Prepping: How We Beat “The Coffee Racket”

Why the very thought of Starbuck’s former CEO Howard Schultz running – as an independent (sick of both parties) – speaks volumes about here in the “Land of Losing It.”

We’ll skip the politics. part.  What concerns me is that as of 2018, Schultz had a net worth of $3-billion 300-million bucks.  Sprinkle of gold on that?

Schultz made his pile, in part I think, because one of the key social indicators of a pending collapse is the rise of “coffeehouse society.”

Tucked away in the Wikipedia entry on “Coffeehouses” what we find is a hint why more people aren’t as alarmed as we are about the recent rise in beaning-up…

“The espresso bar is a type of coffeehouse that specializes in coffee drinks made from espresso. Originating in Italy, the espresso bar has spread throughout the world in various forms. Prime examples that are internationally known are Starbucks Coffee, based in Seattle, Washington, U.S., and Costa Coffee, based in Dunstable, UK, (the first and second largest coffeehouse chains respectively), although the espresso bar exists in some form throughout much of the world. “

Did you catch it?  Name change!  So, we can now head into Google territory and start looking up data.  I use raw search results because they are very useful when dimensioning an historical concept.

Search Term                    Count

  • 1920 espresso bar         6.54-million
  • 1920 coffeehouse          2.16-million
  • 1920 coffee shop           51.2-million

Now lets look at data sets for 10-years after (no musical pun intended…or was there…)

  • 1930 espresso bar          3.41-million
  • 1930 coffeehouse          0.993-million
  • 1930 coffee shop            37.6 million

Essentially, what the search results infer about history is that we shouldn’t be too surprised to see coffee dispensaries getting whacked when times get tough.

Here, I’ll concede that Schultz “in-and-out” was extraordinarily well-timed!

We notice that coffee shop hits didn’t dissolve away as quickly.  The reason?  They offered a lot more than a cup of joe.  When the Depression hit, people were looking for value.  When you don’t have much money to spend, you look for the maximum mileage from each penny.

We can do a parallel-concept search, too.  Take a concept like lunch counters, for example.

  • lunch counter 1920          6.96 million
  • lunch counter 1930          6.77-million

Which to us is rather remarkable – and useful in foretelling the future.  Because, once again, it hints that on our current rhyming of history, we might well see a transition in coming times.  In it, we’d expect the food angle to coffeehouses to become much more important and just an over-priced cuppa…

Interestingly, the same approach to history (working the data sets) reveals other interesting insights into how people modify their behavior when times are hard.  Here’s a data set that offers, at least the notion, that people are looking for comfort food more in a Depression that in the pre-bubble times:

  • 1920 soda fountain        1.64-million
  • 1930 soda fountain         3.8-million

And one more for the class:

  • 1920 ice cream               38.5-million
  • 1930 ice cream                26.1-million

Does this mean that a new dessert fad (think Twinkies!) will arrive?  Or, is it an indication that people took their guilty pleasures of the table away from home.  Perhaps not to appear uppity or spendthrift?  We’d a time machine, but data like this exploration offers, gives us a new angle to history.

That’s the “Racket” – Now Hot to Beat It

Star with this 2015 article on Fox offering 9 hacks to save money at Starbucks.  Good advice.


A couple of years ago, I started brewing my own coffee and putting it into a larger thermos.

Thing is, I have what to me is an ideal balance now.

I start with a $15 Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator.  In it, I place a scoop and a half of Folgers or Maxwell House (whatever I feel like) because unless you have a real taste for over-roasted and bitter, coffee is coffee is coffee.

When the “8 cups” (and part of the racket is that a “cup” of coffee is anything from a small demitasse to 6-ounces) is done, I pour myself a 10-ounce mug (an I the only one who hates small mugs?) and the rest goes into my $36.50 Thermos Work Series 40 Ounce Beverage Bottle, Gunmetal Gray.  (Hmmm…didn’t put the top on straight, lol…)

If there is any left in the pot – and there’s usually a bit because I overfill the pot a bit – that’s the second half-cup.  Since the “strong stuff” will keep dripping down, this higher-octane is watered down with super-filtered water and then reheated in the microwave for 40-second.


