Coffee Costs: 5 Ways to Save Money on K-Cups

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Keurig's K-CupsThe convenience of single-cup coffeemakers is undeniable -- the sheer simplicity of popping a pod into a brewer that dishes out premium brew in a minute or two. There's no mess. There's no old coffee going bad.

It's no wonder more and more java sippers are tossing out their coffee pots for single-serve machines.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) shipped a whopping 4.2 million Keurig brewers through its partners during the holiday quarter. Revenue more than doubled to $1.16 billion as earlier buyers loaded up on the K-Cup portion packs that provide the bean-based caffeinated kicks.

Keurig isn't the only single-serve specialist. Tassimo, Nespresso, Senseo, CBTL, and now even Green Mountain's brand new Vue system are just some of the one-cup platforms vying for your morning swig.

Slick, But Not Cheap

Single-serve coffee is certainly easier on the pocketbook than hitting up the Starbucks (SBUX) barista every time you need a caffeine fix. But you may be surprised at how much you're actually paying for the ground coffee that shakes in the proprietary pods like maracas.

The New York Times' Oliver Strand did the math earlier this month. He looked at Nespresso Arpeggio pods that retail at $5.70 for 10 espresso capsules. Since each capsule contains just five grams of coffee, we're looking at about $51 a pound. Ouch!

He also priced the Folgers Black Silk blend available for Keurig machines at $10.69 for a dozen K-Cups. Since each of those pods contains eight grams of coffee, it would take nearly 57 K-Cups -- setting a fan of joe back close to $50.50 -- for a pound of the stuff.

Thankfully for Strand and others with single-serve machines, there are ways to avoid paying $50 a pound for coffee. Here are tips on ways to save. Though specifically for Keurig's K-Cups, many of these suggestions apply to rival makers as well.

1. Buy in bulk
If Strand's prices seem outrageous, it's because you're probably not paying them. His article singles out retail pricing and not what savvy sippers can find if they shop around.

Amazon.com (AMZN) offers larger counts of pods at substantial savings through its website. For instance, the same Folgers K-Cups that he was pricing at $0.89 per refill can be had for about $0.47 a K-Cup through the leading online retailer.

Amazon sells three of the 12-packs bundled together for $16.97. A buyer is paying a little more than half per K-Cup, but they can even do better than that.

2. Subscribe for Savings

Amazon has a "Subscribe and Save" program, offering buyers who commit to automatic repeat purchases discounts of as much as 15% on select items.

It's a forgiving program. You can go online to skip deliveries or change the frequency of the shipments. If you've found your favorite single-serve brand -- and it's available through Amazon's subscription plan -- what do you have to lose? Your K-Cup consumption is likely to be pretty steady anyway.

Soon other plan choices outside of Amazon may be available, too. Target (TGT) revealed last month that it's exploring a subscription service to provide shoppers with discounts on regularly purchased merchandise.

3. Be Less Brand-Loyal

Remember that last tip about finding your favorite brand? Forget about it! There are more than 200 varieties of K-Cups on the market. Rival single-serve systems offer dozens of options.

If you're not stuck on a particular flavor, there will probably be different price points available to you across the many K-Cup varieties. You won't find the same kind of pricing disparity for smaller platforms, but it never hurts to hunt for sales or more compelling prices on other pods.

4. Buy a reusable filter

Environmentalists worried about the disposable nature of single-serve capsules have flocked to reusable Keurig filters for years, but they're also a great way to save money.

Consumers willing to sacrifice a little on quality can buy a reusable K-Cup filter, filling it with the ground coffee of their choice. Yes, it's perfectly legal. It doesn't void the appliance's warranty. Green Mountain even makes its own reusable filter.

It won't be as clean, but wiping the counter for stray coffee grounds is a small compromise for the serious money that can be saved by the pound.

5. Be Patient

Green Mountain is going to lose some key intellectual property later this year. The two patents related to Keurig's K-Cup portion packs expire in September. At that point, anyone will be able to make K-Cup refills without having to pay Green Mountain a royalty that amounts to a few cents per K-Cup.

The move should drive prices lower, obviously. The level playing field will make it easier for companies that have been sitting on the sidelines to throw their K-Cups into this brew ring.

