Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

The Mouthful: Best Beans For Your Buck

    It seems like every time I turn around the powers that be have come up with a new way to get coffee into my eager, caffeine-addicted maw.

    First everyone was obsessed with French press coffee. Then the pour over system was all the rage. Now I’m seeing Chemex brewers everywhere I go (and yes, I really really want one).

    Photo by Javier Mármol
    Photo by Javier Mármol

    Coffee fruit before roasting.

    I suppose I started considering the topic in earnest when both my roommate and I stopped working for a certain soulless mega-coffeehouse that may or may not have been Starbucks.

    (It was Starbucks.)

    In any case, I found the flow of free coffee into every corner of my apartment suddenly, and oh-so-cruelly, dammed. Gone were the free weekly packs of Keurig pods we couldn’t possibly mow through fast enough. Gone were the random bags of whole-bean coffee we tucked into our cabinets just because. Suddenly I had to think about how much money I could afford to spend feeding my habit–and, oh yeah, the environmental impact of all those little unrecyclable plastic pods (sorry I’ve wronged you, Mother Earth).

    So I sat down with a pen and paper and did the math. Figured out exactly how much coffee each method took and how much it’d cost to drink coffee that way for a week. Yes, I channeled my miserly grandmother, just because I care about you and your presumably battle-scarred pocketbook. Every cup of coffee is not created equal, however, so I included a note on the pluses and minuses of each method.

    I used the cost of Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast for all of these calculations, because it is available for every brewing method I mentioned. Independent roasters often produce a better roast, but their coffees are more expensive–expect all costs to go up proportionally.


    One bag of Pike Place Roast beans costs about $12. This works out to about 75 cents per ounce. One ounce of coffee is five tablespoons, so each tablespoon of coffee costs 15 cents.

    Keep in mind that each whole-bean brewing method requires a different grind consistency. For example, pour over systems require a relatively fine grind, whereas coarse-ground coffee works better for French press because coarse grounds cannot escape through the mesh.

    Standard drip coffeemaker

    Drip coffeemakers are high in convenience factor. Just brew a pot and your entire house will be set for the morning. They usually make solid, but not outstanding, coffee. The subtler flavor notes tend to get lost.

    Most sources recommend three tablespoons of coffee for every 12 ounces of water.

    15 x 3 = 45
    Cost per week: $3.15

    French press

    French presses brew a great cup of coffee. The gentle, prolonged contact of beans to water allows the natural oils to come out, so French press coffee has a subtle sheen. However, they are notoriously messy.

    French press coffee requires one and a half tablespoons per 12 ounce cup of coffee.

    15 x 1.5 = 22.5
    Cost per week = $1.58

    Pour over

    Despite the hype, pour over systems make a pretty similar cup of coffee to a drip coffeemaker. Their single-cup convenience makes them great for people who live alone.

    Pour over systems require three tablespoons of ground coffee for every 12 ounces.

    15 x 3 = 45
    Cost per week = $3.15


    Though they look similar, Chemex brewers are quite different from a pour over system. They have thicker filters that result in a smooth-tasting and crystal clear cup–fans of that characteristic French press sludge should steer clear.

    Chemex brewers require two tablespoons of ground coffee for every 12 ounces.

    15 x 2 = 30
    Cost per week = $2.10


    Percolator coffee has a horrible reputation, but done right, it’s not bad–especially for the money. The key is not letting the water boil, otherwise you could end up with a bitter brew. Strong percolator coffee is yummy in a cafe au lait, mixed with some steamed milk.

    Percolators use 1/2 tablespoon of very coarsely ground coffee for every 12 ounce cup.

    15 x .5 = 7.5
    Cost per week = $0.53



    Keurig machines are the ultimate in convenience, but they’re not exactly environmentally friendly. Or cheap, for that matter. They’re great for when you need a cup of coffee right this second, but impractical for daily use.

    One pack of 24 Pike Place Roast Keurig cups costs $20. One cup of coffee = 83 cents.

    20 ÷ 24 = .83
    Cost per week = $5.81

    Instant coffee

    By and large, instant coffee is just bad, and often expensive. This is for camping and caffeine emergencies only.

    One pack of 12 Pike Place Roast instant coffee packets costs $10.

    20 ÷ 12 = .83
    Cost per week = $5.81

    Store-bought coffee

    You’ve heard it once, you’ll hear it again: store-bought coffee is a budget killer, and throwing out paper cups is a huge waste. When you’ve gotta have it you’ve gotta have it, but don’t make it a habit.

    Though prices vary slightly from store to store, a 12 ounce cup of Pike Place Roast costs about $2 at Starbucks.

    2 x 7 = 14
    Cost per week = $14

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