Now the key part:  I only make coffee every other day.

The second morning, the coffee is still warmish (but certainly not “hot” by any stretch.  But that’s perfect to slug down the morning’s pill stack (supplements).  After the stack wash-down, the cup it topped off and 50-seconds in the ‘wave is enough to get it lawsuit-scalding hot.

This crazy system of mine does several things.

  • Since I know too much caffeine will trigger PVC’s (think heart palps) I don’t drink more than 1.5 cups per day.
  • The coffee perc’s while I work, so I spend maybe 3-minutes total time in the brewing and pouring.
  • I go through a 3-honest pound container of coffee about every 45-60 days.  So what’s that?  $10-bucks a month in raw material costs, no gas, no lines, no hanging around hoards of people (some of whom will have3 colds and flu this time of year…).
  • I figure a service life of 2-years on the Thermos and coffee pot which together totaled about $50-bucks…so $25 a year in “manufacturing equipment.”
  • All in, then, we have $25 for equipment and $120 in coffee so less than $150 per year.

Now let’s see how that stacks up with people who go to a bean dispensary:

Figure (with tip) 3-bucks a cup.  Two cups a day makes it $6.00

And done 365-days a year?  My friend, that’s a  $2,190 a year habit!

I don’t know about you, but around here we keep a few months ahead on the canned coffee.  With all the trees around here and the rocket stoves I won’t be missing my coffee – and the brew-every-other-day works just fine.

$150 a year or $2,190 (not counting muffins, lol) seems like a pretty simple choice to make.

We live in a world where everything – sex, weather, politics, coffee – is monetized.  Consider allowing yourself to be pleasantly surprised by how much more cost-effective some of the old ways are…

Elaine, as always, have an even cheaper way:  “I just don’t drink coffee…” 

“Who’s going to monetize THAT, dear?”


Write when you wake up,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

27 thoughts on “Prepping: How We Beat “The Coffee Racket””

  1. George, enjoyed the write up on coffee as I am on my second cup (10 oz), with a fresh banana, as I sit on the front porch watching the birds and listening to the river. Life is good here in Costa Rica living on Social In-Secruity. Next project is Solar backup to keep the fridge running when the power takes a vacation. Cheers!

    • Today’s Peoplenomics should be a goldmine for your planning – download the spreadsheet and put in your projected loads…

  2. Until we moved — and many nice things went Black Hole during — I had a nifty little 4-inch square (or so) mildly heated platform to keep the java toasty without being lava. Musta been about a 5 or 10 watt resistor heater in the base. I usually put my cup-o-brew in the same spot on the desk anyway, so effectively the little bottom heater didn’t waste any valuable work position real estate. The active lifetime of the cuppa joe was thus extended to several hours before it became untasteful.

    I like Big Mugs o’ covfefe….

    Gotta find another one o’ them things….

  3. My system is even simpler. I live alone and cannot use regular coffee. I very briefly considered getting one of those “one cup wonder” coffee makers that uses pods and decided it was absolutely silly high priced gizmo. Instead, I buy a jar of my favorite instant and a jar of my favorite instant decaf and mix the two. I make hot water (also used for tea) in my 24 year old Mr. Coffee maker. Combine coffee, hot water, almond milk and stevia. Voila! I have a beverage I enjoy for mere cents and don’t have to go somewhere to get it.

    Haven’t yet found a good decaf in local convenience stores or fast food places. And most of them offer that horrid “coffee whitener” stuff and Splenda to mix in. NOT!

    • Okie….you have to try the nu-wave brew hub…

      The double bunn I had was old..a great pot I personally had it 25 years and I maintained it at work about 20 years prior..hands down it was like a family member..
      But.. I picked up the brew hub because I had enough Amazon points and figured he’ll why not it had a good warranty and a cheap maker would be shot in a month..
      Got You would think you were at the local coffee house..great coffee and fast.. I brew a pot in about the same time limit I did with the bunn..

    • I hope Maxwell House was truly ‘good to the last drop’ for Tom. (may rock eternally on in rock-n-roll heaven).

  4. Costco’s Kirkland brand (3lb can or 2.5lb zip lock bag) is my personal java choice. Sam’s Club Member’s Mark brand is also affordable and tasty.

