The Straight Scoop on Coffee



So what is a discussion about coffee doing on a consumer web site?    Anything that costs consumers upwards of $1,000 per year seems to be worth analyzing.     Yup — that daily $4 Starbucks frappuccino will set you back about a thousand of your hard-earned $1.00 bills.    Compare that to the estimated cost of $200 a year to make your own coffee and bring it to work in a thermos.   Hey, I just saved you $800!

Let’s not kid ourselves;  coffee is a drug — but is it a good drug or a bad one?   We’ll examine the cost of this drug as well as its health effects.     Is it worth the clear addiction risk that this caffeinated brew poses?   You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the answers. We start with the stark facts.   Check out these verified statistics:

Total percentage of Americans over the age of 18 that drink coffee everyday 54%
Average size of coffee cup 9 ounces
Average price of an espresso-based drink $2.45
Average price for cup of brewed coffee $1.38
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who prefer their coffee black 35%
Total percentage of coffee consumption that takes place during breakfast hours 65%
Total amount of money spent by importing coffee to U.S. each year $4 billion
Total amount of cups of coffee (9 ounces) a coffee drinker consumes daily 3.1
Total average of money spent on coffee each year by coffee drinker $164.71
Total number of U.S. daily coffee drinkers 100 million
Total number of U.S. daily coffee drinkers who drink specialty beverages (lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, etc.) 30 million
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who drink 13 or more cups of coffee each week 24%
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who go to premium places (Starbucks, Coffeebean, etc.) when they get coffee out 34%
Total percentage of people who go to lower-price outlets (Mcdonalds, Dunkin Donuts, etc.) when out 29%
Total percentage of coffee consumed between meals 30%
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who add cream and/or sugar 65%
Total amount of U.S. coffee drinkers who claim to need a cup of coffee to start their day 60%
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who say coffee makes them feel more like their self 54%
Total percentage of coffee drinkers who have a cup within the first hour of waking up 68%

There’s some interesting stats in this chart, including the high number of people who buy their coffee from retail stores  (63%), the number who “need” coffee to start their day, i.e. the “addicts”  (60%-68%),   the number who adulterate their coffee with cream and sugar  (65%) and the fact that over 100 million Americans drink over 3.1 cups per day of this stuff.    Coffee is HUGE!

The Economics of Coffee

In 2015, a self-titled “krazy coupon lady” posted a blog that cost compared the various coffee alternatives. She found that a daily tall Starbucks coffee will cost you $733.65 a year, not to mention the travel expenses you incur driving to and from your local Starbucks.   Drip-brewed coffee closer $200 per year.

I conducted my own cost-estimate.   I found that making my own drip-brewed coffee cost closer to $100 per year.   I buy good quality Kona or Costa Rican coffee at close to $15-25 per pound.     I go through about 5 bags per year and drink coffee about three times per week.    My coffee filters cost about $10 per annum.   Water — it is pretty much free although I use alkaline water produced by my $800 water purification system, so it really isn’t that cheap.     My thermos had been fully depreciated, as has my Bunn coffee machine, but let’s add $20 per year for these costs just to stay honest.   The total cost is:

Coffee:                  $100 per year

Filters:                   $  10 per year

Equipment:          $  20 per year

Total:                    $ 130 per year

Oh, and I don’t ruin my high-quality drip coffee with any of that white cow secretion or refined sugar-cane stuff.   My drug is pure and uncut.    So my net savings as measured against those poor Starbucks-swilling frappuccino addicts amounts to about $870 per year.    Bottom line:  If you are are going to drink coffee,  stick with the home brew.    If you need to get it on the road,  check out the Dunkin Donut and McDonald’s coffees.    They are far less expensive and generally rate high in reviews.    (Dunkin Donut’s Dark Roast was amongst Consumer Reports top four rated coffee blends).

