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Your money: Getting the biggest caffeine buzz for your buck

Food Prices Expected To Rise Significantly In 2014

(Reuters) - Not all coffee is created - or brewed - equally.

Caffeine levels in coffee can vary sharply, which means it matters where you go if you are looking for a pick-me-up.

And that matters to a lot of people. More than 80 percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as coffee drinkers, according to the National Coffee Association.

Go for the cheap stuff and you are likely not to get much buzz for your buck. You will get more caffeine for the price at most high-end coffee establishments, and you can replicate what they are doing at home on the cheap.

It is difficult to say exactly how much caffeine there is in any particular cup of coffee unless you send it off to a lab.

But for people wanting to weigh cost against impact when it comes to their morning coffee - or afternoon fix or after-dinner beverage - there is some data to go by.

WHAT YOU GET

For a medium cup of coffee, which ranges from 12 to 16.8 fluid ounces (33.5 to 50 cl) at various coffee shop chains, you are going to get the most caffeine from Starbucks - 330 milligrams of caffeine for its standard Pike Place roast, according to data from the companies and information compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But it will also cost you the most on average at about $2.

A $1.80 brew from Dunkin' Donuts has 178 milligrams of caffeine. At McDonald's, the typical $1 cup of joe packs 133 milligrams while Panera Bread Co's coffee costs about $2 and has 189 milligrams.

The convenience store chain Cumberland Farms offers a 99-cent coffee that has 220 milligrams of caffeine. The chain also offers a free caffeine booster with another 40 milligrams along with other condiments.

If you make your coffee at home, you have control over the caffeine content as well as the price. Depending on the amount of coffee used and the brand, a 12-ounce cup brewed at home could run you as little as about a dime and deliver 150 milligrams or more of caffeine. Expect to pay at least twice that for a premium brand's bean.

Keurig Green Mountain Inc, which makes single-serve brewing systems, says caffeine content in a single K-cup can range from 75 to 150 milligrams for an eight-ounce cup of coffee. While K-cup prices vary significantly by brand and size of package, a price of about 50 cents per serving is representative of what is available in U.S. grocery stores.

While instant coffee is hardly on anyone's best taste list, it is cheap - also in the neighborhood of a dime a cup - and can pack some serious caffeine, with 148 milligrams in a serving of Folgers Instant, a product of the J M Smucker Co, for example.

VALUE PROPOSITION

Coffee beans themselves - even those from the same plant - can have a range of caffeine content, says Emma Bladyka, coffee science manager for the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

You can get a cheap bean (robusta) that packs a lot of caffeine, but it is not likely to taste that good. For a better bean, such as arabica, caffeine content is influenced by how you brew it. Coffee experts say the caffeine count between different types of roasts is minimal. And, contrary to popular belief, a darker roast coffee does not always have more caffeine.

"Weak coffee - brewed with too little coffee per amount of water - will have a lower level of caffeine, and a properly brewed cup of coffee will be higher," says Bladyka.

Most upscale coffee houses use a coffee-to-water ratio that tends to deliver both a rich taste and, by having more coffee in the mix, plenty of caffeine.

For anyone who wants to follow the caffeinated lead of Starbucks, spokeswoman Linda Mills says the key in delivering consistency and a high level of caffeine is a formula outlined by the Specialty Coffee Association of America - two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of filtered water.

MORE THAN JUST CAFFEINE

Consumer psychologist Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a marketing professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, says drinking coffee for many is less about caffeine content and more about ritual.

"It is an escape. It is a luxury. It is a break, even if we are drinking it while working at our desk," she says. "Sure, we are addicted to that caffeine buzz as well. But even for the most serious of caffeine addicts, coffee preferences are more about taste, ambiance and ritual than the caffeine bang for one's buck."

Suburban Chicago marketing company owner Mary Kay Russell, 55, says she brews her own coffee to keep down costs, but still goes to Starbucks - where she once worked - for a regular indulgence.

Her tip for those who drink iced coffee and want to save: order a large black coffee with no ice and bring it home and put it in the refrigerator. You'll end up way more coffee than you would have gotten had you gotten the iced version with milk at the shop.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and G Crosse)

Join the discussion

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rlcarne March 28 2014 at 7:02 PM

for a good strong coffee but not bitter try KICKING HORSE 454 Horse Power whole bean

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therealkatsmell March 28 2014 at 10:39 PM

kopi luwak the best in the world.

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1 reply
whdlsn therealkatsmell March 28 2014 at 11:21 PM

guess you're not monkeying around, LOL

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wrench701 March 28 2014 at 12:10 PM

White Castle coffee is good enough. Besides, it won't be "sticking with you" that long anyway.

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mercinyc March 28 2014 at 11:47 AM

I find Starbucks to be the least acidic coffee, therefore mildest on the stomach. A simple "tall, nonfat cappuccino" works for me. Only 60 calories of warm heaven. I cannot justify drinking an 800 calorie coffee drink when there's Nutella to save my calories for!

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fastkata7d March 28 2014 at 11:33 AM

I make my coffee at home,Folgers........seven cents a pot.

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Foxisenior March 28 2014 at 11:28 AM

When it comes to coffee drinking, I usually buy Starbucks and brew it at home because I just cant see spending $2.00 or more for a cup of coffee. But if I had to say which coffee I think is the greatest, it wouldn't be Starbucks..too much bitter residue, but it would be Hawaiian Kona coffee YUMMMMM you can't beat it !

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bloocean March 28 2014 at 11:16 AM

just forgot to add that i really like mc donalds coffee as well always freshly brewed and tastes great!!

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rockagabraltor March 28 2014 at 11:01 AM

Who would buy a take out coffee to put into the frig. Brewed coffee loses taste as it ages because the oils break down.

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2 replies
dlkh223 rockagabraltor March 28 2014 at 11:18 AM

Well, the cheapsters would. Yes, coffee looses taste and quality as it sits. It is worse with hot then with cold coffee. I brew a big pot of strong coffee in am and turn it of right away. It rarely ever reaches the ugly grayish brown stage of old nasty when I reheat it throughout the day. The suggestion to take a cup home would have to be a planned purchase, definitely not when you're out craving an iced coffee..

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mercinyc rockagabraltor March 28 2014 at 11:43 AM

They are not recommending doing that as a gourmet's way of enjoying coffee, but for people who try to/need to do it on a tight budget, I guess.

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sapphireup17 March 28 2014 at 10:52 AM

i do not go to starbucks and i do not like to drink out of a foam cup so i brew my coffee at home and enjoy....

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1 reply
mercinyc sapphireup17 March 28 2014 at 11:44 AM

They don't use foam cups.

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sapphireup17 March 28 2014 at 10:50 AM

i see alot of remarks about starbucks mostly negative if they are this bad why does everyone go there and why are there so many all over the place?

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2 replies
freeetob sapphireup17 March 28 2014 at 11:13 AM

Why, indeed??? STATUS!!! Year after year Consumer Reports' blind taste tests have put el cheapo Folger's at the top of the preferred list.

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dlkh223 sapphireup17 March 28 2014 at 11:24 AM

I've had it only a few times. Way too overpriced. It was good, but so is our local WAWA gas station coffee at a quarter of the price, and they encourage bringing your own mug getting refills. Star bugs is just about the extra fixings, like the whipped cream decor etc.

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