As the sun rises over Princeton’s campus, countless students, faculty, and staff make their morning trek to buy a cup of coffee. According to The Daily Princetonian’s Senior Survey, more than 66 percent of students drink coffee at least once a week, and over 40 percent drink at least five cups a week. With potentially thousands of University affiliates grabbing coffee every day, the ‘Prince’ set out to answer an essential question: Where is the cheapest cup of coffee in Princeton?
While several locations on campus offer free coffee, including dining halls and the Murray-Dodge Café, for this analysis, we excluded complimentary offerings.
The ‘Prince’ gathered pricing data from 16 different coffee shops on campus and around town, from the Chemistry CaFe in Frick Chemistry Laboratory to Starbucks. We identified drinks that these establishments all or mostly carried and compared the prices between the shops. The ‘Prince’ measured the walking distance of each of these coffee shops from a campus landmark to determine whether cheaper coffee requires a longer walk.
The mean price of a 16-ounce cup of hot drip coffee — our reference drink sold at all locations in the dataset — was $3.37. Across the seven other drinks we surveyed, lattes had the highest average price, clocking in at $5. Espresso shots were the cheapest at $2.90.
The cheapest 16-ounce cup of hot drip coffee can be found at Wawa for just $1.99. The Coffee Club was the runner-up, with cups sold for $2.50 at both its Campus Club and New College West locations. In third place was Starbucks at $2.95, though Sakrid Coffee Roasters was only slightly pricier at $3 flat. The most expensive cup of coffee we analyzed was at Shultz Cafe inside the Louis A. Simpson International Building at $3.95, nearly twice as much as the Wawa price.
Indeed, low prices at Wawa seem to be a running theme throughout our dataset. For each drink in our dataset that Wawa offered, Wawa had the cheapest price. For some drinks, this gap was especially large — Wawa’s cold brew is a full dollar cheaper than the next cheapest cold brew, found at The Coffee Club and Starbucks.
Comparing an array of hot drinks, Wawa was the cheapest option for each, though the runner-up and third-place finishers varied. Wawa had the cheapest latte at $3.49, followed by Starbucks and The Coffee Club at $4.45. The most expensive latte was at illy Coffee at a whopping $5.75. In regards to espresso, Wawa was the cheapest at $1.89 for a single 2 oz shot, while The Pastry & Coffee Room narrowly edged out The Coffee Club by a nickel to take the runner-up spot. Wawa and Starbucks had the cheapest cappuccinos at $3.49 and $3.95, respectively, while Rojo’s Roastery and Tiger Tea Room had the most expensive at $5.55 and $5.50.
For iced drinks, we looked at cold brew prices. Fewer establishments in our dataset offered cold brew — just nine out of sixteen. The cheapest 16 oz cold brew was, as expected, Wawa at $3.39, followed by The Coffee Club and Starbucks tied at $4.45. Small World and illy Coffee at Earth’s End had the most expensive options at $5.25 apiece. The average price for a cold brew was $4.69, significantly higher than the $3.37 average price for a cup of hot coffee.
To investigate whether walking further away from the center of campus leads to a cheaper cup of joe, the ‘Prince’ compared the pricing data to the coffee establishments’ distances relative to Nassau Hall, one of Princeton’s most recognizable buildings. However, we found no strong relationship between distance and price.
Generally, coffee shops in Princeton’s downtown area and Palmer Square tended to be more expensive, though Starbucks, Maman, and Sakrid Coffee Roasters managed to undercut a number of University-affiliated establishments, like Tiger Tea Room, as well as Campus Dining-run facilities like Witherspoon Café that are located further from Nassau Hall. Likewise, the cheapest cups of coffee, found at the two Coffee Club locations and Wawa, were some of the establishments furthest down campus, though the furthest — Chemistry CaFe — was one of the most expensive shops we surveyed.
For the 40 percent of Princeton students making their treks for caffeine, it’s safe to say that those searching for a cheap cup of coffee should look no further than Wawa.
Ryan Konarska is a contributing writer for the data section of the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.