Coffee: A Waste of Money

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: millennials spend entirely too much money on coffee. In the interest of transparency, I will admit that I’m guilty of this myself: around the corner a latte at the local third wave coffee shop goes for $5, and I’ve been known to indulge from time to time. However, I do this knowing full well that it’s ridiculous, wasteful, and a luxury I like to enjoy from time to time. If you stop for a coffee every day before work, you’re wasting huge amounts of money. If you don’t correct this behavior sooner rather than later it will just end up as another bullet loaded into your proverbial revolver, ready and waiting for your rapidly approaching financial suicide .

First off, let’s get something straight: if coffee is your hobby, this post isn’t for you. We all have hobbies, and I can’t fault you for spending money on a hobby that you enjoy. For everyone else (and I’m 99.9% sure this means you), you need to take a step back and look at the situation you’ve found yourself in. You’re paying top dollar for the caffeinated seeds of a fruit which are then roasted, ground up, and mixed with hot water. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. There are a lot of fancy words thrown into the process to trick you into spending more money, but the fact of the matter is that we’re all drinking water with remnants of ground up fruit seeds in it, and that’s all there is to it.

I get it, it’s expensive, but I will not drink bad coffee every day. My parents drink weak coffee that comes in a big metal can and tastes like hot garbage, and I need something better.

Hey, I’m right there with you. My parents do the same thing, and every visit home is coupled with numerous trips to the nearest coffee house. I simply do not like drinking bad coffee. However, let me ask you this: when was the last time you actually sat there and enjoyed your coffee, giving it your full, undivided attention? I’d go so far as to say you probably grab a cup from the coffee shop, drink it while you drive / take the train / sit at your desk, and then finish the entire thing without even thinking about what it tasted like. The fact is, you don’t actually care what the coffee tastes like. You just need a coffee that meets a minimum standard of quality and does what coffee is supposed to do.

I’ve done this dance before. I’ve tried almost every type of coffee maker out there, I’ve gotten freshly roasted beans, I’ve ground my own coffee by hand– I’ve spent countless hours tweaking endless variables. My conclusion? It’s easy to make a decent cup of coffee for a low price, one that blows your parent’s coffee quality out of the water, and it requires a shockingly small amount of effort. Here’s what you need:

A Decent Coffee Machine

A good coffee machine is the key to this process. There are many facets to a good coffee machine, but I’m not going to go over them here. You’re a millennial and you just want answers, so here you go: Bonavita BV1900TS. As of this writing it goes for about $125 on Amazon. That seems like a lot of money on a coffee machine, but let me respond: I can all but guarantee you’ve spent more on dumber things before, and this is about to save you a ton of cash. A good coffee machine that reaches the proper temperature and distributes the water correctly is the key to this whole method. If you ignore this step and use a cheap coffee machine with the rest of the items in this list, you will still end up with bad coffee.

Digital Scale

Yes, you need one. These go for about $13 on Amazon. Don’t sit there and measure “scoops” of coffee like a pauper, weighing the coffee is faster and turns out a consistently better cup of coffee. I use 30 grams of ground coffee to make half of a pot.

Coffee Filters

Melitta #4. They’re like $4 for 100 filters. Buy them.

Coffee-mate Liquid Creamer

I drink my coffee black. However, my girlfriend loves coffee that tastes like anything but coffee: girl scout cookies, chocolate, ice cream, etc. Buy a bottle of this stuff in whatever flavor you want and you’re good to go: this sugary catastrophe will complete pillage your palate and overtake the taste of pretty much any coffee you’re using. These go for about $3 a bottle, and last her about 10 days.

Strong, Cheap Coffee

Here’s where you save the big bucks. Go into your local supermarket, navigate to the “International” or “Spanish” or whatever it’s called section (wherever they sell Goya products), and find the Cafe Bustelo. You can’t miss it: it’s usually found in a vacuum-packed yellow rectangle brick, but you can find it in a can as well. It usually goes for something like $2.50 a package, and a package should last about two weeks for one person. Buy one. It’s strong, it’s cheap, and honestly I don’t notice a difference vs grinding expensive, fresh beans in an expensive burr grinder. Decent coffee in a good coffee machine is the key to this method, so hopefully now you will see why I recommended the coffee machine that I did. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have an advanced palate or anything even close to that, but I will say that I don’t like drinking coffee that tastes bad. It’s not a fancy latte from a fancy coffee shop, but who cares? You don’t need a fancy delicacy captivating your palate every single morning, and the only reason you drink coffee is because you’re hopelessly addicted to the caffeine and the ritual, both of which this coffee will more than satisfy.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all you’ll need. Your total up front investment: $147.50. This initial equipment will make you about 5 full pots of coffee: 40 “cups” or 20 human sized cups. Let’s say for the sake of argument that on the weekdays you drink a cup of coffee each morning before work, but you make a half of a pot each day (you wasteful savage). I’m assuming you will use a package of coffee every 2 weeks ($1.25 / week) and a bottle of creamer will last 10 days ($2.25 / week), so this will cost you about $3.50 a week. Over time, making this cup of coffee at home every morning vs. getting a latte at the coffee shop 5 days a week would look like this:

Week Home Cost Coffee Shop Cost
1 $147.50 $25
2 $151 $50
3 $154.50 $75
4 $158 $100
5 $161.50 $125
6 $165 $150
7 $168.50 $175
8 $172 $200

As you can see, at the end of 2 months you’re already up $28. This is just the beginning. After the initial 2 months, you will be spending $3.50 per week, vs $25 per week at a coffee shop. That’s a savings of $21.50, every single week. Over the course of a year, this would amount to a savings of $1,118. You could almost buy a new coffee machine every single year, forever, and still be up $1k per year from what you were doing previously. Obviously there are a few small maintenance costs here and there that you will have to pay for (new coffee filters, descaling solution to clean your coffee machine, etc.) plus the occasional weekend latte, but as you can see the overall savings are dramatic.

What I’m trying to tell you is this: expensive coffee is a privilege. If you want to spend over $1,100 on coffee every single year go ahead, but you’re not stupid, and spending large sums of money on ground-up caffeinated fruit seeds mixed with hot water is a stupid thing that stupid people would do. If you want to save money I would urge you to get some decent gear and make your own coffee at home. It’s easy, it only takes a few minutes each day, and it’s a great way to save a ton of cash while sacrificing essentially nothing in the process.

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