Java. Brew. Joe. Bean juice. Whatever you call it, a cup of coffee is an essential start to many people’s day — but where should you go for the best value cup?
With around 95 million coffees being consumed per day, it’s clear we Brits are partial to a brew or two. However, not all cups of coffee are made equal — the combination of beans, roast and extraction can lead to vastly different caffeine levels.
We wanted to see how coffee chains in the UK stacked up against each other in terms of the ‘bean’ you’re getting for your buck. We compared the caffeine content and price of the most popular drinks on offer, figuring out the best value brew — helping you make an informed decision when choosing your next cup of coffee.
Many people’s favourite beverage, our research revealed a huge disparity in caffeine / £ across the americano board. Out in front was the Greggs americano, at a huge 140.63mg / £, the highest of any coffee surveyed. If value is your priority, this is the one to go for. McDonalds isn’t far behind at 124.46mg/£, whilst Nero’s offering comes out at a mild 32.65mg/£.
If price is your only concern, the golden arches are out in front, with their cups at just £1.39, whilst Greggs wins for sheer caffeine content at 225mg.
The only category where Greggs doesn’t win is the sophisticated, milky latte. At 90.53mg/£, it’s McCafe that wins the day here, though Greggs isn’t far behind at 86.32mg/£. Yet again, McCafe is cheapest at £1.69 with Greggs the only other brand to come out at less than £2. Pret kills it caffeine content-wise, with 182mg in a standard 12oz cup.
Greggs and McCafe get the top spots, with Greggs just edging its american cousin at 103.68mg/£, as opposed to 103.50mg/£. Again those 2 brands are the only ones to give you a cup under £2. For caffeine levels, Costa wins at 200mg!
For those of a more chocolatey disposition, the mocha hits the spot. Greggs boasts the clear winner, with its mocha the best value at 122.63mg/£ — not to mention being the only mocha under £2. It’s also the third best value drink overall and the most caffeinated. Pret makes a welcome appearance in second place (73.33mg/£) whilst Nero ranks the worst value again.
Caffeine / £
Combining ‘price’ and ‘caffeine levels’, the best value brew is a Greggs americano — at 140mg of caffeine per pound. Packing 225mg of caffeine into just £1.60 worth of coffee, it easily gives you the most bang for your buck
If your coffee of choice is a mocha or cappuccino, Greggs comes out on top again. Its mocha (the most caffeinated of all coffees surveyed) packs 233mg of caffeine but will only set you back £1.90, getting you 122mg caffeine / £. The Greggs cappucino is best value of all cap cups at 103.68 mg / £ (197mg of caffeine in a £1.90 cup).
The McDonald's McCafe range is your best bet if you’re ordering a latte, at around 90mg of caffeine per pound (153mg of caffeine at just £1.69). However, it might be worth reconsidering your morning coffee choice — the humble latte comes in as the worst value coffee to order on average.
Background and Comment
According to a study published by the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, 400mg of caffeine per day falls within the realm of a ‘healthy’ dosage. That’s around two Costa cappuccinos, five Nerro lattes or two and a half Starbucks americanos, depending on how you want to look at it!
The magical effects of caffeine have been known for centuries - legend says it was ‘discovered’ in the 9th century by a goat farmer, Kaldi. Kaldi’s goats ate some mysterious red berries and became so energetic, they couldn’t sleep at night! Caffeine works by tricking the brain into producing more adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. It also increases dopamine levels, the ‘feel good’ chemical messenger in your brain.
Fast forward to 2019, and it’s not just goats getting their caffeine fix. 80% of people who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week, so it’s no wonder these chains are household names.
Recently, Costa trialled some changes to their cup sizes and prices, raising some questions about what you’re actually paying for when buying from a coffee chain. Although Costa did raise the price and change the volume of milk you’d be getting in your standard coffee, it still stacks up as one of the better value brews - this is because of the comparatively high caffeine content across the Costa range.
Chris Johnson, Head of Operations, of Vouchercloud, commented:
With so many coffee options on offer these days, it’s smart to compare different coffee shops to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your morning brew. There are many factors you might consider when picking where to go for a morning pick-me-up, but for those mainly concerned with getting caffeinated bang for their hard-earned buck, this index will help!
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Data and Methodology
Full data here:
We took the prices from the Bristol branch of each chain, and requested the caffeine data from each brand where it wasn’t available online. Greggs and McCafe do not offer an ‘americano’, so details of a ‘black coffee’ are shown as the closest alternative.
The caffeine data for a McDonald’s black coffee was not available. To estimate this value, the caffeine data for a ‘white coffee’ is used as the closest alternative.
The caffeine data for a mochaccino from Pret-a-Manger, Nero, Costa and Coffee #1 has been adjusted to provide for the chocolate powder or syrup added by the barista (5mg of caffeine, approximately one tablespoon). This is because the data provided by these brands related to ‘caffeine per shot’ rather than ‘caffeine per cup’. This adjustment is consistent with the approach taken by Caffeine Informer.