This week at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo, thousands of people will gather to watch the World Barista and Brewers Championships and wander through endless aisles of the latest coffee equipment. There will be meetings with coffee exporters from around the world and new product demos, all accompanied by a limitless number of drinks served from a myriad of complimentary coffee bars.
Usually all this free expo coffee leads to lots of wasted paper cups, but the homegrown Australian company KeepCup is going to try and limit that waste. Coinciding with the launch of a new global campaign called “Salute the Reuser,” KeepCup will manage three wash stations at this weekend’s coffee expo where they’ll wash reusable cups (of any kind). Beyond just keeping your mug clean, they will be donating 10 cents for each cup washed to Coffee Kids, a non-profit that supports families in coffee growing regions.
As the official Sustainability Sponsor of this year’s expo, KeepCup is tackling an issue that often gets discussed, but rarely addressed at these types of events, “how to reduce disposable waste.” I’ve used my KeepCup on planes, trains, boats and mountains—wherever I don’t have easy access to ceramic or glass, my KeepCup is there. I’ve been an advocate of the KeepCup for some time (and even sell DCILY versions), not just for the practicality of the product, but for the authenticity of the brand and the contributions the company has made to the coffee community. This is a a great initiative and we should not only salute the reuser, but also KeepCup for their continued efforts.
KeepCup has also worked with some of the world’s best letter artists, Jessica Hische and Timba Smits, to create several versions of their mantra for the campaign—they’d look great on a reusable tote. Salute the reuser and damn thy disposable.
The team behind KeepCup, the environmentally friendly and reusable take-away cup, are offering two talented Instagrammers a chance to win a more environmentally friendly way to get to their favorite café.
To enter, just share your best photos of you and your favorite KeepCup on Instagram and tag with #keepcupstyle before November 30th. A panel of judges will select two of the best photos, whose lucky photographers will win a customized ride from Mojo Bikes.
Don’t have a KeepCup (read my thoughts on them here)? Lucky for you the latest shipment of DCILY KeepCups have just arrived in 8oz & 12oz sizes. So get yourself a KeepCup, fill it with your favorite coffee and start snapping photos of it around town. Next time you’re out and about, it could be on a fancy new set of wheels.
Visit KeepCup Style for more details and to browse your competition.
Taking their love for cycling, sustainability and espresso to a new level, Amos Reid and Lasse Oiva, two product design students from the Royal College of Art in London have built a belt driven, mobile espresso bar dubbed “Velopresso.”
The three wheeled bike uses a carbon belt drive system (grease free) to not only power the bike, but also a custom made grinder that shares a slight resemblance to the HG-1 hand grinder. With the change of a gear, five seconds of pedaling will grind enough coffee for a double shot—three if you’re doping.
Currently the Velopresso uses a camp stove to heat water and steam to power its leva espresso machine, but the designers have been experimenting with various ways of creating their own fuel from spent coffee grounds. The goal of making it even less dependent on carbon fuels—aside from the belts used everywhere else—would add to its sustainable caché. The project was recently bestowed the 2012 Deutsche Bank Award in Design and the creators are currently looking for ways to produce them commercially.
“Velopresso was conceived against the backdrop of a global renaissance in cycling culture that is being driven by the desire for more sustainable cities and lifestyles,” says co-creator Amos Field Reid, pictured below kneeling behind the machine. “The urban coffee scene is also expanding and diversifying, including a convergence with cycling culture. Velopresso engages directly with these cutting-edge urban cultures.” -Carbon Drive
Velopresso isn’t the first coffee bike that’s been featured on DCILY (Trailhead, Kickstand Coffee), but this is the first that takes advantage of the bicycles efficiency for powering heavy-duty equipment. This would be an appreciated addition to bike paths everywhere.
Kyle Glanville, 2008 US Barista Champion and Charles Babinski, this year’s 2nd place US Barista Championship finalist both recently left their former employer, Intelligentsia Coffee to begin their own endeavor in L.A.
