I was quoted yesterday in U.S. News and World Report on the topic of coffee discounts as saying:

“The younger generation, particularly, tends to think of coffee cost in terms of ‘cups’ rather than weight and may be surprised to learn that they’re often paying more than $50 per pound for a typical coffee drink prepared at a chain shop.”

That’s true. It’s important to remember that coffee is a food product and as with most things, you get what you pay for. As with all other foods, there is a sliding scale of cost, quality and convenience when considering dining out versus eating at home. The best option that I suggest to maintain (or in fact improve) the quality of your coffee beverage while reducing the net cost is to brew your own.

Convenience has a price: consider all of the packaging (including disposable cups, lids, napkins), marketing and the overhead of operating a retail location. If unwilling to pay for that added value but still wishing to enjoy coffee, a consumer may purchase a 12oz bag of extraordinary quality whole bean roasted coffee from a local roasting business for less than $30, prepare it him or herself at home and save substantial accumulated cost over time. This will require some basic and relatively inexpensive tools plus a little bit of homework about brewing that can be researched online for free but it’s really not a significant burden. Espresso is a different story as the tools and skill required is probably more than most consumers are prepared to invest in time and equipment.

But is coffee the place that one should look to save money at all? Cutting the retail cost of coffee lower than current prices is not good idea if you want to have consistent access to to the product throughout your life. Consumers are blissfully unaware that coffee is currently significantly undervalued as a consumer product and trades nowhere near the multiples of cost in production of other food and beverages. Coffee is too cheap to be sustainable at today’s prices, which threatens its availability for the future as farmers trade coffee for other crops or abandon farms altogether for other businesses. Demand is overtaking supply and the gap is predicted to increase. Any further coffee discounts may only make matters worse.

If you like drinking your coffee, there are probably a number of other places to tighten your belt first, such as walking, riding a bicycle or using public transportation instead of driving that will save you money, possibly improve your health and have a better net impact on our planet.