A former barista spills the beans about reducing the cost of fine coffees!

Beat the High Cost of Coffee Shops

by Jeff Guthrie

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I'm sure some of you out there are like me and are totally and completely addicted to Starbucks! At one time, I was drinking two or more lattes a day. As most of you know, this habit can run you into the poor house (not the pour house) in record time. So, I decided to try alternative methods to feeding my addiction.

The Inexpensive Latte

When you visit Starbucks or any other coffeehouse serving fine coffees and specialty drinks you will usually spend $3 to $4 on a decent latte. If you look closely, you will see that the espresso used to make these drinks is anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per shot.

So, instead of ordering a latte, just ask for a shot or two of espresso and a cup of ice (I like my lattes iced). Take your shots and cup of ice over to the condiment stand (where the sugar and cream are) and pour your two shots into the cup of ice. Add an appropriate amount of milk or cream and sugar as needed and your $4 latte just cost you half the price.

The Red Eye and the Black Eye

To get the same impact as a latte, you can also order a regular cup of coffee (usually a $1.50 or so) and ask them to add a shot or two to the coffee. Generally, coffee shops only charge 50 cents or so for a shot added to a drink so you can get the wham of espresso in your regular coffee and add cream to the level you like.

One shot of espresso added to coffee is called a Red Eye and two shots added is called a Black Eye. For those of you with a serious addiction, three shots added to a drink is called a Dead Eye or a Bulls Eye.

The Free Latte (almost)

Finally, you can go even one step further and start making your lattes at home. Your basic espresso maker with a steamer attachment costs around $30. If you calculate the cost of a latte at $3, you only need sacrifice 10 lattes to buy your own espresso machine. Once you have that, all you need is the coffee and a container to steam milk in.

Now, a pound of Starbucks Espresso (the best bean, in my opinion) costs around $15. That hikes the cost of your latte up considerably even though you are making it at home. There are other brands of Espresso out there that cost anywhere from $6 to $25 and many of them will make a decent espresso.

However, I have found a little known Mexican coffee that makes espresso as good or better than the Starbucks brand. It is called Café Bustello. This coffee is found in most grocery stores in my area (North Carolina). The bonus to buying this coffee is that it is already ground and still retains the original flavor.

The final expense you have is a container to steam milk in. I have tried several types of containers but the best (the one that gives you that authentic taste) is the metal container. You can usually pick one up at Target, Wal-Mart or a cooking supply place for a couple of dollars. If you want to go the extra mile, go ahead and get a thermometer as well. I have always just used my finger on the outside of the container to test the temperature.

Now that you have all of the ingredients, spoon out your Café Bustello into the espresso maker, steam your milk to 180 degrees (no higher or it might taste scorched) and enjoy a coffee shop latte for almost nothing.

Take the Next Step

  • Calculate how much it would cost to make your favorite coffee at home. And, then calculate how much you'd save each year.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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