Grocery Shrink Ray Hits Folgers, Makes More Cups From Less Coffee?

Here’s a fun little mystery for you guys. How can taking away 4 oz of coffee produce more cups of coffee? We’ve been thinking about it ever since Blueprint for Financial Prosperity sent us this photo the other day, and we just can’t figure it out. Could it be magic? Some strange new property of the Grocery Shrink Ray?

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity says:

I bought a can of Folgers coffee two days ago from Costco. When I compared it to my last can, also from Costco, I saw that the new one had 4 oz less of ground coffee. Ok, no big deal, but then I saw that the small can claimed to make more coffee than the larger can. This is the first time I’ve seen a company shrink their product but claim you get more. It’s not a matter of coffee potency either, the preparation instructions are the same.

Now we’re not math geniuses or anything here, so please do let us know if we’re missing something or messed this up but, the preparation instructions are in tablespoons (volume) and the product is sold by weight… but the ingredients say that both cans contain 100% pure coffee. Has the density of coffee changed lately?

Hmm, let’s see. ?=m/V, and 1 tablespoon is 15 cm³… 360 6 oz cups…

By our calculations, the old density of Folgers coffee was .272 g/cm³ and the new density is .238 g/cm³. Did you guys get the same thing?

The shrink ray is getting more complicated all the time.

Folgers Coffee: Magic Shrink Ray Make More From Less [Blueprint For Financial Prosperity]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Couldn’t a more coarse grind lower the density?

  2. whoneedslight says:

    Is it somehow related to the fact that although my coffeemaker *says* it makes 12-cups, it realistically makes only 7-8 cups?

  3. sir_pantsalot says:

    In most other countries 3 pounds of coffee only makes about 10 cups of coffee.

  4. Bladefist says:

    Coffee Lite! W/ More Water!

  5. wonderkind says:

    Save your money, go to Starbucks.

  6. The_IT_Crone says:

    @Applekid: I think that’s the most reasonable possibility. It may or may not be true, but it at least makes sense.

    I know how you can get 1000 cups! Just add water!

  7. kidincredible says:

    Or, you can read the label where it says “90 MORE CUPS ::small text:: than 39 oz”

    Google says “39 oz to lbs” = 2.4375 lbs

    so the more cups, isn’t referring to the older packaging, but to the step down packaging.

    misleading? sure. but not a scooby doo mystery

  8. failurate says:

    They are measuring using Italian 4 ounce cups, as opposed to the French 6 ounce cups, as opposed to the British 8 ounce cup, as opposed to the American 12 ounce cup.

  9. kidincredible says:

    haha, or you can not read the article in the first place and not understand the confusion

    i = fail

  10. Ein2015 says:

    @wonderkind: Baaaaaaahahahahahahaha. That’s the best joke all day! :D

  11. Wes_Sabi says:

    Folgers drinkers must like their coffee weak, anyway. Most other brands of coffee, as well as coffee maker instruction manuals, recommend 2 Tbs per 6 oz serving. From what I’ve read, ground coffee is about 5 grams per Tbs so 3 lbs (1360.8 grams) divided by 2 Tbs (10 grams) only makes 136 cups, not 380.

  12. vladthepaler says:

    Pity they didn’t label it: Now with 12.5% less density! I imagine they could have turned density into the new fat with a little help from marketing…

  13. failurate says:

    @failurate: I’m going to join kidincredible in the failure read the article/look at pictures corner of shame.

  14. Meg Marco says:

    @kidincredible: @failurate: Don’t worry, that’s exactly what I thought the first time I looked at it.

  15. donopolis says:

    @kidincredible: ha ha pwnd.

    even a different grind doesn’t explain how you can get more following the same directions…


  16. MercuryPDX says:



    Basically, coffeemakers have been hit with the shrink ray too. A “cup” of coffee has been (re)defined as 5 oz.

    So your 12-“cup” coffeemaker makes 60oz. of coffee, or 7-8 8oz. cups of coffee.

  17. chucklebuck says:

    We’ve secretly replaced their dark, sparkling Folgers crystals with . . . fewer dark, sparkling Folgers crystals. Let’s see if they notice.

  18. snoop-blog says:

    They just burnt the bean a little more so that way it takes less coffee to get that Folger’s burnt taste!

  19. Carencey says:

    are they including their own “tablespoon”?

