Coffee is the world’s most beloved beverage. Americans alone drink around 146 billion cups of coffee per year, and the international coffee industry is one of the most lucrative.
Coffee is, in fact, the second most traded commodity just after crude oil.
This brings us to our point: coffee is money. And a lot of it.
Maybe a cup of coffee doesn’t seem like much, and some people certainly seem to think that Starbucks is the only thing standing between renting and owning a house.
Is your coffee habit anywhere near as expensive as a mortgage?
Let’s take a look.
How much does a cup of coffee a day cost?
The yearly cost of coffee varies greatly, and that’s not even taking into account differences in how much coffee you drink a day. How much you spend on coffee is influenced primarily by what kind of coffee you choose to drink.
And what kind of coffee you drink is often differentiated by the brewing method. Each brewing method has a different cost, and so does the actual coffee itself.
Buying a cup of coffee costs:
Per day, average: $2
Yearly average: $730
Now, the biggest variable here is how often you plan to buy coffee. Some drinkers only buy coffee a few times a week, while others visit a coffee shop several times a day. Besides that, you also need to look at what type of coffee you’re getting.
While these numbers are an average – and you may certainly find cheaper coffees around – you can just as easily find more expensive coffees with relative ease. A “fancy” coffee with a couple of extra ingredients may ver well triple the price.
Brewing coffee at home costs:
Per day, average: $0.30
Yearly average: $195
Phew! That looks cheap! Especially per cup.
But how many cups of coffee are you making at home, or in the office, daily? Likely much more than if you had to buy them.
Another factor to take into account is what type of brewing method you’re using. Black coffee made using a drip coffee machine tends to be more economic because it yields a higher volume of actual coffee. Espresso barely covers the bottom of a cup, so you’re more likely to have seconds.
Brewing capsule coffee at home costs:
Per day, average: $0.67
Yearly average: $244
Capsule coffee is the new drip coffee machine. More and more Americans are flocking to this new, super convenient way of making coffee.
Coffee capsules are about twice as expensive as most other coffees, but still very cheap compared to buying coffee at a coffee shop. It may not look like it at first, but it’s actually a great money saver. It’s easier to make coffee using one of these machines.
And that’s an important factor: most coffee drinkers buy coffee out of perceived convenience. However, these machines are super easy. It just has a slightly larger upfront cost, and perhaps a few minutes of setup and learning.
Cost of Different Brewing Methods
We can easily see that making coffee at home vs. buying out constitutes the biggest difference in the cost of drinking coffee. Buying coffee at a coffee shop can cost upwards of 6 times as much as making coffee at home.
But even when making coffee at home, there is a lot of variety in brewing methods and coffees to choose from, each one representing a very different price range. The machines themselves can additionally have vastly differing prices.
Coffee Brewing Method #1: Espresso
Espresso is undoubtedly the most popular type of coffee. Thus, espresso machines are some of the most popular to buy for home use. They require some know-how and effort, but this hasn’t stopped coffee enthusiasts from buying them and becoming what is now known as ‘home baristas’.
A decent espresso machine ranges anywhere between $200 and $700.
Coffee Brewing Method #2: Drip Coffee
Drip coffee is America’s very own coffee. It has been the most widely consumed coffee in the country for almost an entire century, and at one point virtually all of the country consumed drip coffee.
Drip coffee machines only require that you pour coffee and water, and then push a button. This traditional way of making coffee is on the decline, but around 40% of the population still consumes it.
A good drip coffee machine can be easily be found for under $50.
Coffee Brewing Method #3: Single-Serve Capsule Coffee
A more recent phenomenon is single-serve coffee. This type of coffee relies on single-dose capsules that make an end product that’s very close to espresso.
They are, in a way, a crossover between the two brewing methods above: they make espresso at the touch of a button. They are extremely convenient and make much better coffee than drip coffee makers.
Single-serve coffee machines are seeing a rise and are predicted to become the most popular type of coffee maker in America in the next few years.
A decent single-serve coffee maker hovers around $80-$150.
Which coffee brewing method is the cheapest?
Out of all three, the drip coffee machine comes out on top as being the most economically sound by far. Espresso and single-serve capsule machines are much more expensive and require extra purchases in the form of cleaners and descalers without which they can’t function properly after a while. Drip coffee machines are like weeds: they thrive even if you actively try and sabotage them.
Let’s talk about hand-brew methods
Hand-brew methods are another option. Like espresso machines, they require a little bit of know-how and are generally considered to be a little bit more high-maintenance than coffee machines. However, these brewing methods are also very popular and can be very inexpensive when you take into account the quality of the brew.
Most popular hand-brew methods yield a more balanced, flavorful coffee than your average drip coffee machine while falling largely under the same price range. A Moka Pot only sets you back around $15, while the more modern and versatile Aeropress goes for $30.
How much do coffee beans cost?
Now we’ve come to the real culprit: coffee.
