Love Keurig? Nope.

03/30/2011

Love Keurig? Not one bit. But yesterday Twitter was all a-buzz about the machine that brews single-serve coffee pods (K-cups) while they were “promoted” to the top of the trending list. So I tweeted my 140 character dissertation on the topic, simply stating that “Keurig is bad for coffee and bad for the Earth. #killthekcup.” While a few people—145 of them—agreed with me and re-shared the message, not everyone felt the same.

I was quickly contacted by Keurig with a link to their reusable K-cup as if that rectified the issue and put an end to the discussion. Then a few loyal K-cup fans were upset that I criticized their right to never have to wipe coffee off their counter tops, followed by another guy who thought that the billions of non-recyclable plastic cups are not an issue and I should invest my activist angst elsewhere.

The reality, it is a big issue—not just in the coffee industry, but in the bigger ecological picture. When the most important “R” of conservation is to “reduce,” ignoring the rapid growth of an unnecessary and disposable product like K-cups is far from inconsequential. So, I’ve broken down my issues with this growing coffee trend into four categories: economics, quality, environment and the company behind it all.

Economics
First we’ll start with money, the topic people are generally concerned with the most. There are many ways to brew coffee, much better coffee, for the same cost (or less) than K-cups. On average, you can brew 30 cups of coffee with 1 pound of coffee beans. So let’s compare the two.

A 24-pack of Fair Trade Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve K-cups cost $15.45, which comes out to 65 cents a cup for glorified instant coffee. Meanwhile, you can buy a pound of Intelligenstia’s Direct Trade coffee for $20, which is a premium compared to what most people pay in a grocery store or even at most local roasters. Divide that by 30 and it comes out to 66 cents a cup for some of the best coffee you can buy. Cost savings per cup? Need a penny, take a penny.

What about all the expensive tools you need to brew fresh coffee? Let’s compare. The cheapest Kuerig brewing system you can buy is the Mr. Coffee KG1, which costs $79.50. Or for just $1.95 more, you can get an AeroPress, an entry level burr grinder and an electric kettle (assuming you need one). Once your water is heated, you can brew coffee with an AeroPress in the same amount of time as a K-cup—30 seconds. If time isn’t a concern, a french press, clever dripper, or pour-over cone can also brew one cup at a time and will take about 4 minutes.

Coffee Quality
Keurig’s tagline is “brewing excellence one cup at a time.” However, all basic principles of properly brewing coffee are ignored by the Keurig. For starters, the water in a Keurig only reaches 192°F (89°C), the Specialty Coffee Association of America suggests a minimum of 197.5°F and the industry standard is about 200°F. Combine the low water temperature with such a short brew time and you get a very under extracted cup.

There is also no control over the coffee to water ratio, so whether you want a small, medium or large cup, the same amount of coffee is used for the various levels of water. So a small will be extra strong, while a large will be weak and watery. When you push the corresponding size button, the amount of coffee in the cup doesn’t magically change.

The only way to truly make a cup of excellent coffee is to use fresh-roasted quality beans, ground just before brewing. No amount of freeze drying, airtight packaging or artificial flavors will produce a comparable cup. However, when your coffee options include “Chocolate Glazed Donut,” your beverage is as much coffee as Kool-Aid is fruit juice.

While taste may be subjective, quality is not.

Environmental Impact
In 2009, 1.6 billion non-recyclable plastic K-cups were sold (it was estimated that 3 billion would be sold in 2010). That’s enough plastic to circle the earth 1.25 times. Plastic that will take millions of years to degrade—if ever— and will continue to pile up in landfills and the ocean, increasing the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and killing wildlife. All in the name of low-quality convenience.

While loyalists and the company will quickly point out the “My K-cup” reusable basket as proof that Keurig isn’t all bad, that’s like saying Starbucks doesn’t have a paper cup problem, because they also sell ceramic mugs. Truth is, the reusable basket hasn’t prevented the sale and waste of billions of K-cups, so its prevention efforts are little if any. Another company argument is that the Green Mountain R&D department is laboring away to develop more environmentally friendly solutions to a problem their product created in the first place. A disposable product can never truly be sustainable.

If this were a life-saving medical device preventing the spread of AIDs in the developing world, I would be a bit more lenient. But that’s not the case. The K-cup was designed to save incompetent adults the trouble of wiping up coffee grounds from their counter top in the morning. I find it disturbing that such a “green company” can even justify the continued production of such an irresponsible and unnecessary product.

The Company
Back in the early 2000’s Green Mountain Coffee was the anti-Starbucks. They were a growing coffee company based in Vermont and stood on a foundation of admirable environmental ideals with a history full of environmental innovations. In many ways, they are still a leader of corporate environmental stewardship. But with the acquisition of Keurig in 2006, the company quickly became a walking contradiction.

While continuing to profess their environmental sanctity, advertising in GOOD magazine, and using the tagline “brewing a better world”—the company shifted from promoting and selling Fair Trade organic coffee, to more than 80% of sales coming from Keurig machines and K-cups. The company seems to ignore the irony in selling Fair Trade organic coffee in little plastic cups by the truckload.

But even with most sales coming from the coffee equivalent of bottled water, Green Mountain’s marketing still paints the company as a beacon of environmental morality. At what point are all the positive things they are doing completely negated by the billions of plastic cups they are contributing into the waste stream each year? Does their corporate sustainability record give them a free pass on the absurd waste of K-cups?

Summary
Are K-cups the only problem in the world? No. But it’s a relatively new problem that has been manufactured for convenience. People can point to other disposables, but coffee is everywhere. It’s the third most consumed beverage in the world and its consumption continues to grow with the rising middle-class in China and India. A person can easily go through 3 K-cups a day, while a toothbrush lasts 3 months or more.

Coffee has come so far since the introduction of post-WW1 instant coffee, yet the rise of K-cups takes a giant step backwards for consumers, the industry, the environment, and the beverage itself. As someone who loves both the drink and the industry, it seems so completely obvious—K-cups are bad for coffee and bad for the Earth. #killthekcup.

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84 Comments

  • Reply Nigel 03/30/2011 at 8:46 pm

    That was a great story. I learned so much about K-cups in so little time!

  • Reply Ann 03/30/2011 at 11:24 pm

    I have a Keurig after hearing good things about them. I also use the reusable filter and grind my own coffee. Normally I use a french press but for a quick cup I use the Keurig. I find the coffee is a bit weak. What is your opinion on the coffeemaker itself?

    • Reply bwj 03/30/2011 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Ann, thanks for reading! When you ask what I think about the coffeemaker, are you referring to the quality of the coffee it makes? or the physical design, function, quality of the machine itself?

