100 Words On: Why Folgers Coffee Is More Expensive Than You Think

All things considered, most coffee drinkers realize that brewing their java at home is significantly more cost effective than buying it from Starbucks. However, those who use a typical automatic drip coffee maker may not be saving quite as much as they think because the warming plate typically consumes energy at a rate of 1000 Watt-hours; over time that adds up. For example, a coffee maker left on for a half-day at $0.16/kWh will add about $58 to the monthly electricity bill.

The bottom line: Yes, Folgers is still cheaper than Starbucks. But if you really want to save money — try drinking tea.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Watson

37 comments to 100 Words On: Why Folgers Coffee Is More Expensive Than You Think

  • Bob L

    The warming plate does not stay on continuously, if it did your pot would be boiling all the time.

    But if you really want to save money in this respect, just pour your finished coffee in a thermos as I do. It will stay hot all day. Or turn off the pot, let the coffee cool and just heat up a cup at a time.

    • Len Penzo

      Fair enough, Bob. Even if you assume a duty cycle of 50 percent, it’s still not an insignificant figure. :-)

      And thank you, sir, for the other tips! I am one of those folks who prefers his coffee piping hot, so I usually zap it in the microwave for good measure before drinking it to get it extra hot.

  • Todd D.

    Electric Kettle + French Press. Drip coffee makers use energy to pump the water, heat the water and heat the bottom plate. The water is never heated to a high enough temperature 180-185F. This causes the coffee to taste weak. When coffee tastes weak people add more coffee than they would otherwise need.
    An electric kettle heats the water to the right temperature and shuts off. No more energy wasted on pumping and heating a warming plate and you do not need to add more coffee than necessary for the brew to taste good.

    • Len Penzo

      You know, I never thought about the relationship between the temperature and strength of the coffee, Todd — but you are absolutely right! There have been a couple of occasions where our drip coffee maker’s heater was off and the resulting coffee tasted weaker than normal. (It even looked weak, if that’s possible.)

      I guess I never put the two together.

  • tracee

    but len!!! it’s the best part of waking up….you know…folger’s in your cup.

  • How about: just brew what you want and drink it before it gets scorched. My pot stays on for about 20 minutes, brewing time included, before two cups are downed. That’s that.

    • Len Penzo

      Yep. I guess since I nuke my coffee anyway I could just leave the warmer off all the time and just microwave it a little longer than I do now.

  • I drink a pot of tea myself each morning, but am known to hit coffee after lunch. Interesting points.

    • Len Penzo

      My rule is this: on work days, no coffee after noon.

      Although I will make exceptions for a nice cup of coffee after a satisfying restaurant meal.

  • My brother has a side business roasting coffee and selling it to family, friends and other folks – so I buy it from him at a discount. I’m with Todd as well, as I heat up the water on it’s own without a coffee brewer, then grind my own beans and use a single cup drip brewer – making it significantly less expensive, both to brew, and energywise. :)

  • We have a Cuisinart with an insulated thermal carafe. We make 10 cups of coffee in the morning and it stays hot all day without a hot plate!

  • Jen

    I use my coffee maker 7 days a week; it keeps coffee warm for 2 hrs. before shutting off. Lots of days I use it twice. But I don’t understand the $58 a month, because that would mean it a huge portion of my monthly electricity bill. Am I reading something incorrectly?

    • Len Penzo

      No, Jen, you’re not reading anything incorrectly. :-)

      If you run your warmer for 2 hours and, as Bob pointed out, it’s only on for, say, half the time (1 hour) … Let’s do the math, assuming you pay $0.16/kWh and your coffee pot warmer draws 1000 Watt-hours (1 kW-h) of electricity, your coffee maker would be adding this much to your monthly bill:

      1 kW-hrs x 1 hr x $0.16/kWh x 30 days = $4.80

      • hawaii2000

        So that’s $58 a YEAR, right?

        • Len Penzo

          No; per month. I know.

          However, in my example, if the hot plate has a 50 percent duty cycle, which I rightly should have assumed but didn’t (i.e., I assumed 100%), you can divide that $58 by two …

          So in that case it would “only” be $29 per month — but that’s still $348 per year! (That’s enough money to pay for quite a few cups of coffee from Starbucks … at least five or six!) ;-)

          Even in Jen’s case, in which she limits the time her coffee warmer is on, she’s spending $57.60 annually to run it.

  • That’s great point. Many people assume that home-made or DIY is cheaper. However there are often costs that we don’t know exist.

  • I use a vacuum coffee maker (do a search on Amazon for examples), not an automatic drip. I keep my whole coffee beans stored at room temperature in a glass jar with an air-tight rubber seal, and fresh grind the beans with a bur grinder.

    I go ahead and make a full pot every time, and the heat is off once the coffee is made. If it needs reheating, a few seconds in the microwave does the trick. Leftover coffee is simply reheated the next day, until it’s time to make the next pot.

  • “energy at a rate of 1000 Watt-hours”
    The power consumption is measured in watts. A 1000W appliance will use 1KWH of power in an hour. Else, the units don’t multiply correctly. A machine on for say, 8 hours, won’t use 1000 watt-hours *8 hours. Because hours^2 are meaningless. But it will use the 1000W * 8 hrs, for a total bill of 8KWH.

    On a lighter note, my Kill-a-watt device confirms 980W, close enough to your estimate. I don’t leave the maker on once the coffee brews, but still, it adds 8 cents to every pot.

