/ 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 – makes great coffee and easy to clean.

Dan Shaerf says:
10 August 2012

For me – it is simple.
The quality and taste of coffee from a ‘coffee shop’ is usually FAR superior to home brewed coffe (even from an expensive machine).

Instant coffee has no place if you actually like coffee.

There is good reason for the above…just look at the price tag on an industrial coffee machine! But for home use nespresso is the best tasting most practical and affordable coffee. IMHO

Totters says:
10 August 2012

I agree with your comments, which is why a very long time ago my wife bought me what turned out (retrospectively) to be the Which best buy and I use what I think is the best coffee, i.e. Illy. All you then have to do is to be rigorous in one’s production process.

I’m not too fussy when it comes to coffee, but I do think they can be a bit pricey from the chains. I am tempted by a coffee machine, but not sure I want to tie myself into buying capsules with a nesspresso or otherwise. I might have to take a look into the machines that take ground coffee.

Dan Shaerf says:
10 August 2012

beware ground coffee….It may be cheaper to buy ground coffee, however, there are speciofic downsides:
1) Its messy
2) You need to drink LOTS of coffee or it goes stale (even if kept in the freezer), capsules eg nespresso are freeze dried and therefore remain fresh for months.
3) Variety…with ground coffee you are stuck with one roast until you finish the pack…unless you drink HUGE amounts of coffee.
N.B. If you dont know good coffee…dont worry about the above (and stop paying around £3 per cup in coffee shops!

I’ve always viewed a shop bought milky coffee as a treat, not a staple, with the added plus that somebody else has to clean up all that mess. I buy maybe one a week at weekends to keep me going if I’m out and about but my company is good enough to offer decent filter coffee and a machine that freshly grinds a choice of beans. I suspect my coffee expenditure would be much higher if this wasn’t the case!

I have a gaggia at home and make espresso and mocha with shots of amoretti but i also like to use costa when meeting friends or out shopping.

I bought a dlonghi machine about 2months ago this makes much better coffee than my old
Caffitter or filter but it uses a huge amount of beans and will take a long time to be more
Economical than the coffee chains. I only drink about three cups a day but a bag of beans
Only lasts about a week. Costa and cafe nero can make better coffee but this depends on
Which branch you use. I have never had good coffee at Starbucks and I’ve tried lots of different ones.
My machine is great because I live out in the sticks and no chains are near and all in I would say
It’s probably cheaper

Forget the expensive coffee chains and look for local places – if you choose carefully you can get far superior cups of coffee for a lot less than the big chains. Morrisons cafes also do some good coffees.
At home we got fed up with machines breaking down and bought a cafetiere-much cheaper than a machine and not expensive to replace the “glass” if you break one.
My wife and I drink about 6 cups each per day, and we experimented until we found a ground coffee we liked.
Though they don’t last long in our house we do empty the bag into an airtight tin (in the fridge) which keeps it fresh for ages.
What does annoy though is the price of ground coffee.
2 years ago the wholsale price rocketed and the retail prices followed. HOWEVER in the last 6 months the wholesale price has nearly halved – but have the retail prices gone down – NO!!
This needs to be referred to the Competition Commision – I suggested this to Which ages ago but they seem to have ignored me.

Anne Frederiksen says:
11 August 2012

We have 2 coffee machines…one for capsules and one for ground coffee which are OK now and again and for convenience.But you can’t beat a Costa Coffee Flat White for the perfect taste and the staff are always friendly.

As Brits we don’t really like coffee. Why else have we taken to the US style coffee shops with their vast mugs of vaguely coffee-flavoured hot milk? Compare with the far superior coffee you get in any bar in France or Italy or Spain, in normal sized cups, for half the price or less.

I have a list of independent cafes, coffee shops, and tearooms who make coffee as good or better than the major chains, and most importantly, cheaper.

I actually prefer tea, but it’s an established fact that the only place you can get a decent cup of tea is at home.

I enjoy buying from coffee shops if I’m out shopping etc but I also enjoy home made coffee – made with ground coffee. It stores perfectly well in an airtight container or in the freezer for longer term.
I would never entertain buying a ‘capsule’ coffee maker. I think both the machine and the coffee are grossly overpriced and I’m not willing to be tied in to buying the coffee from a single source. I’m also very concerned about the environmental impact of all the capsules… What a terrible waste of resources!

Keith says:
16 August 2012

I bought a Which best buy coffee machine 6 months ago and, despite much practice, I can’t make a cappuccino to rival the ones made by the professionals in cafes. So my wife and I regularly have a coffee while out shopping. However, we find the chains over-priced, impersonal and sometimes even annoying. We’ve been lucky enough to find a small cafe run by a young couple who make delicious coffee served in normal sized cups, and who are genuinely interested in having a real conversation, rather than the standard ‘Do you want [insert over-stocked item] with that ?’ served up in the chains. It’s well worth searching these places out.

Alwyn Green says:
12 July 2013

The price of biscuits and cakes in the main coffee shops is outrageously high. They would probably get far more sales if they halved the price of eatables and this would still leave them with a reasonable profit. The mark up on tea & coffee is already quite high anyway.

I’m a tea drinker, but nobody makes a good strong brew of Yorkshire tea, other than me! So when I’m out, I usually have a cappuccino. I like Marks and Spencer and Morrisons coffees, but the small independent coffee shops are the best.
The worst tea I ever had was Starbucks – tasted awful and was full of big floating pieces of tealeaves.