Friday, August 31, 2012

The Economics of Good Coffee

Some of you may be a bit confused by the title of this post. What are the "economics" of good coffee? Why not the "art" of good coffee?
Well, for one, I'm not a professionally trained barista with enough knowledge to tell you the art of good coffee, so I'm not going to pretend to do so and give you incorrect information (that would just be mean). And two, I am a business student, so I know a bit about math and money, which is what I'm going to focus on here.

Drinking coffee is a habit that numerous people all over the world have developed. While it's more prevalent in some nations than others, it's fairly safe to say that the whole world has a bit of a love affair with the tiny bitter beans.

I myself have a huge coffee addiction, which you probably figured out since my name is The Coffee Breaker!
My addiction is less about the caffeine, however, and more about the feeling that I get from drinking a huge mug of smooth and delicious coffee. Whenever I'm settling down to get some work done, starting a new novel or relaxing with friends, nothing fits better than a cup of coffee. What can I say, it's my comfort food!

If you suffer from a coffee addiction like me, caffeine or comfort-food induced, you may just grab one of these every day.

But that gets expensive after awhile. Which is why most people I know have taken to purchasing their own coffee and roasting it at home. Unfortunately, to save money, many people have settled for buying less-than-excellent canned coffees over fresh-roasted beans from their local cafe. And while the canned brands may give you more coffee grounds for your $$, you end up using twice as much coffee to get the same amount of flavor from fresh beans.

For example, let's take a bag of Starbucks Coffee.

You can get this 1 lb bag of beans for $11.95

1 lb / 2 tablespoons per 6 oz of Starbucks blend = 16 cups of delicious coffee

Now I'm going to pick on Maxwell House brand, because I've had some thoroughly horrifying experiences with this coffee. In my opinion, it produces a thoroughly stale and unnatural cup of java.

You can grab this 31.5 oz can of Maxwell House coffee (1.97 lbs) for $11.84 and think that you just got a great bargain. After all, you just got twice as much coffee as the Starbucks blend for the same price, right?Unfortunately, with canned coffees, you often have to use twice as much of the grounds to produce the same flavor as freshly ground beans.

So, 1.97 lbs / 4 tablespoons of Maxwell House = 15.76 cups of "somewhat okay" coffee.

Therefore, buying the fresher beans gives you better coffee and more of it when you get down to the math. 

Okay, sorry about that little economical rant I just did. I promise, I'll control myself better for the rest of this post.
Anyways, besides purchasing your own beans and roasting them at home, there's numerous other ways to make your own little cafe in your kitchen. One option is grinding your own beans.

Freshly ground coffee provides a lot more flavor. If you want a simple grinder, go for this Krups model.

Reliable and economical (around $20 at your local Bed Bath and Beyond, or available here).

If your find yourself purchasing a lot of lattes and cappuccinos, pick yourself up a simple milk frother. I got this model from Sur La Table for $12.
If you want to make truly professional cappuccinos and lattes, this Nespresso frother really can't be beat.

This frother (and a steady hand) allows your to make cappuccinos like this:

You can order one online here.

And if you really want to make your own Starbucks-style caramel macchiatos, cinnamon dolce lattes, etc., spring for a few bottles of Torani flavored syrup.

Play with flavor combinations to make your own specialty coffees. I like sprinkling a dash of the caramel syrup into my black coffee every now and then. It's my own lighter version of a caramel latte. The full six-pack is available here.

Like I said, the love affair between coffee and us humans isn't going to end anytime soon. So if you want to feed your addiction without dropping hundreds of dollars on frappuccinos and lattes every week, invest in some simple home goods to build up your very own mini-cafe.


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  1. Canned coffee is alright, but to really appreciate coffee, fresh brewed coffee is the way to go.