CBC News

Brewing up some savings

by Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

I spent about $33 on two cans of coffee this weekend. At first, with my legendary sluggish math skills, I was a little uneasy about spending so much. But now I’ve come to realize how much it’s actually saving me.

I used to be nonchalant about throwing down $4 or $5 on a “fancy” coffee from some café or a certain green-logoed chain.

Who needs to order fancy coffee when you can make it at home? (Andree Lau/CBC)

But then my fiancé and I found an Italian stovetop espresso maker for about $15, and discovered we could make great coffee at home for a fraction of the price. And I didn’t even have to change out of my pyjamas to boot.

After experimenting with different coffee brands, we found that the relatively higher-priced Italian Illy had the best flavour. But even by splurging on it, we’re still saving quite a bit by brewing at home, which is especially welcome in these scary economic times.

One can of Illy (about $16 in our local Italian market) will last our household about a month. That’s about 53 cents a day. (Yes, I took a moment to use the desktop calculator.)

I’m not alone in turning my back on coffee spending. Starbucks reported a fourth-quarter drop in profits of 97 per cent earlier this month, blaming fewer customers as well as a drop in spending by those who did drop in.

What foods or drinks have you cut spending on because you can do it better or cheaper at home?

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simon lerner


I have a prosumer Italian made espresso maker at home, which was quite an expensive initial purchase. Where I economize is on the coffee. While Illy and Lavazza are no doubt top quality, I'm happy buying espresso beans from the bulk coffee jars in my local supermarket, and then grinding them at home. (with a burr grinder of course.) At 8 or 9 dollars per pound it tastes as good as the Italian imports.

Posted November 24, 2008 09:04 AM



I have cut back on eating out in restautants and making my own food. Although it does take a little more planning, I'm saving money and my health in the long run!

Posted November 24, 2008 11:17 AM

Elizabeth Ellis


My husband and I stopped frequenting Tim Horton's over a year ago. Now I make espresso/cappacinos every morning at home. I haven't set foot in a Starbucks for over a year. Friends and I now visit at each other's home for coffee/brunch/lunch. Even when we travel on holidays, I bring along our espresso machine.

Needless to say, we have really cut back on eating out...it is so much better at home than out, not to mention cheaper!

Posted November 24, 2008 01:12 PM


What you get out of a $15 Mokka Pot is not the same that you get out of an espresso machine.

But yes, there is a huge markup on a cup of coffee at any coffee shop, but it DOES take some talent to pull a decent shot and foam milk the right way (and no, those "air whiskers" don't do the same thing, the heat and steam cause a chemical reaction in the milk that goes far beyond what any of these little milk gizmos can do).

Posted November 24, 2008 04:06 PM



We quit ordering pizza out when we moved from Houston to Calgary and have home made pizza night once a week. After 4 weeks we discovered the best and easiest dough, in a Julia Child cookbook, which is similar to a French bread recipe. Fantastic! Never went to that famous coffee shop, I prefer my French Roast home ground in my latte.

Posted November 24, 2008 06:13 PM


We have GE Advantium microwave. It cooks with halogen light, which is fast. We buy the rising crust pizzas from the grocery store,and they taste as good as P-Hut;and in 10min. I have a Tassimo coffee maker that saves money. There are many big name brands now that make the discs;even the "big Bucks".

Posted November 24, 2008 07:25 PM

Old World Canuck


Coffee is the No.2 commodity globally after petroleum. The vast majority of coffee is grown in full sun plantations. It is one of the leading causes of deforestation and a primary reason for the seriuos decline in songbird populations.

Give the Earth a break cofee drinkers.

Posted November 24, 2008 07:34 PM

John T


My fiancee and I purchased a pretty good espresso machine about 5 months ago. I was a bit hesitant on getting the machine due to its cost but felt it would be worth it in the long run. Boy was I right!

We also bought a coffee grinder and we purchase our coffee beans called Mauro from an Italian bakery.

Did we save money? Here's the math.

We both used to purchase coffee at Starbucks at least five days a week at 4 dollars a pop. Hence I said at least. That comes out to $160/mth or $1,920/year not including any snacks that we would occasionally snap up. The machine cost us $250 plus $40 for the grinder and we spend $15/mth on a bag of coffee beans....for a total of $470.

After your initial expense your yearly consumption should be around $180/yr. I don't know about you but we're going to Cuba for a week with the money we saved. And this is just coffee, tossing in lunches will get you a 2 week Caribbean cruise.

Posted November 25, 2008 09:29 AM



My partner and I received a Tassimo as a gift last holiday season, and I have to say it has saved me a ton of money on coffees. My only gripe is the discs seem quite wasteful - and I'm not sure if they can be recycled... anyone know?

