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Your coffee costs $50 a pound?

When it comes to single-serve coffee makers, the cost of convenience may be higher than you realize.

By Giselle Smith Feb 8, 2012 6:54PM

How much are you willing to spend on your morning coffee?


Many cost-conscious consumers have opted to reduce their daily coffee shop stops to save money, but if you're using a one-cup coffee maker at home, you may not be saving as much as you think.


Each single-serve coffee pod holds just 5 to 8 grams of finely ground coffee. Do the math -- The New York Times did -- and that means you're paying about $50 per pound. Post continues below.

Single-serve brewing systems, such as those made by Keurig and Nespresso, are now the fastest-growing segment of the home coffee-brewing market, the Times reports. In fact, single-serve systems are now the second-most popular home coffee makers -- behind traditional drip machines -- according to a study from the National Coffee Association.


Almost 46% of money spent on coffee or espresso makers between November 2010 and November 2011 was for single-serve machines, according to the market-research NPD Group, The Los Angeles Times reported.


Generational differences

What people are willing to pay for coffee, and how they measure its cost, have changed.


"Americans under the age of 40 are thinking about coffee pricing in cups," Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, told the Times. "If you asked my mother how much coffee cost, she would have told you that the red can was $5.25 a pound and the blue can was $4.25. If you ask people in their 20s and 30s, they'll say coffee is $1.75 to $3.75 a cup."


Then again, making a single-serve cup of coffee at home takes less time than stopping at a drive-through espresso stand. As the Times says:

When it comes to single-serve systems, you're not just paying for coffee, you're paying for convenience and the technology that makes it possible to brew a single cup in seconds. Pop in the pod, push the button: It's a sure thing every time.

Keurig parent company Green Mountain Coffee Roasters makes more than 200 different varieties of the pods, called K-Cup Portion Packs, for use in the Keurig proprietary brewing system. The pods contain coffees and teas from brands such as Dunkin' Donuts, Twinings, Folgers, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.


K-Cup pods are sold in multipacks, with the per-cup cost averaging about 62 cents, says the LA Times. Making a pot of coffee at home the old-fashioned way costs anywhere from 13 to 35 cents per cup. Both are far less than the $2 to $2.50 you'd spend for a cup of black coffee in a shop.


The coffee makers themselves aren't cheap either. While you can purchase a classic drip coffee maker with a glass carafe at a discount store for less than $20, the single-serve systems start at about $80 and can cost as much as $250, according to


What about all those used pods?

If the impact on your wallet is not a factor in your morning coffee decisions, perhaps the impact on the environment should be.


The pods can't be thrown into the compost pile or recycling bin, so most end up in landfills, the LA Times says:

The K-Cup coffee and tea cartridges are difficult to recycle because they are made of three materials: a plastic cup, which is lined with a heat-sealed paper filter, plus a polyethylene-coated aluminum foil top.

The company acknowledges that the pods present a recycling challenge. "Reducing the environmental impact of our packaging materials and brewing systems is a top priority for Keurig," its website asserts, but explains that maintaining its quality standards is a high priority as well.


The company does sell a reusable filter called the My K-Cup -- but using it means following all of the steps that the pod system obliterates, such as grinding the coffee, filling -- and then emptying and cleaning -- the filter between each cup, and disposing of the grounds. If consumers are choosing single-serve for convenience, how many will opt for the reusable filter?


What do you think? How do you get your morning coffee (or tea), and how much is convenience worth to you?


More on MSN Money:

Feb 9, 2012 7:08PM
To be clear:  The pod makes about a 5 ounce coffee.  To compare to the 20 ounce Venti at the 'Bucks you'd have to make 4 of cups...  and at 50+ cents per pod it's pretty much the same price. 
Feb 9, 2012 9:22PM

I drink coffee lots of it.  I would never consider using one of those machines.  I usually buy the beans versus ground coffee and grind my own.  Simple fact is, one can easily use an espresso maker, use one scoop-about 1/8th cup of freshly ground coffee, add additional water and make a cup of coffee, or make a cappuccino.  Or, buy a cheap coffee maker at WalMart, I think I paid like 9.99 when my good one broke and make 2,4,6,8,10,12 cups of coffee) which for every 2 cups water takes 1 of those scoops.  Then, rather than ever leave the coffee on a heated burner, put the coffee in a double walled stainless steel thermos for later, or if there is surplus, put it in the fridge for later for an iced coffee, or to make any number of coffee flavored drinks or bake a coffee cake.  Anyway, as long as the coffee is not overly heated, (I will not drink many restaurant stomach turning awfully burned poorly brewed coffees( I also won't consider paying that type of money, nor the ones that I have had made with those pods do not meet my expectations for a good brew.)  I usually buy Starbucks coffee, at their store because it is a full pound versus the grocery store size.)  There are a few other brands that suit me and coffee preferences are so individual. 

Feb 9, 2012 11:16AM

I waste so much less coffee with the Keurig machine.  The K Cups cost more, but I use exactly what I want, no more half empty pots getting dumped, or forgoing a second or third cup because I didn't make enough.  I also have the reusable filter, so using my own coffee cuts the cost per cup way down - and again, using much less coffee than before.  And its not that inconvenient to use, fill the basket, clean it out.  Really, don't we already do that with an actual coffee pot?   It is one more step from the pods. 


