K-Cups – are they worth it?

Over the Christmas holiday, I wrestled with the idea of buying a Keurig coffee maker for the wife.  Yes, I know…  quite romantic, an appliance for a holiday gift. For the past 5 years, I’ve had and been using a faithful Cuisinart Grind-and-Brew coffee maker that does a great job in making a pot of coffee for me.

Keurig Mini Coffee Brew system

Each morning, or programmed from the night before, I set my Cuisinart to brew 3-8oz cups of coffee.  I take 2 cups in a thermal mug for in the car and at the office. The wife has one cup with her breakfast.  I make this coffee daily with 3oz of coffee grounds (or beans that my coffee maker grinds for me) typically from a bag I buy at the grocery store or local coffee shop.  In the k-cup world, this is 3 k-cups we would use each morning.

Is this cost effective?  Am I saving money if I switch to a Keurig coffee maker?  I tried to run the numbers in my head while I was staring at the rack of coffee makers in the store, and had no luck making sense of it.  So, I did what many programmers might consider, I started measuring things and mapping a spreadsheet to compare.

What metric am I measuring to determine ‘cost effectiveness’?  I am going to calculate and compare the ‘cost per 8oz cup of coffee’.  

For this discussion, I am going to normalize the amount of grounds used from the bag of coffee for 1-8oz cup of coffee to 1oz of grounds.

Using prices from all over the internet (and excluding the cost of tax and shipping), I compiled the following spreadsheet:

Coffee Price Comparison Spreadsheet

The results?  Keurig k-cups are 17.9% – 54.5% more expensive than a 11.5oz tub of Folgers Simply Smooth grounds from Walmart.com.  These are not my “preferred grounds”, but they are the cheapest grounds I could find online in a few minutes of searching.  My morning coffee is $0.90 from these grounds, from the Green Mountain k-cups at 1CupCoffee.com my mug costs $1.40 to fill.

Yes, I typically prefer a more “gourmet” cup of coffee… I would purchase the 12oz bag of grounds from my favorite local coffee shop.  Those are my preferences, and you the reader are entitled to yours.  Feel free to make a copy of my spreadsheet and use it to help your decision.

Can I afford the additional $0.50 for a cup of coffee?  Certainly.. But purchasing another coffee maker so that I can spend more money on my daily cup of coffee, using non-recyclable k-cups?  No thanks 

UPDATE:  Thanks to Doug White for pointing out that Keurig makes a re-usable filter called ‘My K-Cup’ that can be used in place of the disposable K-Cups.  This insert allows you to use your own coffee grounds, tea leaves, or hot-cocoa mix to make your favorite beverage.