While details are still sparse—I have on good authority that it will to be pretty fantastic—it’s poised to create interesting discussions within the industry as well as among future customers. Beginning with their plan to offer absolutely no disposables.
One of the most salient differences this coffee bar will have from others will be its policy of using no disposables. This means no paper cups, napkins, perhaps even coffee filters. Glanville mentioned the “elephant in the room,” as the coffee industry’s dependance on paper and other disposable products that causes a lot of environmental waste as well as a detrimental effect on the flavor of coffee served to customers. –Eater
I’ve been a vocal advocate against disposables and I’m excited to see a shop put these principles in place. Time will tell if customers will adapt and more cafés will follow suit.
Coffee is a wonderful thing. But it takes a vast amount of resources to bring us our daily cup(s). The least we can do is try to minimize that impact. In an ideal world, everyone has the time to sit down with a ceramic mug and enjoy their coffee until it’s gone. However, in real life people have things to do and places to go—so they take their coffee with them. All of those cups add up (500 Billion per year) and they do a great job of ruining the drinking experience as well.
For the last year, I’ve been trying to find the best travel cup for my coffee. Ceramic tastes the best, but it’s too heavy, too fragile and those rubbery lids are worse to drink from than plastic ones. Stainless steel would seem to be the most “sustainable” but you still end up drinking through a plastic lid and they’re a costly investment. So after weighing the benefits of several different option, including the overall design, cost, functionality, taste, etc.—the KeepCup is my favorite option available for mobile coffee drinkers.
So I partnered with the Mug Users Guild to bring DCILY fans a reusable cup that works great, looks great and lets the world know how you feel about all those paper cups.
The 8oz (black) is my favorite and holds the perfect amount for an AeroPress on the go. The 12oz (white) will let you carry a bit more but still has markings for both 8oz and 12oz volumes on the inside of the cup. These also fit under the grouphead of most espresso machines, which means the barista won’t need to waste a cup, just to transfer the drink. The lids are splash proof—not spill proof. So you can walk or drive around without spilling, but don’t take it rock climbing or throw it in a bag with coffee inside. [also great for poolside cocktails when there's no glass allowed]
While a KeepCup isn’t the same as drinking from a ceramic or glass mug, the taste differences are more of a perception than a reality and the rounded design of the lids make drinking from them far more enjoyable than a standard disposable one. KeepCups are BPA free, recyclable at the end of their life and have been tested for up to 1000 uses (more technical details).
The DCILY KeepCups are limited, so get them while you can! Make 2012 the year you stop throwing away coffee cups and damn thy disposable.
On December 13, just south of Starbuck’s hometown of Seattle, a new drive-thru location opened up in Tukwila, Washington. Unlike the other 17,000 locations though, this one is built from reused shipping containers. Green architecture isn’t new for Starbucks, last year they began opening LEED certified cafés around the world, but this is the first one utilizing cargotecture—the reuse of cargo shipping containers for architecture.
Starbuck’s isn’t the first coffee company to use shipping containers (Illy previously used a transforming shipping container as a café at the Venice Biannale and Ritual Proxy opened this summer in San Francisco) nor is their architect the first to design with them—though they speak as if they were:
We were able to open our minds to the use of very common elements destined for the landfill as structure for a high-quality, drive-thru coffee house design – essentially creating an industrial beacon for sustainable thinking. –Tony Gale III
I’m a big fan of shipping container architecture and applaud reuse in any form—however, I find it ironic that the modest green giant’s “beacon for sustainable thinking” is a drive-thru coffee shop in the suburbs. Maybe the sheer spectacle will introduce a unique perspective to a new audience, but I don’t see how a line of idling cars waiting for their trenta ice coffee is a beacon for anything other than the worst of American consumerism and suburban sprawl.
For being as large as Starbucks is, they aren’t entirely bad. I may not like their coffee, but I also won’t deny the trail they blazed for specialty coffee or the sustainability efforts they do make. Sadly, the reality of being a publicly-traded company too often encourages them to make decisions that counter all of their positive efforts (like joining the K-Cup trend) for the sake of maximizing profits.
