The answer is obvious, you say? Stick with me here.

I wanted to buy a coffee maker that would make one fresh cup at a time, fully automatic and self-cleaning. The obvious choice is the popular Keurig machine, which Amazon is selling for $126.50. Insert a K-cup, push the button and that’s it. The extravagant option is a Jura-Capresso C9, an impressive machine that makes espresso drinks as well, discounted on Amazon for (gulp!) $1,698. It holds a good stock of beans and water. Push the button and it grinds, tamps, brews and cleans up after itself.

I really need to figure in the cost of the coffee to get a reasonable cost comparison for this purchase decision. I drink at least three cups of coffee per day and keep a coffee machine at least five years. That comes out to 5,475 cups of coffee over the five-year period (Yowee!). I put together a spreadsheet to calculate the cost of each machine, including the coffee, over this five-year period. Here it is, coffeecompare. You can change the numbers in blue if you drink more or less coffee per day or keep a machine a longer or shorter time. That will give you your own total cost.

I like Starbucks Verona blend, so I used that for the comparison. The best price on the K-cups on Amazon is $67.98 for a package of 96 K-cups, which comes out to $.71 per cup. The cost per cup of coffee beans was a little trickier. Starbucks claims 64 cups per pound, which works out to 4 cups per ounce. The best price on Verona beans on Amazon was $37.99 for three 12-ounce bags. That’s 36 ounces at 4 cups per ounce, or 144 cups of coffee. That works out to $0.26 per cup. Finally, I added the cost of the machine and the cost of all the coffee and got the true cost of each machine over five years.

The expensive machine saved hundreds of dollars! The five-year cost of the Keurig would be $4003 and the Jura-Capresso would be $3142. Try the spreadsheet with your own numbers and see what you get. The more coffee you drink, the better the Jura-Capresso (or any other machine that uses bulk coffee) will look. If you don’t drink much coffee, the Keurig is the better deal.

This is an example of how the answer can change radically if you consider what’s called life-cycle costs, all those ongoing expenses that we tend not to think about, things like monthly service or toner cartridges.

By the way, cost is not the only factor in this choice. You may choose the Keurig because you enjoy a variety of coffee roasts and flavors. You may choose the Jura-Capresso because you like an occasional cappuccino. In fact, I used to be in the habit of getting a cappuccino at Starbucks several evenings a week. I estimated the cost of doing this for five years, and that turned out to cost even more than either of the coffee makers. Yes, my old Jura-Capresso, which I thought was an outrageous splurge, paid for itself a couple of years ago and is now making me coffee for 26 cents a cup.