Sunday, January 16, 2011

You’re too good for coffee line-ups and bad café music

Making my own coffee at home has proven to be one of the best money-saving ventures yet! Not only that, I routinely enjoy better coffee, and much better moods now that I don't have to put up with the truly awful music and irritating patrons.

Forgive me the following quick rant:
Dear Physicians, Nurses and other lab coat and scrub-donning health care workers at St Paul's and at VGH,
Given what you know of fomites and nosocomial diseases, do you actually believe it prudent to bring your lab coat, scrubs and stethoscope into a restaurant or cafe? Or are you just too arrogant to care? What of the Hippocratic oath, eh? "I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure." Does not dissemination of the community-acquired MRSA or the tiny aerosols from old man Jenkin's tuberculotic sputum adorning your ever-so-important looking lab coat into the local Starbucks constitute a direct violation of your 'do no harm' mantra? I have a lab coat - I would never, ever risk exposing anyone but me what those cotton-poly fibres have probably picked up, and I'm not even touching patients! Perception, my dear professionals, perception. How competent can you be if you're wearing your surgical gown in line for a croissant and latte? Not very, one might argue.... Please leave the lab coats at the clinic the next time you're in dire need of a caffeine jolt!
Sincerely, me with the average immune system
Right, back to my happy realization that a coffee maker at the apartment really can improve your morning! Coffee isn't cheap, so expect to spend some money up front. But I can promise you that if you do the math, it's possible that you can pay off the initial investments within a month (depending on how much coffee you typically drink).

Consider the following (ooh, Bill Nye flashback!): you check your credit card reward points and discover that you can get a drip-coffee maker or a Bodum/French-press for free. You can even buy a cool reusable coffee filter (made in BC!) to use in place of disposable filters (or your machine came with one). You do a little comparison shopping online between London Drugs, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, and you find a rudimentary one-speed bean grinder for $12 (this is not the top of the line choice, FYI! Read the linked article if you're that person who needs the best of the best always, or if coffee is a lifestyle to you and not just a morning perk-up!).

A good-looking coffee maker on an ugly, ugly kitchen counter
Now all you need are beans, and here's where decisions really matter! 49th Parallel on Fourth sells freshly-roasted beans that are far superior to any others I've tried so far. They're not super cheap (about $15 per 454 gram bag), but the same 49th Parallel beans are sold elsewhere (Cho Pain bakery on Davie, The Gourmet Warehouse, etc.) and occasionally go on sale to $13. Or there's Salt Spring Coffee beans which you can buy at Costco in a much larger bag (908 grams) for about $18 (West Coast Blend, despite being a blend which suggests inferiority, is far smoother than any Kicking Horse or any Starbucks beans, the latter of which I do not recommend). Intelligentsia coffee (available at Wicked Cafes and other fine coffee shops) is also yummy. Give Starbucks and most grocery store labels a miss (Nabob, Maxwell House and Starbucks if you buy it at the grocery store are all owned or distributed by Kraft Canada - see price hike article at end of this post).

We like Epic Espresso from 49th Parallel
In this scenario (where you got the coffee maker itself for free), you'll be saving money almost instantly. Even if you have to fork out for the coffee machine, with some smart shopping (don't rule out second-hand necessarily! And check in with XS Cargo, too) you'll be in good shape. Getting the hang of French-press/Bodum coffee makers is a little tricky (i.e. you might have to spend more than $12 to get a grinder that will give the desired size of particle), but the system is a mechanically simple one and they tend to be much cheaper than a simple drip coffee maker.

Honestly, making your own coffee at home leads to simpler, pleasantly fragrant mornings (and fresher, better coffee). Fill up your travel mug with the second cup and head out the door. I'll bet you'll even lose a little excess weight this way - unless of course you have a display case chock full of danishes and cake slices at home.

A few articles to read over your less expensive homemade brew tomorrow morning:

 "Vancouver Considers By-Law on Paper Cups" -, Sept 16, 2008
 "Getting Coffee Prices Right" - The Straight, Aug 22, 2008
"Starbucks boosting some prices" - The Globe & Mail, Jan 12, 2010
"Countries Coffee Consumption per Capita" (2008 data) - Wikipedia
 "Kraft Canada Boosting Coffee Price" - The Star, Dec 15, 2010
"Coffee Prices in Canada Rise Next Month" - CBC, Sept 10, 2010

And a little online shopping (I just discovered this store today):


  1. I never thought of that - doctors and nurses wearing their scrubs and coats into coffee shops...but very good point!

  2. Oh no, sorry Eva! :) I have given you something else to be grossed out by! ;)