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January 12th, 2007

Is Senseo Worth It?

Recently, a Senseo machine came under my care. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a coffee maker that uses small pods (not unlike round, sealed teabags) to brew coffee instead of pure grounds. Apparently Senseo has been the darling of the EU, and hasn’t quite caught on here in the US.

I had a feeling overall that the Senseo coffee was expensive compared to regular ol’ coffee, so I decided to do an analysis.

The Basics

Each Senseo pod brews 4 ounces of coffee. That’s a pretty small serving (best suited for espresso, I’d think). The machine does allow you to brew two pods at once for 8 ounces of coffee.

I’m going to assume for these purposes that a serving is 8 ounces. I’m also going to round up because no one pays $0.002 cents in the US. And I’m not going to figure in the cost of water. Why, we’ve got so much we can waste it!

We’ll start with the cost for Senseo. Let’s say you head over to Amazon and get a 72-pack of pods for $14.99. That gets you 36 servings, at a cost of $0.42 per serving. Not expensive. Pretty good in fact!

Good Ol’ Coffee

When it comes to comparing with regular coffee, I was stumped. How could I possibly translate unbrewed grounds into cups of coffee? Thankfully, Rob at the ever-fantastic came to my rescue whilst asking how much is inside a can of coffee. He essentially determined that a pound of coffee nets you 51 servings (remember, at 8 ounces each), and I’m not going to argue with his incredibly scientific methods.

That’s great! Now we can do math. We’ll start with the coffee I get. I usually buy coffee at $7-$8 per pound at Trader Joe’s or Costco. That means that, per serving, I’m paying $0.14-$0.16. Already that’s a big difference right off the bat!

What about fancy schmancy coffee? I scoured Starbucks’ site and found their most expensive brew to be a whopping $16.95 per pound. I’d never pay that for coffee but you might. Anyway, the per serving cost here becomes $0.34. That’s a lot closer to Senseo but still – there’s a notable difference!

So let’s flip this on its ear and use El Cheapo coffee, like Folgers. I don’t drink it but you might. A recent survey of a paper circular showed that a can of Folgers here cost about $3 per pound. That translates to $0.06 per serving! Six cents. That is damn cheap.

Another factor to take into account here is the cost of paper filters. Senseo’s pods are self-contained so no filter is necessary. I pay $2.49 at Trader Joe’s for 100 filters, so that’s a small add-on of $0.03 to each serving. (We’ll also assume I’m just making one serving per pot though, obviously, I could make more.)

I think it’s time for a table after a short intermission.

Type Coffee Cost Filter Cost Cost per Serving
Senseo $0.42 $0.00 $0.42
F’ing Expensive Starbucks $0.34 $0.03 $0.37
Paul’s Usual Joe $0.16 $0.03 $0.19
Cheap Stuff $0.06 $0.03 $0.09

Worth noting is that if we flip the Senseo cost around and translate it into regular coffee, it’s about $20.08 per pound… a few dollars more than the most expensive Starbucks coffee offered.

Outhouse Coffee

On a pure cost basis, Senseo is a big losing battle when compared with in-house coffee. It only makes sense when you compare it to take-out coffee. Assuming a small coffee at Starbucks is $1.50 (which seems low – can anyone confirm?) and 16 ounces, that means $0.80 per serving – in which case Senseo wins hands down!

If you’re getting take-out coffee all the time and are paying more than $0.84 for 16 ounces (you probably are), then Senseo is definitely appealing.

The Intangibles

Of course cost alone isn’t the reason to buy or not buy Senseo. I must give the machine its props: it’s really attractive, is dead simple to use, and is a lot less messy than a regular coffeemaker. I do my own grounds, so I make a mess every morning – just ask my wife. As a plus the machine is quite fast: I had a cup of burn-my-tongue hot coffee in about 4 minutes start to finish. That’s not bad!

One caveat is that the machine is expensive – around $60 on Amazon right now. You can buy a plain jane coffeemaker for $10.


I like Senseo overall. I think that if you’re inclined to get coffee from Starbucks it is a pretty appealing option. But if you’re an at-home brewer, it’s probably not worth it.

See also: comparison between coffee pod machines.

Posted in Food and Beverage

Aanen January 12, 2007, 1:56 pm

Get an Aeropress. That makes a good cup of coffee. I used to never drink coffee before.

Merle January 12, 2007, 2:48 pm

That’s about right for a small coffee from Starbucks. Except they don’t call it “small”, of course. It’s something clever like “el cheapskate” or “grande” (the smallest being a large, of course).

Starbucks charges $17 a pound for coffee? Damn. Even Gevalia only charges that much for one or two special coffees (like Jamaica Blue Mountain, at $50/lb).

Paul January 12, 2007, 2:54 pm

Well, that’s their most expensive stuff Merle. Most of their coffee is in the more reasonable (?) $8-$11/pound range.

The $50/pound stuff, though, is more expensive than Senseo!

Merle January 12, 2007, 7:28 pm

Oh, I know, Paul. I guess I meant “why would you get crummy Starbucks coffee when the tastier Gevalia is cheaper?”. But apparently a whole lot of people love Starbucks coffee.

I got a sampler of the Blue Mountain once. It was.. pretty good. Not worth four times what other coffee costs, though.

Dave Walls January 12, 2007, 8:57 pm

So….this has absolutely nothing to do with cost per serving, but when I saw “senseo”, it did remind me of a trip to New York about 2 years ago.

I went to New York for the afternoon to audition/watch a taping of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, which is taped at ABC Studios. Taped in the next studio over was the now-cancelled “Tony Danza Show”.

As I was waiting in line to enter the building for the audition, the people who were at that day’s “Danza!” were coming out, and I was amazed at the bags upon bags of gifts they had all gotten, just for being in the audience. DVD’s, books, and the one that caught my eye was the (at the time) brand new Senseo maker.

I made a comment to one mid-20’something guy who had come from the taping, coffee maker in hand. Something along the lines of “Wow, not a bad haul there!”. As I said that to him, I looked at his face, and he looked like he had just been whipped for the past hour, being forced to laugh at every bad Danza joke. He slowly looked me in the face, and simply uttered:

“…Not worth it.”

Abbey January 14, 2007, 10:03 pm

How much coffee’s in a little packet? My mom uses like 1/3 cup of ground coffee to make a 12 oz. pot of coffee. She’d be using like 6 little packets to make one pot!

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