Sometimes, even though I’ve only been involved in roasting my own premium coffee for a short time, I hear a question from people:
Isn’t expensive to brew specialty coffee?
I can understand why people would ask. I mean, I order coffee beans from abroad and have them shipped to me here in the Philippines. I get coffee beans from regions all over the world. Exotic sounding places like Ethiopia, Sulawesi, Rwanda and such. Those beans are shipped to distributors in the USA, and then I buy the beans from them and have them shipped to the Philippines. On top of that, these beans I am buying are the best of the best, so just the beans themselves must be expensive. But, you know, it really is not very expensive to brew specialty premium coffee. Let’s have a look.
Firstly, there is the cost of the beans themselves. Commonly, I get beans for less than $3 per pound. I have paid as much as $9 per pound for some beans, but almost all of the beans that I have bought have been under $3 per pound, and some are only slightly above $2 per pound.
Shipping the beans to the Philippines is the most expensive part of the process. Since all of the beans I am currently buying come from the USA, they are shipped via the US Postal Service (USPS). USPS has flat rate boxes and envelopes that are great for shipping coffee beans. These are standard sized boxes provided by the USPS, and whatever can fit in the box can be shipped for a flat rate, regardless of weight. An envelope that can be shipped to the Philippines for $12.35 can hold 3 pounds of coffee beans. A box that can be shipped to the Philippines for $39.85 can hold 15 pounds of coffee beans. That’s not bad! Whenever I buy coffee beans, I always buy either 3 pounds or 15 pounds to take advantage of the best shipping prices.
Now, to make a single cup of coffee (I’m talking a mug, 12 ounces, 350ml), I use 15 grams of ground coffee beans. So, based on that amount, one pound of coffee will make just more than 30 cups of coffee.
So, if I order 3 pounds of relatively standard priced coffee, by the time I pay shipping and any other fees involved, I pay about $25 for 3 pounds, $8.33 per pound. If I order 15 pounds of the same coffee, it would run about $95 for 15 pounds, or $6.33 per pound. So, let’s just say that the average price per pound is $7 including shipping and all other costs. So, the price per cup of coffee comes to $0.23. Wow, that’s cheap! And I am talking about coffee that tastes a lot better than you will find in any coffee shop. Even the coffee shops that are world famous (like the first premium coffee shop that will come to your mind) can’t give you a cup that tastes like this.
I have had times when I was sitting in a very nice coffee shop here in Davao having a cup of coffee that I just paid P100 for (that’s over $2 for a single cup of coffee), and somebody will be telling me that roasting specialty beans at home must be very expensive! I can have about 8 cups of better coffee at home for the price of a single bad cup in a coffee shop! Now, that is value.
Yes, there is some upfront investment for equipment needed to do everything. I have only a simple setup. I pan roast my coffee, and spent only about $10 or so for everything I needed to roast beans. My coffee grinder cost me about $10 as well. I use a french press to brew my coffee, and I can get a french press here in Davao for $3 for a single cup press. So, total investment to get started with a simple setup was under $25. Now, if you really get into the hobby, you can certainly spend a lot more on the equipment, but you don’t have to have that, especially as a beginner.
So, what do you think? Is roasting and brewing specialty coffee expensive? Less than 25 US cents per cup and an initial investment of less than $25. Sounds like a pretty cheap hobby to get into.