Save 61% by brewing coffee with a K-Cup reusable filter

Our caffeine starved brains are bad at math. When I say ‘math’ I’m not picking on a lack of calculus skills or the inability to factor polynomial equations. No, never, nope. Advanced mathematics don’t help me much in the coffee aisle at the grocery store.

What gives me the ‘Consumer Sads’ when it comes to math is our collective stupidity with simple addition and subtraction. You know, the oft-forgotten plus ‘+’ and minus ‘-’ signs used across all branches of mathematics? Those crazy uncomplicated symbols can save you a fortune when used by your brain before spending money.

To give your brain a buzz worthy of a caffeine hit, I’m adding up the crazy cost of Keurig’s K-Cups to save you some serious cash on coffee. I’ll also show you why I like math.

Related: Make a Starbucks Frappuccino for 32 cents

Save 41 cents a cuppa by switching to a reusable filter

A 2-pack of Brew & Save Refillable K-Cups can be found for around $12 in both the US and Canada. That’s a small drop in the coffee budget bucket when compared to the ongoing cost of using disposable K-Cups.

Brew Save Keurig

I went shopping and compared the cost of buying Starbucks French Roast Ground Coffee in a reusable K-Cup filter with Starbucks French Roast K-Cups. Simple math, people.

keurig kcup coffee

What this Price Check Compares:

  • Ground Coffee: Since disposable K-Cups only contain ground coffee, this post only compares the cost of ground coffee. Apples to apples, people. If you find a disposable K-Cup full of whole beans in need of grinding I’ll happily write an update.
  • Equipment and supply cost? I’m not adding the cost of a K-Cup reusable filter to this caffeinated equation. I’m not including the cost of a Keurig coffee machine, electricity used, water consumed, cream and sugar added, or wasted grounds spilled either. Just ground coffee.
  • Cost of competing systems? The variety of single-serve coffee machines on the market likely reflects the lucrative nature of selling ground coffee in K-Cups, Discs, and Capsules. There’s the Nespresso system, the Tassimo brewer, and of course the Keurig machine. I’m only comparing the cost of Keurig’s K-Cups to ground coffee.

keurig coffee cost

Bottom Line: Save a tasty 41 cents per cuppa by skipping the disposable and highly packaged K-Cups and switching to ground coffee brewed in a reusable K-Cup filter. Brewing two cups a day with a reusable K-Cup filter saves you $299.30 per year.

Sure, saving cash is sweet. But what about the (in)convenience of filling a reusable filter?

How convenient is filling a reusable filter?

Popping a pricey K-Cup in a Keurig coffee machine is super simple, right? The convenience alone is the real reason Green Mountain Coffee Roasters sold four million Keurig brewers over the three months leading up to Christmas 2011, with just over $715-million in K-Cup packs sold during this period.

So how onerous is it to fill a reusable filter with ground coffee? I created a Vine to demonstrate the coffee-making process.

Bottom Line: I can fill a reusable K-Cup filter with ground coffee in under 6 seconds. Therefore the process is not onerous and I’m still saving 41 cents a cuppa.

What’s inside a single serve coffee pod?

Being a smarter consumer is the prime directive of this blog. Being a smarter citizen of this big gorgeous orb circling the solar system is a prime directive too. I’m reminded of our shared need of living on this orb every time I walk down the coffee aisle in my grocery store.

Talk a walk with me. What do you see?

coffee pods

Shelves and shelves and more shelves stocked full of single serve coffee pods. Once brewed, where do all those pods go?

kcup garbage

Mother Jones has the answer. In Your Coffee Pods’ Dirty Secret, MoJo does some alarming math and calculates that all of the K-Cups sold in 2013 would wrap around the Earth 10.5 times.

Our coffee habits are leaving a big hug of garbage wrapped around the planet. I do love hugs, but that’s not the kind of grip I want to leave the youngins when I’m gone.

Bottom Line: The solution is simple. Buy an inexpensive reusable K-Cup filter to reduce garbage growth, and you’ll still save 41 cents a cuppa!

So where am I going with this?

K-Cups are the new stupid tax. Not only are you over paying for ground coffee, but you’re taxing the environment every time you pop a disposable pod into your brewer.

kcup keurig reusable filter

Eventually this math is going to catch up with us. When simple addition and subtraction reveal I’ll save money by brewing with a reusable filter while reducing my environmental footprint, I have to wonder why we’re all buying disposable coffee pods?

It’s not inconvenient to fill a reusable filter. The brewed grounds can be composted. My brain still buzzes from the brew created from bagged ground coffee.

Americans:

Canadians:

So let’s do this, people. Make the switch, save some cash, and hug the planet. Now that’s my kind of math.

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Rebeca Coleman April 3rd, 2014

    Just to add to that–there’s been tons of blog posts and stories in the news lately about how bad those K-cups are for the environment. They aren’t recyclable, and coffee is compostable! With these babies, you just tap it to get the used grinds out, then into the compost. Save money AND be good to the environment? Double win.

