How much is inside a pound of coffee? It's a vital part of my day, but from Juan Valdez to the cappuccino-elite in Soho, no one knows how much brewed java I can get out of one pound of beans.

On Thursday night, we decided to find out.

Made from tiny roasted beans, brewed coffee is a popular delivery medium for one's daily dose of caffeine.

For the purposes of this study, I used Folgers Classic Roast, which was on sale for US$5 a can or US$2.05 per pound.

First we divided up the can into cups & discovered that each pound was about 5.43 measuring cups of ground coffee.

I should buy a scale someday.

Coffee is usually sold in U.S. pounds here in California, while cocaine and heroin are available in grams and kilograms.

If you buy your coffee at a café, you'll get a nice little paper bag with your coffee. Expect to pay US$7 to US$22 per pound.

Coffee is available as whole beans and ground up into bits, ready for brewing.  According to independent research by Rob Jordan, it is important to grind up the beans in order to brew coffee successfully.

Before we continued with the project, Brooke and I checked the quality of the product.  It was good stuff, and I was charged up to start the coffee pots!
A parade of great measuring ideas were suddenly whizzing through my head!
I borrowed one coffee maker from Ken and another from Tom and Amy. They would both be put to the test, brewing non-stop for about an hour.

We made coffee according to the instructions on the Folgers label: ˝ cup of ground coffee for each 10-serving pot of water. I enjoy my coffee a bit weaker than this and of course, some people like it stronger.

I eventually asked a bright woman at Starbucks Coffee on J Street, and she told me that they get eight measuring cups of liquid coffee from each measuring cup of beans. Our coffee wasn't that strong, so we got a few more cups out of our pound.

5.43 measuring cups of grounds is just the right amount for 10.8 pots of coffee.

With two coffee makers going, the pound of coffee didn't take long to brew up. I stored it in a one-gallon water jug, then a second one.

Brooke, Jane and I pose with the first two gallons.

I usually only bring one gallon of morning coffee in my car, otherwise my driving can become erratic.

The ten pots of coffee resulted in a nice pile of wet, steamy coffee ash for our compost heap. If you are following along on the math at home, you will notice that some water is missing in the brewing equation.  It is here, in the spent grounds.

The steamy coffee grounds can also make a hot, delicious snack!
I ran out of jugs, so we transferred all the coffee into a 5-gallon bottle.
When we were finished, the pound of beans had brewed 3.2 gallons of hot, delicious coffee, at a cost of about 64 cents per gallon. 

Imagine how thrilled your co-workers would be if you replaced their water-cooler bottle with this baby! (not available in all areas, consult a physician before ordering)

Appropriately supplied, we stayed up all night cramming for that chemical dependency midterm.

Here's some more numbers for the stat lovers:

  • The metric version of these numbers is 26.5 liters per kilogram of beans
  • There are 3,350 coffee beans per pound, therefore 1,000 beans per liquid gallon
  • There are about 8˝ grams of caffeine per pound of coffee, therefore...
  • the lethal dosage of caffeine (reported to kill 50% of the population) is estimated at 10 grams for oral administration, so even a pound of coffee probably won't kill you.
  • If you drink coffee in 16oz. cups like I do, that 3.2 gallons will fill 25˝ cups of coffee, more if you leave room for cream
  • And finally, if you order some complex bullshit like a double-tall, half-caff, skim Mochachino with light foam & two ice-cubes, you are 50% more likely to have someone spit in your drink.



Thanks to Coffee Works on Folsom Blvd. for this photo

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Last updated March 12, 2002.

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