In the battle for your coffee dollar there are many suitors vying for your attention. And no wonder. The number of Americans drinking a daily cup of coffee is at the highest level since 2012, with demand continuing to get a boost from at-home consumption and gourmet drinks. A 2018 industry study showed that sixty-four percent of Americans age 18 or over said they had a cup of coffee the previous day in 2018. That compares with 62 percent in 2017 and was roughly on par with levels last seen in 2012. This according to results of a survey commissioned by the National Coffee Association (NCA) released during the group’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Clearly, we Americans are in a love affair with coffee.
Among the Americans surveyed, at-home preparation continues to be the dominant spot for demand, with 79 percent of those surveyed saying they had had a cup of coffee at home the previous day. Coffee consumed at cafes and other out-of-home locations totaled 36 percent.
The cost of coffee then and now
Prior to the invention of the K-cup and the rise of Starbucks and other café’s, home brewing was even more predominant. Think of it this way. If you asked someone over 50 what the price of coffee was when they were in their 20’s they would probably speak of it in price per pound. Back then, you bought a can of coffee for $4 or $5. Ask a millennial today and they are more likely to say $1.75 a cup or maybe $4 for specialty brews. This leads me to something perhaps overlooked by many coffee drinkers who get their caffeine at home while dodging the line at the coffee shop. I am speaking of the cost of that quick, “pop a pod” in the single serve machine on the kitchen counter.
All that convenience comes with a cost.
Several studies show that when you calculate the cost of these single serve pods and compare them to a pound of coffee, you find that the single serve runs around $50 per pound while most specialty coffees average $20 or less per pound. Are K-cups convenient – yes. Pricey – YES and YES! The first capital yes has to do with the coffee itself. Typical studies show a K-cup costs around 65 cents per cup to make. Compare that with a $17 per pound specialty coffee at around 40 cents per cup. That is a huge disparity for the convenience your Keurig or Nespresso provides. And to further emphasize the point about cost, here is a quote from John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig and K-cup:
“I don’t have one. They’re kind of expensive to use,” Sylvan said of the K-Cup system he created. “Plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”
The second capital yes has to do with the environment. While there is a move to create pods that are totally biodegradable or offer reusable pod/filter combos, many suppliers still sell their coffee pods in pre-filled plastic containers. Millions of these are disposed of in landfills every year. Recent sales estimates are that 9 billion+ of these K-cups are sold each year - enough to circle the earth 10 times!
If your bottom line is convenience, the pod seems like a logical choice. If your concerned about the higher cost or environmental impact of that convenience, then you might want to consider another brewing method. Whatever you choose as a brewing method, I think it’s always wise to look a little deeper into the choices we have. In the meantime, enjoy your coffee.