The Java Dilemma: Saving on Coffee in Tough Times

Once again, your mission starts with beans: For espresso -- a key ingredient in lattes -- the general rule is that dark roasts are better.

But Karpel says that in this case, grinding the beans yourself is less important. In his experience, he said, dark roasts, when ground, tend to grow stale less quickly than their lighter counterparts.

If you're still committed to the freshness guaranteed by grinding yourself, however, make sure that the coffee grinder you buy can produce superfine grounds. For an espresso-ready grinder, be prepared to spend between $100 and $300 at the least, Groot says.

As for espresso makers, Groot prefers the pump-style variety. It's more expensive, he says, but it also produces better espresso.

Many espresso makers come with grinders attached. Others, meanwhile, use pods -- ground espresso beans in small packets made by the same manufacturer that produced the espresso maker.

Arvidson says that overall, you can expect to spend at least $200 or even as much as $1,000 or more, while Karpel says he's pleased with his Gaggia espresso machine. Depending on the model, Gaggias can cost between $200 and $700.

Flavored Lattes

If you prefer a particular flavor in your latte -- say, chocolate or caramel -- you'll also have to buy syrup. One 25.6-ounce syrup bottle will cost between $7 and $8 at a grocery store or coffee shop, Groot says.

Now, let's do the math again, this time for a latte:

Espresso-blend beans can be more costly than others, so let's assume a $15 price tag for a 1-pound bag. A typical 1-pound bag has enough for 56 shots. If you drink 1.5 shots -- which is equivalent to about 1.5 ounces -- a day, that means you'll need about 10 bags per year at a total cost of $150.

Assume $200 for a grinder.

Assume $500 for an espresso machine.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, milk cost an average of $3.72 per gallon in October. If you use 6 ounces of milk for one latte each day -- after steaming, the milk will expand and will actually result in more than 6 ounces -- you'll need to buy about 17 gallons of milk, which amounts to roughly 2,190 ounces, per year for a total cost of about $63.

For a flavored latte, add at least half an ounce of syrup. A 25.6-ounce bottle will provide enough for more than 51 servings. To have enough syrup to last you a year, you'll need at least seven bottles, for a total cost of $56.

In total, your homemade latte -- assuming you use one shot of espresso a day -- will cost $969 for a year or $2.65 per day. A tall, flavored Starbucks latte purchased recently in New York, meanwhile, cost $3.50 before tax. Your homemade savings? It's $310 for a year. Settle for midrange coffee grinders and espresso machines -- at $100 and $200 each -- and your savings soar to $708. Follow Karpel's advice and skip the expensive grinder -- or skip the flavorings -- and your savings are even greater.

Stove-Top Espresso

Believe it or not, you can also make espresso without investing in an expensive espresso maker at all. Your final product won't be an exact replica of machine-made espresso but, Arvidson and Karpel agree, it'll still taste quite good.

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