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It seems like I like to blog a lot about coffee, but I digress.
Many of us are hopelessly chained to Starbucks or another cafe for supposedly good lattes, mochas, and other espresso drinks. Others tend to just stick with a regular cup of Joe, with their handy coffeemaker, and often store-bought, pre-ground coffee. At the end of the day, it’s a question of convenience. In the morning, crank up the coffeemaker, add the coffee, brew it, drink it, done. On the way to work or class, stop by your neighborhood cafe or other coffee vendor, pick up your latte and go on with your day. “America Runs on Dunkin’” is a statement that really is not terribly far from the truth. It’s either Dunkin’, McDonalds, Starbucks, or some other cafe.
Assume you get a tall, caramel macchiato from Starbucks once a day, every day of the work week. Let’s also assume that you work every week of the year (lame scenario but some people actually do). The cheapest, tall, caramel macchiato I’ve had (at least where I am) is $3.60. There are about 52 weeks in a year. Here’s how much you’d pay in a year:
$3.60 x 5=$18.00
$18.00 x 52=$936
Ok just to be fair, let’s knock off a few days from that count. One for Christmas Day, one for New Year’s Day, one for Labor Day, and one for the Fourth of July. Here’s the new number:
$936-($3.60 x 4) = $921.60
That’s just for one, tall (16 fl. oz.), caramel macchiato. So you’re not so much into the Starbucks lattes and prefer the Starbucks regular coffee? At Starbucks (as I recall) a tall, regular coffee is around $1.60. Doing the same math I did above, I come out with $409.60, including off-days. While that is a substantially lower figure, it’s still a pretty big chunk of money going towards coffee.
Ok, you’re not into Starbucks, period. You run on Dunkin’. Since I’m not as familiar with the prices at Dunkin’ Donuts, I’ll leave you to the math. As I recall though, lattes are something like $2-$3, for a small. Coffee is in the $1-$2 range. Any specifics would be appreciated. Nonetheless, it works out to around the same.
I’m not going to assess the cost-effectiveness of making regular coffee at home, it’s pretty obvious it’s more convenient. What I’m looking to prove is that making espresso drinks at home do not have to be expensive, and in fact, can be very cost-effective.
So you think you need an espresso-maker to make good espresso? Let’s check this out. An espresso maker that actually involves using pressure (as opposed to just steam) to extract flavor costs between $100 and $9,000. Not gonna lie, that last number made me die a little inside, since it was the cost of about one semester of tuition in college, give or take. Now, this is for a “decent” espresso maker.
A French press is a coffee pot with a plunger. The coffee grounds are combined directly with boiling water, stronger brews generally mean leaving the mix for about 10-15 minutes. The plunger is used to trap the grounds at the bottom of the pot. The brew is poured through a filter. The result is near espresso-quality coffee that can be used to make a host of espresso-based drinks. Beyond ground coffee, the most you may need (if you insist) is coffee flavoring syrups, and maybe caramel sauce. Nonetheless if you wanted to make a 16 oz. caramel macchiato-esque drink, here’s what it would run you:
1 750 mL Monin Caramel Syrup: $7.95 (1/2 oz. per serving)
1 French Press: $25.00 (rough estimate based on cheapest available French Presses)
1 12 oz. Monin Caramel Sauce: $6.00 (1/2 oz. per serving)
1/2 lb. coffee beans (Guatemala Amatitlan, from Oren’s Roast): $7.00 (2/3 oz. per 5 oz. water)
1 Burr Grinder: $30.00 (rough estimate based on cheapest available grinders)
So given these numbers, here is the approximate cost per day, given the number of days looked at earlier:
$25.00+$30.00+($7.95 x 1/2 / 25.36) + ($6.00 x 1/2 / 12) + ($7.00 x 2.13/8)= $57.28
I may have forgotten the cost of steamed milk (easily made in a sauce pan with an immersion blender if you don’t have a milk steamer) and/or whipped cream. Still, the price is negligible per day.
Ok so French Presses give outstanding-flavored coffee, but they don’t exactly make “espresso” by the textbook definition. Even if you substitute the French Press for one of the “cheaper” espresso makers ($699.00 is the price of one of the top-ranked, decent-sized, espresso makers), the price comes out to $2.85 per day. For espresso drinks, with sauces and syrups, that’s a virtual steal, assuming you don’t supplement with too many espresso drinks from cafes.
Since I’m not about to spend that much right now (maybe once I get that book deal…hehe), the French Press will suit me just fine. I think that’s a reasonable request for Christmas, right? At the very least, I can make a decent cup of coffee for the time being. The syrups and sauces will come later.
Starbucks has officially died in my eyes…or whatever you call it when a previously small, intimate business sells out to corporate America. This was apparent months, if not years ago, and manifested most recently as a widespread closing of Starbucks stores in order to retrain their baristas. I think they realized they have a problem when they say that there were more resources being devoted to promoting Khaled Hosseini’s “Kite Runner”–a book that does not need any more promotion because it is inherently amazing–than to preparing halfway decent coffee.
I have learned to avoid Starbucks on the whole. Their warm drinks are, more often than not, watery, if not burnt or bitter-tasting. The caramel macchiatos I used to like in high school are nothing like what they used to be. The only thing Starbucks seems to have going for them are their frappucinos and iced drinks. Winter, though, makes it hard to enjoy these. I’ll probably cave in during the summer, but not before I find other good coffee places so that I can break the Starbucks habit.
Granted, I’m not exactly a coffee aficionado, I don’t know the first thing about coffee-tasting or coffee-types, though I want to learn. I’m still a sucker for so-called “dessert coffees.” However, I still have my favorite coffees.
Gimme! Coffee is something I was introduced to in Cornell, while Oren’s Roast is a coffee shop I recently found near NYU. Both have amazing quality coffee, neither lacking in flavor, or body. Granted, the things I tend to get are drowning in sugar–even in spite of that–the flavor still comes through. Starbucks coffee, meanwhile, is generally masked by sugar. There are two Gimme! cafes in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, and I’m hoping to visit one of them soon (would anyone like to come with?). I still miss the vanilla, peppermint lattes–called “dragonfly” on their menu–from the cafe in Mann Library.
Oren’s, meanwhile, is conveniently across the street from the Silver Center, where I while my time away. I joke with my friends that it is the only way I can get through classes, indeed the coffee is very strong but never bitter, or burnt. They also have a wide selection of coffee beans and you can buy coffee grounds from there itself.
I’ve always joked that if I ever make any money (perhaps from my still elusive book deal?) I’d buy a house with a bar, but since I don’t drink, I’d convert it into an espresso bar. While I do love going out for coffee, this seems like a cost-effective solution, especially if you learn how to properly make espresso drinks. That, however, is well in the future if not completely out of my reach. Until then, I’ll keep coffee-hunting and keep you posted on what I find!
Any suggestions for places in the New York City area?