The adventures of kicking my Starbucks habit
It took me a quarter of a century to actually develop a steady coffee habit. I didn't start on a daily basis until I was around twenty six years old. Once I did start I jumped all the way out there and developed a raging addiction. Not just any addiction of course I chose the most expensive one from none other than America's favorite: Starbucks. When I worked retail it was convenient to pull through the drive through each morning or afternoon before my shift to get that hot cup of java. It took me a year tops to realize that I was throwing money away though.
How much I spent on Starbucks
Let’s get into how much it was costing me. In my retail job sometimes I would work six days straight. Each morning I’d stop and get a grande pike place roast with pumps of caramel. This would run me about $2.25, and if I wanted soy milk as creamer there was an up charge of about eighty cents. I know people might think what’s three dollars a day for coffee? If you multiply that by twice a day sometimes and then by the number of days on my next set of shifts I’m already in over fifty dollars. The crazy thing is I came up with the pike place combination as a substitute for my usual: a caramel macchiato. Starbucks literally robs you blind if you buy a specialty drink every day. The month that I spent a small fortune (which I won’t reveal) at Starbucks, I knew it was time to part ways with my habit.
Resolution 1: A Drip Coffee Maker
I bought a plain old fashioned coffeemaker for probably fifteen bucks from Wal-Mart. I wasn’t enthused about making my own coffee at home because I just knew I didn’t have the secret sauce of the baristas, but I pressed on with my plan anyway. I bought it in early 2015 and didn’t start using it until the later part of the year when I realized I could program it to start brewing before I woke up in the mornings. I didn’t see immediate results in my Starbucks habit though. I weaned myself off going five to six times a week to about three days a week. I was brewing my own coffee at home, but still hitting up Starbucks in the afternoons for my fix. Once I started to buy the Starbucks ground coffee for my machine at home this helped a little more. Also, by this time I had a change in my job where I worked in a different part of the shopping center, further from Starbucks so I attribute this to the budget gods being on my side. I cut my Starbucks bill in half at this point. The ground coffee, filters and other supplies I needed to make it at home was costing me about fifteen bucks a month. This was a huge difference, I was on to something here! During this time, I started to experiment with different brands and types of ground coffee, which led me further and further away from the Starbucks crack. The drip coffee maker did its job by providing me with fresh on-demand caffeine for about two years.
Resolution 2: Instant Coffee
This was by far the worst resolution to my problem. First, the Starbucks brand instant coffee cost nearly seven dollars and sometimes more for an 8-count pack. I would buy one pack and pace it through the days but guess where I would still end up scratching and feenin’ for the real thing? Yes, right back in the drive-thru trying to justify why I needed my usual drink. My efforts were fruitless. I tried Folgers, Nescafe, and Café Bustelo instant coffee brands. My grandmother has a ritual of drinking her cup of instant Folgers every morning, and I thought if she likes it then I can learn to like it too. No shade here, there’s something for everybody and instant coffee just isn’t for me. My pallet never adjusted to the bitterness and I actually started to enjoy the process of taking the time to brew my own coffee at home and coming up with my own copycat version of my favorite Starbucks craft drinks.
Resolution 3: The French Press
A match made in heaven! I knew what a french press was used for but always thought it was just out of my league to use one. My first french press was compact and easy enough to figure out how to use delivering me one 8-ounce cup of coffee at a time. This past Christmas I was upgraded to the mother of all french presses: a 34-ounce stainless steel one to deliver me and whoever else was lucky enough 8 whole cups of coffee! The french press works by pouring hot water into a carafe already filled with about two tablespoons of ground coffee. The best type of coffee I learned to use is a coarsely ground medium-bodied flavor. I used a fine ground once and it didn’t press with the filter well and I got a cup of sludge rather than coffee. Once poured, the plunger is topped on the carafe and I let it sit for about five minutes then slowly press the plunger down to extract the coffee from the hot water that it dissolved into. I struck gold with the french press because the smooth body of the coffee is consistent every time. I like to even make my own cold brew by steeping it overnight in the press and adding caramel syrup and splashes of milk.
Over the course of my coffee journey I learned a lot about what it takes to make the perfect cup to my liking and also some personal lessons. I always thought coffee isn’t my thing to master or it’ll never taste like they can make it at Starbucks. I learned that I can try anything I want and as long as I’m committed and consistent it’ll be fruitful and unique in my own way – no Starbucks needed.
me on the left with my home brewed coffee after successfully kicking my habit. my girlfriend joined in on the french pressed coffee fun too.