In the long run, if this prototype became the new format for all future drive-thru locations, it could reduce the use of virgin material in construction and inspire other large companies to follow suit. But please Starbucks, show a bit of humility—shipping container architecture is not a Starbucks invention, nor is roasting “light.”
More photos and an interview with Starbucks on Inhabitat
Doma Coffee is the first coffee roaster I’ve tried from Idaho. It may actually be the first thing I’ve tried from Idaho that isn’t a potato. Idaho is one of those places that never seems to come up in conversation and I’ve never had a specific reason to go there. However, I hear that part of the county is beautiful and if it’s filled with more people like the good folks at Doma Coffee, I won’t write off a future visit.
Doma sent some Idaho love my way and it was much appreciated. They’ve been roasting since 2000 and made it clear from the start that principles of social and environmental responsibility would be reflected by their business. From focusing solely on Fair Trade and relationship-based organic coffees, to roasting in a Loring Smart Roast—which is more efficient with its use of natural gas—the company has created a strong foundation for doing business right.
The design of Doma’s packaging and collateral all have a very tactile feel. The bags are biodegradable and letterpressed with veggie ink by Dreyer Press (who’s also responsible for the rad looking La Bicicletta illustration), and it all just looks and feels really nice in your hands. It’s the kind of bag you don’t want to throw out (or even compost), because they are individual pieces of art.
Aside from supporting coffee growers, the company also supports a variety of non-profit organizations as well as cycling advocacy—and after coffee and design, bikes are next on my list of things I love. Proceeds from their La Bicicletta blend go towards supporting competitive women’s cycling and the company often sponsors local cycling events.
Of the three coffees I received, the La Bicicletta blend was my favorite, a good balance of sugar and spice. Although all of them were roasted slightly darker than I prefer. I often found my palate contending with roast flavors while trying to discern the true essence of the coffee. This is not to say they were dark by any means, I know there are many people who would really enjoy them. The Colombia was comfortable, balanced, and would make for a fantastic “everyday” coffee for my parents.
Coffee can be very subjective and everyone will always debate what tastes “good” and what doesn’t. The industry continues to learn, experiment and evolve. However, coffee tastes aside, it’s clear that Doma’s heart for building a responsible company focused on supporting its community and providing a product that makes them and their customers feel good is honorable and much appreciated. Some coffee company’s principles are worth praising, while others most certainly aren’t.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Minneapolis based design firm Sussner has created one of the best looking reusable “paper cups” I’ve seen. The cup was designed as a gift for friends, clients, and new business leads and makes me want to hire them or befriend them quick!
Along with the nice graphics printed on the cup, they also designed a beautiful package to contain it and supply each recipient with a cup of coffee via a pack of Starbucks instant VIA (which is a bit disheartening, but I can understand the logistics that most likely prompted this decision). Great job making reusable, desirable. With a mug like this, I’d gladly deal with the “inconvenience” of carrying it and washing it, just to be seen with it.
First Drop Canada is a non-profit helping raise money for other non-profit organizations who are working to improve the lives of coffee farmers and their families—something DCILY fully supports. Last month, First Drop raised almost $10,000 with an awesome event called One Less Paper Cup.
The event’s concept is simple and could easily be replicated in other cities to help raise even more money for the coffee farming communities. Reusable “paper cups” are given out to a number of local artists and designers who have free range to create what they want with them. The original (and mostly functional) pieces of art are then auctioned off at a party with music, drinks, and good people.
The artists get recognition, the attendees have a good time, the organizations get more money to continue doing good things at origin, and everyone who drinks coffee from a paper cup can be burdened with guilt.
One Less Paper Cup specifically benefits Grounds for Health, a group who is helping increase awareness and prevention of cervical cancer in coffee-growing communities. However, First Drop also works with Cup for Education and Coffee Kids (who DCILY donates 5% of product sales too).
If your interested in holding you’re own OLPC fundraiser, contact Adam Pesce at First Drop who will gladly give you advice on how to make it successful.