In Defense of Buying Iced Coffee

Ahh, summertime. Love is in the air, fall clothes are in the stores, every blog you read is posting some hard-hitting stuff about how you can save a bunch of money by putting regular coffee in the fridge. Iced coffee! Summertime’s elixir of life!

If your summer is a June through August affair, and you buy an iced coffee for $2.75 every day, you’ll have spent about $250 by the time fall comes around (or, if you prefer, you’ll have spent almost a full workweek’s gross pay at federal minimum wage; the price of 1.3 limited view tickets to Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake’s Legends of Summer Tour at Soldier Field in Chicago; or 9% of my total summer income).

But it’s worth it.

This is my first summer of financial independence and I’ve been thinking a lot about non-monetary value and what it means to “treat yourself.” I love iced coffee. Every year I thirst through a long Chicago winter of normative coffee until finally, in late March, the ice moves from outside to inside and I am granted the pleasure of enjoying my beverage of choice chilled. In the beginning of this summer, I was living the blog life, chilling my own iced coffee in a pitcher in the fridge.

But: After two weeks of allegedly SAVING A FORTUNE, I realized that I don’t like iced coffee that much, at least not when it comes from my own kitchen, even though it tastes exactly the same.

What I’m realizing is that the things that are best about iced coffee have nothing to do with coffee, and everything to do with experience of buying it. There lot of non-monetary externalities that make treating yourself worthwhile. Some justification:

1. I work alone all day in what is functionally a closet. This considered, iced coffee from a store isn’t only a drink but also a reason to go somewhere and be around other people for 15 minutes to a half-hour. This is definitely sanity preserving, and maybe increases productivity in the afternoon? Not sure. Either way I think this social interaction has some kind of authentic value.

2. One iced coffee is basically equal to one nice sunshine-flooded stroll around the block. How lovely and refreshing to mosey through the great outdoors on a workday! Invaluable.

3. This is obvious, but iced coffee makes you more awake. I know we aren’t supposed to talk about or glorify our vices and/or poor sleep habits, but in general it is nice to know that there is a legal, relatively affordable means of feeling more awake during the day.

4. Iced coffee makes you poop. This is the most important one. The means to regularity at every corner deli and coffee shop? Worth it.


Jamie Keiles lives in Chicago. Photo: Ian Buchanan


27 Comments / Post A Comment

I’ve been doing a so-so job of making my own iced coffee, and in light of the post below exemplifying Evil McDonald’s Evilness, I feel bad saying this but SUMMER DOLLAR DAYS = $95 summer iced coffee habit …

s. dekker (#3,301)


limenotapple (#1,748)

I think that every time I hear someone harp on lattes and budgets, it misses something important…that the value of something could be greater for one person than it is for another. The point being made is good: that 5 dollars here and 5 dollars there adds up faster than we realize, and if done in a passive, non-aware way, it can blow your budget. But the other side is that a latte habit might be worth it for me. Maybe getting out of my office, taking a walk and having an iced coffee, or maybe going out to have iced coffee socially is worthwhile to me more than, say, having a smartphone or cable TV or buying new jeans or whatever people spend their income on. I had being harped at that something I cherish is NOT WORTH IT. So I totally get why it would be more fulfilling to go out and get yer coffee on.

@limenotapple Yeah absolutely – if you value your iced coffee and budget for it, then the latte effect isn’t really a thing. It’s only when you’re unconsciously spending that $5 a day that it does something.

Hello redundant comment.

UrbanGarlic (#4,303)

@limenotapple I think it’s more about not spending mindlessly than anything else. If you enjoy the living crap out of that iced coffee, and especially if you can make a nice walk and/or a social event out of it, go for it. It’s not worth buying stuff just because, especially on a regular basis. At least that’s how I interpret the latte factor messages.

Mike Dang (#2)

I’m a big proponent of making iced coffee at home because it’s super easy if you have a French press, and you can make a week’s worth and store it in a bottle in your fridge. But one of the best parts of buying iced coffee is being able to walk out and about with it while the sun is beating down on you, so I’m also a proponent of buying it.

katiekate (#1,051)

@Mike Dang also, mix it with cream top chocolate milk and you have a homemade iced mocha and its the most amazing thing on earth. i swear it.

PicNic (#3,760)

I go back and forth on the iced coffee debate. On one hand – I could easily plow through TWO iced coffees a day, making this a $5/day habit, $25 work week alone, and I drink iced coffee all year, so this is a $1,300 investment.

On the other hand – I definitely do not need two iced coffees a day. And you really do save money when you make it at home. And those jerks at Dunkin Donuts mess up my coffee on average 3 out of 5 times, which then raises my blood pressure because of the rage and I really don’t want to have a heart attack because I’m caffeine deprived and in a murderous rage and then some teenager hits me in the face with his backpack on the bus AGAIN. It’s just a terrible spiral.

So, I trick myself into liking my coffee from home better. I bought a fancy coffee mug that makes me feel like I’m a walking talking pinterest board – mason jar people! This is real life – and somehow it really helps. And unlike the employees of Dunkin/Starbucks/Neighborhood hipster cafe – I always make my coffee exactly the way I like it.