    RE: Coffee and heart palps – for many, these are caused by overstimulation of the vagus nerve. Caffeine certainly does this, as does nicotine. This Harvard Health article gives a few non-drug alternatives for stopping palps.

    The one that works for me almost all of the time? The Valsalva maneuver, which involves pinching both nostrils together with the mouth closed and trying for forcefully breath out of the nose. Once each ear pops, the palps should cease as well. Slow, deep breathing afterwards helps keep the palps at bay. Turns out doing this affects the Vagus nerve, as does immersing one’s face in cold water. Magic! Beats ablation.

    • Amen WH… I read a story about Cosco and their coffee.. Some of the best and cheap.. Sam’s club its good to but a medium roast. I personally like a little darker roast. But you get one pound more for the same money.
      For special occasions I roast my own..second crack is my favorite..( you can tell the depth of the roast by listening to it crack)

  5. Silly George thinking that all we have to do is elect another billionaire to replace the orange clown,we can call them “deplorable too’s”.//

  6. We also make a pot and fill a stainless steel thermos, but daily. Also – if high winds / ice storms, etc. etc threaten a power outage overnight, we’ll make a pot that night before and have it in the thermos the next morning – with or without electricity. (Nice to have a cup before I set up the generator . . . :-)

  7. I like big mugs and I can not lie
    You other drinkers can’t deny
    That when a girl has a massive tumbler
    I just start to mumbler.

    Look in that cup she’s carrying
    I’m hooked and I can’t stop stare e ing.
    Oh baby, I want to get wit’cha
    And take your coffe pitcher.

    Baby’s got mugs…

    With apologies to Sir Mix-a-lot

  8. Say George, if you would like to drink more coffee daily but don’t want extra caffeine, try “Folger’s Half-Caf”. Tastes the same are regular Folger’s but with 1/2 the caffeine hence the name. We recycle left-over coffee day to day too! I can’t tell the difference between fresh and day-old.

  9. If.. You converted the 37.6 million from 1930 to today’s dollar value your looking at an earning about 600 million give or take.

    Some guys and gals head out for a cold adult beverage some tea.. There are so.. When I was little the ladies would have coffee parties play cards. Us kids all had to join in would be a serious catastrophe if I ran out

  10. “Since I know too much caffeine will trigger PVC’s (think heart palps) I don’t drink more than 1.5 cups per day.”

    OMG….we measure by pots…
    We burn through a three pound can of coffee a week…lol..
    And it doesn’t matter if its decaf or regular. Years ago before I seen the importance in having a food stock. The company I worked for shut down for the winter.before they closed shop I didn’t have a car ours threw a valve stem through the block of the engine. I would get up at one am leave the house. Stuff newspapers in between two pair of pants and would start the 12.5 mile hike to work. No gloves or hat no snow boots.. Froze my toes and fingers..( today thankful to some aquaintences in ant arctica doing environmental tests I have snow boots that they sent me that keep my feet toasty warm and they have steel toes lol)
    Anyway I could go on.. It was my worst and best year ever..
    But there wasn’t food stamps or any good Samaritan programs around and to feed us I would scrape grain up off of the ground. Some of which I would roast and grind..I would then mix that with the coffee grounds the restaurant would dispose of.yes they saved them for me I would dry it mix it wasn’t coffee exactly but I survived. Today I keep 25 three pound cans on the shelf 6 months worth..just so I don’t have to pound grain in an iron pan again.

  11. er.. how many of you know that caffeine is heat sensitive/…
    So I like light roast, and find that $9.99 at a discount store buys 2-1/2 lbs I can grind there.
    In 3 liters (3/4gal.) of Crystal Geyser spring water I put 16 heaping spoons of this coffee,
    let it sit overnight, and next morning and several times thereafter, in my favorite large camping cup goes some raw cane sugar, as much 1/2&1/2 as I want, and that cold brew coffee. Delicious, just what i want. And no having to go to a shop and stand in line & wait and pay up and put up with all the other stresses i don’t like.
    Try the cold brew method, full caffeine content, not burned out of it. And made with your choice of beans. That 1 gal. water bottle of coffee keeps quite well for several days if cool, it get drunk up fast.
    If you want hot you can always warm it up.
    This goes in the category of routines we just go along with because everybody does it that way.
    Not I !
    Question everything!

