Summer is coming to an end, and if you’re a regular coffee drinker, you may be noticing one regular purchase that is really starting to dig into your pocketbook. Iced coffee is more expensive than ever, which is leading many consumers to wonder who is to blame for the recent uptick in pricing. The truth is, there are a variety of factors contributing to the situation, several of which may be surprising to the average person wondering why their favorite afternoon pick-me-up has gone from $3 to $4.50 in the past few years.
More Coffee + More Time = More Money
Ask any avid coffee drinker and you’ll be sure to find out: there is a right way to make iced coffee, and a wrong way. It’s no secret that independent coffee shops and smaller chains often have the best iced coffee, and in most cases, it’s because they use the cold brewing process. This technique requires brewers to mix water and pulverized beans. However, the process requires nearly twice the amount of beans as regular hot coffee brewing. While cold brewing is more labor and cost intensive, it ultimately yields a superior product. Large chains, like Starbucks, typically make iced coffee by cooling their original hot brew. While cheaper and easier, this method produces a drink that will probably leave you wishing you spent the extra buck or two on a cold-brew creation.
Paper or plastic?
When considering the costs of their favorite food and drink, many consumers fail to include one very important factor: packaging. While hot coffee is customarily served in paper cups, iced coffee is almost always handed to us in a clear plastic cup with a plastic straw. Ask any coffee shop owner and you’ll probably hear a similar tale of woe on how the summer season brings a tremendous rise in packaging costs. Clear plastic cups typically cost twice as much as their paper counterparts. Add in straws and the increase in napkins to deal with extra condensation from cold beverages, and shop owners are faced with a sizeable bite into their monthly profit margin. Next time you’re wondering why a small iced coffee costs two dollars more than a small daily brew, the answer may be as simple as the cup you get it in.
The Price of Ice
Of all the factors leading to our unfortunately overpriced iced coffee, the easiest to overlook is in the name of the drink itself. Contrary to what you may have thought, ice is not free. In fact, it’s far from it. In the peak of summer, coffee shop owners can go through over ten gallons of ice in a day. Many independent shops will rent an ice machine for the summer months, but that can cost around $12 a day. Even coffee houses with their own machine have to deal with an increase in electric bills. For many, summer time leads to daily iced coffee purchases. With the average 16oz drink now going for anywhere from $3 to $4.50, the costs of this regular habit are sure to add up. Unfortunately, it looks like this trend is here to stay. The combined costs of plastic cups, ice, and cold-brewing won’t be changing, and are only going to be made worse by recent spikes in bean prices. However, the more economical coffee consumer can save money by taking a more DIY approach. Cold brewing is simple enough to do at home, and even cooling a pot of hot coffee will work well enough if you start with a quality roast. Of course, your favorite neighborhood coffee house will always be there when you need it.
- 1 Cup of Good Quality Ground Coffee
- 3 Cups of Water
- French Press
For the full recipe click here