  • Reply Dawid 03/31/2011 at 5:26 am

    Wow, that’s a very interesting post you’ve published here. Really made me more concious about those machines – the closest equivalent to Keurig’s here in Poland is Nescafe Dolce Gusto I guess. It makes a great coffee for somebody who doesn’t know french press or how a great espresso should be like. It makes an awful swill for somebody who does. Instant coffee, instant milk. Instant water one would like to point out sarcastically.

  • Reply Tom 03/31/2011 at 9:53 am

    Sorry to disagree but your cost comparison is only based on grocery store pricing which is much more expensive than buying on Amazon or other web based sellers. I typically spend around 40 cents a cup and get free shipping. I also would like to take exception with your analysis of the coffee quality. Yes, I too have had some bad Keurig K-cup coffees but then I have also had some really bad brewed ones as well. If you are looking for ultra strong, black goo coffee then Keurig is not for you but, I have tried several brands and types of K-cups and have found several that satisfy me. One must just explore to find that which pushes one’s buttons. Now as far as the environmental aspect I must agree with you but, as K-cups become popular enough and begin to become a larger portion of the “throw-away” trash maybe that will invoke those with the power to mark these cups for recycle and for recycling companies to start processing them.
    Now to end this novelette, as you can tell I am a Keurig fan but, I have not always been. I discovered it totally by accident and before my Keurig, I was a fresh roasted coffee snob as many are. But the freshness of each cup and the fact that I didn’t have to make a whole pot eventually won me over as I think it will for anyone who gives it an honest try.

    • Reply bwj 03/31/2011 at 10:13 am

      Tom, thanks for reading and joining the discussion.

      My Cost comparison is just one example, but I fairly used retail pricing on both products. I also gave the K-Cup huge advantage by comparing them to Intelligentsia, some of the most expensive coffee you can buy. I could alternatively get a pound of fresh whole beans from other roasters for $9-$12, bringing the per-cup-cost down to $0.30-$0.40. K-cup still loses on economics.

      Like I said in the article, taste is subjective, but quality is not. There are extraction and flavor standards as well as other taste qualifiers in the industry, just because you like it doesn’t make it quality.

      The “whole pot” argument is also invalid, because as I’ve listed in the article, there are a myriad of ways to brew one cup at a time with fresh coffee (AeroPress, Eva Solo, v60, Clever Dripper, Melitta, even a small french press or Chemex). Every cup, made to order, and fresh as can be. This is why the new generation of coffee shops are beginning to prepare coffee in this way for customers.

      There is more to the recyclability of the K-cups than just designating the type of plastic. It has to do with how they are manufactured and how the filter and seal are fused to the cup. I think when there’s 3 billion+ of these things being disposed of each year, they are a significant enough portion to consider. Discussions on Green Mountains own blog about how to “green the K-cup” date back to 2008.

      You can rationalize it all you want, but it won’t change the waste or quality of the K-cup.

  • Reply kayjayuu 03/31/2011 at 10:09 am

    This doesn’t even touch on the issue of the quality of flavored-coffees vs. adding flavoring after the brew if you really must. I like to mix it up as much as the next person, but as I’ve gone deeper into my coffee journey, I reserve my sugar-free hazelnut comfort food taste for the so-so coffee I purchase in a pinch. If I’m paying $20 for a direct trade microlot, I’m sure not going to flavor it up! I’ll enhance it with milk if it works.

    But like you said, kool-aid coffee. There’s a time and a place for it, I suppose.

  • Reply BeanFruit Coffe Co. 03/31/2011 at 12:04 pm

    Great post, I agree with you as well. These machines are another thorn in the side of high quality specialty coffee. They simply pretend to be specialty coffee when they are indeed another form of instant. I’ve had cups of coffee off of the Keurig and I have yet to be impressed. However, because of the brands that they have on the machine, customers are led to believe that they are getting high quality coffee. Is it just me or does the fact that every roaster who started providing their coffee for the Keurig is now owned by Green Mountain?? It does me.

    I’m a coffee roaster ( http://www.beanfruit.com ) who seeks and selects the highest quality coffee I can source. I roast and sell it within 14 days of roast date (have yet for any to get to 14 days in my stock, Yay!). I’ve shown my customers how easy it is to make a great cup of coffee simply using a water kettle and a $4 Melitta brewer. The quality of the K-Cup doesn’t compare and my customers save $100-150 on another machine.

    I feel that the Keurig will eventually end up in landfill before its over with, (anyone remember Senseo?) along with the billions of plastic K-Cups it spit out. Sorry, but along with everything else in the food industry, nothing beats the “old fashioned” way of brewing coffee. New devices come and go, but great coffee brewers like the French Press and the Siphon have yet to be copied in quality.

    Great Post!! #killthecup

  • Reply Mark 03/31/2011 at 12:05 pm

    Have to agree with you. While I will always say “there’s a coffee and coffee maker for everyone,” the Keurig system to me has some major deficiencies, including the quality of the appliance. Plastic, China, 1-2 year life span is my guess. The temperature control is a major drawback, not to mention freshness of the coffee.

    I find that the most compelling reason for people to switch from K-cups is tasting real coffee brewed the right way. Once they have that “aha!” moment, there isn’t any going back.

    Nice job comparing the economics of it. You should do the same for Nespresso…

  • Reply Joel 03/31/2011 at 4:35 pm

    Awesome article thx for posting. I used to work in an office with a bunch of people who considered themselves environment riendly and ironically they got a Keurig. They had no problem throwing 30 of those plastic guys away a day. I am no tree hugger but even I saw something wrong with it, plus the coffee is just bad and too expensive. How lazy are we going to get as a culture?

  • Reply Why the Keurig K-Cup is the beginning of the end for great coffee « Muddy Dog Roasting Co. 04/01/2011 at 1:11 am

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  • Reply Lindsy Smart-Fish 04/01/2011 at 8:39 am

    My husband once asked me if I wanted a Keurig after we sampled coffee from one. I told him no because we have no real choice in coffee brands, and I can make a better cup with a French Press and a kitchen timer.

    I stand by my decision.

  • Reply Jim P 04/01/2011 at 9:19 am

    Very nice post. I tried to take it from where you left it, to what I think is its logical conclusion on my blog. I hope you’ll read it and leave comments.
    http://muddydogcoffee.wordpress.com

    • Reply bwj 04/01/2011 at 10:43 am

      Thanks Jim, your voice and perspective is appreciated! As for your thesis statement, “the shift to Keurig is going to fundamentally alter the specialty coffee landscape for the worse,” I’m pretty sure I covered that in my summary in not so many words.

      PS. You totally outdid my epicness.

  • Reply greg 04/01/2011 at 10:21 am

    I like the reasoned thinking here in this overall piece, but the environmental arguments in it suffer from the usual recycling megalomania that wrongly dominates any “green thinking” discussions today.

    If I may so bluntly summarize the problem in a slogan: “it’s not just the trash, stupid.”

