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How Do the Cost of K-cups REALLY Compare to Drip Coffee?

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A friend asked me, “Is making drip coffee REALLY cheaper than K cups?” As a busy mom, I think she was really asking… Is it worth adding the hassle of cleaning a coffee pot to my already hectic morning?

Cost of k-cup vs drip coffee

I mean, let’s get real… She’s a busy mom who already has to drag two kids out of bed, make breakfast, pack lunches, and drive them to school. It’s exhausting!

The last thing she needs is a complicated coffee routine. Can you relate, mama?

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 where to find k cups cheap.

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.

Brand name k-cups cost around $0.75 each.

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.

A mug like this holds about 12 oz. For good coffee, it requires 2 k-cups.

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 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. 

Coffee filters for a drip machine cost less than a penny each at any store.

Have you wondered if regular drip coffee saves money over k-cups? Which one is cheaper? How much could you save by switching? #savemoney #frugal #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
Ground cost
Savings
McCafe
$2.00
$0.35
$1.65
Cafe Bustelo
$2.00
$0.32
$1.68
Maxwell House
$1.55
$0.17
$1.38
Dunkin Donuts
$1.44
$0.41
$1.03
Eight O’Clock
$1.22
$0.31
$0.91
Caribou
$1.11
$0.45
$0.66
Starbucks
$0.91
$0.47
$0.44
Target Market Pantry
$0.75
$0.16
$0.59
Kroger Colombian
$0.62
$0.16
$0.46

Maxwell House ground coffee at Kroger = $3.92/lb

Maxwell House k-cup coffee at Kroger = $36.08/lb. Thats 9x MORE EXPENSIVE!

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.

On average, drip coffee is 4x cheaper than k-cup coffee for the exact same coffee.

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
Cafe Bustelo
$1.68
$50.29
$611.81
McCafe
$1.65
$49.44
$601.46
Maxwell House
$1.38
$41.27
$502.11
Dunkin Donuts
$1.03
$30.78
$374.47
Eight O’Clock
$0.91
$27.30
$332.19
Caribou
$0.66
$19.74
$240.14
Target Market Pantry
$0.59
$17.79
$216.40
Kroger Colombian
$0.46
$13.90
$169.07
Starbucks
$0.44
$13.07
$158.96

Six hundred dollars a year?! That’s a lot of money! Is the convenience of k-cups worth $600/year?

Cost of k-cup vs drip coffee

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 Basic Coffee Machine

I have not tried this particular machine, but the reviews are pretty good for such a cheap machine.

Cuisinart Grind-And-Brew

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.

Does switching from k-cups to drip coffee save money? How do the costs compare? Should you ditch your Keurig machine? #coffee #savemoney #frugal

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.

What Did My Mom Friend Do?

Cost of k-cup vs drip coffee

She was convinced that switching from K-cups was worth the hassle. $600 a year was worth her time! Do you agree?

Since she already had an expensive Keurig, she decided to buy a reusable k-cup for now. She mentioned she may ask for a fancier drip machine for Christmas this year.

More About Saving Money on Coffee

Check out the rest of my posts about saving money on coffee:

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Jonathan

Friday 24th of September 2021

One place I would never get a kcup for would be hot chocolate. That is one simple process and if i use a kcup for it, it would only clog the water cooler/heater we use.

Michael Davidson

Tuesday 21st of January 2020

I do not agree that it takes 2 k-cups to make a 12 ounce cup. One k-cup is more than sufficient. Another thing to consider is that with bulk coffee, some tends to get wasted. I calculated using Costco brands, that the k-cup is about 2.5 times more expensive. This also does not take into consideration of the environmental impact of the k-cup. It is estimated that there is enough plastic waste in land fills from k-cups to circle the globe 10 times.

Sue Ann williams

Sunday 9th of February 2020

I do agree that ground coffee is by far the cheapest on the planet

Cindy Scott

Tuesday 21st of January 2020

I completely agree on the environmental impact! It's certainly not something to be ignored!

E

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

Has anyone also mentioned the environmental impact of all the throwaway plastic? For me, no convenience in the world is worth the environmental degradation and damage to our oceans that all the single use throwaway plastic is causing. Sure, use the reusable K cups — but then you’re back at the same time investment in washing them as you are washing a coffee pot, in my opinion.

Cindy Scott

Tuesday 10th of September 2019

Definitely! The environmental impact is certainly a factor.

Barb C.

Sunday 19th of August 2018

Thank you for this article! The information was so helpful. Since my Keurig is 4 yrs. old and starting to not make the greatest tasting coffee anymore, I’ve been debating weather it was less expensive to just go back to an auto drip maker. I knew it would be less expensive to purchase and not needing to buy filters and cleaning solution but debated on coffee vs. k kups prices. Your article helped me make my decision.

Cindy

Sunday 19th of August 2018

I am glad I could help! I hope you love your new coffee maker.

Chuck

Wednesday 18th of July 2018

1 KCup from Costco, “Pacific Bold” at $39 for 120ct brewed in a 10-12oz brew on the “strong” setting makes an excellent cup of coffee. I rarely use more than one. When I make a larger size, I will brew the same cup twice (2x 8oz “strong” brew for a large travel mug) or I’ll use a reusable “large” kcup to brew ground coffee for even bigger mugs. The large size kcups are way overpriced and I haven’t seen any offered in bulk.

Cindy

Wednesday 18th of July 2018

Thanks for the tip! Costco is definitely one of the better deals around!

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