You’re paying WHAT for single-serve coffee?

by JulieCraves on February 16, 2013

The high cost of K-Cups and pods

There are two reasons people give for using single-serve coffee: convenience and price (the rationalization for the latter is that otherwise too much coffee from a pot is thrown away and wasted).

Here is the straightforward truth about what you are paying by using single-serve. The amount of coffee in a pre-packaged single serving varies; I’ve given some common examples. If your single-serve pod, cup, or pack isn’t listed, dismantle one, weigh the coffee and put the amount in the appropriate cell in the spreadsheet.

If you don’t feel like looking up the typical box of K-Cups, here are some examples:

Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve Coffee Extra Bold K-Cups- 18 Count – $11.99 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond = $27.47/lb ($0.67 per cup)
Folgers Gourmet Selections Coffee K-Cups, Lively Colombian Regular – 12-Count (Pack of 3) – $22.86 at Amazon = $32.00/lb ($0.63 per cup)
Dunkin Donuts Original blend K-Cups – 14 count – $17.95 at Dunkin Donuts stores = $64.62/lb ($1.28 per cup)
Nespresso capsule variety – 50 count – $50.00 on  Amazon = $82.47/lb ($1.00 per cup)
Maxwell House Mild Morning Tassimo T-Disks – 14 count (pack of 2) – $19.98 = $40.46/lb ($0.83 per cup)

So, the price per pound is ridiculously high (I was astonished to find, when researching this post, that some people buy K-Cups using food stamps!!!). What about the argument that K-Cups are cheaper since no coffee is wasted?

As noted in my latest annual summary of coffee cost for my two-person household, the four-year average — including many great coffees and shipping — is $20.53/lb. If I made two cups of coffee a day at $20.53/lb, at the standard 11 grams per 6-ounce cup, I’d spend $363 a year.  If I used two extra-bold (11 gram) K-Cups a day at the cheapest example above, I’d need forty 18-count boxes and I’d spend $479. I save $116 a year. At $0.50 a six-ounce cup (my four-year average), I’d have to waste nearly 11 gallons of coffee to spend as much as I would on K-Cups in this example. That’s tossing away a cup of coffee from a pot nearly every day 8 months of the year.

What about convenience?


The solution to the waste issue is, indeed, to brew only the coffee you’ll drink. Rather than buying a $150 Keurig brewer, buy a Bodum 17-Ounce Electric Water Kettle for $40 which boils water in 4 minutes (getting it to the correct temperature, unlike most coffee pots or single-cup brewing machines). Then get a foolproof Clever Coffee Dripper for $22 (you can make up to three six-ounce cups in it, if you wish). A year’s supply of paper filters would set you back less than $50 and can be composted (your 2 K-Cups a day amounts to 8 pounds of crap in a landfill a year).

Is this also a huge hassle? Start to finish, brewing a K-Cup takes about 3 minutes, mostly because the water doesn’t reach a high enough temperature nor is it in contact with the coffee for enough time for proper extraction. To make one to three cups in your Clever takes about 8 minutes (four for the water, four for the brewing). For those extra few minutes, you save money and you get better coffee even if you use pre-ground coffee put in the filter the night before and accidentally let it steep for too long. For every “upgrade” you make (better quality coffee, grinding your own beans, paying attention to timing) the improvement in quality will be substantial.

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Revised on March 6, 2016

Posted in K-Cups/Keurig brewers: alternatives

Paul Cypher February 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

Oh, there you go again! Using mathematics to make a rock-solid point…… ;)

@TheCoffeeKing February 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

The customers that we have that note the money they save using single serve are not comparing it to brew-by-pot. They are comparing it to their previous coffee shop addiction.

I know a number of our Keurig customers who have rarely if ever brewed a pot of coffee. Pot brewing took too long and required too much effort. Before they got a Keurig, they had always gone to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or local coffee shops to get their coffee.

Single serve at home is more convenient and a lot cheaper then going to a coffee shop.

JACraves February 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I agree, of course — a K-Cup is cheaper than buying coffee in a cafe. There, you are paying for labor, all the overhead of the shop, (usually) much higher quality coffee, etc. I’m explicitly comparing it to “at home” coffee, and do hear people say all the time that they “waste too much coffee” if they brew a pot. Personally, I find brewing a pot of coffee even easier and more reliable than brewing a single cup, but neither is too much effort, IMHO.

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