “cup” of coffee will be 8 fluid ounces brewed. This is the amount of coffee I make with the “large cup” setting on the Keurig at work.
  • The cost of machines and my Costco membership will not be factored in.
  • I will not calculate shipping.
  • I know that you can buy an insert for the K-Cup that allows you to use regular coffee grinds. This would be a pain in the ass at work due to where the machine is set up — next to a printer, far away from the kitchen and where loose grounds are not welcome.

Amount of coffee used

Of course, the K-Cup is pre-measured so I won’t count that.

I use 1.2 ounces of medium-ground coffee per pot of coffee in the Bunn.

The AeroPress consumes 0.4 ounces of coffee per 8 ounces brewed.

Cost of Coffee & Filters

Drip coffee

We buy all of our coffee beans from Costco. I miss Mayorga coffee, but we’ve been doing okay with some of the Kirkland coffee plus some Kona from Hawaiian Gold. The Hawaiian Gold packaging states it’s 100% Kona, but given the price I am a little skeptical. It’s still really good.

We brew a 2-parts Kirkland roast (we have Sumatra now and will transition to Rwandan coffee soon) to 1-part Hawaiian Gold.

The same coffee would be used for either the AeroPress or the Bunn.

2.2 ounces (3/4 dry cups of blended beans) renders to 2.2 ounces of coffee ground to a medium coarseness on my Black & Decker CBM210 grinder. I believe this number is slightly off, as I expect some coffee to be lost in the grinding process. I can never get all of the grinds out, and the B&D spits coffee particles all over my counter. However, the measurement is close enough.

Three pounds of Kirkland Rwanda coffee is $13.89 as of 03/08/2011. One and a half pounds of the Hawaiian Gold Kona coffee is $9.97. I generate four and a half pounds of coffee for $23.86. This is a per-ounce cost of $0.33.

Keurig K-Cups

I think the Kona Blend Island Style from Coffee People is my favorite K-Cup blend so far. I’ve tried several Green Mountain, Timothy’s and Caribou blends and I like the Coffee People pod the best.

A box of 50 is $27.75.

Filter costs

The Bunn takes special fancy pants filters. The filters are taller than normal basket filters, and it’s pretty important to use them. I bought 1000 for $17 online, or about two cents per filter.

The Aerobie AeroPress also uses special filters. I use each filter four times (twice on each side, alternating) but we’ll just calculate one use per filter here. The AeroPress comes with 350, but another 350 will cost you $3.58, or about a penny a filter.

Brewed Costs

Okay, this is the reason you clicked the link.

The Bunn makes 48 ounces of coffee per pot, or 6 8-ounce cups. The total cost per pot is $0.42 rounded up, or $0.07 a cup.

The AeroPress makes 8 ounces of coffee per CRAZY PLASTIC CHAMBER. The total cost is $0.14 per cup, rounded down.

The Keurig is $0.56 per cup.

Holy shit.

Brewer typeCost per cup
Bunn NXHB$0.07
Aerobie AeroPress$0.14
Keurig K-Cup (Coffee People Kona Blend)$0.56

Conclusions

I always knew the cost of the Keurig was higher than other methods of brewing, but I never realized how much. People who like the K-Cups state that they are actually saving coffee by only drinking what they want, and not throwing away any extra coffee.

You could drink one cup of drip coffee, pour the rest down the sink, and still save money over a single K-Cup.

Then there’s the whole ecological issue with K-Cups and the waste generated from the plastic containers, but that’s between you and your moral compass.

As soon as I drink the remaining K-Cups at work I will bring in my AeroPress.

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2 Comments on "The economics of making coffee three different ways"

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  1. PurelyCoffeeBeans says:

    That is a pretty powerful comment: “You could drink one cup of drip coffee, pour the rest down the sink, and still save money over a single K-Cup.”

    I still don’t reckon that buying Kcups are a good cup of coffee, but you certainly don’t waste money washing up coffee pots, and kcup system is very convenient. So there are some indirect savings to be taken into account in a total cost of ownership.

    What do you think?

  2. DrFaulken says:

    Hi there,

    I think your point about washing the pot (as well as the maker) are interesting, but the cost of doing so is probably negligible over time.

    My friends that use their K-Cups are okay with the economic and environment impact. Some have started using the reusable filter in their machines, and that certainly cuts down on the cost and environmental impact.

    Even once these issues are solved, you still have to consider the low brewing temperature of the Keurig machines as well as concerns about long-term durability with heavy use.