Save Money & the Planet! Make Your Own Starbucks

There have been many times when people commend us on our environmental ethic. I am proud to say that some things Simon & I do are intentionally to try to help the environment- reusable shopping bags, walk/bike instead of drive, buying local foods, etc. However, there are many, many more things that we actually did to save money, and later realized that they had a big side benefit of helping the Earth too. Here are some examples – you might find a helpful hint for your own life in here!

First in the series – beating the caffeinated green giant.


Better than Sbux Iced Coffee. Bonus- served in a chilled beer mug
Better than Sbux Iced Coffee. Bonus- served in a chilled beer mug
Homemade vanilla simple syrup lasts for weeks at room temperature (not like we let it go that long!)

Oh how we love the ‘green sign of joy’ and their $5-6 beverages. However, we have gradually shifted to making all of our favorite coffee drinks at home upon looking at a credit card statement or two and gawking at the numbers going to starbucks. There are several helpful tutorials on the web for the more elaborate drinks, but the basics are the same for all of them. Here you go!

  • We use a french press ($20 at Target) – no filters to buy or plastic parts. Any coffee maker will do, however!
  • We get coffee at Safeway, and use the in-store grinder for a fresh taste and to get the ‘coarse’ grounds you need for plunger coffee, which ranges from $5-$9 a pound depending on sales. Safeway has been selling its coffee for $4.99 a pound for the whole month of June, and I admit to stocking up and freezing some!
  • I make a variety of simple syrups. As the name implies, these are very simple! Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Optional – add a teaspoon of your favorite extract (for us this is usually vanilla, but we do some fun drinks with peppermint extract and hershey’s syrup around christmas). These can be stored in any sealed container at room temperature or in the fridge.
  • For standard coffee, we use 4 TBSP grounds for our 8 cup press and brew for 2-3 minutes. Add milk and syrup of your choice.
  • For iced coffee, use 6 TBSP grounds for 2-3 minutes and let it cool right down in the fridge. I keep a pitcher of this in addition to iced tea ready to go in the summer! Add milk and syrup of your choice when you are ready to drink.
  • For mocha, frappucino, and other fancy delights, use 6-8 TBSP grounds and brew a bit longer – 3-4 minutes. This makes super-strong plunger coffee that can sort of pass for espresso.
  • Chill your faux-spresso for frappucino. Blend about 3/4 cup strong coffee with 1 cup milk (mix in some half-and-half for a creamier flavor), 2 cups ice, and 2-3 TBSP syrup. Mix in hershey’s chocolate syrup for mocha. If you’re feeling decadent, you can top with whipped cream from a can. Some folks on the internet add xanthum gum to stabilize the blend. We’ve never felt a need to do this, but ours do separate after 10-15 minutes.
  • For a latte or mocha, keep the faux-spresso hot and steam milk in a pot on the stove. A quick beat with a whisk or a dedicated frother will produce the latte-like consistency that we love. I mix the syrup into the hot coffee first, then pour the frothed milk on top.

Magic! We now prefer our home coffee drinks to those from starbucks and most other chains. You can customize your milk and sweetener to your tastes and wind up with the perfect drink for you. You can also make stronger or weaker coffee to meet your needs. When I was pregnant and minimizing my caffeine, I made super-WEAK coffee for homemade frappucinos (2 TBSP grounds for 1-2 minutes). Depending on how fancy, we estimate that an iced coffee costs us about $0.65 and a frappe with whipped cream about $0.85 (we use organic milk and raw sugar). Even if you add in hershey’s syrup or a frothing stick and buy your coffee maker, you beat starbucks within 4-5 drinks.

How making your own coffee helps the planet:

  • No single-use cups, lids, straws, or cup sleeves going into the trash (and you’re reducing demand for them to be produced in the future!)
  • You didn’t drive somewhere to get this.
  •  Starbucks and other multi-national chains have an impressive carbon footprint that you are supporting less.
  • Depending on your options, ingredients can be sourced locally.



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