PicNic (#3,760)

@PicNic I also meant to make the point – buying iced coffee while out and about is luxurious and wonderful. And sometimes making your stupid iced coffee in the morning is the last thing you want to do. so, it goes both ways.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@PicNic On the contrary, Dunkin is my absolute love and it is a good thing that I no longer have regular access to one because I would be there every damn day.

lizard (#2,615)

@PicNic ha, when i order dunkin via drive thru its a 50/50 gamble on getting anything remotely near my order. i can not drink it when they add the sugar for me its way too sweet

RosemaryF (#345)

I make my own iced coffee at home partly because I’m a cheap bastard, but partly because I simply don’t have the time to stop at a coffee shop every single day on my way to work. Making my coffee at home saves me money, but it also keeps me from being ten minutes late to work every day.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@RosemaryF Yeah, I was thinking that too. I usually make it in a French press like Mike commented above. I buy it out sometimes too, during the work day if I need a pick-me-up, or on weekends. But mostly, I do not have time to stop somewhere in the morning. My hours aren’t flexible, and I usually end up scrambling just to be in on time as it is.

milena (#3,288)

I also realized that I go to the Starbucks across the street just to get up from my desk and go outside, but I’m not really a coffee drinker– in fact, it gives me the jitters real hard. So now I’ll go outside and walk around for 15 minutes and call my dad for a quick chat. It’s as refreshing, if not more.

Another thing you could do is just do a Starbucks run for your team. Same benefits, none of the costs.

dotcommie (#662)

I’m an iced-tea drinker, and fall somewhere in the middle. I usually remember to cold-brew the night before so I have my morning tea, but I also want an after-lunch tea. I less frequently remember to start the cold brew process before I leave work, so I will buy the afternoon tea at a coffeeshop. Saving some money, but not all the money.

I usually just buy the iced coffee in a carton in the juice section of the store, but it’s really like “iced coffee beverage” because it has milk and sweeteners and, you know, vanilla or mocha or salted caramel flavoring mixed in. I could really drink a carton of that a day, so I don’t buy it often, but man it’s a treat. I’m not a coffee drinker as it is, but a fake, cold coffee drinker? Count me in.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

Yes! This! I am in total agreement. Even though I am fully capable of making iced-coffee at home, and even though said homemade iced coffee is usually somewhat more delicious than store bought because it has been brewed to spec, I am still a huge advocate of buying iced coffee. My morning coffee (iced or standard depending on the seasons) is a chance to exit my car on the way to work, stretch my legs on more time, breathe some non-climate controlled air and interact with a free-range human being or two before I’m crammed into my cubicle with the rest of my 9-5 herd. Worth every penny.

Homemade cold-brew is delicious but the whole “coffee concentrate” concept does not work for me! Somehow I end up drinking it like regular coffee, with almond milk, which doesn’t dissolve like milk so it gets really… particulate? Is that a word? Gross.

Also my neighborhood coffee shop sells the Smallest Iced Coffee in the World ™ in a 7 oz water cup, which is the perfect size for me to drink the whole thing before the ice starts to melt. It costs like $1.50 but I don’t care. I love it.

lizard (#2,615)

my half -assed ice coffee is me realizing its going to be 100 degrees the next day so i just brew a keurig cup and stick it in the fridge overnight. the next morning i drink it over ice while getting ready then head out for a cafe around 11 at work

j a y (#3,935)

Aeropress ‘espresso’ makes a great iced coffee, especially if the sugar is stirred in while hot and then chilled in batches.

But for $1, I just buy it at McDs. It doesn’t taste nearly as good, but it’s easier to grab as I pull out for lunch. For $2.50, I’d make my own but for $1 I’ll suffer the not-so-great taste.

And definitely, the lattes aren’t really the issue – the issue is being making a conscious decision of buying lattes vs something else vs not being able to afford it.

middleagedamy (#4,423)

Not a fan of iced coffee, but wanted to point out that this doesn’t have to be an either or situation. If you enjoy iced coffee as a beverage, making it yourself half the time can make room in the budget for enojoying the experience of buying iced coffee the other half of the time. Adjust percentages according to your own preference.

s. dekker (#3,301)

I keep buying iced coffees because the little treats are important to me, AND they keep me from buying more expensive things (because I already treated myself and don’t feel the need to buy that new happiness I mean iPad).

I have the gold card at Starbucks and it’s great for things like this. I get the tall (small) size and get free refills.

That said, I limit myself to just 1-2 times per week. The rest of the week I make it from cold brew at home.

editrickster (#279)

I tried making my own coffee during the week. I bought a travel mug and was pretty good about taking it with me and started sipping on my way in. But then, in the middle of my 45 minute commute on public transit, I would be very awake and things would get moving, as this author mentions in point number 4. So, in the hope of avoiding a digestive disaster, I no longer make my coffee at home. I pay the $2 for fresh coffee from any of the eight coffee places on the walking part of my commute in to work. It’s worth it.

elbirth (#4,426)

So, it seems a lot of people here are iced coffee fans. I am too- or, an iced latte fan is more like it. For anyone that has a Sheetz nearby, the iced caramel latte is heavenly. All of this aside about saving money, I can never seem to make it taste right at home! It’s so frustrating. I cold brew it in a French press but I can never seem to figure out the right amount of milk and sugar or other stuff. Someone please share the best iced coffee recipe you have!

selenana (#673)

@elbirth I’ve been doing the cold brew in my mini French press lately, then add sweetened condensed milk (my jam). It’s so caramelly and yum and better than the iced coffee I can get at the coffeeshop. I also have some Vietnamese and Brazilian ground coffee that friends brought to me as souvenirs but something like Cafe Bustelo or any of the Cuban style ones in the fancy cans works well for this.

snowe (#4,421)

I do think buying treats can be worth it sometimes. I’ve started making my iced coffee at home with my new Hario Mizudashi pot, which is AMAZING btw, but I still allow myself a Starbucks run if I really need a break from work.

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