Single-serve pod coffee machines are all the rage in America these days. Single-serve coffee is now the second most popular means of making a cup (after drip brewers). Last year, 7 percent of coffee consumed in the U.S. was made with a single-serve brewer; in 2010 it was 4 percent.
The current pod craze was launched by the huge worldwide success of Nespresso single-serve espresso machines. Since 1986, the company has sold 27 billion of the little pods.
Here in the States, Keurig sold 4 million of its K-Cup brewers in the 13-week run up to Christmas; during the same time, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters sold more than $715 million in K-Cup packs. Keurig licenses its technology, so Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are making K-Cup pods now too.
Last week, Oliver Strand did some math for The New York Times website and figured out about how much it costs per pound for this precious pod coffee; Trent Hamm, in a post published by the Christian Science Monitor, calculated the price-per-cup. After reading these numbers, you may need to sit down and relax with a nice pot of tea.
Strand's numbers computed to this: Nespresso Arpeggio espresso costs "about $51 a pound." Folgers Black Silk coffee blend capsules work out to "more than $50 a pound" as well. Compare this to most high-end coffees, which cost less than $20 per pound. Even the most renowned generally go for less than $30 per pound. A pound of Dark Espresso Roast from Starbucks is, according to Mr. Strand, "$12.95 a pound, and a bag of Eight O'Clock beans for brewed coffee...is $10.72 a pound."
Hamm's price-per-cup numbers included factoring in the cost of coffee pots and filters for a regular coffee machine and prorating the price of a single-serve machine in his pod-per-cup prices. Hamm's price for a cup of regular joe made at home came to thirteen cents. Hamm hunted down the very best possible price for coffee pods -- as in those being sold in bulk via Amazon -- it still came to $.26 per cup.
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Nespresso pods, purchased at Nespresso prices, come to about $.55 per cup, but good news may be on the horizon for those jittery single-serve Nespresso espresso addicts who are perhaps slowly going broke: Ethical Coffee Company is planning to sell Nespresso-compatible pods for "around 20 percent less" on Amazon.com.
My take? If you enjoy a cup of good quality coffee or espresso at home, even $.55 is an insignificant price to pay for a little bit of joy each day.