Composition with McCafe coffee cup and beans


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While a coffee addiction seems relatively benign, overindulging your caffeine-dependent brain can drain your savings quickly. With tip and tax, Starbucks coffee drinkers can easily spend $100 a month — money that should go toward bills or even retirement. Luckily, we’ve found a cheaper way to have your coffee … and drink it too. If you download the McDonald’s app, you can order a 30-ounce brewed coffee every day for just $1, which is close to the most economical way you can enjoy a good cup of coffee. (We do the math below).

The McDonald’s Iced Coffee Hack

Digital deals on fast-food apps have quickly become the modern equivalent of coupons. McDonald’s offers some of the best freebies and discounts online, in part thanks to its collection of daily deals, which includes an offer to pay 99 cents for any size premium roast or iced coffee. Besides the deal’s frequency, the discount is significant because you can order a massive 30-ounce large iced coffee for just a buck. (If you’re really pinching pennies, order it without ice).

The deal is, in fact, so good that it may be cheaper than brewing your own coffee at home.

The Math Behind McDonald’s Iced Coffee Deal

We won’t take you through the calculations from beginning to end (boring); instead, we’ll start with two approximations that assume the customer is ordering black coffee, though decaf and flavored coffees such as iced caramel and iced French vanilla are also eligible for the $1 deal.

  • 0.0625 ounces of ground coffee = 1 ounce of brewed coffee
  • 1.875 ounces of ground coffee = 30 ounces of brewed coffee
  • 1.875 ounces of ground McDonald’s coffee costs $1

Using the above conversions, we can calculate that an ounce of ground McDonald’s coffee costs roughly 53 cents.  If we take a quick look at Amazon, most ground coffee hovers around 50 to 60 cents per ounce. Dunkin’ Original Blend, for instance, costs 63 cents per ounce, 10 cents more per ounce than it costs to simply order a discounted coffee from McDonald’s.

That said, it isn’t always cheaper to order a $1 McDonald’s coffee. The fast-food chain’s own blend — medium roast McCafe — costs 43 cents an ounce on Amazon, and Maxwell House costs just 29 cents an ounce.

So sure, it may be slightly cheaper to brew McCafe yourself or drink terrible bean juice from Maxwell House; nevertheless, McDonald’s $1 coffee remains an excellent deal that, in many cases, outprices making coffee at home.

The question is: Does McDonald’s coffee taste better than bottom-of-the-barrel coffee brands from, say, Folgers?

McDonald’s Coffee Taste Test

As far as fast-food java goes, McDonald’s brews quality coffee, beating competitors such as Chick-fil-A and Carl’s Jr. in our fast food coffee taste test. Unlike at other chains, McDonald’s coffee isn’t weak and, most importantly, doesn’t have a strange aftertaste. That isn’t to say it tastes complex or unique, but we shouldn’t expect the Golden Arches' blend to compete with single-origin beans from third-wave coffee shops.

Speaking of origin, it’s hard to know where McDonald’s gets its coffee beans. According to Insider, McCafe sources from Columbia, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. In other words, McDonald’s 100% arabica coffee is from a hodgepodge of growers. Given what cheap coffee we’re talking about, that isn’t really an issue.

The Bottom Line

If you’re ordering out, the best cheap coffee you’ll find is at McDonald’s. Assuming you drink a single 8-ounce cup a day and you’re willing to save the remaining 22 ounces for future days, it’ll cost just $8 a month if you buy your coffee exclusively from McDonald’s. In fact, it’s even cheaper since you’ll accumulate rewards points to put toward future coffee purchases.

Of course, we realize this is all a bit extreme. Who really wants to save stale, fast-food coffee in the fridge to save a few bucks a month? Then again, we know there are people like us — die-hard Cheapists — who love the idea of saving every last cent.

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