A cup of drip coffee at Starbucks will run you roughly $2 these days, but there’s at least one place in America where you can still get your caffeine fix for the same price your grandfather might have paid. At Wall Drug in South Dakota, a cup of coffee is a mere 5 cents. The price of coffee at the tourist attraction outside Badlands National Park has held steady for at least 50 years, according to Eater, and even back when Johnson was president, it was one of the best deals around.
Nickel coffee may be a novelty that gets road trippers in the door, but most Americans have gotten used to spending more — a lot more — on coffee. In the past few decades, more and more people have forsaken home-brewed Folgers and cheap diner coffee for fancy beans and specialty brews. As our appetite for better coffee increased, prices climbed to the point where some don’t blink at the idea of spending $16 on a single cup of rare Yemeni coffee at San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee. Even those who aren’t coffee connoisseurs will regularly fork over $4 or $5 for a latte.
A cup of coffee in presidential history
How much more expensive is your morning joe now compared to 50 or 75 years ago? To get an idea, we looked at historical data on the price of a pound of coffee from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then calculated the cost of each cup of coffee you’d get from that pound of beans. (A pound of beans yields about 320 ounces of brewed coffee, according to Starbucks, or just under 27, 12-ounce cups.) When possible, we also dug up information on how much you could expect to spend on a cup of coffee at a restaurant. For both numbers, we’ve also shown what that same cup of coffee would cost in today’s dollars.
What we discovered may surprise caffeine addicts. Though the price of coffee has experienced some occasional dips and spikes from 1920 onward, the cost of brewing a cup at home has remained remarkably steady. A little less than 100 years ago, it would have cost you about 2 cents to brew a single cup of coffee at home, or about 24 cents adjusted for inflation. The cost of a home-brewed cup of coffee in 2015 was a shade lower, at 18 cents. Coffee prices outside the home have increased a bit more, but not as much as you might expect.
Here’s how much you could have expected to pay for a cup of coffee under each president since 1920, along with some fun presidential coffee facts.
Per-pound coffee prices are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Restaurant coffee prices are from the New York Public Library’s collection of menus, unless otherwise noted. All presidential coffee facts are from the Boston Globe, unless otherwise noted.