Today I’m examining the difference between the cost of k-cup vs drip coffee. This is the 4th post in my series about saving money on coffee. In my first post, I look at the best generic whole bean coffee. Then I checked out how much coffee is in a k-cup. Next, I looked at the cheapest k-cups available. Now, let’s break down the cost of k-cup vs drip coffee…
How Much Does a K-Cup Cost?
As I discussed in my post about how much coffee is in a k-cup, the average regular price of a k-cup is around $0.75 each. I found that in my local stores, the non-sale prices ranged from about $0.30-$1.00 per k-cup.
How Expensive Is A Cup of Keurig Coffee?
To answer the question of how expensive a cup of Keurig coffee is, we need to agree on what a “cup” really means. In the coffee world, a cup is actually only 5-6 ounces. Most coffee drinkers I know think that 12-16 ounces is a more reasonable cup size. After all, Starbucks tall size (aka small) is 16 oz and the average home or travel mug holds around 12-16 ounces.
Since 1 k-cup only contains around 11g of actual coffee, that’s really only enough to make 6-8oz of quality coffee. Therefore, a more reasonable coffee cup size would require 2 k-cups.
So, how expensive is a cup of Keurig coffee? If it takes 2 k-cups to make a reasonably sized mug of coffee, then it costs $0.60-$2.00 for one cup of Keurig coffee. This is, of course, ignoring the initial cost of the Keurig machine (which is not a small cost!). In my post about the cheapest k-cups, I found that the best sale prices you’re likely to find are around $0.25 per k-cup, so the cheapest cup of Keurig coffee would cost around $0.50.
How Much Does a Cup of Drip Coffee Cost?
Using the same assumption that an average cup of coffee is 12-16 oz, we’d need to use around 20 grams of ground or whole bean coffee to make a cup. The average grocery store ground coffee costs in the range of $3-10 per pound. Dividing that to find the cost of 20 grams of coffee gives you a range of $0.15-$0.45 for the coffee to make one cup. With drip coffee, you need to add the cost of a filter, which is less than $0.01, but for fairness, I’ll add it in. That gives us a total cost of $0.16-$0.46 per cup of drip coffee.
Cost of K-Cup Vs Drip Coffee
To get a more accurate comparison of the cost of k-cup coffee vs the cost of drip coffee, I compared prices at my local Target and Kroger. I tried to find brands that were available for purchase in both a k-cup variety and a ground coffee variety.
I looked at the cost of 2 k-cups vs 20g of ground coffee of the exact same brand/variety. Comparing the non-sale prices, this is what I found:
|Coffee Brand||K-cup cost per 16 oz||Ground cost per 16 oz||Potential Savings|
|Target Market Pantry||$0.75||$0.16||$0.59|
How Much More Do K-Cups Cost Vs Drip Coffee?
As you can see in the chart above, the difference in price between ground coffee and k-cup coffee is HUGE. Depending on the brand, K-cups cost 2-9 times more than ground coffee. On average k-cups cost about 4x more than ground coffee of the same brand.
How Much Could I Save Switching from K-Cups to Drip Coffee?
When you see the chart above, you may think that a savings of $0.50-$1.66 per day is not that big of a deal in the scheme of things. Let’s look at how that can add up over time. This is again comparing the cost of 16 ounces per day of k-cup coffee vs ground coffee of the same brand from the same store:
|Coffee Brand||Daily Savings||Monthly Savings||Yearly Savings|
|Target Market Pantry||$0.59||$17.79||$216.40|
Six hundred dollars a year?! That’s a lot of money! Is the convenience of k-cups worth $600/year?
What About the Cost of a New Coffee Machine?
If you’ve already spent a good chunk of money on your Keurig machine, you may be reluctant to spend money a new coffee drip machine.
An investment in a new coffee machine doesn’t have to be big. I would encourage you to check out Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other places for used coffee pots. I found my barely-used $100-machine on Craigslist for only $30.
You can also buy a new, small, basic drip coffee machine for less than $20. They have timers so you can set them up the night before and wake up to freshly-brewed coffee. Here’s an example:
Small Mr. Coffee Machine
I have not tried this particular machine, but the reviews are pretty good for such a cheap machine.
Personally, I’d recommend the coffee pot that I love. It uses whole beans and grinds them fresh for you in the morning. I walk downstairs to freshly ground and brewed coffee. I love it! It feels like the future we were promised by the Jetsons!
If you’re not sure what kind of coffee to buy for a machine like this, please check out my post about best generic whole bean coffee. High-quality whole bean coffee can be found for around $6/lb, which works out to around $0.26 per 16 oz cup of coffee for an excellent cup of Joe.
How Long Would It Take to Break Even on a New Coffee Machine?
The amount of time it would take you to break even on a new coffee machine would vary a lot based on which kind of coffee you were using. If you’re buying a small, inexpensive pot, you could break even in less than a month. Even if you bought the grind-and-brew coffee pot I recommended, it would still take less than 3 months to break even with most brands of coffee.
Do Reusable K-cups Save Money?
Personally, I’d recommend getting rid of the Keurig and switching to a drip machine.
If you’re not ready to part with your machine, reusable k-cups are another way to save a significant amount of money over buying regular k-cups. It also allows you to use whatever coffee you want, as opposed to only what’s available in k-cup form. You could even grind your own beans to use.
Here are some options to check out:
There’s even a scoop that helps you reload the cups without a mess:
There are also optional paper filters to use in the reusable cups:
How to Save Money on K-Cup Coffee
My last post was about the cheapest k-cups available, but I think the best option is to just ditch the Keurig altogether. You can buy the same coffee for about 75% less than you’re paying for k-cups.
More About Saving Money on Coffee
Check out the rest of my posts about saving money on coffee: