The Java Dilemma: Saving on Coffee in Tough Times

What's their secret? It's called a macchinetta -- an espresso maker that's especially popular in Italy and can cost less than $20. Instead of requiring a plug, the macchinetta is a stove-top machine powered by the flame below it. Like a traditional espresso maker, you'll need ground espresso and water to use it. Unlike a traditional espresso maker, it won't include a steam wand necessary for steaming milk and creating froth.

To create froth, Arvidson recommends pouring heated milk into a French press -- a device more commonly associated with coffee brewing -- and pumping it several times. Within two minutes, he says, you'll create a "beautiful velvety foam almost like shaving cream." A French press, he says, can be purchased for about $20.

With equipment costs of $240 total (including a $200 grinder) along with ingredient costs of $269 (for espresso beans, milk and syrup for a year), you'll spend $509 for one year of lattes, or $1.40 a day, for a total savings of nearly $767. Trade the grinder for store-ground beans, and your savings skyrocket to more than $968.

Experts caution that successfully making your coffee -- particularly espresso and lattes -- won't always come easy. It requires practice and homework, figuring out what roast works best for you and what techniques are best for steaming milk and manually "tamping" -- or condensing -- your ground coffee.

Groot says that consumers should also remember that by sticking to their homemade brews, they'll miss out on one of the best parts of being a coffee drinker -- actually spending time in a coffee house.

"It's more than just coffee; it's a social experience," he said. "You can't put a price on that."

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