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This is why you’re broke, coffee edition

My first time at Kaffee 1668, the line was literally out the door. When I got to the counter, I ordered a small mocha. I had barely uttered “no whipped cream,” when the barista looked me straight in the eyes and said, “We don’t do that here.” Still, nothing caught me off guard quite like the tiny beverage’s $5.27 price tag.

The ideal coffee shop for productive work joins a number of crucial components in perfect harmony: free WiFi, plenty of electrical outlets, plenty of seating that does not force unwanted bodily contact, quiet or nonexistent music, adequate but not overpowering lighting and, most importantly, a clean and accessible bathroom.

Kaffee 1668 boasts most of these necessities. Their WiFi is more reliable than that at Starbucks and their ambiance less mass-produced and artificially cheerful than that of Dunkin’ Donuts. There is never a line for the bathroom, no matter how many people are lingering; it’s as though the quiet crowd, glued to identical, silvery laptops, is above basic bodily functions. They sip and occasionally discuss, in lifeless tones, their varying espressi flavors, while amateur tasters are all but scoffed at. In New York City, even Starbucks has a “you sit, you drink” policy, but when I tested this at Kaffee 1668 by sitting down without ordering a drink, I was met with perplexed looks mainly from other patrons (the baristas were probably too busy concentrating), though never verbally confronted.

Then come the downsides. The wooden seats made to look uniquely chopped and crafted by a rugged, axe-wielding mountain man are frankly uncomfortable for the lower back; the lighting (one candle per table, some lacking flame) is only workable until sunset; and a small mocha without even the option of whipped cream costs $5.27. Maybe that’s reasonable for the occasional splurge but, unfortunately for me, the habit has reached critical mass.

While I own an espresso machine, which long ago paid for itself, doing just about anything in the city seems to require having a coffee cup in hand (it helps that there’s a Starbucks on every corner, which is just fine when you’re in a hurry). I will purchase approximately one to two caffeinated beverages per day, in addition to the coffee I make at home.

The cost of that habit averages out to $7.50 per day. Let’s throw in my monthly bag of espresso beans at about $12, and I’m looking at $2,881.50 per year spent on coffee. That’s a number I don’t want to think about and seriously regret calculating. That’s about four months’ rent for one person in a decent Brooklyn apartment. Still, nothing brings me joy like coffee does, and it (almost) always tastes better when it’s not from home.

What do you think? Do you have an everyday habit that adds up big over the course of a year? Share your story with us for our next installment of “This is why you’re broke.”

(Photo: Alissa Fleck)