By Barry Zander
Ever wonder how much you spend on coffee when on the road? There’s research you’ll find interesting … but probably won’t change your habits. If you make daily stops at fast-food restaurants around midmorning for a cup of coffee, there are benefits, but the cost might surprise you. We’ll break it down for you.
The coffee might be satisfactory, or you may just chalk it up to a good opportunity to get out and stretch. As far as the money, a comparison on the Time magazine blog site from recent research showed prices range from 3 cents a cup to $2.75. No mention was made about McDonald’s, an RV favorite for years because of parking availability, where a cup o’ Joe is $1.00 plus tax.
The survey was based on standard, non-flavored coffee and included the cost of the coffee maker. It misses the convenience of brewing the coffee of your choice in your rig, which can mean instant or camp coffee (ground coffee made in a strainer with hot water poured over it), which we resort to when the campground quiet hours intrude on our awake hours.
What the very telling article succeeds in doing is to compare the cost per cup based on two cups per person per day and multiplying to show the annual cost. Here’s the gist of Time’s findings:
- Mr. Coffee: $0.03 per cup
- French press: $0.22 per cup
- Keurig: $0.48 per cup
- McDonald’s: $1.00 (I included this)
- Nespresso: $1.10 per cup
- Starbucks (plain cup of coffee): $2.75
Of course the “devil or angel is in the details.” A basic Keurig machine brews a cup at $0.48, which, again, includes the cost of the brewing machine. At two cups per day, the yearly cost (with machine) comes to $533.50. If you’re satisfied with your Mr. Coffee, it’s at the very low end of $0.03 per cup, which will set you back $45.90 a year, about the same as one cappuccino in a five-star hotel restaurant.
A French press cup costs $0.22 or $160.60 annually. We tried that for a while but were dissatisfied because the coffee got cold while it was brewing – a personal observation. After tasting a cup of Nespresso (pods cost $1.00 to $1.10 each), we bought a machine to fill the cabinet in our RV built for a vintage fat TV. At $1.10 per cup, our annual cost per person is $962.00.
Happily, we have a generator in our RV. Nowadays we look for a scenic spot to park, crank up the generator and have a pause that refreshes at $1.10 per cup – more than McDonald’s but consistently tastier. One caveat is when “no-generator hours” are later in the morning, we resort to Nescafe Instant or just camp coffee.
Finally, the one that you’ve been waiting for: the average price of a regular cup at one of Starbuck’s 30,000 outlets is $2.75, which varies greatly by location. That’s obviously for a standard cup of coffee, which probably doesn’t get requested often (another personal observation). That mounts up to $2,007.50 yearly!
Let’s be honest. Most coffee drinkers have their own taste preferences. Just look at the shelves of ground, whole-bean, instant, and favored bags and cans on supermarket shelves. Add in latte, cappuccino, espresso, sweetener, biscotti, on and on, and you’ll probably be able to justify continuing with the brands and restaurants you always use. The comparison authored by Samantha Rosen of Time brings in lots of alternatives, and she mentions that because of the work-from-home environment, the business is changing for coffee shops. No need to panic, though. The caffeine craze is sure to continue, along with the need to get out and stretch.