Caffeine, Convenience, and Cost: Keurig K-Cups vs. Starbucks Coffee
To say that Americans like their coffee would be an understatement the size (and calorie count) of a Starbucks Venti Mocha. Brew maven Carson Adley reports that coffee consumption in the U.S. is the eighth highest in the world, adding up to a massive $18 billion domestic coffee market. Just imagine how many lattes $18 billion could buy! (We did the math: 3.6 billion $5 lattes!)
In the quest for both convenience and connoisseur-quality java, many consumers have turned to Keurig and its K-Cup system, which offers more than 200 varieties of coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and specialty/iced beverages that can be brewed in mere minutes. It's such a popular system that other manufacturers now build similar machines to use K-Cups.
Now ease of use is a fabulous thing, and saving money on coffeeshop prices is even better. But when you break it all down, just how much money does a Keurig system save you? Or better yet, what does its use cost you throughout the course of a year, assuming you drink a cup of coffee each day? Here's what we found when we examined the cost of Keurig and its K-Cups, from machines to mochas.
The Keurig B40 Elite Gourmet Single-Cup System boasts a 48-oz. water reservoir and two brewing volumes. The Keurig B130 Hotel Brewer, pictured above, is also perfectly sized for a single cup of coffee, and features a mug sensor and auto off, and brews an 8-oz. cup in just three minutes.
Looking around, we typically see 24-packs of K-Cups for as low as $9 (although we briefly saw a 24-pack for just $5 last week, since expired). It's advisable to stock up on K-Cups when they hit this price point, although you may have a harder time finding the popular brands and flavors at this cost. In terms of name-brand deals, we've seen 24-packs go for as low as $13, as well as 48-packs for about $19. Office Depot sells 18-packs of many popular brands starting at just $11.99. And you can commonly find K-Cup coffee bundles that qualify for Subscribe & Save discounts at Amazon.
The Bottom Line
If you opt for the K-Cup system using the K-Cup refills from Office Depot, your total cost for the first year will come to about $331.12, or $0.91/day. Comparatively, a Tall (small) coffee at Starbucks (12 oz.) will run you $1.65 plus tax (but minus costs for cream and sugar, which are supplied gratis) or $602.25 per year.
While there's sizable savings in making your daily coffee via K-Cup, keep in mind that in order to attain a mid-range coffee strength, you'll probably want to brew an 8 oz. cup of Joe on the Keurig system. You're effectively paying less per ounce (11.4 cents per ounce of K-Cup coffee versus 13.8 cents for Starbucks drip coffee) then, but you're also brewing less coffee.
Something else to consider: the cost of K-cup convenience versus using good old fashioned coffee grounds and brewing your coffee in a traditional coffee maker. A study by WUSA-TV's Daniel Guzman shows that ground coffee costs just 3.7 cents per ounce, making it the most frugal option by far. For that price, we think you could spoil yourself week after week with the best coffee blends on the market, and still come out way ahead. But if the K-Cup's handiness and effortless brewing hold sway, at least you'll be better off financially than if you take your java to go at a chain coffee shop.
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