A Guide to the Most Affordable Cup of Coffee on Campus

If midterms had you buying all the coffee you could from Peter B’s and the Underground just to keep yourself going, you might be looking for a way to save your money when finals come around (and they’ll be here before you know it). Not long ago, I found myself in a similar position. I mapped out all the options for the best way to save money and still get my caffeine fix. I’m sharing it with you so that you can focus on doing well on finals and rest easy that you’re not blowing half your bank account on coffee!


While there are tons of methods for brewing coffee, there are only about four that are realistic for a dorm room setting: Keurig, French Press, and Pour Over.



A Keurig is by far the easiest, fastest, and least messy of your brewing options. It takes under five minutes to have a cup of joe ready: from choosing your mug to drinking your coffee. All you need to do is keep the Keurig filled with water and pop in a K-Cup when you want your coffee. The downsides? The Keurig machine itself is not cheap. It ranges from $99.99 to $179.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond. The K-Cups aren’t cheap either- they’ll go for at least $11 for 18 cups. If you mapped out how much you’re spending per cup if you had 18 cups of coffee and assuming you bought the cheapest Keurig and the cheapest coffee, you’d be paying a little over $6 for a cup of coffee. But if you’re using your Keurig frequently (say at least 50 times), the price per cup would drop down significantly to about $1.75 a cup. In addition, K-cups are not biodegradable, so they go straight to the landfill.


The bottom line: If you don’t have time to clean up after every cup you make and the environmental impact of your coffee isn’t important, this might be the best option for you. If you’re going to drink a lot of coffee and getting the best quality cup possible isn’t your priority, you may want to invest in a Keurig.


French Press:

The French press is arguably the most affordable option for college students. It also makes a great cup of coffee if made correctly. The press itself goes for $9.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond. You don’t need filters for a French press, which is super convenient. All you need is the press and a bag of COURSELY GROUND coffee. Getting the right grind of coffee is super important! You absolutely cannot take a shortcut and use any ground coffee beans. A tin of whole bean coffee at Trader Joe’s begins at $6.99 and they have a complementary bean grinder that will grind your beans to the appropriate level for a French press. Even if you only use one tin of Trader Joe’s coffee and taking the cost of the press into account, you’re already spending significantly less per cup than the cost per cup from the Keurig after 50 uses. The downsides of the French press? It takes about 5 minutes to brew the coffee alone. You also have to boil the water to put into the press beforehand, which takes another 5 minutes. You will also have to clean the press after every use. In addition, you have to properly measure the coffee to water ratio and time the seeping correctly.


The bottom line: If you have the time and patience to make a proper cup of coffee and are looking for an affordable option, the French press is a great investment to make.


Pour Over:

Note: there are many pour over options such as the Chemex, but I will be focusing on the pour over cone for affordability’s sake.

A pour over cone is another affordable alternative to the Keurig. The cone itself goes for as little as $3.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond. A pour over cone requires the use of coffee filters, which must be properly matched to the cone. So the cheapest cone from Bed Bath and Beyond requires Melitta #2 coffee filters, which go for $2.39 for a pack of 40. You will also have to match the grind of coffee to the filter, which varies per filter. In this instance, you’d need finely ground coffee beans. A cup from a pour over cone is slightly cheaper than one from a French press. In addition, the coffee grounds are contained in a paper filter- making clean up much faster and easier. The downsides? You will have to boil water prior to making the cup. You will also have to be conscious of your coffee to water ratio to make a quality cup. You also run the risk of your coffee having a slight paper taste if you haven’t made it correctly. 


The bottom line: If you have some time to make a cup of coffee but not all the time in the world, desire minimal clean up, and want an affordable option, the pour over cone is the way to go.