The Cost of a Cup of Coffee: Then and Now


In 2012, more than 75 percent of Americans reported that they prefer coffee over tea, along with millions of others around the world. While some regions of the globe favor tea as their stimulant of choice — like Russia, China and India – the Americas gravitate toward a cup of joe.

Although the percentage of coffee consumption in the U.S. has remained stable for decades, the cost of a cup of coffee has not. MooseRoots, powered by Graphiq, set out to find how much Americans spent on their coffee every year since 1967. Using data from Square, Inc. and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index, data analysts found trends in rising and falling prices for the past half-century.

Surges in coffee prices can often be attributed to differing weather patterns and freezes in coffee-growing regions. In 1977, coffee prices reached an all-time high, soaring to an inflation-adjusted price of $6.28 after frost destroyed Brazil’s coffee bean crops. Nine years later, in 1986, Americans saw another spike in prices when demand for coffee surged beyond the available supply. The causes? A volcanic eruption in Colombia and a drought in Brazil, which damaged crops.

Americans have also experienced times of depressed coffee prices, often viewed as a relief to consumers’ pockets, but a burden to coffee-growing regions. Overproduction of beans in 2004 greatly exceeded demands for the crop, causing a steep fall in coffee prices. A cup of coffee only cost $1.95 – $2.51 when adjusted for inflation. This period of depressed coffee prices is known as “The Coffee Crisis.” Researchers from the International Coffee Organization found detrimental impacts of the crisis in coffee-growing regions. People abandoned their farms, lost their jobs and migrated from the countryside to cities, which reduced export earnings.

Despite variable costs for a cup of coffee, the industry remains strong. Folgers Coffee Company, a staple American coffee brand, has been around since 1850 – when it emerged out of the California Gold Rush. Other coffee conglomerates like Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Starbucks got their start more recently, with the latter setting up shop at Pike Place Market in Seattle in 1971. Starbucks has since grown to over 24,000 locations worldwide. Check out the table below to see the average yearly price of a cup of coffee since 1967.

Learn More in Graphiq’s Consumer Price Index