Posted November 25, 2008 12:37 PM


Thanks for your great article. You point out something that is win-win:
1) save money by making your coffee/espresso at home
2) save the waste of throwing an empty Tim's or Starbucks or where-ever store's disposible cup in the garbage.

I swear that 80% of the litter on the highway comes from McDonalds & Tim Hortons; disgusting!

My husband and I have not been affected by the economic turmoil yet; however, we make a habit of making our meals at home and save eating out for special occaisions (1x a month). I bring my coffee from home in a travel mug and bring my lunch in a reusable container. It really doesn't take that long to bring leftovers OR throw together a PB&J sandwich. (I also make my own Jam - yummy!)

Posted November 25, 2008 01:07 PM



Andree, Illy is overpriced and overhyped- and pre-ground coffee is ALWAYS stale, full stop. You can get so many excellent beans in Calgary these days, from coffeehouses like Phil and Sebastian, Kawa Espresso Bar, Caffe Artigiano, Deville Luxury Coffee, or Bumpy's. All of these shops sell beans from reputational roasters like Vancouver's 49th Parallel, and unlike Illy, which will be MONTHS old before it goes in your moka pot, these places will sell you bean that are as little as two days off the roast- as fresh as can be in other words. Invest $30 or so for a serviceable grinder, and taste the difference.

My setup cost $2000 and even it has paid for itseld many times over. The five espressos I make a day on it would cost me $15 in the wild.

Posted November 25, 2008 06:46 PM



Andree! Calgary has a brilliant coffee scene to acquire some top quality fresh beans with which you can make even better tasting coffee at home. I know you know the local folks, so why not support them instead of an Italian roaster that nitro-packed those cans months ago? Your daily coffee will taste infinitely better with freshly roasted and ground beans (it should even be cheaper than the cans of Illy). I can think of 5 great roasters with a variety of flavour profiles available in Calgary. 49th Parallel can be had at Kawa, JJ Bean found at Bumpy's, Intelligentsia at DeVille, Novo at Phil & Sebastian and the local Fratello at a variety of shops.

As posters above mentioned, Mokha pot coffee is not the same as espresso, though is often confused by it. The pressures in your Bialetti are not sufficient to generate proper espresso. It does however create a strong, robust cup of coffee. That strength is in part due to the temperature of the water that is forced through the puck of coffee. It's too high for an extraction that balances all of the components of the coffee. This is why the darker roasts out there might taste better in the Mokha pot, as the roast profile is unidimensional.

Anyways, I've ranted enough. I hope you get out to try some of these other coffees available in town!

Posted November 26, 2008 01:48 AM



Tim Horton's is a major cause of global warming. It doesn't matter when I drive past any Tim Horton's anywhere that I don't see a long line of cars and trucks idling away and spewing pollution in the air. Most of these people are at Tim's every day. Don't get me wrong, I like Tim's coffee and buy it when I'm traveling. I have asked people why they wait daily in line for coffee every day. The answer I get most often is "I don't have time to make coffee in the morning". They don't have time to make coffee, but have time to sit in line. I have a solution and I have been doing it daily for years. I set up my coffee maker in the evening, it takes less than 30 seconds. Then in the morning all I have to do is press the button, or use the timer in my machine and my coffee is ready to go. Fill up your go cup and you are on your way. You will save money on coffee and gasoline. You will also help the environment by lessening greenhouse gases and our ditches will be cleaner without all those Tim Horton's cups.

Posted November 26, 2008 05:51 PM



We have been roasting our coffee for the last year, and get amazing fair trade, organic and bird-friendly coffee for $7 a lb. Once roasted, we grind it and then brew it in our espresso machine - $2 for a single-shot espresso at SC or SB? No way!

Posted November 27, 2008 11:50 AM



I've started buying pasta, rice, spices, etc from a new bulk food place at Southland Crossing (weigh 2 go for anyone who's interested)...my weekly family food budget goes a lot further now!

Posted November 28, 2008 12:44 AM

Al Beattie

I used to frequent my favorite coffee shop, Beano's on 17th, twice a day. Even though they were/are cheaper and better than Starbucks, I did the math.
15 years ago I bought a $40 Salton at London Drugs and began making my own. The machine paid for itself very quickly. I am not a "brand snob" so I use Nabob ground espresso to make my daily latte. Sorry, "fair trade" fans, but I pocket the difference.

Posted November 30, 2008 05:14 PM



I would spend approx $2 twice a day for coffee that really wasn't that great. Then I dawned on me that for the price of about a weeks worth of coffee brewed in the cafeteria at work, I could purchase a kettle, a 2 cup french press and a can of coffee (coffee that I like).

I never calculated how much I have saved over the past year or so, but I have noticed that a number of people in the office have followed my lead.

Posted December 5, 2008 10:51 AM

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