    People have become so enamored and obsessed with recycling as the end-all, be-all of environmentalism that their brains have completely lapsed on the much more impactful concepts of “reduce” and “reuse”. (Remember, recycling comes last on that list.) How do they apply here? Materials extraction and mining, extrusion, chemical and mechanical processing, packaging, shipping.

    If recycling were the only concern, we should have no problem with Keurig machines selling disposable coffeeshops with every serving — including parking lot, bathroom, furniture, and condiment bar. If it’s fully recyclable, what’s the harm, right?

    The immense waste going into creating all that is the huge problem (plus the questionable energy loss or savings in the actual recycling of it). Capsule and pod machines are designed as if they were meant to maximize the amount of additional materials extraction, processing, packaging, and shipping with every serving.

    • Reply bwj 04/01/2011 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for commenting Greg.

      I mentioned at the very beginning of the article, “the most important ‘R’ of conservation is to reduce.” Even if these were recyclable you still have a “water bottle problem,” where only a small percentage of people actually recycle them anyway. Recycling is only a feel good solution to a larger cultural problem of over consumption and designed disposability.

      In my opinion it is the trash, stupid. While I understand the larger complexities of energy and water use involved in shipping, resource extraction, as well as the green house emissions involved. I try not to use those arguments to avoid the climate skeptics who think the planet is infinite. When using examples like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and natural spaces overflowing with plastic bits that will never go away, it’s a much more tangible example of the issue.

      You’re right in many ways, but that’s a much larger debate. :-)

  • Reply Lizzy Caston 04/01/2011 at 1:36 pm

    I have a solution! Are you ready for it? Grinder, Single French Press or Single Cone Drip, and a Travel Mug! OMG. Affordable, high quality and sustainable. I’m just curious why these tried and true brewing methods weren’t factored into the equation.

    Only takes a couple of minutes more than boiling water. Joking aside, I haven’t tried the K-Cup (see above) but as a marketing and PR professional I do see a lot of greenwashing being done in many food and beverage segments right now – The K Cup being just one example. That continues to dirty the pool for everyone and will ultimately bite Green Mountain on the butt as places such as McD’s adopt similar ideas.

    Anyway, interesting post. As I sit here enjoying a nice freshly roasted Harrar cone drip for probably about 20 cents.

    • Reply bwj 04/01/2011 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks for the tips Lizzy,

      I did offer the French press as an alternative solution, “Once your water is heated, you can brew coffee with an AeroPress in the same amount of time as a K-cup—30 seconds. If time isn’t a concern, a french press, clever dripper, or pour-over cone can also brew one cup at a time and will take about 4 minutes.”

      The reason I chose to highlight the AeroPress is because it’s one of the quickest ways to brew fresh filter coffee. One of the biggest arguments K-cups owners have is just how quickly you can make coffee with them, unaware of the equally quick AeroPress.

  • Reply Lizzy Caston 04/01/2011 at 2:00 pm

    Yeah good point, I suppose some people really care about SPEED. I just know there are trade offs there. I mean, I guess if I measure my life by whether something is 30 seconds vs. 4 minutes, that’s not a life I want to live. In four minutes after I pour the water while my coffee is brewing I can also: brush my teeth, organize my papers for the day, pack my lunch, check my email, pet the dog, kiss my boyfriend, put on my pants, call my Mom to tell her I love her, or you know about 1000 other things. I guess I’m just not the target market for the K-cup then.

    • Reply bwj 04/01/2011 at 2:08 pm

      Ha ha. I agree 100%! Not everyone has that same logic. Some people seem to base all decisions on convenience.

      I too enjoy the satisfaction of a great cup of coffee that I’ve crafted myself. Whether it’s a few minutes of cathartic hand-pouring or even slowly pressing the plunger on a French press, that brief pause in my morning allows me to gather my thoughts for the day going forward.

  • Reply Andy T. 04/01/2011 at 2:21 pm

    Cost, environment & “company behind” are all worthy issues, it is conceivable that somehow if the end product is worthy, the other shortcomings may be improved. In the case of the Keurig, however, the end product is so awful that the other issues are merely the flies circling a rotting coffee bean carcass.

    I’ve tried Keurig on several occasions. Each time I’ve thought, “How bad could it be? It’s still coffee.” And as soon as I’ve tasted it, I’ve thought “How could I be so stupid? This is terrible.” My children’s orthodontist has a Keurig in their waiting room. When I see it, I imagine that having brackets and wires glued to my teeth again would be better than another cup from that horrible machine.

  • Reply George 04/01/2011 at 4:30 pm

    Nailed it. Beautifully done.

  • Reply PDXGlutton 04/02/2011 at 5:13 am

    Great article!

    If nothing else, the “cost-effective, bottom line” people have some math to consider, here. As for us earthlings and coffee lovers – it’s great to know that we can have great coffee and great environmental practices, for about the same cost.

  • Reply Sam 04/04/2011 at 2:23 pm

    Hey, just a question. In your post you talk about how Keurig uses too low of a temperature to extract all the flavor from the coffee, but on the Aeropress page on Amazon, the specifications say that the ideal temperature of the water is only 175 degrees. Should hotter water be used, or is the process Aeropress uses enough to extract all the flavor from the coffee even at a lower temperature?

    • Reply bwj 04/04/2011 at 7:24 pm

      Sam, good question. The AeroPress marketing is a bit misleading. It claims to produce espresso, but technically it doesn’t create high enough pressure to be considered espresso by industry standards. You can make a very concentrated “shot” of coffee, however most people I know use it to brew a full cup without diluting. One of the great things about the AeroPress is the amount of variables that allow you to customize the coffee to your preferred taste.

      Theoretically the pressure created, combined with the full immersion of the AeroPress helps extract the flavor at a lower water temp, while creating a cup that’s less acidic and bitter—the reasons Alan Adler invented it. I personally find this method to create a weak cup. If you use quality coffee, the “acidity” is generally a positive trait referred to as brightness and there shouldn’t be any negative bitterness.

  • Reply Kathleen 04/06/2011 at 1:35 am

    Love your story, thanks for sharing. My husband got me a Keurig for Christmas. I unwrapped it, looked at him, said “please tell me you have the receipt” he replied “yes” and a few days later it went back to Target, end of story. No discussion needed, I’m an environmentalist, he “forgot about that”… Lol duh;)

  • Reply Julie Bissinger 04/06/2011 at 5:13 pm

    I never really thought too much about the environmental impact of K Cups. You raised several important points that I completely agree with.

    Also, when these types of companies focus more on producing a convenient item, the quality of their product suffers. I’ve tried coffee from K Cups, and I don’t like it. I’ll take a few extra minutes out of my day to make the real stuff.

