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Single-Serve Coffee: Better Brew For The Bucks?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Coffee is a big part of our lives. A recent poll found that more than half of us — 56 percent — drink it every day.

But for more and more of us, a big pot from the Mister Coffee machine just won’t cut it. Many are turning to the latest trend in the shops and at home.

At Dogwood Coffee in Uptown, it’s all about the single serve.

“Like a crafted cup of coffee, you know, as opposed to something that’s been sitting in an urn for six hours,” said Rachel Nelson.

Nelson is a professional coffee barista and said it’s a growing trend in coffee shops.

“Seems to join into a larger movement of people paying a little more attention to their food and like the slow food movement,” she said.

Here every cup is measured and made individually — drop by drop.

But it’s a real contrast to the growing trend in single-serve coffee brewing at home.

“So it’s how can I get what I want as easy as possible, minimize cleanup,” said Lauren Lenzen.

Lenzen works at the store Kitchen Window and has seen great changes in the coffee brewing industry over the years.

“From the rise in home grinders to grind and brew systems,” she said. “Just people being more interested in coffee.”

The popularity and interest of specialty coffee has people wanting to make it at home. And with a down economy, making it at home saves money.

“People justify it by saying you know, $5 a day at Starbucks, a year of that is $1,000,” she said.

She compares the single-brew coffee makers to espresso machines that have been around for a long time.

“It’s no different than the Keurig systems. They give you a fillable cup that you can put your own coffee in,” Lenzen said. “Not really that different from your porta filter on your espresso machine.”

These machines start at about $150 and go up from there. But then there’s the price of those coffee “pods,” if you use those systems.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Brewing any off-the-shelf coffee costs about 5 to 7 cents a cup.

The pods are about 10 times that — about 70 cents per cup.

Then again, a single brewed cup at a shop — that’s $3.

“I’d say we use the single-cup brewer way more than we use the Mister Coffee brewer,” said David Brauer.

Brauer said he justifies the higher cost because he ends up throwing out about half a pot. But Missy Morken insists on a single brew without a pod.

“It brings out more of the flavor notes in the coffee, gives you a better idea of what the coffee actually is meant to taste like,” she said.

Whatever the brewing preference, today more than ever, it seems there are plenty of options no matter who the coffee drinker.

“There seems to be two kinds of coffee customers — people who just want it for the caffeine and people who are interested in the craft of brewing it and the nuance of tasting it,” Nelson said.

The single serve pods now account for 8 percent of coffee sales, but that’s expected to double in the next few years.

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