It can be magical popping a K-Cup into a Keurig and 30 seconds later having the perfect, single-sized caffeinated beverage between your fingertips.
Your brain gets a break from calculating the optimal grounds to water ratio, the leftover-coffee-in-the-pot-dilemma is no longer relevant, and the compact pods save you from cleaning up a messy trail of grinds or stray beans.
You probably pat yourself on the back for being economically conscious by “making” coffee, rather than hitting up the Starbucks on your way to work.
The speedy, simple, and tidy process is seemingly flawless.
But there’s always a catch — and in this case, it’s a big one.
It turns out that the pat on the back you gave yourself for resisting Starbucks is not entirely merited, because those 30 awe-inspiring seconds of Keurig magic are putting a surprisingly cruel dent in your wallet (not to mention the environment).
The mathematicians at the New York Times cranked some numbers and calculated that K-Cup coffee costs roughly $US50 per pound. To put that into perspective, a bag of Starbucks house blend ground coffee costs $US11.95 per pound, and a pound of Dunkin’ Doughnuts original blend is $US8.99. Even the majority of the high-end bags of beans made by artisanal roasters go for under $US20 per pound.
Let’s compare the expenses of a K-Cupper versus a regular Coffee Potter over the course of a year, using Starbucks’ recommendation of using two tablespoons of ground coffee for a six fluid ounce cup:
2 tablespoons ground coffee = 10 grams. We have a 1 lb. bag, which is 453 grams.
That means we get 45 six-ounce cups out of that one bag (453/10).
If you drink a cup a day, you would go through a little over eight bags a year (365 days/45 cups), amounting to $US95 spent on coffee (8 bags*$US11.95, the cost of 1 lb. Starbucks house blend bag).
Consuming the equivalent amount in K-Cups adds up to $US400 a year (8 lbs*$US50, the average price per pound of K-Cup coffee), over four times as much.
Let’s be real — most of us are probably drinking more coffee than that. The Huffington Post recently reported that the average American consumes 2.1 cups per day, putting our numbers at $US190 per year for the Coffee Potters and $US800 for the K-Cuppers.
While still cheaper than daily trips to Starbucks, that number is sneaking up on the amount it would cost to buy from a coffee joint each day.
However, it is important not to overlook the blissful 30-second-component of the Keurig, as our time is valuable.
K-Cuppers “making” one cup of coffee each day will spend about three hours a year waiting for their liquid energy, whereas someone like me — who takes coffee preparation to the extreme as a French Presser — will log significantly more hours. I microwave my water for 3.5 minutes and let the coffee steep for four minutes — add in the time to grind the beans and clean my coffee station, and we’re at about nine minutes each morning, meaning I dedicate 54.75 hours per year to procuring my brain juice.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the coffee drinker to decide where to invest. If coffee is a lifestyle, you probably scoff at the Keurig and barely blinked when you read 54.75 hours. If coffee is simply a necessity to jumpstart your day, the $US800 a year might not have phased you.
If you’re somewhere in between, and the expenses were frightening, but not enough so to part ways with your Keurig (or deter you from investing in one), here are some ways to save money when buying K-Cups:
1. Know where to shop. Some stores offer deals on K-Cups, according to a recent PopSugar article: Staples, Boxed.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon.com, CoffeeForLess.com, and CrossCountryCafe.com are a few.
Also, look for deals at your supermarket and buy in bulk when K-Cups go on sale.
2. Buy a reusable filter. A reusable filter allows you to fill the pod of the machine with ground coffee of your choice, rather than using the pricey K-Cups. This is also beneficial to the environment.
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