  • Reply jbviau 04/06/2011 at 8:59 pm

    Hi there. While I agree with several of the points you made, I wanted to clarify something re: control over the water : coffee ratio. It’s not all that widely known, but some k-cups do contain more coffee than others. So if you hold water constant, you’ll gain some control over strength just by picking a lighter/heavier k-cup. Here’s the skinny:

    (Weights below are pre-brew averages; subtract ~4 grams for packaging)

    Typical k-cups: 13 grams
    Extra bold k-cups: 15 grams
    “Travel mug” k-cups: 17 grams
    Barista Prima k-cups: ~17.5 grams
    revv: 18 grams
    “Brew Over Ice” k-cups: 18 grams

    • Reply bwj 04/22/2011 at 11:22 pm

      Yes, I have tried K-cups on several occasions—various types—and always found them weak, under-extracted and flavorless. Your numbers clarify the reason for my experience. Even the “boldest” K-cups only contain 14 grams of coffee after subtracting the weight of the packaging? Combine that with the low water temperature and you have a really weak cup for anything over a 7oz size. A standard ratio for an 8oz cup of coffee with an AeroPress is about 15grams, which is more than the “boldest” K-cups max out at. Once again, the Kuerig is completely limited in terms of water/coffee ratio and control.

  • Reply Scott 04/07/2011 at 10:18 am

    I take issue with your theories to a degree. I use a Keurig, and also use fresh beans, a grinder, and a Clever Coffee Dripper. The Keurig is much better than instant. It was the Keurig that got me hooked on coffee.

    Compared to what my family of 6 tosses weekly, the K-cups are a drop in the bucket. Do you use no disposable plastic at all? If truly not, good for you.

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  • Reply Rob 04/09/2011 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you for this. I was considering purchasing one after trying it at work. This article has me thinking otherwise.

  • Reply M. Rob 04/12/2011 at 8:43 am

    Wonderful article! Thank you. Certainly Keurig users are not true coffee drinkers. It’s mediocre office coffee at best. The cup of coffee you sip just to get through the 3pm slump. :-)
    I will gladly stick with the extra steps and have a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

  • Reply jeff 04/17/2011 at 8:25 pm

    My wife read an article about how some of these single cup machines package their coffee in non food grade plastics because the cup is considered packaging and not food service (or something like that). I get that this means the “packaging” isn’t approved for the type of heat it will be exposed to when brewing. Can you comment on this?

    • Reply bwj 04/18/2011 at 10:58 am

      That’s a good question. I’ll look into it. I know the company claims up and down on their website that the K-cups are made with BPA-free plastic, whether it’s food grade or packaging, I’m not sure.

      I also have read the reason Keurig hasn’t been able to use a bio-plastic, or compostable alternative is because the cups can’t withstand the pressure and high temps used in brewing the coffee. Although it only takes 30 seconds to brew, so I find that hard to believe.

  • Reply Billy.411 04/18/2011 at 3:04 am

    Great post… well researched, and well written!

    The thing that really gets me is the HUGE percentage of people who buy Keurig machines only to find out that they suck!

    I run several coffee review sites where customers get to have their say about what machines like… and hate. And with a good 60 percent of my reviews being about Keurig, and about 80% of those reviews are negative…

    I have to stop and ask myself, “What is wrong with people that they simply have to keep buying a product that they know they will not be happy with – simply so they can have access to another product (k-cups) that they know are terrible for the environment.”

    Are humans really that effected by glitzy marketing and shiny new products that they overlook the obvious…

    Boggles the mind!!!

    • Reply bwj 04/18/2011 at 10:54 am

      Yeah. I don’t understand it myself. A quick search on Twitter shows that majority of @Keurig tweets are to people who are having technical issues with their machines. They seem to have an incredibly high rate of breaking. I just assume that people are easily swayed by what’s easiest, whether it’s marketed well or not. It’s sad for them, and bad for the planet.

  • Reply Christan 04/19/2011 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for the article- a very good read. I agree with the issue you raise about unnecessary waste in the name of convenience. I’d definitely pit my skills and the time it takes to make a press vs. a Keurig cup of coffee any day. Have we really gotten so busy we can’t even spare an extra two minutes?! On top of that, a friend of mine has one and they are on their third machine after the first two broke. My press doesn’t malfunction :) Thanks again.

  • Reply Jonah Horowitz 04/19/2011 at 7:10 pm

    I wrote a post inspired by yours. It’s here: http://www.jonahhorowitz.com/2011/04/aargh-keurig-k-cups-suck.html

    • Reply bwj 04/21/2011 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks Jonah. It’s nice to see a wave of posts that have helped spread the word. Those K-cups really annoy the hell out of me.

  • Reply Todd Carmichael 04/22/2011 at 2:55 pm

    Great piece. I’m 100% behind you.

    Todd

    • Reply bwj 04/22/2011 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks Todd, appreciate it!

  • Reply Jon 04/24/2011 at 2:44 am

    I do not own a Keurig machine but I think your assessment of the material waste problem associated with K-Cups v.s the alternatives lacks thoroughness and is a little unfair. I liken this to the argument for locally grown produce vs. produce that must be transported vast distances. Some fail to recognize that local is not always better because they do not consider every aspect of production and delivery. Further, you do not directly compare espresso machines and French presses. They are among the most popular brewing devices, so an honest Keurig-bashing session must account for them.

    Looking at popular brewing methods and equipment, one can find plenty of examples of waste that are comparable to or greater than those associated with the use of Keurig equipment.

    Firstly, there is material waste. Even flimsy French presses contain forged/stamped metal parts and sometimes plastics. They are not durable items (especially recent, cheap ones) and will quickly end up in a landfill. It is not preferable to have metal parts in landfills – they will not degrade any faster that plastics when entirely surrounded by other non-organic materials. Espresso machines are far worse perpetrators, having far greater mass and more heavily engineered parts than relatively lightweight Keurig machines. Drip cones and other simple brewing devices (like Aeropress) are also made from plastics. There is less material, and that is a small benefit, but drip cones rely on paper filters – another drain on resources, whether they are made from virgin or recycled papers. All of these other methods rely on a grinder for that fresh ground flavor, so consider that, too. And all but espresso machines must have pre-boiled water, so we must account for the electric kettle (you don’t include that in your picture, by the way). Affordable items such as these will not last more than a few years at best (there’s an oxymoron), so in the landfill they go. Now think of the mass of even a year’s supply of plastic K-Cups – it doesn’t shock quite as much, now. (The coffee is a neutral party, here – so we’re just talking about the plastic.)

    Then, the manufacture of the above equipment (espresso machines, presses, grinders, kettles) requires energy and necessitates the release of pollutants into our environment – Keurig machines and K-cups are not the sole perpetrators. And consider the bulky packaging, and the energy required to ship all this equipment (vs. far lighter, singular, Keurig machine).

