If you use a Keurig single-serve coffee maker, or one of its many rivals, to brew your morning joe, you're being gouged. According to a report yesterday from New York Times java expert Oliver Strand, the coffee in the machine's capsules comes out to a whopping $51 dollars a pound. That's more, he writes, than all but the highest-end beans produced by artisanal roasters like Stumptown and Intelligentsia -- let alone Folgers.
Time magazine notes that prices are a little lower if you buy the pods in bulk through a vendor like Amazon. But they're still much more expensive than even high-end beans.
The reason people -- especially young people -- are willing to pay that much is that single-serve makers are very convenient, and are often still cheaper than getting your fix at a coffee shop. They let you brew coffee extremely quickly and with no annoying cleanup afterwards.
Champion barista James Hoffman took to his blog to defend the single-serve coffee makers' pricing strategy. "I don't think we should be angry about how much they charge, unless we're directing this at our own failures to reach that price point despite having better product," he writes. "One could infer that Nespresso's success implies we're way too cheap."
The past few years have seen virtually every major coffee company rush to get a piece of the rapidly-growing single-serve coffee maker market. Anyone not marketing its own machine -- as Nespresso and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are -- is probably making capsules for use in the market leader Keurig. Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, for example, both signed on in August.
UPDATE: Since publication, some concerned readers have written in to note that one way you can make Keurig coffee using normal-priced beans by using a product called "My K-Cup." It costs $17.95 on the Keurig website and is indefinitely reusable. That makes it good for the thrifty and the eco-conscious. But it's also worth noting that a big part of the reason people use a single-serve coffee machine is that it lets them avoid having to deal with the mess of wet coffee grounds.