K­Cups and other single­serve coffee solutions seem to get both a lot of love and a lot of hate. One of the biggest arguments leveled against these miracles of convenience is that they are too costly. Opponents suggest that it is cheaper to purchase coffee at McDonald's or Starbucks than it is to use a K­Cup. The latter suggestion, Starbucks, seems almost laughably untrue. Buying from McDonald's, however, at least feels like it might be a solution that offers cheaper coffee than K- Cups. Let's take a look at the numbers and see if this claim stands up to the evidence. 

K­Cups versus Ground Coffee: Cost 

The evidence here is in favor of K­Cups, like Keurig Vue K­Cups. Simply purchasing ground coffee from a vendor like Starbucks and then brewing it at home can cost you roughly twice as much as brewing with K­Cups. The average cup of home­brewed coffee made from ground coffee beans will cost you about $2. The average cup of coffee brewed from a K­Cup will cost only $0.91. 

The numbers above hold even if you assume that no coffee was wasted, something that simply isn't the case with ground coffee. Chances are good that when you make coffee, you end up wasting some because you don't drink the whole pot before it gets cold or stale. That means that the values above are conservative. You could be spending a whole lot more on ground coffee.

What About the Machine? 

Of course the above estimate doesn't take into account the purchase price of a kitchen appliance to heat your water and then inject it into your K­Cup. Surely the cost of the machine will offset any savings you can get from K­Cups, right? Well, perhaps not. 

If you factor in the cost of a Keurig brewer at $87.99 and then add in the $243.13 that the average person spends on K­Cups in the year (one cup of coffee per day), you come up with a final cost of $331.12 for both machine and coffee. A small cup of coffee at Starbucks, just the plain option, costs about $1.65 plus tax and a similar cup at McDonald's isn't much cheaper. If you buy one cup of coffee each day for a year, the total cost is a whopping $602.25. It makes sense though, when you think about it, because you aren't just paying for the coffee, but for the expensive commercial machine that brews it, the salary of the person who makes it, and the lease on the building where all of this activity takes place. You don't have any of those costs when you brew your coffee at home with the kitchen appliances designed to make the process easy and affordable. 

The Bottom Line 

You can save money by brewing coffee the traditional way if you are careful not to waste any coffee and you purchase beans that aren't considered premium. The reason K­Cup coffee costs less, despite the fact that it is premium, is that the coffee purchase is wholesale, rather than retail. Additionally, each K­Cup seals the coffee in an airtight chamber, so it doesn't go bad. Both of these factors allow the K­Cup manufacturers to keep costs down. Of course, if you brew your own coffee, you also lose the convenience of the K­Cup and the quality of the coffee it contains. In the end, you're better off with the K­Cup because you get great coffee at an outstanding price and little, if any, is wasted. 

Lena Simon is a coffee fan of many years who is always looking for new ways to serve the brew. An avid writer, she then likes to sit down and share what she finds with her readers. Look for her illuminating posts on a number of websites and blogs.

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