    Those who brew using conventional methods often brew too much and pour much of their coffee down the drain. Though it is possible to brew just one cup (as you point out), it is realistic to assume that most will not change their habits. The penalty is coffee wastage, water wastage, and energy wastage (gas or electricity). And hot plates running for hours require a great deal of energy.

    Boiling water takes energy. Again, I must point out that your tea kettle doesn’t get much coverage. Even those who brew just one cup should carefully measure that cup into the electric kettle before boiling, otherwise they are wasting a very large amount of energy boiling water they do not need. But the conscientious ones will not be able to boil just one cup. This will risk damaging the kettle and/or starting a fire, or the kettle’s boil dry safety feature will not allow the kettle to function. Similar things can be said about boiling small quantities of water in a pan or stovetop kettle.

    Coffee beans or grounds must still be packaged. There is less packaging, but it must still be considered.

    Keurig’s are very clean and mess free. I own an espresso machine and grinder, and wet grounds must be cleaned away. This takes water and detergent.

    Yes – your aeropress method seems to be less wasteful than most other methods, but you still need a (electric) grinder and an (electric) kettle, these items must still be manufactured, transported and eventually discarded, the water must still be boiled, energy must still be wasted, packaging must still be consumed. You mention none of these things, yet they are all significant. You dwell on the K-Cup.

  • Reply bwj 04/24/2011 at 11:25 am

    Jon,

    Most of your arguments are completely asinine, I’m not sure where to even begin. First of all, this article was specifically about K-cups. So yes it was focused on them and the waste they create. There are hundreds of variables that you could bring up, but I chose these two brew methods to illustrate my points, which are very fair and thorough.

    My french press, which is 100% stainless steel, was made in the 80’s, an AeroPress is practically indestructible, I have friends who have been using their Chemex since the 70’s. I own and highly recommend a hand crank grinder when people ask. I also use stainless steel reusable filters in both the Chemex and the AeroPress, minimizing the paper waste.

    Now compare those options above with an average of 3 cups of coffee a day from a Keurig, which creates waste of over 1000 non-recyclable plastic cups a year from just one person—made in plastic machines with a high reputation of breaking often. Yes, I still find this completely ridiculous and shocking.

    Changing habits is what this article is all about. People who settle on convenience as the core value of their decision making are destined to think less about the global impact of what they’re doing, while also missing out on the joy of quality experiences in their lives.

  • Reply Jon 04/24/2011 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t think you effectively demonstrate that my arguments are asinine. I’ll address each of your paragraphs.

    P1. . If you’re arguing against Keurig, you can’t just cherry-pick; I’m sorry you feel that there is a sound argument for that. K-Cups are surely wasteful, but they are just one part of the equation. I choose to bring up the other important variables, and this is consistent with your assertion that people should consider ‘global impact’.

    P2. You are in favor of using three pieces of equipment rather than just one. Your presses are allegedly indestructible, but they must still be manufactured and shipped (expending energy and raw materials and creating pollution). Beyond that, you fail to prompt readers to buy high quality “indestructible” equipment, partly because such items are scarce – in many cases it is true that they don’t make them liked they used to. Electric kettles fail often, as yours will, and you picture an electrical “entry-level burr grinder” – essentially a disposable item. I know – I’ve used them. You do not challenge the use of paper filters.

    P3. I agree with your last sentence, but you compare K-Cups with the equipment that you use rather than the equipment you recommend in the comparison (see previous paragraph). Again, the wastage associated with boiling more water than you need is very significant – you cannot ignore this.

    P4. It is admirable that you wish to change people’s habits, so I suggest altering your comparison-based argument, considering all the variables and including recommendations for very best, least wasteful, most durable and energy efficient equipment.

    None of this seems asinine to me. I like your article, and the issue is worthy of concern, but it is a little narrow in scope to be considered a convincing argument against K-Cups.

  • Reply Jon 04/24/2011 at 1:47 pm

    I would suggest to Keurig that they try making K-Cups out of the new corn-based plastic-like material (the one that bio-degrades), but they must still be manufactured, the corn must be grown (a whole new issue), and the cups must still degrade in a landfill full of non-biodegradable materials. I suppose you could compost them.

  • Reply bwj 04/24/2011 at 2:39 pm

    Jon,

    I wasn’t attempting to demonstrate your arguments as asinine—they do that for themselves.

    No matter which variables you want to bring up that I choose not to discuss—mainly for brevity—doesn’t change the fact that K-cups are a wasteful way to make bad coffee. There are many better ways (sorry I didn’t illustrate each and every one of them for you) to brew a single cup of coffee that cost the same, are nearly as convenient as a K-cup, without the unnecessary waste.

    While there are many larger systematic problems with our consumer culture, in the realm of coffee, K-Cups are one of the biggest. People aren’t throwing away 5 billion(or more) AeroPress, grinders and kettles each year.

  • Reply Charlie 05/12/2011 at 12:24 pm

    Awesome post. Thanks for bringing all of these issues into the light. I just covered your post and added some of my thoughts on it at http://bit.ly/jxXMCj.

  • Reply Billy.411 05/24/2011 at 2:52 am

    DearCoffeeILoveYou… I Love You!!!

    What a great post… well researched, well written, and you didn’t pull any punches! Make any journalist proud. Interesting that you didn’t even mention the absurd amount of people who end up hating their beloved Keurig machines dues to the massive design flaws in the pump system and ‘clogged needle’ issues.

    I am continually amazed at the amount of people who complain about the machines, yet keep buying them just so they can use their beloved K-cups… Maybe there is MSG in the K-cups to keep people addicted… just a thought!

    Regarding the environmental aspect – Surely at some stage the governments will have to step in and place restrictions on the amount of waste a company produces. They have already started in some areas… and the figures for K-cup wastage is pretty staggering. At the very least, would it be that hard to come up with a recycled, bio-degradable plastic k-cup that breaks down in your compost?

    I’d hate to think of the annual profit that Keurig is making… why are they not channeling a portion of these funds into solving these problems?

    Could talk for hours on the subject I guess… but it’s great to read so many replies backing your opinion… maybe the tides are finally turning???

  • Reply Stephanie 05/31/2011 at 12:19 pm

    I have a Keurig and I love it! I was wasting so much money on coffee by using a regular coffee maker. I am the only one in my family that really drinks coffee daily so it works for us. Have you even owned of these things? Do you recycle everything you can in your own home. Do you have kids and did you use cloth diaper’s? Do you drive an electric car? Do you buy bottled water? Do you leave lights, computers, tv’s on when you are not using them. We are all hypocrites when it comes to saying we are doing what’s best for the environment b/c no one can spend all the time it takes to recycle and never leave lights on, drive electric or hybrid cars and never drink bottled water and all the other millions of things that are bad. We can all try our best to do what’s best for the environment but I honestly doubt K-cups are gonna push us over the edge! I do think it would be cool if they could come up with cups that are biodegradable.