A coffee machine can be very cheap and, even if you go for a more expensive one, that’s simply a one-time investment that will last you for years. What really eats away at your pockets little by little is that brown gold: the coffee itself.
Where does coffee come from?
Coffee, historically, has been considered a luxury. European kings usually taxed or outright banned the consumption of coffee during times of war just so that they could finance their wars — it’s how people started coming up with coffee substitutes like roasted barley or chicory.
In time, for better or worse, many coffee farms became established outside of Europe. In South America (by Spain and Portugal), and later in most of Southeast Asia (by Portugal and Dutch traders). These regions are today the top two producers of coffee in the world, with Brazil and Vietnam being the two most prolific in the world.
Whole vs. pre-ground beans
Now, when it comes to buying coffee, it is generally accepted that buying pre-ground coffee is much more convenient and therefore more expensive.
Buying whole beans can cut down costs by more than half, but it requires extra effort, time, and equipment. A good grinder can cost upwards of $100, and not everyone has the patience to learn how to operate one. Grinders are also quite loud and require constant cleaning, so they aren’t exactly the most popular kitchen appliances.
Fortunately, in recent years there has been a lot of development in hand (or manual) grinders, making them much easier and convenient to use. And because of their compact size, they are much easier to properly take care of. A good hand grinder can cost anywhere from $30 to $100.
Different Types and Prices of Coffee
Not all coffee is created equal. Like with any product, you can find a wide array of different types of coffee, each of them bringing a different price tag.
There are two main subdivisions of coffee that vary in price and quality: Robusta and Arabica.
Arabica is the most well-regarded. Most “good” coffee is Arabica, and most countries focus entirely on this type of coffee because it sells for more than twice the money. Colombia is probably the most notorious country that’s focused on growing Arabica for more than a century. It has therefore become one of the most reputable names in the world of coffee.
It goes for $4.65 per kilogram on average.
Robusta is a much cheaper variation. It has a blander flavor. However, it contains a lot more caffeine and it seems much more resistant to extreme temperatures, not to mention it is tougher against pests and diseases. For these two reasons and despite its lack of flavor, it is still widely grown. Robusta can be mixed with Arabica or used as a blend for certain types of coffee. Mostly, Robusta coffee is destined for use in products that contain coffee flavoring (e.g. desserts, sodas, coffee jelly), powdered coffee, instant coffee, and so on.
Robusta is only $2.00-$2.40 per kilogram.
Kopi Luwak, aka Poop Coffee
Then we have unique types of coffee, like Kopi Luwak. This type of coffee was first observed in Indonesia. This country is an important source of coffee thanks to its particular sub-tropical climate, rich soil, and biodiversity.
Kopi Luwak was discovered by complete accident. Here in Indonesia lives the Asian Palm Civet, a mammal similar to raccoons. These animals are huge fans of coffee, just like us. They frequently venture into coffee farms to munch on ripe coffee fruits.
Their droppings are the Kopi Luwak ingredients. It turns out that coffee beans undergo a very special type of fermentation when passing through the civet that boosts and enhances the neutral flavor of coffee in such a way that no other type of fermentation can.
It may sound strange, but Kopi Luwak is widely regarded as the most delicious coffee in the world. The beans are of course thoroughly washed and cleaned after, so that should give you peace of mind.
Kopi Luwak goes, on average, for $100 a kilogram, making it one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
A variation on the Kopi Luwak
Kopi Luwak can also be found in other countries. You’ll find them mainly in Peru and some other parts of South America. However, the animal which processes these beans differs slightly. It’s processed by a Coati, which comes from a different family than the civet but coincidentally has a similar raccoon-like appearance.
The story remains the same. Coatis venture into coffee farms and munch on ripe coffee fruit. The droppings are then collected and turned into gourmet coffee.
Black Ivory Coffee
The most expensive coffee in the world is the Black Ivory Coffee. This is a coffee from Thailand. Expert farmers took notice of Kopi Luwak and started developing a way to create their own version of Kopi Luwak.
These farmers got to growing high-quality arabica coffee and started feeding it, as its name suggests, to elephants.
Elephants’ digestive systems are more complex and contain enzymes that are capable of breaking down proteins in coffee responsible for bitterness. That means that Black Ivory Coffee offers the full flavor of coffee without the bitter taste.
This is why Black Ivory Coffee is currently considered the best-tasting coffee in the world. Consequently, it is also the most expensive coffee in the world.
It goes for a shocking $1000 per pound. That’s $2000 per kilogram.
A coffee habit can definitely put a dent in your spending habits, but there are plenty of ways to make it more affordable.
Related: You aren’t alone in trying to cut expenses. America as a whole is becoming increasingly frugal.
You can take a $700 dollar per month habit and easily get it down to $100 per month. Plus, you’ll get to brew and enjoy that coffee anytime in the comfort of your own home.
That is unless you’re unlucky enough to develop a taste for Kopi Luwak or Black Ivory Coffee. If that’s the case, you can say goodbye to owning a home anytime soon!