 Plus when people are visiting, everyone can adjust for their different tastes - from super strong jet fuel to coffee flavored water.  One pot of coffee gave no options. 

Feb 9, 2012 7:56PM
Open-mouthed Consumers cut back on haircuts is true consumer trying to cut back on everything is also a fact. Got to try not to be bankrupt.
Feb 9, 2012 1:18AM

I choose to use Keurig K-Cups for the convenience as well as the selection of flavors.  I like the convenience of making a single cup of coffee (or tea, chai, cocoa, or cider) at a time.  I have the reusable K-cup as well; I have to use a wide-mouth cup because the reusable one tends to drip stray water, and it does leave a few loose grounds in the coffee.  Emptying the filter is also a hassle.  But it enables me to use my own coffee in the Keurig.  I fill the filter basket only 2/3 full when I use the reusable K-cup.  Any more and I tend to get loose grounds in the coffee cup. 

Footnote:  I was able to prevent the Keurig from dripping when using the reusable K-Cup by putting an elastic ponytail band (sold in the hair care department) under the outer edge of the K-Cup.  I since bought a different type of reusable that does not require removing the K-Cup's red plastic with a hinged lid.  That works well also.

Feb 9, 2012 5:42PM
The most I've paid for a pound of coffee is $25 and that was for  very special geisha coffee  beans from Boquete, Panama.  People using the pods are paying a premium for convenience.  I grind my beans each morning and make a fresh cappuccino.  But, I'd hate to have to do that everyday for a family - unless they were paying for the service.
May 14, 2012 8:36AM
Now, there are even more single-serve machines out there, including a new Keurig model that uses "Vue Cups", which are not compatible with the K-Cups.  The new Keurig Vue allows you to make servings from 4 to 18 ounces, and puts the water under pressure while brewing.   I have also seen another machine at Target, called "Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf", using still another format of coffee-filled plastic cups, as well.  And Starbucks plans a single-serve machine of its own.  With all those formats of single-serve coffee machines out there, eventually some of them will end up becoming obsolete...i can imagine someone paying $100-$150 or more for the latest single-serve coffee maker, only to find out a couple of years later that coffee pods/cups for it are no longer made for that model...and the machine gets tucked back in a closet or garage, and end up at a garage sale, thrift shop, or flea market.  I'm starting to see used Senseo machines for very cheap...mainly because the Senseo pods are getting harder and harder to find.  (Senseo was one of the first single-serve brewers,)  I have yet to see a used Keurig machine at a thrift least the K-Cup will be around for years to come, Vue or not.
Feb 9, 2012 7:42PM
I love my Keurig, I can have a FRESH cup of coffee at any time without making a full pot.
Feb 10, 2012 12:20AM

 I have two of those one cup drip coffee makers, One in the house and one in the garage and i'm going to get another for the workshop. Makes a cup in a short time to whatever strength you want by varying the amount of coffee. I leave the coffee in the filter and add a little more coffee for the second cup. Same for cup #3. By then the filter is getting full and I'm usually full also. Saves time, saves money, goes quick, Less than 2 small scoops for three cups. I use it for hot water for tea,cider or cocoa and just stir it in, I love those little brewers. Don't take up much space so they will fit almost anywhere.

Feb 9, 2012 8:43PM
I choose to use Folgers and make a full pot and drink it.  I don't care what it does to the environment, it's cheap and it's good.  When it's gone I put a couple of scoops on top of the old ones and make another pot.  Works for me.  
I've tried most of the froofroo independent roasters, local roasters, national, international, regional.  Highly over rated and ridiculously expensive.  But if that's what you think is best for you, go for it.  
Feb 9, 2012 5:32PM
We use the EkoBrew for the Keurig at our house and regular coffee bought by the bag. We use less and waste less coffee.


Feb 9, 2012 8:10PM
i got a $19 single serve  brewer that uses Senseo coffee pods. Coffee available is high quality European coffee - cheaper than K-ups for better coffee. It's even cheaper if you buy the pods in Europe and bring them back (provided you're going to be there, anyway).
Feb 9, 2012 6:41PM
I drink a fanstatic healthy organic herbal coffee, it cost me less than .75 a cup, and the single serve satchet are not an environmental hazard. This gourmet blend has less caffein (not decaf), the taste and smell is just as robust than commercial coffee on the grocer shelf, coffee shops and restaurants.
Feb 9, 2012 5:19PM

My wife's family is genetically incapable of making less than a full pot of coffee. We save - water, coffee and electricity - by using a Keurig to brew her coffee. It gets the proportions just right for her, and when her mom comes over, she adjusts for her mom. We used the hard plastic adapter but it didn't work particularly well and cleaning out was messy.

I, on the other hand, am perfectly capable of using a pour-through filter to make what little decaf I actually drink, and I grind it fresh. We pick up most of the K-Cups at Costco for much less per pod, so it all works out well.

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