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Save Money on Coffee: At-Home vs. Coffee Shop Costs

September 29, 2020

Ah, coffee. Its aroma helps coax us out of bed in the mornings. Its caffeine content gives our tired minds and bodies a jumpstart needed to start the day. Its distinct flavor profile delights our taste buds.

And its cost might be taking a bigger hit to our wallets than we think.

Though most of us don't budget out our monthly coffee costs, it might be worth doing. How many anecdotal stories have you heard of people adding up the yearly costs of their morning trip to Starbucks and realizing they could have purchased a used car with the money?

So, how much are you really paying for your cup of joe?

You might not be shelling out thousands for your morning fix, but knowing the true cost of a cup of coffee can help you determine whether it's worth it for you.

How Much is a Cup of Coffee from a Coffee Shop?

The cost of coffee varies across the United States. This is due, in part, to the different coffee chains that are popular in a given area.

Different chains will have different prices. For example, while Starbucks is considered a higher-end coffee chain, Tim Hortons is generally considered a more affordable option.

You'll also note price variance based on locality. You'll likely pay more for a cup of coffee in a large metropolitan city than you would in a smaller town or city. It's challenging to pinpoint the exact cost of a cup of coffee, but we're going to try!

1. Coffee Cost By Chain

Here's a breakdown of the lowest price for a cup of coffee from some of the most popular coffee chains across the nation.

  • Starbucks - $2.85
  • Tim Hortons - $1.75
  • Biggby - $1.99
  • Dunkin - $2.19

As you'll note, the costs vary, significantly. If you favor Starbucks, you'll end up paying over a dollar more for your morning brew.

However, your preferences matter the most here. Not knocking Starbucks, we all enjoy a venti iced caramel macchiato with extra caramel just as much as the next person!

2. Coffee Costs by Region

Beyond the best drink you can order at Starbucks, if you're looking to maximize your coffee budget, you'll need to determine how much your location will impact the cost.

Here's a list of the average coffee cost for the biggest regions in the US.

  • New England - $2.28
  • Mid-Atlantic - $2.51
  • South Atlantic - $2.45
  • South - $2.66
  • Midwest - $2.56
  • Mountain - $2.60
  • Pacific Coast - $2.98
  • U.S. Average: $2.70

If we estimated five trips to the coffee shop weekly and 50 work weeks (2 weeks off), your coffee habit could be costing upwards of $675 a year. That's a lot of coffee!

Cost of At-Home Coffee Machines

If you're looking to minimize the amount you spend on coffee, brewing coffee at home could save you money. However, there are many coffee machines on the market. It can be challenging to choose the best machine for your needs.

Moreover, each machine will come with its own upfront cost, in addition to the applicable accessory and supply costs.

To save on your yearly coffee bill, you'll need to take these costs into account and compare them with the cost of a trip to your local coffee shop.

If you're not sure where to start, we've got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the most popular coffee machines and their supplies.

  • Keurig: $59.99 - $259.99 Bundle, Plus $14.99 for each pack of 24 K-Cups
  • Standard Espresso Maker: $29.99 - $260
  • Top-of-the-Line Espresso Maker: $600+
  • French Press: $19.99 - $240
  • Drip Coffee Maker: $19.99 - $150
  • Pour Over Coffee Maker: $19.99 - $40

Additional Costs to Consider

If you choose to purchase a coffee machine, you must consider the additional costs that come with the purchase. In addition to accessories, there are some additional costs to consider. These costs vary significantly, but researching them before buying a machine can help save you a lot of money in the long run.

Here are the additional costs of home-brewed coffee to consider:

  • Coffee or Espresso: An essential ingredient, you can buy them ground or as whole beans, or even as dissolvable instant coffee and ground espresso powder. Prices can vary heavily depending on the quality of the beans.
  • Coffee Grinder: If you buy coffee beans, you'll need to grind them before using them in any of these machines. A manual grinder will be cheaper than an electric grinder. However, manual grinding can be a slow and laborious task.
  • Measurement Tools: The best cup of Joe requires precise measurements. Coffee spoons are designed to provide you with the optimal ratio of coffee to water. A digital kitchen scale can also help you get the perfect water-to-coffee ratio.
  • Coffee Filters: Coffee filters are necessary for drip coffee makers. They typically come in large packs of a few hundred. So, one pack can theoretically last you a year, unless you make multiple batches of coffee.
  • Flavor Enhancements: If you enjoy creamer, sugar, or flavor shots for your coffee, you'll need to routinely shell out additional cash for these items.

How Much Money Do You Save on by Making Coffee at Home?

Overall, your preference will determine whether at-home or coffee shop drinks are the right choice for you. However, your budget will likely have a say in the matter.

If you're concerned with maximizing the bang for your buck, then at-home coffee is generally the way to go. Here are two coffee cost analyses that will help you make your decision.

Coffee Cost Analysis

Home-brewed coffee generally costs anywhere from $0.16 - $0.25 per cup. The average cost of coffee from a shop in the U.S. is $2.70. Let's say the consumer likes one cream and two sugars in their coffee.

These are generally free additions at a coffee shop, but will cost a few cents at home. That said, let's make the at-home coffee rate $0.23 per cup. So, we've got $2.70 per cup of shop-bought coffee and $0.23 per cup of home-brewed coffee.

Here's how the costs add up:

Coffee Four Times a Week

  • The at-home brewer will spend $0.92 on their coffee in a week.
  • The buyer will spend $10.80 on their coffee in a week.

Coffee Daily

  • The at-home brewer will spend $1.61 on their coffee in a week.
  • The buyer will spend $18.90 on their coffee in a week.

Coffee Every Day for a Year

  • The at-home brewer will spend ~$85 on their coffee in a year.
  • The buyer will spend ~$985 on their coffee in a year.

However, you should also consider the cost of your home coffee setup. Also, consider the convenience and time savings. Going through a Starbucks drive-through on your commute may be more practical for your situation.

Additional Tips to Save Money on Coffee

Want to save on coffee? Check out the tips below.

  • Kick the Habit: This might sound extreme, but ditching coffee entirely is a money saver, regardless of how you get your morning cup of joe. Even scaling back from two cups to one per day can help your wallet.
  • Try a Coffee Alternative: Black tea may not have as much caffeine as an average cup of coffee, but you'll still get that energy boost at a lower cost.
  • Brew Coffee At Home: As the analysis above shows, the coffee you brew at home is simply more economical than the coffee you buy at a coffee shop.
  • Mimic Your Favorite Flavors: From pumpkin spice to peppermint, there are tons of recipes online that can help you achieve the shop-bought flavor at a fraction of the price.
  • Take Advantage of Free Coffee: Many offices offer employees free coffee. Grab some and get your day started!

Final Thoughts

Coffee is one of the joys of life, but it doesn't have to be a drain on your finances. Maximize your coffee investment by making frugal choices, but don't give up something that makes you happy!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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