Did you know that, in the Dark Ages, people survived without Facetime? And Siri? And whatever WhatsApp is? Can you imagine a world without the 100 calorie count packages of Chips Ahoy, where you would have to count cookies yourself? Sometimes change is good. But other times, change is bullshit. New things that people don’t really need are marketed hard to convince people that they do need them.

This bugs me.

Recently one of those things that’s been bugging me is Keurig coffeemakers. Single serving coffee makers have existed for a while, but at some point in the past few years, Keurigs jumped the line separating workplace/bed & breakfast amenities from household appliances.

Coffeemakers like this make sense when you have many people with varied tastes, like and office or hotel. But it really took some gall to assume that this product was suitable for the home. Somehow, it took off, and here we are today. Even the inventor of Keurig cups says they’re expensive and wasteful.

Let’s find out just how wasteful Keurigs are, and what the cheapest morning beverage actually is.

Keurig

The cost of Keurig coffee

The baseline cost of a no-frills drip coffeemaker is about $25. Most Keurig coffeemakers start around $100. So you’re already out much more money for a Keurig over a traditional coffeemaker. But I’m more interested in the ongoing cost.

I’m going to give Keurig the benefit of the doubt and use the cheapest k-cups I can find. Right now on Amazon, that is $27.99 for 72 cups. That is 39 cents a cup, or 8 ounces of coffee. If you look at off-brand cups, you can get that cost down to 35 cents per cup.

The other reason I imagine people like the Keurig is that it saves time. The Keruig coffeemaker I tested in a hotel took 3 minutes, 40 seconds to brew a cup including pouring in the water and putting in the cup/pod thing.

The cost of drip coffee

Let’s see how Keurig compares to a typical home drip brewed coffeemaker. For this example, I will use the world’s best coffee, Cafe Bustelo.

Cafe Bustelo

The Best Coffee

I usually fill the carafe up to the 7 line, which strangely is 3.5 cups of water. That makes enough for Marge and I for the morning. The 10 oz. brick of Cafe Bustelo contains approximately 46 tablespoons of coffee grounds. A brick costs $3.59, so that is 8 cents per tablespoon.

Coffee ThermosI use about 3 tablespoons, so 24 cents total divided by 3.5 cups, comes out to 7 cents per cup… or 14 cents for my 16 oz. thermos. That much Keurig coffee would cost 70 cents. I also add a tablespoon of half-and-half and a negligible amount of sugar, which adds another 4 cents total, so 18 cents for home-brewed vs. 74 cents for Keurig.

So the Keurig doesn’t save money. It doesn’t save time either. To fill and run my coffeemaker took 7 minutes for the total 3.5 cups. The Keurig would take over 12 minutes to make that much coffee.

Of course there’s one last reason not to use a Keurig. All the garbage! If there’s one thing the world definitely does not need, it’s nine billion new, plastic, non-recyclable “pods” floating around in the Pacific Ocean every year.

I have to hand it to Keurig, though. Through some modern marvel of marketing, they’ve convinced people this is a good idea, and hooked them into their supply chain so they will be eternally buying Keurig pods, like so many inkjet cartridges.

I fell for the same trick once, when Gillette sent me a free Mach 3 razor on my 18th birthday.  Guess what razor I use 17 years later. Yes, the Mach 3. I am eternally stuck in their supply chain. I reduced my cost here by buying razors in bulk on eBay once. Maybe I’ll share the story of that one day, but let’s just say I haven’t paid for a razor in many years.

What About Other Hot Drinks?

Takeout Coffee

Despite the exhortations of thousands, from Mr. Money Mustache to MSN Money articles, that seem to list “cutting your daily Starbucks” as the number one best way to save money, people still do it. I know it. I see them do it. I see them waiting in lines for coffee that they could’ve brewed at home while taking a shower, and then walking around with their little cardboard cups and I think “Didn’t you read that Kathy Krisof article on Yahoo about how much money you spend on Starbucks every week??”

Look at it this way: You’re a hopeless addict. You need that coffee. You’re never going to stop drinking it. With the shame that comes with being an addict, shouldn’t you be hiding your addiction by brewing your drugs at home?

According to FastFoodMenuPrices, at Dunkin Donuts, a medium coffee costs $1.89. And a Starbucks medium is $2.10. Let’s not even get into all the fancy permutations you could get.

Tea

The cheapest morning drink off all should be tea. In the morning, I favor a strong black tea, usually Irish Breakfast. The loose version of Stash’s Super Irish Breakfast tea is pretty great, but not the cheapest. The cheapest I’ve been able to find is Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast tea. It sells for $2.99 for 80 bags. That’s 3.7 cents per serving!

I only add one thing to my tea, but it’s a biggie. I add honey. Uh oh, how much does honey cost? We buy the biggest possible container, 80 ounces, and that costs $16.69. That many ounces of honey is equal to 6 2/3 cups. And if you use one tablespoon of honey like I do, that’s 107 servings. So that’s 15.6 cents per tablespoon. Wow. That’s way more than the tea itself! So tea with honey is 19.3 cents.

Final Hot Drink Tally

Drink Per Day Per Year
Tea $0.04 $10.00
Drip-brewed coffee $0.18 $45.00
Tea with honey  $0.19 $47.50
Keurig Coffee $0.74 $185.00
Dunkin Donuts Coffee $1.89 $472.50
Starbucks Coffee $2.10 $525.00

Tea is the cheapest morning drink, as long as you don’t add anything to it besides maybe sugar as sweetener. The honey makes it as expensive as drip-brewed coffee with cream and sugar. But each of these options is much cheaper than a Keurig, which itself still makes a cheaper brew than buying it at your takeout spot of choice.

What’s your morning drink?