  2. Nestor April 4th, 2014

    why not a step further?

    as a real coffee addict, i only drink my coffee black, no cream, no sugar, nothing but the coffee.

    which makes Starbucks coffee undrinkable in the first place since it’s horrible when you actually taste it. so is Tim’s, Second cup, McDonalds.. they’re all crap.

    Bodum/French Press from Ikea cost $13. plus the cost of your coffee…. or why not a permanent basket coffee filter for the real hard core coffee lovers. nothing but your coffee… no additional costs. no machines. just boil your water, pour and voila, best coffee you’ll ever have.

  3. Pursuit99 April 4th, 2014

    So here is a small improvement on the recyclable K-cups: you can buy insert filters: Perfect Pod EZ-cup Filters. Found them at Bed Bath and Beyond. Cost is 10 cents a filter but they make clean-up of the reusable cup a breeze.

    Why they are over-packaged in heavy duty plastic is another mystery and 10 cents a pop is too much, but it’s still better than the price of a throwaway cup.

  4. Ali G April 4th, 2014

    My husband and I have been using refillable cups in our Keurig for two years and love it. We’ve developed a system for cleaning them that helps make the task less onorous: tap the used coffee grounds into the compost using the back of a spoon, rinse out the cup, and then use an old toothbrush to scrub out the stubborn bits. We wash them with our dishes about once a week too. We also grind our own coffee to use in the cups.
    I do admit to keeping a small selection of K cups on hand for guests; mostly decaf and flavoured coffees. However, I think some of these are leftovers from the sample packs that came with the machines long past their “best before” dates but that’s what you get if you don’t like the kinds (yes, we each drink a different kind of coffee) we keep on hand.

  5. John E April 4th, 2014

    I use disposable #2 paper filters that cost 3 to 5 cents each depending on where I buy them. They fit into a $5 Melita gizmo that sits on top of my coffee cup. Add some ground coffee, pour in boiling water, and I’ve got my morning coffee. The used filter and grounds are compostable, and the Melita gizmo only needs a quick rinse to clean up.

  6. Georgina April 4th, 2014

    Yayyyyy Kerry! Thanks so much for looking into this. The K-cup revolution was lost on me and the wastage created makes me crazy. So glad there is an alternative. Still like my coffee maker at home the best.

  7. Bet Crooks April 4th, 2014

    The argument I’ve heard is that the filter is too hot to clean easily between brews when you’re making coffee for 4+ people each time. (Our relatives include a family of 7 adults/young adults plus they often have BF/GFs over for the meal or other friends and relatives.)

    Personally, I’m indifferent. I only drink coffee as a social grace not through choice. So my usual cost is 0. : )

  8. Justin April 4th, 2014

    I’ve used both and the only thing that bothers me from the disposable K-cup is that it leaves a film in the coffee. The disposable cups have that paper layer which gets around that. It certainly is much cheaper though. Great breakdown!

  9. My Own Advisor April 5th, 2014

    Nice post Kerry, and like the Vines…!

    We also buy the paper insert filters for our perfect Pod EZ-cups, then when used the grounds and paper go into our green waste.

    We also admit to keeping some K-cups for guests and using them now and then but we’re trying to go easier on the environment more often than not around our house.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  10. shipcarpenter305 April 5th, 2014

    Even Better… A friend turned me on to super-automatic espresso-coffee machines. Google wholelattelove). I anted up for a hideously expensive machine (just like the K-cup plan) where the savings in yearly wasted coffee x # household drinkers quickly pays for machine and premium coffee. A couple of knobs and dials precisely grind and meter water volume, brews and froths milk for latte, espresso, cappuccino and regular ‘ol joe with one button push. I bought my 1st machine used which lasted 3 years. 2nd machine (upgraded) still going strong at 4+ years. BTW, our 4-person household’s daily caffeine fix is same StarBuck’s French Roast 2-1/2lbs(40 oz) on sale at Costco for $15-$16 U.S. here in Miami (normally $21). We experiment with different coffees all the time and drink a lot (waaaay too much), but we figured what we used to spend on grocery store dreck vs. our uber-cool hyper deluxe coffee dream dispenser is about the same. Your mileage may vary.

  11. Caroline Moustache April 7th, 2014

    Awesome! I totally agree! thank you for writing this piece, it is very needed!

  12. Melissa April 7th, 2014

    Just found this site for the Diva Cup and BOOM, a post on reusable K-cups! Bookmarked <3

  13. Vicky April 7th, 2014

    While I am not going to argue about the environmental cost, yo are not thinking of everything. So many of the k cups are strong that I reuse them to make a second cup of coffee bring your cost down by half. Since I am not very brand conscious, I always check k for coupons and usually get my coffee for $3-$5 per 12 pack bringing my cost to possibly even less than the reusable cup; which I also have and use when there are no bargains available

  14. Bee Pollen April 7th, 2014

    It would be better not to use paper at all. Invest in an old fashioned stainless steel percolator. There are no paper filters. And it makes wonderful, rich coffee.