    • Reply bwj 05/31/2011 at 12:46 pm

      I have worked places and been to peoples homes who own them and have had more than enough experience using them to make valid criticisms on the quality and flaws of the product. And not to get in a pissing match, but since you asked—yes, I recycle everything, I don’t have or plan to have kids, I haven’t owned a car in 5 years, I carry water in a reusable stainless steel bottle, no TV, all CFL lights and I am very consistent in turning things off when they aren’t in use. K-cups may not “push us over the edge,” but that doesn’t make them any less irresponsible than plastic bags or water bottles—not to mention, they make absolutely terrible coffee.

  • Reply Special Monkey 06/25/2011 at 10:33 pm

    We have a Keurig at work with a array of K-cups. Sometimes I drink it and it kind of sucks, the Timothy’s Nicaraguan is what I have been using lately. A colleague claims Keurig pods gives him headaches. I don’t doubt it. I recently purchased a full brewing setup for work including an electric kettle, Hario grinder and V60 brewer etc. While it’s a big ordeal to make, it does smell great, and provide a nice diversion for a few colleagues and me. My only disagreement with you is your choice of Intelligentsia — while excellent — and in a completely different galaxy than the K-cup swill, my choice is Counter Culture — their Baroida was excellent! :)

  • Reply Kevin K 07/23/2011 at 10:59 am

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this. I had been on the fence for a while about leaving the “cup” and going back to real coffee. For years I had sacrificed taste for convenience. My Keurig went up for sale, and I now own a Chemex, an Aerobie and a Hario Skerton grinder. Drinking a real cup of coffee again is an absolute pleasure.

  • Reply Why the Keurig K-Cup is the beginning of the end for great coffee | 12 Cup Coffee Press Sales 07/27/2011 at 12:20 am

    [...] read a blog post today on Keurig brewers and brewing, a piece [...]

  • Reply Igor 08/01/2011 at 7:07 pm

    Great article. I just would like to make few comments. I don’t want to defend Keurig or blame somebody. But here’s simple facts you need to know as well.

    Here’s a lot of Single Serve Coffee Machines around like Flavia, Nespresso, Tassimo, iperEspresso, Dolce Gusto and etc., All of them have impact on environment. But at same time Keurig have the most “Make you own coffee” options not only from Keurig. Solofill Cup for example or perfect Pod Holster (take a look all options http://www.aromacup.com/accessories/keurig-accessories/). At same time here’s no option for Tassimo (second after Keurig), Nespresso and etc., Single Serve Coffee makers are great when you need quick coffee but they will not make the best coffee. So consumer have a choice which is good thing. But I think Single Serve Coffee makers need to address this issue to make this machines more environmentally friendly.

  • Reply Linda Warren 09/11/2011 at 2:34 pm

    My son gave me a Keurig last Christmas. I am a rabid recycler before it was cool and was not too happy with his gift. I recycle about 95% household waste & considered cancelling trash pickup to save $$.

    I collect the cups in a container until I have enough to bother with, peel off the cover & dig out the contents. All is recycled either in single stream pickup or thrown into my garden. Worms LOVE coffee grounds. The plastic cups are stacked and recycled.

    In my case, the Keurig is a great fit and I don’t have to feel guilty for trashing the environment.

  • Reply ZacharyRay 10/26/2011 at 4:12 pm

    I’m wondering if you can tell me where you got the statistic that coffee is the 3rd most consumed beverage in the world. I have read that it’s second to tea. Just wondering about the stats. Thanks.
    Zach

    • Reply bwj 10/29/2011 at 12:25 pm

      Water is number one, followed by tea, then coffee. Although most people, for some reason, choose not to include water on the list.

  • Reply Susan C 10/27/2011 at 9:20 am

    I have to admit that I abhor coffee. Sorry. But even more, I detest the very things you have described in your post! My mother in law offered me a cup of tea made with the thing, claiming it’s so easy. Really? How hard is it to make a cup of tea? I have had tea and cocoa from a friend’s Keurig and it was not appealing at all. Although I was happy the company makes a reusable filter, how many people are actually using it? and how many people are actually recycling? Sorry, folks, people are too darn lazy. I am so happy to see that I am not the only person that feels this way.

  • Reply Robyn 10/30/2011 at 12:19 pm

    Good article, though I have to admit, I love my Keurig. That said, I grind my own beans and have a reusable filter. I grind beans about 1-2x a week and put them in a sealed container so that I don’t have to grind beans every morning. This gives me the opportunity to have fresh ground coffee with fast and easy clean up. I also am only using just enough coffee to make just one cup.

    Unfortunately, I feel like Keurig isn’t advertising this option as well as they could… probably because they make so much money off of k-cups.

    • Reply bwj 10/30/2011 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks for the comment Robyn, it’s hard to find people who actually use the refillable cups, so it’s nice to hear your point of view. Great to hear you’re grinding your own coffee too. A good tip though, coffee is only “fresh ground” briefly after you grind it. Even if the grinds are sealed, you loose a lot of the coffee’s aroma and flavor due to more surface area being exposed to oxygen (even if just for a short time). You may not be that “hardcore,” but if you’re interested, compare the smell and taste of ground coffee that’s been stored for a few days, with some you just ground—it may surprise you! Best.

  • Reply potrzebie 11/01/2011 at 9:42 am

    K-cups have been a pet-peeve of mine since the inception. While taste is subjective, (lots of folks love TV dinners), no one can ignore the objective cost and recycling issues. If you can argue these points, it’s probably a simple case of “I bought it so I can’t be wrong.”

    Here’s an additional issue I haven’t seen posted yet though. According to Keurig’s own maintenance instructions, these machines should be cleaned/descaled once every 3-6 months depending on water quality. Our machine at work (50 employees) probably goes through at least 100 brew cycles a day. I asked our Buildings & Grounds (no pun intended) guy if he ever cleans the machine. His reply: “Umm, no.” I then asked the guy who comes through to replenish the supply of K-Cups. His reply (to paraphrase): “No.” Bottom line…. “Yuck!”

    I’ll continue to use the timer on my coffee pot to brew a pot before my alarm clock goes off and fill up my stainless-steel thermos, thank you.

  • Reply coffee1 11/07/2011 at 9:16 am

    I love it! I must admit that I didn’t drink coffee until my wife got her Keurig. She liked the idea of mixing up flavors as her mood changed. I ended up trying the coffee that she didn’t like and that’s what got me hooked. I helped her to research which machine to buy but not knowing anything about coffee I thought that Keurig was the only single serve machine out there. Man was I wrong. Once I got into it I was amazed at how the landscape of single serve machines has played out over the last several years. Since then I’ve gotten into pod coffee instead of cups. Although it may not be the best solution for not creating waste it does offer a better alternative to the K-cup. The BUNN My Café home brewer is priced at the same point as the cheapest Keurig but brews a better cup at 200 degrees. This machine also allows you to alter the strength of your cup by using more or less water and/or using the pulse function to prolong the exposure of the grounds to water. The pods are cheaper to buy at about 30 to 40 cents per cup of coffee. There is also a large selection of pods available on-line including fair trade organic. The pods are then biodegradable so I toss them out into the garden or lawn when I’m done with them and mulch them in.