  20. Gopher bond says:

    Maybe the price of sawdust increased so they were forced to increase the coffee to sawdust ration, thus allowing for more cups of coffee with less “coffee” grounds.

  21. dmolavi says:

    dark crystals have been replaced with dark matter. ergo, more cups.


  22. strathmeyer says:

    Sounds like fun with rounding.

  23. wickedpixel says:

    they’re apparently basing it on the “1/2 Measuring Cup” to 10 servings ratio. Notice is doesn’t say “1/2 cup”, it’s “1/2 measuring cup”. Obviously you’re supposed to use a smaller measuring cup with the new packaging.

  24. acknight says:

    @wickedpixel: I suppose, but they didn’t change the per-cup measure; how are they arguing that there are 380 tbsp of grounds in a smaller canister than one with 360 tbsp of grounds in it?

    Granted, most people don’t make coffee by the single 6oz. cup, but still.

  25. snoop-blog says:

    I’m Maxwell House kinda guy. That shit is good to the last drop.

  26. dorianh49 says:

    I think Folger’s is counting on the Grocery Shrink Ray affecting cup sizes.

  27. snoop-blog says:

    @dorianh49: Win!

  28. Red_Eye says:

    More moisture in the grounds. They dry it and roast it less lowering coast increasing weight and decreasing yield.

  29. EBounding says:

    It says it makes “up to” so many cups, not that it can make that many cups. So they just raised the ceiling, not the floor. Technically speaking, it can make UP TO 1 million cups, which means no more than 1 million cups can be made from that can. And that’s true.

    I’m pretty sure that’s the BS marketing logic. :P

  30. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @EBounding: I would like to buy your million cup coffee.

  31. backbroken says:

    @EBounding: Beat me to it.

  32. MikeF74 says:

    If they are doing a larger, more voluminous grind, then wouldn’t there be less surface area of coffee for the hot water to pass through. This would dilute the coffee even more than just the volumetric difference.

  33. HonestNigerian says:

    @whoneedslight : A cup is 8 ounces.. NOT 12 ounces like your mug holds.

  34. @EBounding: True, but that’s still flat out deceptive to just list a higher number for no reason.

  35. AnxiousDemographic says:

    It’s because of crap like this that I always use only the unit price labeling. Caveat: Some stores don’t show unit pricing on the shelves, and occasionally I catch one with bogus math or with different units for different brands of the same product.

  36. sean77 says:

    @donopolis: sure it does. The directions use tablespoon, which is a measure of volume, the container itself is measured in lbs, which is a measure of weight. They are unrelated measurements.

    See kids, math is important.

  37. basket548 says:

    I concur. But it certainly is the sneakiest use yet of the Shrink Ray (and yes, I’m one of those people that’s completely sick of it).

    There seems to be a double shrink effect going on here, unless they’ve found a way to pack more flavor into less bean.

  38. Altdotweb says:

    Maybe if the poster would have taken a scoop from the old coffee and compared it to a scoop from the new coffee, we would have a better picture of this mystery. If they reduced the amount of the same coffee, then chances are that they would also reduce the size of the container to avoid the visual impression of getting less coffee. The containers look to be the same size, so it might point to a new processing technique. Explore all angles first.

    Unfortunately, many get caught up in the hysteria before getting to that point.

  39. Meg, I believe you truncated instead of rounding to the nearest decimal. Although this is not a material error, it’s still important that I had to lower your grade to an “A-“.

    Using volume for measuring dry goods is a sham anyway. I can show you a tablespoon of Folger’s that weighs 4 grams and another tablespoon that weighs 7. The fudge factor that changes 360 cups to 380 cups is well within the packing margin of error.

  40. EBounding says:

    @pfblueprint: Oh yeah, it’s definitely deceptive.

  41. Snarkysnake says:

    Anything that puts less of this swill in me at breakfast is a real benefit. Thanks Folgers !

  42. dweebster says:

    @chucklebuck: YEAH!!

  43. MrFreshy says:

    someone said that the label states 100% coffee, so sawdust is out…
    however, if they have raised the ratio of robusto coffee to arabica, they can get away with using less coffee per cup since robusto has a stronger flavor.

  44. Hulapop says:

    Who would actually count the number of cups it makes and write back to complain. They label is designed to make you want to grab the package with 380 cups on it and put in the humongous shopping cart. It appears even more absurd to me, because I have been roasting my own beans for years. The cost $3-$4.50 a pound. No comparison.

