Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
Before I had tasted real coffee, coffee to me was a form of adrenaline —a bitter shot into my veins to keep me alive for finals week.
But one day, my uncle brought home this beautiful Breville Barista Espresso Machine — a beautiful, shining totem of silver. I began to think,”What is it? What does it do? Why are there so many buttons?” All I knew was that it was expensive, and I wanted to click those shiny buttons very much.
Little did I know, this contraption also did something: It made coffee. After many minutes of staring longingly at his espresso machine, my uncle nervously made me a cup of coffee, hoping that a cappuccino would get me to stop eyeing his Breville.
As my lips touched that cup, I began to understand what coffee actuallywas. My whole life, I had been lied to. It wasn’t just sour-bean energy juice. Coffee was an experience —the aroma running through your nose, the beautiful, thick milk muting out the harsh sour edges of the espresso shot, the hint of syrup to leave a delightful taste in your mouth.
From the acidity to the almost chewable richness and the perfectly perforated milk foam, it was as if I had seen color for the first time. A new sense of taste had opened up before me.
Soon, however, I had to leave the espresso machine behind. I had to go to college. But I saw that there was a cafe on campus. “Pepperdine has its very own Starbucks on campus! I’ll be fine. Starbucks makes good coffee. Right?” I thought.
As I walked in for my first pick-me-up, I was presented with the beautiful on-campus Starbucks. I squeezed past a crowd and pushed open the doors into a line of students longer than Hadrian’s wall. The line extended almost out the door, making it one of the loudest places in Pepperdine.
Pushing aside my questions about who thought it was a good idea to integrate a Starbucks directly into a library, I dutifully joined the line, waiting my turn. After an eternity of unintentional eye contact, feet shuffling and staring at vapid social media, I finally got to order.
The Barista listed all the supplies Starbucks is missing. They were already out of pumpkin spice and whole milk at noon. After 20 minutes, the barista called a name barely resembling mine, and I got my drink.
For $6, I have my Venti Iced Caramel Machiatto. A definite collection of real words. Finally, coffee. I take my first sip. The shot is bitter, bland and tasteless. I mix the drink, foolishly thinking it would make things better.
The drink suddenly becomes an entirely different beast. Why in God’s name is it so sweet? How many cups of sugar were doused into this poor coffee? Blood rushes to my brain — and I’m not sure if it’s the caffeine, the sugar or the rage.
This is not coffee. It’s worse than sour bean water. It’s $6 sour bean water disguised with sugar, cream and sweeteners.
$6 of my hard-earned money, 30 minutes of my time, and all I get is this? Am I supposed to go through this hellish experience twice a day for the entire semester? How much money would I even be wasting? Wouldn’t I be better off buying my own Espresso Machine? Let’s find out.
Let’s assume that — as a college student, I drink two cups of coffee daily, and all I have is the on-campus Starbucks. Let’s further assume that the average wait time is between 10 to 15 minutes, 12.5, let’s say — I think that’s more than fair.
A significant factor in getting an espresso machine is the convenience and the lack of waiting time. It takes me about fiveminutes to make a latte with an espresso machine.
To factor in the time cost, I will assume the opportunity cost by the wages of working a minimum wage job — $15.50 per hour in California — therefore, each hour wasted at Starbucks or making an espresso can be given a fair economic value.
The doughnut charts below show the breakdown of the costs of going to Starbucks every day for a semester, compared to buying and using your own espresso machine for a semester. Lastly, I’ve included a bar chart comparison to compare the two costs directly.
After doing the math, I have come to a horrible conclusion. Not only does Starbucks make worse coffee, but it is significantly more expensive to go to Starbucks than to buy your own Breville Barista Espresso machine.
I am hurting my sense of taste and my finances when I purchase coffee at Starbucks. While Starbucks does take meal points —which financial aid can help with— for me and other students who do not have a large meal plan, buying an espresso setup will probably still be more financially beneficial in the long run.
Now, I am a proud owner of my very own espresso machine setup, and I can make my own coffee whenever I want and however I want.
Secretly, besides all the personal benefits, my favorite part of owning an espresso machine is that it brings the opportunity to share. Making iced lattes for friends who are having a hard time is one of my great joys in life.
I have made at least 300 cups for close friends since I got the machine a year ago. I have even had friends bring me coffee beans from Rome, asking me to make them an espresso shot just like their favorite coffee place. An Espresso Machine and making coffee give us a way to serve each other and be kind to those we value most.
If you want to save money, taste good coffee and find a way to give to those you love, abandon Starbucks-and buy an espresso machine.
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Contact Arik Chu via email: email@example.com or by Instagram @arik_chu