    I think the Keurig phenomenon is the result of a couple things, one being convenience. However, I think the biggest factor is the fact that most Americans tend to follow the herd like blind sheep. In my experience, people would rather just fit in than have to explain why they chose something different.

    In short, I love the article and I’m on board to killthecup.

    On a side note to answer potrzebie’s post. The cleaning process that Keurig recommends is specific to descaling and should actually be done in all electric coffee makers. Scale will build up from the water passing through the boiler, thermoblock, pump, or tubing of the maker. Scale build up isn’t harmful to people but can cause the machine to take longer to heat the water or it can cause a leak somewhere in the line. The more pressure the system creates the more important it is to descale because the buildup can cause a high pressure failure at some point along the way. My parents have actually killed several drip coffee makers because they never descale.

  • Reply Nick 11/11/2011 at 2:03 pm

    This is cool. I’ve been debatting on whether to buy one of these contraptions for quite awhile now. (Is the Keurig still hot this Christmas?) I’m glad you broke down cost. This is something I’ve never really been to crazy about. They could give the Keurig away and still make millions on just selling the K-cups! The laser printers were cheap buy the ink cartridges always killed you. I’m going to step back and walk away from the whole thing. Thank you for helping me make that choice.

  • Reply Stopokingme 11/17/2011 at 1:44 pm

    Add me to the list of ‘Thanks!’ While this article is not ‘complete’ as a few others have said, it very clearly demonstrates most of the key problems. Further in comparisons you tended towards giving the K-Cup the benefit of the doubt in pricing and quality while giving more on the expensive side for conventional and still got a base similar end. This was a polite consise argument against. I admit that Ive never had K-Cup coffee, so I cant speak from an informed place, however instictiely it felt wasteful by design. I didnt really think of the lack of strength control & freshness aspects till I read this though. I’ll be buying the frisby manufacturers device (AeroPress) asap though – it’s very difficult to find negative reviews on that thing. About the only bad thing I can find with it is that you can’t set it to have a cup ready for you when you get up in the morining. I can live with that. (BTW, for the K-Cup enthusists who aren’t agreeing with this for simple conveneince factors, maybe try some grind your own Keurig solutions like ‘My K-Cup’ and the like.)

  • Reply Glenda 11/21/2011 at 6:11 pm

    I was considering buying a Keurig coffee machine after using one at a B&B and loving the coffee,ease and convenience ,etc. After researching and reading the many comments and reviews by people who bought them, I have decided to wait until the many flaws have worked out. These coffee makers are too expensive to give the problems that many owners report. I appreciate the commnets by others on this site regarding environmental issues, which I hadn’t considered. Think I will just stick to my good old Mr. Coffee.

  • Reply Crystal 11/22/2011 at 12:01 pm

    As a non-coffee drinker (gasp!), I still managed to stumble on your site while researching the Kuerig in consideration of a Christmas gift and I’m so grateful that I found you. I was concerned by the waste involved and was seeking a reusable cup option, but after reading your blog I’m now more intrigued with educating my mom and husband on affordable & convenient ways of brewing delicious coffee beyond the standard drip machine but without the harmful lasting environmental effects of the k-cup.

    So now, with my seat secured on the #killthecup bandwagon, can someone please introduce some easy methods to brewing a desirable cup of coffee, for two (as my mom & husband typically only partake in one cup each), with the gourmet taste of the press (which is the only coffee my husband actually craves thanks to a local restaurant we enjoy), yet with the simplicity of the k-cup? I read something about the Melitta single cup brewer which looks like a reasonable solution, so I have to assume the actual quality of said coffee comes from a) water quality, b) water temperature, c) quality of coffee (preferably from beans freshly ground prior to brewing).

    Huh…seems like a lot of work to a non-coffee drinker, but if there is a delightful, functional and affordable solution to be found that will serve as a well-received Christmas gift, then I am all ears!

    Oh and thank you for the education and excellent post!

  • Reply Crystal 11/22/2011 at 12:13 pm

    One slight amendment, as I also read your recommendation for the AeroPress so I’m now reading up on that, but can you tell me if it will truly brew two servings worth of coffee? I suppose with the shortened “pressing” time it wouldn’t be difficult to just mix up another batch, but from the sounds of it the AeroPress makes an espresso shot and to convert this to “American” coffee you simply dilute it with hot water, so my assumption is that a double espresso shot can be made and diluted to produce two single serve cups of coffee. Is my thinking correct? Sorry to subject you all to my non-coffee drinking ignorance but I greatly appreciate the insight!

    • Reply bwj 11/22/2011 at 12:24 pm

      Crystal, thanks for the comment and questions. The Aeropress is very unique in that it is very simple, but also versatile. One way to use it is with the included directions—producing a “shot” of very concentrated coffee that you can dilute into 2 or 3 cups of coffee. Although it’s marketed as espresso, it isn’t really the same thing. However, the way many people us it is for brewing one cup at a time—no diluting necessary. This method creates a perfect 8oz cup in about one and a half minutes. You can view several video tutorials of the AeroPress and the Melitta on http://www.brewmethods.com. You are also right in your assessment of whats important in getting the best quality cup of coffee. Fresh beans ground just before brewing, quality water, and proper extraction (water temp & brew time). It’s not as much work as it may seem, and for many it’s a daily ritual that’s just as enjoy able as drinking the resulting cup. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Christine 11/25/2011 at 2:31 pm

    Late to the game here, but thanks for convincing me to NOT buy one! I was lured in by the advertising and people who rave about it…and what is so remarkable about that is that I had already used one at work and hated it. I wasn’t going to buy it for myself but as a Christmas gift, but still…everything you say is true. We no longer have that machine in the office I’m in, and I still don’t like the coffee, but at least the waste is diminished. My office now, in fact, composts coffee w/ the filters, so it’s even better. I would drink the keurig, but it was really not great. Anyway, good analysis! (And I understand exactly what it’s like to get annoyed by one thing you can’t let go!)

  • Reply Missy 11/25/2011 at 9:24 pm

    I use the reusable filter only. The system makes folders taste like gourmet coffee! I love it.

  • Reply Eduardo 01/09/2012 at 8:48 pm

    I take a sock fill it coffee and drop it in hot water. Best coffee ever made.

  • Reply Barry 02/20/2012 at 11:55 am

    Is it me or is the site owner a marketing rep or owner for
    Aero press.