  15. Rick Finley April 7th, 2014

    Nailed it. Please heed Kerry’s advice, and stop with the disposable coffee pods. The financial cost is bad enough, however, the negative environmental impact is worse! My wife and I have been using a Keurig for over 2 yrs, and have been utilizing the refillable filters for most of that time. Huge saving! Plus, we are able to purchase our favourite whole coffee beans(fair trade organic decaf), and grind them as needed. BTW. I am 69 yrs of age, and have followed Squawkfox for a number of years now….insightful, helpful, and entertaining. Keep up the good work.

  16. Natalie April 7th, 2014

    Darn, I have a tassimo. Is there a reusable tassimo system out there?

  17. Kim April 7th, 2014

    Yes, does Tassimo have a reusable filter? I don’t like most of the coffee or the pre sweetened lattes that they have, but I would use it with my favourite coffee. Or I might sell it.

  18. Ajka April 8th, 2014

    I don’t even know what a K-cup is.
    I hate all the coffee machines that use pods with passion, because of the impact on environment. I am not so concerned about the high cost per one serving of coffee – that’s a problem of those spend the money on it.
    You will all laugh, but I have been drinking Nabob’s decaf coffee (at home) for years. I like that Nabob classifies each flavour with the pH value and my stomach is happiest when the pH is 7 (i.e. neutral). I don’t like strong coffee anyway.
    At home, I am using a cheapo coffee maker (I think it’s Sunbeam) that I bought for $29.99. When it died, I bought the same one for the same price. I simply do not see any difference from one coffee machine to another (except for the price) although I do realize many would argue about that.
    I use paper coffee filters (I think the pack contains 300 of them and it’s $2.69 at Walmart), and most of the used ones go into compost.

    Sadly, we have Tassimo at work. I have a choice – either Tassimo or Starbucks coffee (from a commercial Starbucks machine). I do not like Starbucks – even the mild coffee beans are too strong for me. It’s very frustrating to realize that just on our floor, there are about 150 people and half of them use the Tassimo machine. Most people drink multiple coffees a day – 4 cups seems to be the norm here.
    In addition, the Tassimo machines (we have two, and they are NOT the smaller ones for home use) often swallow the pod without making the coffee so a new pod has to be used. We find them horrible because constantly break, need a long time to reheat or whatever after about every 4 servings, they have to unplugged several times a day (because they report an error on the display) etc.

  19. heather April 8th, 2014

    Give up coffee. Spare your stomach the acid and your nerves the artificial jolt. Turn off your electronics and get an adequate amount of sleep. Better health, more money saved. Win-win!

  20. John April 9th, 2014

    Kerry, thanks for this… I am much more about sustainability than I am about cost, although I am a savvy shopper and usually don’t spend more than $.35-.38 per cup (NOT Starbucks). The stats on the number of k-cups sold was a real eye-opener, and I’m ordering the Brew & Save filters today ($10.10 on Amazon, free 2-day shipping with Prime).

    I do have a question, though, for you and your readers… is there a preferred grind for the reusable cups?

    For those of you who would rather die than give up disposable cups, San Francisco Bay coffees are a little more earth-friendly, with a plastic rim and foil top, but only a paper filter basket instead of plastic. Also available on Amazon for as little as $.38 per cup.

    Thanks again, Kerry!

  21. Kerry April 9th, 2014

    @John The instructions on my reusable filters say to “use a standard grind.” Tastes good to me. :)

  22. Jennaw April 12th, 2014

    You can also try coffee pods as an intermediate step between the kcups and using your own coffee. Kienna coffee has a reusable cup for pods and sells pods. There is also the green cup (available in the US and from Granville Island coffee in Vancouver only). Other brands of pods can be bought from a few Canadian websites. The pods come in a plastic or foil wrapper which is not ideal but the pods themselves are essentially a tea bag full of coffee so they are compostable. It is a good alternate for offices where sinks aren’t always readily available for cleaning out used filters.

  23. Christine May 8th, 2014

    The Kienna coffee pods come individually wrapped in recycleable wrappers, so they are fairly enviro-friendly. As previously stated the pods are compostable. And the coffee choices are apparently pretty good as well having a number of Fair Trade choices.

  24. Judi McGregor May 24th, 2014

    OneCoffee. 90% biodegradable and the best darn cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Less inexpensive than K Cups.

  25. Peter @ SeekingWealth.ca June 1st, 2014

    The price of the single serve coffee pods (K-cups, Tassimo, etc.) is a little bit outrageous. Of course the cost to produce individually packed coffee pods is more than coffee grinds in a single large container, but charging nearly triple is quite a lot. Great post… People may not realize how much they are overpaying for their coffee pods.

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