  12. Chock Full O’ Nuts, here. It is to NYC what Starbucks is to Seattle, except Massimo Zanetti never took the sidewalk carts and hotel counters national. It was my parents’ preferred brew, and is a really good coffee (daughter says next to DD, is the best there is…) Massimo sends me an E-Mail coupon a couple times a year. When they do, I buy case-lots from them, free-shipped, at between ~$2.50 and $3.50 per (10.3oz) “pound.”

    ‘Picked up an odd lot of “office” salvage for fifteen bucks in Ft. Wayne, Indiana a few years back (I got some electronic equipment, bid on this stuff as a lark.) Among the computers and adding machines was a VPR-Series Bunn-O-Matic, which is now my coffeemaker (3min brew for 12 cups, $7/1000 for filters.) I made the ~$17 (after sales tax) and my gas back on the dry-erase boards, alone.

    I don’t run the burner (heat-pads burn coffee) — drink several cups via microwave throughout the day and bottle the rest once the pot reaches room temperature. When guests drop by, 3mins for a new fresh pot makes me appear like I’m a good and thoughtful host… ;-)

  13. Waking up after a my first rough night in Paris changed my coffee mode forever. 4 double cafés later, I was reluctant to leave the restaurant to check on family. I brought them back there for breakfast, and more café.

    Today, at home, it is about 1/2 cup of Yuban Gold and my Bunn, with that little copper riser plate to keep the coffee hot without cooking it. One whole pot, of you-can’t-see-through-it naturally sweet, non-bitter goodness, just for me. Used to be 2 pots a day, but I have aged down to one now.

    McDonald’s brand as backup, Dunkin’ for third choice…other random 100% Arabica sometimes have the sweet body and aroma of what I prefer. The taster for the makers of Yuban Gold has some special taste buds. Used to be just Yuban itself had the flavor, now only the Gold version.

    No more Starbucks, voting with my pocketbook against their political bs, I prefer to drink burnt, bitter, greasy spoon mystery coffee instead of Starbucks. I have ‘tudes…

    Heart arrhythmia is a long story for honey, but keeping up his magnesium supplementation and making sure of his hydration has kept him more stable than not…any flareups and he takes more magnesium and more H2O. We also try to maintain intake of potassium and sodium within reason.

    Cheers. One can never stock pile too much coffee, alcohol, chocolate, bullets, salt and TP for those awkward and uncomfortable moments/times in life.

  14. Any cup less than 24 oz is too small for any drink, including coffee. Just too much time reloading it.

    My home recipe for my 30 oz cup is 2.5 spoons of instant coffee(any brand), three spoons of instant creamer(Walmart), and two spoons of powdered cocoa(again Walmart). Just add boiling water and leave the spoon in long enough to cool it to drinking temp. It provides the caffeine infusion necessary to get started in the morning, and to remain warm and functional during these cold days. I’ve never had any noticable palpitations or negative effects from too much, other than too many trips to the bathroom. It’s about as cheap as possible, and by using only the dried stuff, I don’t have to worry about sour milk, cream, or whatever.

    When out and about, I get a 24 oz cup from a gas station, fill it with their high caffeine/low bitters variety(Jolt or equivalent), add 10 creamer things and two sweet-N-lows and call it good. I always keep the cup and use it for refills until it leaks, then get a new one. The refills at most places are about 60% of the price of a new cup.

    Coffee is not for tasting – it’s for functionality. BTW, Star*ucks tastes the worst.

    • On Starbucks…we happen to agree. I like a light-medium roast plain arabica and folgers does that OK.
      Why people think burning beans is “roasting” must have tiny, shriveled up prime rib, too…

  15. I have a stainless Yeti cup.20 ounce i believe.I have one of those single serving makers,1 scoop for a regular cup 2 for the tall one.The Yeti cup keeps the coffee hot for a long time and is still fairly warm hours later.It also serves double duty for cold drinks.Best gift i have gotton in a while.I would never spend 25 bucks on a coffee cup.They have a 32 ouncer now that i might have to get for water or iced tea on long drives.

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