Health Benefits of Coffee

If we were to describe to you a drug that would reduce your risk of  type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease,  dementia, cancers, heart rhythm problems and stroke,  you’d likely be clamoring for a prescription.    Well, this drug is readily available and doesn’t require a doctor’s note.  It might very well be coffee.    Recently, The New York Times Upshot column examined health studies of coffee and found a plethora of health benefits (and a surprising absence of unhealthy aspects).  And here’s a recent summary of coffee’s health benefits worth your read.

The data has been very consistent: higher consumption of coffee is associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s. Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers. Caffeine is found in medications for Parkinson’s disease, asthma, pain and headaches.

A Korean study published in the journal Heart studied 25,138 people who drank 3 cups of coffee a day and found a clear correlation between coffee consumption and reduced risk for heart disease, as measured by levels of coronary artery calcium. Apparently, that reduced risk disappears at consumption levels of five cups or higher a day.   Similarly,  a study of about 130,000 Kaiser Permanente health plan members, people who reported drinking 1-3 cups of coffee per day were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) than nondrinkers, regardless of other risk factors.

The benefits aren’t limited to heart health; high coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. And, for women, coffee may mean a lower risk of stroke.   A study in the journal Cancer Research that looked specifically at the caffeine in coffee demonstrated that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

BUT (and this is a a big but), the medical establishment has not been able to explain the link between these demonstrated health effects and coffee.   Yes, coffee is very high in antioxidants along with some minerals such as minerals magnesium and chromium.   And its caffeine quotient might explain some of the effects.   However, there’s no clear causal link between the properties of coffee and the health benefits.  Yet, repeated findings from various studies show beneficial effects related to coffee consumption.   These benefits are summarized by Bottom Line and most of the data is pretty reliable.   Most recently, coffee consumption was linked to reduced odds of developing tinnitus.  A study showed that women who consumed less than 150 mg of caffeine a day—the amount in about one eight-ounce cup of coffee—were 15% more likely to develop tinnitus during an 18-year period than women who consumed 450 mg to 599 mg of caffeine a day.

Some Health Problems Caused by Coffee

Meanwhile, there are clear causal detriments posed by coffee.   It is addictive  (thank you caffeine).   It is also a mild diuretic — that is, it makes you urinate more than you would without it. Decaffeinated coffee has about the same effect on urine production as water.   Both regular and decaffeinated coffee contain acids that can make heartburn worse.    Decaffeinated coffee creates other risks, as the methylene chloride or ethyl acetate that are used to remove caffeine pose their own health risks, although that is controversial as well.   In April 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, determined that ethyl acetate can be used safely as a food additive.  However, the FDA also tests pharmaceuticals for their safe use during pregnancy and categorizes ethyl acetate as group C. This means that studies have shown an adverse effect in animals, but research has not been completed with people

The final detriment is the fact that over 65% of coffee drinkers had high-calorie additives  (dairy/sugar/creamers) to their coffee transforming this 7-calorie beverage into a 350-450 calorie bomb.     A Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino bulges with 400 calories which is the calorie equivalent of eating 3 Twinkies!      This is downright nasty.

Cold Brew or Filtered Coffee Better For You Than Unfiltered

According to a recent study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who drink filtered coffee have a lower risk of premature death from heart attack or stroke. The researchers said this may be because unfiltered coffee contains higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol, which can raise triglyceride and levels of LDL (“good” cholesterol).  Stove-top coffee and French press preparations appear to have raised the risk of cardiovascular death in men over 60.  So, if you are going to imbibe, make sure the coffee you consume is well-filtered.

Our Bottom Line

Coffee may be healthy if you drink it black and in moderation.   If you “need” your morning cup of joe to function properly, then you probably shouldn’t be drinking it.   But if it brings you a lovely sensory spice to your day,  enjoy your home-brewed cup to its fullest.     Most importantly, avoid the coffee calorie bombs peddled by the addiction merchants — they’ll cost you in the wallet and in your body.

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