    • Len Penzo

      Whaaaaat? Me make a mistake????? ;-)

      Actually, we’re both off. Power consumption is indeed measured in Watt-hours — not Watts. The rate that power is consumed is measured in Watts (there is a time component there). :-)

      You’re right; technically, in the article I should have said “the energy consumed is 1000 watt-hours” (assuming a 100 percent duty cycle). For me to use “the rate of” was verbal laziness on my part.

      In my example to Jen, I inadvertently included an extra (1 hr) in the equation — which incorrectly leaves hours-squared in the numerator. But the final answer is still correct, as are figures and units in the article. :-)

  • twiddler

    Oh foo!

    The gist of the article is that making coffee at home is substantially more expensive than you think. Substantially has to be (at a minimum) a dollar a day more than you think, since the alternative is to go to Starbucks.

    If your article had been on how to save energy (and you’d mentioned alternatives to keeping the warming plate on), you’d have had a good article, though possibly not as many eyeballs.

    Your article worked (from a commercial perspective) only because of the erroneous cost analysis (FWIW, I’m skeptical that the duty cycle time for the warming plate is as high as 50%, but I don’t have the experimental data to disprove it.)

    Anyway, pointing out that keeping the coffee warm uses energy and dollars (along with the responses about how to keep it warm more efficiently), good, trying to alarm us by grossly overstating the costs, bad.

    • Len Penzo

      I appreciate your concern, however, I can’t possibly explain everything in any of my “100 Word” posts! :-)

      In fact, the intent of these short posts is to stimulate discussion with my readers — who many times help fill in the blanks with their comments.

      In fact, I think many of them answered a lot of your questions! :-)

      As for the duty cycle, I could be wrong, but I suspect 50 percent is fair. Remember, that heating plate has to keep as many as 12 cups of coffee hot in the uninsulated glass carafe until it is ready for drinking. It is controlled by a simple thermostat, that is set to a specific temp that’s always high enough to keep the maximum number of cups in the carafe hot (whether the carafe is full or not).

  • Oscar

    Dude, there is no way in fictional hot areas that a coffee maker runs at a full kilowatt keeping coffee warm.

    Keep in mind, that rating is the MAXIMUM for the coffee maker, meaning that number is going to be hit when the coffee maker has to raise the water temperature from room to near boiling while pumping water. If you want to do some real science with real numbers, try this: brew a pot, turn the element on, then turn everything else off in your house and observe your energy rate at the meter.

    • Len Penzo

      The heater does indeed use approximately 1000 W when it is actively heating the water — regardless of whether it is heating the water in the reservoir hot enough to pump it to the top of the drip coffee maker (with the help of a very simple one-way mechanical ball valve that creates something called a “bubble pump”), or warming the heating plate. The heater has just one active setting: ON.

  • I used to make one coffee pot a day. But then I would drink the pot in 2 hours max. Now I buy Folgers – instant 16 oz. container at Costco for $8.99. I make half-a-cup in the morning and one in the afternoon fresh. I don’t run to the bathroom any more so very often.

    About 2 years ago, I heard one coffee expert on NPR saying that old coffee tastes better than fresh. You make a pot today, let it rest overnight and drink from it the next day.

  • I usually brew my coffee, 1 or 2 cups (1 for my husband)and then turn off the coffeemaker when the coffee’s done, then drink my coffee. I don’t think I can substitute coffee with tea. I like coffee so much! :)

  • Very interesting! I didn’t know that. It’s a good thing that I rarely keep the coffee maker on for more than about 3 minutes at a time.

  • You know, for a minute I thought this was going to be about the hidden costs of coffee growing–you know, for the environment. Rainforest loss, in particular. That’s why I shell out extra for the shade-grown, organic, Fair-Trade variety. (Hey, it’s still less per cup than stopping at Starbucks every day.)

  • A_Blind_MAn

    i’m not so sure on this, I’ve made a full pot of coffee every day of the week, usually leaving the warmer on till it shuts off automatically and have never seen my power usage this high, i suppose if it’s left on for a half day, maybe that might be true. But i think the 50% duty cycle is an over estimation, My reasoning on this is that i have a Bunn Coffee maker beside my regular $0.75 garage sale coffee maker. This holds roughly 3 pots worth of hot water inside it’s reservoir and has 3 separate hot plates that can each be turned on individually. each these hot plates can keep a pot of coffee at brewing temperature no problem. However guess how much they draw? it’s about 100-150 watts apiece. This is roughly a 10th of the 1000 watts the heating element in a drip coffee maker uses, so by some seat of the pants estimation including losses etc. I’d guess the duty cycle, AFTER brewing is closer to about 15-20%, at some point I’ll hook a KWH meter to my cute little drip (which makes an awesome pot of coffee BTW) and see what kind of usage it comes out to after about an hour.

    Granted, Your post is definitely correct in that it does cost something extra for the energy, but i think the duty cycle is alot less than you might think.

    Wow sorry for the long post, also I’m totally necro-ing this post.

  • Jim

    And how much gasoline does it cost to no burn those watts? hum!!!

  • [...] 100 Words On: Why Folgers Coffee Is More Expensive Than You Think. “All things considered, most coffee drinkers realize that brewing their java at home is significantly more cost effective than buying it from Starbucks. However, those who use a typical automatic drip coffee maker may not be saving quite as much as they think.” Len Penzo dot Com [...]

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