Set your coffee budget and avoid most expensive coffee

Unless you live or work in a coffee shop or can get your fill at work, you will most likely be making coffee at home some days. Ideally, coffee made at home should be more convenient, cost less, and taste better. Sure you can try the most expensive coffee you can buy as a treat but over the course of a year making coffee at home will save you money. Even trying the most expensive coffee you can find from a specialty coffee roaster which could run up to $100 a pound (we recommend avoiding the gimmicky Kopi Luwak) will not break the bank if you regularly are making coffee at home.

Let’s look just at the cost of making coffee at home.

Below is a visual representation of the price of roasted coffee beans for home use compared with the price of a Starbucks 12oz tall coffee that currently runs about $1.85. (Prices as of 1/1/2016).  See of table of how many cups of coffee in a pound.


Cost of the made at home or the most expensive coffee made at home vs starbucks


*Home brewing equipment costs not included in this graph (see below for those)

It is no surprise that the price of coffee beans for home brewing always works out to be less than buying Starbucks coffee (with the exception of the most expensive coffee at about $72 per pound Intelligentsia special reserve coffee sold in bags under a half pound in size). Intelligentsia regularly special selection coffee priced at over $70 a pound.


BUT brewing at home has other costs that include:

  • Coffee machine (or AeroPress, pour-over device, French press)
  • Grinder (if you purchase whole bean coffee)
  • Scale (optional but a good idea)
  • Water and electricity (small)
  • Time (generally more favorable for home)


Taking the long term view on avoiding most expensive coffee

Purchasing coffee brewing equipment for home requires taking the long view. Ignoring the cost of water and time, it’s fun to calculate potential five-year costs with 3 different equipment budgets. All of the calculations are done on a household level assuming a day budget for $4.90 in purchased coffee which is equivalent to 2 Starbucks Venti drinks at $2.45 apiece or any other combination of drinks you want or making two small pots or one larger pot of coffee at home. (40 ounces of brew water at the SCAA dosing level or slightly less coffee if you dose higher.)

Green = equipment $

Blue = coffee $

Red = coffee shop $

Interested in a coffee subscription and how that price compares? The Intelligentsia single origin column is approximately the higher end price of what a subscription service costs that provides a 12 ounce bag every week. On average the cost would land between the third wave bulk purchase and the Intelligentsia single origin price. For example here are a few prices:

  • MistoBox subscription is $17.50-$18.70 a week (12 ounce bag) based on a 1.5-3 month commitment
  • Ruby coffee is $22 a shipment (1lb once a month)
  • Counter Culture subscription is $28.35 for 2-12 ounce bags



  1. Cheapest route possible and an equipment budget of just $80 over 5 years. Find whatever brewer you have lying around and just make it work. Paper filters will eat up all the equipment budget. Purchase all coffee pre-ground.


The most expensive coffee made at home is cheaper than $5 a day at a coffee shop


2. Deluxe home brewing equipment budget over 5 years. This budget of $742 would include the purchase of a high-end home grinder and numerous brew devices along with a scale and a kettle or high-end coffee machine.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.57.58 PM


3. Commercial equipment budget. This budget is high enough to purchase a Mahlkonig EK43 grinder and numerous brew devices, a fancy scale or two made by Acaia, along with a kettle or high-end coffee machine. Total equipment budget set at $3252 over 5 years.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 9.58.15 PM


There is also the question of quantity and quality. If you need a caffeine fix sometimes anything will do. Personally, I cannot drink a 20-ounce Starbucks at once (or over the course of the day!) due to caffeine overload. When making coffee at home, often just an 8-ounce cup will do.

How many cups of coffee in a pound?


12oz mug 10 oz mug 8 oz cup 6 oz cup
1 pound bag 18 21 27 36
12 ounce bag 13 16 20 27


Cups per pound was calculated using a standard 60 grams of coffee per liter of brew water at about 200-205F. Density adjusted at 960grams a liter. Finished beverage weight was calculated by subtracting two times the weight of the coffee to account for water absorbed by the grounds.


Source links:

Size of Starbucks Venti at 20 ounces

Coffee prices:


Maxwell House

Costco $39.99 for 3 (2 pound bags) on (1/2/16)

Price for the third wave bulk was from an order I placed earlier this year for 4kg of coffee.

Starbucks prices:

Starbucks large or Venti price increase of July, 2015 to $2.45

Starbucks whole coffee $8.99 a pound on sale (1/2/16)

Starbucks whole coffee $14.99 a pound (1/2/16)

Intelligentsia single origin prices (1/2/2016)


Caffeine safe limit of 300-400grams a day (EFSA or European Food Safety Authority) for an adult, which would be about 1 Venti



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