There's serious money to be saved now, and more to be saved later. So drink up!

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Green Mountain. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls in Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a lurking gator position in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.


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26 Comments

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michael.lieber

Discount K-Cups at www.discountmaniausa.com

June 07 2014 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sue Frohman

If you buy reusable k-cup coffee filter baskets make sure you buy the ones either with the "wings" on the sides (like at http://buystoomuch.com/handy-coffee-cups-reusable-refillable-k-cup-coffee-filter-pods.html - notice the "bumps" on each side) or WITHOUT them if your Keurig machine calls for it. It matters!

December 23 2013 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
K Blackwell-Martin

I use the reusable k cup filter + don Pablo coffee (10.00 for 2 pound bag at Costco ) I get 100 to 128 cups of coffee for 10.00 that way. (Depending on how strong I or my guests want it I use between 1/4 to 1/3 oz coffee in the reusable kcup.) In a regular coffee pot I used to brew more than I drank. Now I don't waste any. Being the only coffee drinker in my house this saves me money. I never buy the pods they are a huge rip off as this article points out. I have two of the reusable pods so one can be cleaned and refilled while the other is being brewed. I am curious about the new kcup with paper filter I've seen.

June 26 2013 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scollins44stacy

Now do you really want to save money using your Keurig? My company offers a healthier brand of 100% Arabica Coffee that has been pre- brewed and package as an instant in single serve sachets! This gives you the advantage of pouring one sachet of our gourmet healthy organic coffee into your Keurig filter! Then placing it into the Keurig and enjoying a nice brewed cup of coffee in a matter of minutes! Now this breath taking experience can be a low as $0.56 per. cup! Saving you tremendously on your everyday healthy gourmet organic coffee delight! Visit us on line at www.richlypurposed.organogold.com (don't GOOGLE) used the address bar! Blog us at www.purposedlife.myganodermablog.com/ and contact info for ordering details are located on our website! Change Your Coffee, Change Your Life!

April 07 2013 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jcurtis595

I was intrigued by and bought a Keurig deluxe machine. After a while I figured out what it was costing per cup and looked for the reusable pod filter. I bought two (one for coffee and one for tea). I also love the Columbian coffee that is sold by Costco (or is it Sam's Club, I don't remember). I use a table spoon to fill the reusable/filter pod with just enough grounds to reach the top of the filter, close the top and pop it in. The coffee is amazing and better than some of the pods I used to purchase.

You can use any coffee you like and all you have to do is wash the filter very so often with dish soap. I rinse it after each use and wash it about one in a dozen time.

I think its amazing coffee and the pods aren't any better than is made with the reusable device. I bought it on Amazon. I have put several people on to this who were unaware of the reusable pod.

February 22 2012 at 2:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Now this is an important article, everyone (like sheep) had to have one of these. It is way too much work to use an old fashioned pot. Marketing at its best!!!!

February 22 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Now this is an important article, everyone (like sheep) had to have one of these. It is way too much work to use an old fashioned pot. Marketing at its best!!!!

February 22 2012 at 10:51 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Todd

I see two things inerently wrong with these one cup systems.

Number one, you are getting stale bad coffee. Once the coffee is roasted, it starts to deteriorate. It's best to use it within 2 weeks. Once you grind it, you're time line shortens even more. That's why people will buy it by the bean and have it ground at the coffee shop or have a grinder at home.

Second is the cost. If think that you are coming out ahead by reducing the cost by half for the cups or reusable filters and still paying up to $20-$25 per pound for ground stale coffee and worrying about throwing out extra cups when you brew it yourself you really don't like coffee very much and are a fool for paying so much to "save" so little.

If you have to get a french press and make a couple of cups at a time.

February 21 2012 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

I use the reusable filter, and my coffee expenditures have gone down since I switched to Keurig. No longer throwing out a partial pot of coffee, no longer filling up the basket with too much coffee and wasting it. I buy the beans whole and grind them. I still buy K cups for convenience when company is over, but I am still paying less than before. It is how you manage it!

February 21 2012 at 1:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kv37

The coffee tastes like caca.

February 21 2012 at 8:39 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply