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Coffee that tastes better -- and costs less

Save 50% -- and improve quality -- with a simple frugal tactic.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 13, 2012 3:09PM
Image: Coffee (© HD Connelly/Getty Images/Getty Images)I'm not a fan of coffee even though I live in Seattle, a city where java is a fetish. Thus I don't know how much it costs either per cup or per pound. I do hear complaints about the price, though, which is why I'm delighted to share this frugal tip.

Buying green coffee beans and roasting them at home is surprisingly simple, and unroasted beans are about half the price.

The savings, though considerable, aren't the only reason to do this.

Freshly roasted coffee just tastes better, according to these aficionados. Not only do you get to toast the beans to your personal preference, smaller batches means the finished product is always fresh. Pre-roasted beans "lose flavor in a matter of days," notes Mark Frauenfelder on (Post continues after video.)

Frauenfelder roasts using a $25 popcorn popper. (Note: I see that appliance regularly in thrift stores.)

The smoke and the chaff

Not everyone's a fan of that method. In a post on, Mary Ostyn claims that the coffee "tends to overheat and ruin the popper."

She roasts in a cast-iron skillet on the backyard barbecue, to keep her living area free of any smoke as well as the chaff that puffs up as the beans split. (Frauenfelder pops his coffee outdoors for the same reason.)

A site called Coffee Hut posted a video showing how to roast coffee on a kitchen stove. You can see some chaff in the work area, and the woman in the video mentions "a little bit of smoke."

Save some green on green beans

Where and how you roast is up to you. But how to find green coffee beans?

If you're lucky, you live near a specialty shop such as Fante's in Philadelphia or Mr. Green Beans in Portland, Ore.

If not? Do an Internet search for online sources. Two money-saving possibilities:

Happy sipping, and happy savings.

Ever roasted coffee at home? Have any tips to share?

More on MSN Money:

Apr 13, 2012 10:02PM
I disagree. I wrote about this three years ago:​g-economics/

Fact is that roasting your own takes personal time and an energy bill. If you're unemployed, maybe you have nothing better to do. But it's a wash on the economics argument for most people.
Apr 13, 2012 11:25PM
Yeah, I think I agree with Swag Valance.  I know people who roast their own and swear by it...but my favorite brand costs between $5 and $6 and I'm probably getting 20 or 30 cups per can.  Maybe I'm only saying this because I've never tasted it, but it doesn't seem worth the effort when I'm already satisfied at a quarter a cup.
Apr 16, 2012 12:11PM

With the chaff and smoke issues, this turns into a science project. With the energy (outside grille or inside stove) issue, given that I have to buy the energy, it also becomes a waste of time.


Apr 17, 2012 12:14PM

Tried them 'all"

Hard to beat Maxwell House

Apr 17, 2012 10:48AM
I go with Walmart Sam's Club organic. It's about half the price of other gourmet coffees but tastes just as good.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.