    Stop hating

    • Reply bwj 02/20/2012 at 1:23 pm

      Giving my honest—and experienced— opinion on what I think makes a great cup of coffee doesn’t make me anymore of a marketing rep for AeroPress as liking k-Cups would make you a marketing rep for Green Mountain. I talk about all types of brew methods on this site—ones I like and ones I don’t like. I’m not “hating.” K-cups make terrible, over-priced coffee—period.

  • Reply John Frum 03/06/2012 at 4:46 pm

    Gotta love that Peter Michael guy, with the philosophy of “popularity = correctness.” He’s certainly not alone.

    According to him and others like him, McDonald’s must make the best hamburgers, the correct answer to a math problem is the one most people come up with, and of course FOX “News” has the most accurate information. Theirs is the recipe for living in a bubble, for being taken advantage of, and for never discovering the truest and best things in life.

    Including coffee.

  • Reply Mike | Homeless On Wheels 04/15/2012 at 5:54 pm

    I’m late to this party, I see, but I’m glad to have found it just the same. I’ve not been able to understand the attraction of Keurig machines. Sure, they’re convenient, and make just one cup at a time, but at such dear monetary and environmental price. In your example you compare it to $20/lb coffee as being about the same cost-per-cup, but frankly, $15 or even $10 whole-bean coffee, freshly ground, still makes a far superior beverage than the best K-cup in their most expensive machine.

    Perhaps the people who are so enthralled with K-coffee had not previously tasted anything better than pre-ground Folgers brewed by Mr.Coffee. But good coffee can be had surprisingly inexpensively, and the brewing gear as well. Heck, a cheap Melitta pourover funnel only costs a few bucks, and whatever kettle, pot, or pan you have lying around can be used to boil the water.

    My preference is a vacuum (siphon) for brewing a pot, or an Aeropress for brewing a cup or two at a time. Yummy!

  • Reply Jen 06/17/2012 at 4:38 pm

    I use a cone filter and boiling water. I think it makes great coffee. Where I work there’s a Keurig. I’ve tried it. The coffee is gross. I calculated that a box of 24 k-cups equals about $24 per pound of coffee. I buy coffee that I like for as low as $5 per pound, and as high as $10. I compost the coffee and the filters. Kcups are not for me. Great article, btw.

  • Reply reggie elliott 07/13/2012 at 9:20 am

    I realize that I’m a bit late to the game but I just wanted to respond to that guy Jon up above. The ONLY way your argument makes any sense is if after brewing your coffee with a French Press, or AeroPress (or any of the methods mentioned above) you throw the device in the trash. Otherwise, it is a very asinine response. I bought my AeroPress three years ago and still have the original paper filters it came with. And if I hadn’t misplaced my Disk metallic filter I’d have a lot more. Either way, if one composts (as we do in Sweden as well as many other places in both America and the world) then the waste is minimized even further.

    Think about that though, Jon. I mean really THINK about it. One AeroPress purchased three years ago, still have the ORIGINAL paper filters and the only parts that have gone straight into the bin was the box it came in THREE YEARS AGO. With a Keurig there is a constant cycle of purchasing and wasting. Unless you grow and roast your own coffee, use ONLY reusuable K-Cups and use the world’s only non-electric Keurig machine I don’t see how you can reasonably think that it’s fair to compare Keurigs to AeroPress or any comparable method.

  • Reply Paul 09/17/2012 at 12:26 am

    I wish I’d have seen this site before I wasted the money on a Keurig a few years back. The first machine failed within six months, and the replacement the company sent us failed three months later. The stainless steel french press we bought to replace it cost a fraction of what the Keurig did, the coffee’s also cheaper by far (to say nothing of the fact that you can get a nice, strong MUG of coffee out of it, versus anything over about five fluid ounces tasting like dishwater). Even the reusable K Cups have the same weak coffee issue…

    Sorry for the rant, but I think that the Keurig is Exhibit A for style over substance.

  • Reply Jessica 10/31/2012 at 10:40 am

    There is an obvious environmental issue here. I said that from day one of us getting one for our office. You’re consuming more throw away material that you can’t even recycle. Even if the top and bottom weren’t fused together, who would take the time to take out the grinds (our local recycling center only accents cleaned out containers/products).
    I am not a coffee drinker, but I do enjoy tea, so I do you use the machine to get a cup of hot water, but I have seen people using tea pods/kcups. What?! Doesn’t make sense; just put the tea bag in your cup. I understand the coffee a little (less mess for a lot people who share a small break room), but the tea, that’s just total wastefulness!

  • Reply dulin 11/17/2012 at 12:43 am

    Haha. I’m so confused by the popularity of the keurig. My taste in coffee isn’t exactly sophisticated (I like a much darker roast than is ideal for showcasing the taste of the beans), but a lot of the automatic drip machines brew swill. I was amazed when I was poking around online how cheaply I could obtain the manual brew machines.

    Being a college student, my budget doesn’t allow for a good grinder, so I use a Melitta (on the basis that it handles an uneven grind much better than a french press or aeropress would), with a hand-me-down cheapo Krups grinder, and I tend to buy the rather midrange coffee (the sort that tends to be $7-$12 per pound). So, overall, it’s a setup that brews reasonable coffee, but nothing amazing, and it’s very easy to use (the paper filter goes right into the compost, and FSC certified filters are cheap enough and reasonably environmentally friendly). I completely don’t understand why I’d want to pay so much more for subpar coffee that creates so much waste.

  • Reply Liz Lem 01/07/2013 at 10:36 pm

    I’m glad you posted such a thoughtful analysis. While I’ve enjoyed a few cups of Nespresso at a friend’s house, I don’t like the waste it produces. No one can convince me that people in general recycle the pods, and even if you do doesn’t that waste energy? What won’t we do to defend our brew?

  • Reply Lizz 01/17/2013 at 12:54 am

    uuuuuuugggggghhhh I got one for christmas from my dad after I told him I already had an amazing espresso maker… worst gift ever!!!
    we did a test and made one of the coffee pucks, and then we made a dark horse coffee (the best in Toronto) in their crappy machine, and then we made dark horse coffee in the really awesome espresso maker and the two that were made in that machine tasted like watered down burnt plastic!!!

  • Reply Andy 12/12/2013 at 11:18 am

    Just wanted to chime in on a quick point that some bring up regarding recycling: Plastic is not truly recyclable. It gets “downcycled” instead, which basically means it cannot be remade into the same product. Instead it must be remade into a product that requires a less grade of plastic. Metals and glass, which comprise a very large portion of other coffee making equipment, are fully recyclable. Metal and glass can be melted down and reformed into the exact same metal and glass. Adittionally, in the case of metals, some money can be earned back from recyling these items at a local recycling center. While I am aware most people will not do this, it is still a valid point on recycling.

    Cheers on your article as well! Personally I am quite happy with my inexpensive burr grinder and Bodum portable press or full size french press.

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