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Americans Paying a Premium for Single-Serve Coffee

Oliver Strand, the resident coffee expert for the New York Times, shined some light on the booming single-serve coffee market, suggesting that American consumers are willing to pay a serious premium for individual pods of often lackluster coffee.

For example, the Nespresso Arpeggio costs $5.70 for 10 espresso capsules, while the Folgers Black Silk blend for a K-Cup brewed-coffee machine is $10.69 for 12 pods. But that Nespresso capsule contains 5 grams of coffee, so it costs about $51 a pound. And the Folgers, with 8 grams per capsule, works out to more than $50 a pound.

That’s even more expensive than all but the priciest coffees sold by artisanal roasters, the stuff of coffee snobs.

individually brewed coffee is expensiveStrand compared those prices to those requested by some big name artisan roasters such as Sightglass Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, discovering what many roasters already know: many high-end coffees are available for as low as $20 per pound, and perfectly good everyday coffees can be found for even less:

When it comes to single-serve systems, you’re not just paying for coffee, you’re paying for convenience and the technology that makes it possible to brew a single cup in seconds. Pop in the pod, push the button: it’s a sure thing every time. Supermarkets and specialty stores are filled with items that make it easier on you, and it’s up to the shopper to determine if it’s worth it.

Some decisions are easy (rendered pork fat, fresh pasta); others are a toss-up depending on who’s in the kitchen (chicken stock, salad dressing). Where single-serve coffee falls on that spectrum depends on whether you regard coffee as something you make or something you drink.

Strand notes that the convenience of single-serve machines — and their viability among consumers even in a down economy are a relatively new phenomena:

“Americans under the age of 40 are thinking about coffee pricing in cups,” Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, told the Times. “If you asked my mother how much coffee cost, she would have told you that the red can was $5.25 a pound and the blue can was $4.25. If you ask people in their 20s and 30s, they’ll say coffee is $1.75 to $3.75 a cup.”

The full story: New York Times

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