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Article: What Counts as Splurging? A Case for Expensive Coffee

Coffee Culture

What Counts as Splurging? A Case for Expensive Coffee

What’s the finest drink you’ve ever had? Maybe a hyper-expensive scotch comes to mind, or a delicious wine. Maybe it's a mixed drink, or a strange concoction. No matter what it may be, it’d be safe to assume that when you hear “finest drink,” something expensive and alcoholic comes to mind.

Alcoholic drinks have the widest pricing range of just about any product in the world. In the same liquor store, you could buy yourself a $7 bottle of wine, or a $700 bottle of wine. There’s no ceiling to the amount of money you could spend on alcohol. Some premium wine bottles could even reach upwards of $500,000 dollars. Why is there such a high ceiling for alcohol, but when coffee comes to mind, that same connotation simply isn’t there?

What I hope to do is show you through loose comparison that what may seem like an astronomical price tag on a bag of beans is actually quite on par with what you’d splurge on for alcohol in any given restaurant. I hope to help you shift your thinking ever so slightly in the direction that what’s happening in the specialty coffee world needs the same support we give the alcohol industry. The more we understand the depth of producers’ work in coffee, the more we see just how beneficial a little splurge here and there can be for a farmer.

We are in the midst of a very critical time in specialty coffee’s history. Not only are a plethora of unique processes on the rise, but the embracement of traditional beans’ refinement, the study of the chemical makeup of different varieties, and the development of hyper-specific roasting techniques have all made their way into the forefront of this world industry's focus. Specialty coffee is here to stay and to be enjoyed. We here at Sagebrush are excited to be a part of this industry and thought it’d be helpful to broach the elephant in the room: the price. Yes, coffee is getting more expensive. Yes, we are selling 100g of coffee for $90. Yes, we understand just how insane that is. But let’s break that down just a bit to put it in perspective.

How much brewed coffee does 100g actually produce? Well, given the current recipes we have allocated to our pour-over bar in our coffee shop, 100g is going to get you about four regular pour-overs and one small pour-over. That’s about 1550ml total of liquid brewed coffee (4 - 11oz cups + 1 - 5oz cup). Now let’s break down a bottle of wine. The average bottle of wine holds just about 750ml, which is about half the amount of liquid output of that 100g coffee bag. So, in terms of liquid, what you get in a bottle of wine is almost exactly the same amount as what you’d get in 50g of coffee beans. All that being said, the easy comparison is that 100g of coffee is the equivalent in output to two bottles of wine. Using that comparison, the inherent cost of that 100g bag of coffee ($90) is equivalent to about two $45 bottles of wine. $45 for a bottle of wine is pricey, yes, but certainly not out of the realm of what people who love wine spend on a nice bottle.

When you take a step back and compare the most expensive coffee to a decently pricey bottle of wine, the prices are actually very in line with one another. I’m not saying that this expensive coffee should be your daily driver, but it does ease the tension of a possible splurge to be enjoyed as a special treat. Maybe you have a few friends who are also obsessed with coffee, and you want to pool together and get yourselves a few pour-overs to split and enjoy together. Maybe you are just blessed enough to have the financial stability to try it out because you just want to. Whatever it may be, I hope this comparison shows that no, you’re not a complete psychopath for considering an expensive coffee.

I guess all of these points are dependent on one key factor: how much do you value coffee? If you knew someone who said they were obsessed with wine, would you be blown away to hear that they bought a $45 bottle? If you saw someone who said they were obsessed with coffee, would you be blown away to see them buying a $90 100g bag? Specialty coffee is quickly making its transition into a distinct level of prestige in its processing, care, labor, research, and development. This segment of the coffee industry is coming into its own, and maybe a splurge or two to be part of that movement would be worth it.

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