  45. puddleglum411 says:

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that anyone buying 3 pounds of pre-ground coffee is clearly not concerned with the taste of their coffee.

  46. Gopher bond says:

    Somehow they squeezed an extra 5.96 ounces of prepared coffee out of every ounce weight of coffee.

    @MrFreshy: but what if it’s sawdust from the coffee plant stalks? eh, smart guy?

  47. swagv says:

    This shrinkage has been happening since the 1970s when the likes of Folgers, etc., suddenly started shrinking their cans in response to price rises. How else can you explain the 3 lb 4oz can to begin with. Trace its roots back to 1978 and you’ll find that it was originally a 4-lb can.

  48. BobTheMighty says:

    Randomly, this has happened every time the price of coffee has dramatically increased for the past 100 years… They suggest “use less coffee” or “re-use grinds” — I saw the ads in a book called “higher grounds”, but I’m sure you can find them on the interweb if you look for old coffee advertisements.

    A coffee cup is officially calculated as around 5 ounces I think, I can’t seem to find it online after a quick search (Anyway between 4-6).

    Coffee producers stop planting when the price is low, and plant extra when the price is high. The problem is it takes 3 years for a plant to start producing enough beans to pay for itself, and by then, 3 years of heavy planting means the price drops dramatically for a few years so they stop planting until old trees start dying off, demand exceeds supply, and the planting starts again.

    This is one of the main reasons to buy fair wage coffee — the price is guaranteed so they don’t boom/bust as other coffee plantations have for over 150 years, leading to a more stable planting policy with an emphasis on using the land for a lot longer, leading to more ecologically friendly plantations.

  49. golfinggiraffe says:

    @donopolis: Coarser grind = more air pockets between each crystal = less density = less weight for the same volume.

    Any questions?

  50. Paladin_11 says:

    It’s like laundry detergent… it’s ULTRA-CONCENTRATED!

  51. AmbroseP says:

    I’m seeing inconsistent definitions for density. It’s the mass per unit volume occupied in space–not the mass per unit volume filled in a measuring utensil.

    Density is an intrinsic quality for a substance.

    I think what many of you are referring to is the “bulk density” which accounts for the volume of the substance, its pores and the air pockets between particles (i.e. it depends on how you pack it down).

    Bulk density is an extrinsic quality for a substance.

    I think this is just another case of marketing gurus gone wild.

  52. bavb says:

    um, basically they are lying.

  53. JackAshley says:

    Certain coffees taste much stronger, even if used less…

    IE: My Mother in law uses a store bought dark roast, and does three heaping tablespoons for a pot (12ish cups). It’s STRONG! At home, I buy the beans and grind them myself, and the ones I get take about one heaping tablespoon PER CUP and it’s still not as strong as my Mother in law’s three tablespoons.

  54. @chucklebuck: Why?! You son of a b*tch! You no good damn son of a b*tch! You lied to me! You lied to me!!

    I’ll get you! I’ll kill you all!! As God is my witness…


  55. Altdotweb says:


    Buy a container and let us know if you are correct.

  56. DylanMorgan says:

    Actually, this isn’t the first time coffee brewers have done this. When you put less coffee in (and more water) you get an overextracted, bitter cup that still tastes “strong.” Bet the brewing recommendation has fewer scoops per cup of water.

  57. mike says:

    Addition by subtraction.

    I’ve got to hand it to Folder’s. They are getting creative to the point that they are refying the laws of physics!

  58. eirrom says:


    I was just thinking that. 3lbs is a lot. Opening and closing that container, exposing the coffee grounds to the air just kills what little taste the Folger’s might have had.

  59. it probably has to do with the way instant coffee like this is made.
    first, they brew super-strong coffee.
    then, they dehydrate it.
    they might simply be increasing the strength of the initial brew, therefore needing to transport less instant “coffee” and still being able to make the same number of cups (or more, in this case)

  60. Ben Popken says:

    Simple. They reduced volume and package size while increasing concentration.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone else notice that it specifies a RANGE for the number of cups of coffee? 335-380 for the new, 320-360 for the old design.

    So basically you can get 350 cups of coffee from either container. I do find it misleading that they get this with LESS coffee in the container, however.