Economical Coffee Options at IMSA

A representation of IMSA students' heart rates while procrastinating an essay. Source: Pixabay.

With everything getting back into gear for the new school year, everyone is anticipating loads of schoolwork, sleep deprivation, and college and scholarship essays to come. Among those, your top priority is undoubtedly, “How do I work up the energy to do all that?”

Well, never fear — the Acronym is here to help!

Below, you’ll find listings of coffee options both at IMSA and at other frequently-visited locations in the Aurora area. Listings are rated by quality (up to 5 stars) and price (scale of $ to $$$) for the benefit of all sleep-deprived students, regardless of budget.



No, we’re not talking about the vending machine by grab-’n’-go. There is a coffee machine inside the Sodexo cafeteria. While you shouldn’t expect a Starbucks macchiato out of it, it does have decent coffee, albeit of a weaker flavor (which can easily be amended by adding milk or something). You’ll find the machine to the left of the iced tea machine, by the fountain drink machines in the eating area.


Now we’re talking about the vending machine by grab-’n’-go. It’s a dollar a cup, but a good price if you want a more flavorful caffeine fix. The Caffe Latte and French Vanilla Cappuccinos are worth trying. Also, the vending machine is accessible any time the main building is open, so definitely a plus.


This is how I survive Monday mornings. You can buy a Kolob Brew Tube for $13 on Amazon (disclaimer: the author was not paid to make this shameless plug). Just maintain a supply of coffee grounds, and you  have a reliable daily supply of cold brew coffee. Every night before in-room (or, you know, after in-room), just put about ½ cup of coffee grounds into the cold brew tube, submerge the tube in a Mason jar full of water, refrigerate, and let soak overnight. This option also allows you to control the strength of your coffee by measuring the amount of coffee grounds you add.


Budgeting for this depends on what brand of instant coffee powder you buy. I like Nescafe’s Taster’s Choice; one jar lasts at least a month and a half. It also comes in smaller packets if you prefer that option. Woodman’s carries Folger’s and Maxwell House brands, too. Of course, they carry Starbucks-brand instant coffee too, but…that should really be in a different price tier. (Tip: The instructions on the jars always say to mix into hot water, but at least with Nescafe, it works equally well with cold water for iced coffee).


K-cups are in a different price tier from instant coffee powder, since they generally are more expensive per unit. This also depends on whether your wing/hall has a coffee machine. I personally believe that K-cups are only marginally better than the Sodexo cafeteria coffee machine…but that’s just me.


Well, you can’t argue with the quality and freshness of Starbucks coffee, but the prices can be tough on IMSA students’ wallets. Accessibility is also an issue with this option, since off-campus trips are limited by scheduling and it’s a 2.6-mile round trip on foot. You could, of course, take Starbucks drinks back to IMSA and refrigerate them for the following morning, but then the ice will melt and dilute the coffee. Would not recommend.


Endnote: My editors insist that if my ratings are out of 5 stars, I have to have at least one five-star rated coffee on this list. Fine.



You can get whipped cream topping on any Starbucks drink for free, and it is the unqualified best creamer option for your coffee.

About the Author

Grace Yue
Grace Yue is a senior from Des Plaines. She's the Opinions section editor for the second year running, a resident of 03A-wing for the third year running, and an honorary resident of 06 for the third year running. Outside of Acronym, she participates in a research project at Fermilab, serves as 03 Head Tutor, and writes for the Korea Daily Chicago's Student Reporters Club. If you live in 02 or 03 and ever want to use Grace's mobile hotspot (entitled "apply to Acronym!!"), simply strike up a conversation with her & listen to her ramble for the next hour about awesome the Acronym is. Then ask her for the password.

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