/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Coffee chains vs machines – what’s draining your wallet?

If, like me, you avoid adding up how much you spend on coffee, now would be a good time to look away. What do you think is cheaper – making your own espresso coffees with a machine or buying coffee from chains?

If a regular coffee from a chain costs about £2.20, that’s £572 a year if you buy one on the way to work everyday. Oh dear.

So, is it worth shelling out on a coffee machine? You can get one of the best for £320, but there are lots around the £100 to £150 mark and the cheapest machine we’ve given our coveted Best Buy to is currently just £57.

Many of these take capsules and a quick search online shows that ten capsules are currently £7.27 or 73p a cup – or around £190 a year. So, if you bought a £120 machine rather than buying your coffee from chains, you’d save about £260 in the first year and £380 in every year after that.

If I wanted to save even more money, I could do what Anna Norman suggested in her Conversation last month and go back to good old-fashioned filter coffee making and bring out the cafetière and kettle.

But can I wean myself off coffee shops?

I know they’re not to everyone’s taste, but coffee chains must be doing something right. They’re everywhere and it doesn’t look like their cardboard-cupped coffees are going anywhere soon. And that’s not for want of trying – a small town is Devon has gone as far as starting a petition in a bid to stop Costa arriving on its high street.

Still, although I’m very much attached to my Woolworths (yes really!) cafetière, I’m not budging on the subject of coffee shops. I will continue to use them for the foreseeable future as I just like their coffee and the convenience.

Though even I will admit that buying so many take-away coffees feels like mad extravagance. And as Mike Whitaker said on our last Convo:

‘Could they implement a “two adjectives or less” queue for those of us who just want, you know… coffee?’

What do you reckon? If you’re a fan of espresso-based coffees, do you prefer to make your own using a coffee machine or are you a slave to the chains?

How do you like your coffee?

Home made by me or someone else (all types eg. filter and instant) (54%, 588 Votes)

Made by a coffee machine (28%, 311 Votes)

Bought from a coffee shop (chain or independent) (18%, 200 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,039

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I had not appreciated that Costa is a British company until I decided to look it up today. That must be helping our economy.

I appreciate that coffee shops have overheads but they need to charge more affordable prices if they are going to attract me through their doors on a regular basis.


I think we need to remind ourselves that people buy coffee from chains for different reasons. Many people pre-arrange to meet others out for a coffee – which could just as easily be arranged for meeting at home and thus saving money. But on the other hand I often pop in to a chain for a coffee when shopping (and home is miles away!) for a quick and hot pick me up. I still prefer to make coffee at home – the humble Moka pot being my weapon of choice, as it is far cheaper than going out for one instead.


A coffee shop or a pub are the obvious venues for an informal meeting. Unfortunately, many pubs don’t offer decent coffee. 🙁

If you want to avoid alcohol, which is not a bad idea during the day, the alternative is soft drinks full of sugar or sweeteners. Oh, well. Let’s go to the coffee shop.


There are even a few places around which serve good coffee, tea and a few beers all day long just like on the continent.
I always try to use an independent local coffee shop rather than a large chain. The coffee comes in sensible quantities and is usually cheaper.


I enjoy my visits to Cafe Nero to meet friends who I would not easily see otherwise. One drink each and we can sit there for ages talking rubbbish. I can also read The Times, savin me a pound as I then don’t have to buy it!
I probably go in two or three times a week.


I like the social element of buying a coffee. Also, it feels like a treat!

Klumper says:
10 August 2012

Coffee houses have been around in the UK since 1650. Lloyds of London has its origins in a coffee shop. Maybe if we want to re-generate the British economy, we should have an expansion of the coffee shop industry and encourage the many people who do not work in conventional offices to meet and exchange ideas.

Totters says:
10 August 2012

I love my expresso machine but restrict myself mainly to weekends after it took me three weeks of headaches to wean myself off of upto 10 a day.

But to the point … coffee shops are great for WiFi and catching up on email or other tasks when stranded waiting for transport (train or bus), an offsite meeting to start and you don’t want to arrive too early, or when one is waiting for one’s partner to finish work, shopping or similar.

And they give me an excuse for an occassional hit during the day.

Pat M says:
10 August 2012

Coffee shops are great when you’re out, or for a treat. The quality of coffee is variable between branches though, depending on how well trained and careful the staff are.
Making coffee at home – I researched this a while ago and concluded that it’s impossible to make decent coffee on a cheap home machine that won’t break down after a few months.
I bought an aeropress for £25 &#