Pamela is a freelance food and travel writer based in Astoria, Queens. While she writes about most things edible and potable (and accessories dedicated to those topics,) her real areas of expertise are cheese, chocolate, cooking and wine. She's a culinary school grad, certified sommelier, former bartender and fine dining captain with 10 years in the industry. When not sitting at the keys, she leads in-home cheese classes, wine tastings and cocktail demonstrations.
When it comes to your daily coffee habit, you probably already know it's cheaper to make coffee at home; it's simple buying-in-bulk-versus-single-item economics, with a sprinkle of consumer versus DIY culture in the mix. But if you've ever wondered just how much you can save by making your own coffee compared with buying it from a coffee shop such as Starbucks, I've done the math.
Coffee from a coffee shop can be satisfying. Whether it's the smell that greets you without having to wait for coffee to brew, the comforting bustle of coffee shop culture or just knowing for sure that your half-and-half won't be past its expiration date. But desperate financial times may call for desperate financial measures, even for something as sacred as the daily brew. How much money can you actually save by making coffee at home? I didn't especially want to do this math -- truth hurts, remember? But for the greater good, I've crunched the numbers.
Given that Starbucks is the most ubiquitous coffee shop in the land, where an awful lot of us get our coffee, the price comparison here is based on cheap, middle-range and expensive Starbucks orders, with their equivalent ingredients calculated for the DIY versions. The verdict? Depending on your coffee order, you'll save as much as $736 by making your coffee at home every day. Below is a full breakdown of the potential savings lingering in your pantry.
Starbucks coffee versus making it at home
Potential yearly savings
Tall (12 oz) drip coffee (1 per day)
Tall (12 oz) drip coffee (2 per day)
Grande (16 oz) Caffe Latte
Venti (20 oz) Caramel Macchiato
*Figures include the price of equipment
How I did the math
I examined Starbucks menu prices for items that represented low, medium, and high prices for coffee beverages. At $1.85, a tall drip coffee is the least amount of financial damage you can take for a brew at Starbucks. Moving up a size and up a price tier, a grande Caffe Latte at $3.65 is about the median price across the board for Starbucks drinks. Any additional bells and whistles at the grande tier will cost you 50 to 80 cents more. Moving up to the highest-priced items, I chose a venti Caramel Macchiato as it's one of Starbucks longest-standing menu items, but also one whose ingredients aren't difficult to come by, and that you could theoretically make at home -- even with the requisite caramel drizzle. At $4.75 for a venti Caramel Macchiato, the only Starbucks coffee beverages that are more expensive are Venti versions of seasonally available items. (Looking at you, pumpkin spice latte.)
I've included a price-per-day total for each of the items, as well as a yearly cost, presuming your daily coffee habit aligns with an average work week: five days a week for 50 weeks. (If your daily schedule includes more than one trip to Starbucks, then you can keep multiplying accordingly.) In the below chart, I accounted for both one-cup and two-cup coffee drinkers. Oh, and if you factor in a regular tip to your barista or money spent on gas to get to the coffee shop, these savings become even greater.
Most folks are set up with a standard coffee maker, but if you're planning to make coffee espresso-based drinks at home, there will be some upfront costs for equipment so I've factored and prorated the cost of average-priced hardware into the totals for those two drinks. If you're starting from scratch, CNET has tested to find the best coffee makers and espresso machines in 2022.
Cost of Starbucks drip coffee vs. making it at home
For just $1.85, a simple tall (Starbucks lingo for small) drip coffee may feel like it only costs you pocket change, but you can save over $300 per year by making yourself a 12-ounce serving of coffee at home, even using Starbucks' proprietary Pike Place Roast beans. At $10 per 12-ounce bag at Target, using data from various coffee blogs about how much ground coffee is required to brew a 12-ounce (tall) serving, you should get roughly 16 12-ounce drinks for every bag of coffee.
That brings the daily cost to 62 cents per serving. (Even a basic, single-serve coffee maker such as a Keurig and a year's worth of corresponding coffee cups will land you in the dollar-a-day range, including the cost of the machine.) For your $307 or $615 (two-cup drinkers) in savings over the course of the year, you could score yourself one of the top-rated models from our list of best coffee makers or a subscription to one of our favorite coffee clubs.
Cost of Starbucks grande latte vs. making it at home
A classic latte is still a no frills coffee option but requires more effort, and more specialized equipment, if you're going to make one at home. At $3.65 per drink at Starbucks, should you? With nearly $600 in savings over the course of the year possible by doing it yourself, arguably, you should. Starbucks' grande Caffe Latte consists of a double shot plus about 12 ounces of milk. While that amounts to only about 14 ounces of fluid in a 16-ounce cup, the slight foam that comes along with the steamed milk makes up some of the volume in the cup.
I calculated the DIY cost of a similar beverage using Starbucks Whole Bean Espresso Roast. (It's $10 for a 12-ounce bag at Target.) I consulted several coffee blogs to get a median number of 15 grams of ground espresso beans needed for a double shot of espresso, so a 12-ounce bag of Starbucks Espresso Roast would yield about 22 double shots, requiring about 11.5 total bags of coffee per year. 23.5 gallons of 2% milk are needed for a year's worth of pint-size lattes, and I sourced the average price of milk from data collected by the USDA.
Once you're making. it at home, your classic latte goes from $3.65 to about $1.35 a day, keeping $575.68 in your bank account at the end of the year. Again, this includes the cost of a basic espresso machine, so this figure drops by almost 50 cents per drink after the first year of use. It's cheaper than even a basic cup of coffee.
Cost of Starbucks Caramel Macchiato vs. making it at home
First things first, I am required by law to mention that a Starbucks macchiato bears no resemblance to an actual Italian macchiato, which consists only of espresso and foam. Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is basically a huge, sweetened latte, but I won't fault the company on the vocab since it's one of my long-time favorites. It also happens to be one of Starbucks' most expensive beverages -- $4.75 for a venti. That means serious savings if you're willing to do it at home: Over $700 for the year.
I used the same metrics for the coffee beans and milk above, scaling accordingly for a triple shot and 16 ounces of milk needed. (The additional shot of espresso and flavored syrup takes up an additional 2 ounces in the cup, plus there's still the element of foam.) I also factored in the same basic espresso machine.
According to the Starbucks website, a Venti Caramel Macchiato includes four pumps of syrup, and according to coffee retailer The Coffee Brewers, each pump is about 1/4 of an ounce, meaning you'll need 10 bottles of vanilla syrup at $11.25 each over the course of the year. Then there's the caramel drizzle. While "drizzle" isn't an easily defined measurement, I conservatively estimated about 1/4 of an ounce for that garnish as well. At $9.22 apiece, it would take four bottles of Ghirardelli caramel sauce to style your DIY macchiatos for the year. That brings the cost of your $4.75 beverage down to $1.81, and saves you $736.25 for the year, probably enough for a plane ticket to Italy.
If you're ready to kick your home barista career into gear, Starbucks has most of its recipes posted online. And we've tested to find the best coffee makers in every style (see below) to get the most out of your morning Joe.