I am passionate about eliminating food waste and reducing how much food packaging comes into my house. I don’t post about it much because others cover it so well in their blogs!
As you know, I am an avid coffee drinker. I have very few Big Vices and I will not give up caffeine. I did make one major adjustment. I was drinking coffee all day long, so I switched to half-caff on weekdays. I usually make myself two espresso drinks at home on Saturdays, and one on Sundays.
Most of my coffee drinker friends have Tassimo or Keurig coffee machines. For those who don’t know them, you buy a brand name coffee machine, and then you commit to buying individually-packaged servings of coffee that are branded for that machine. You generally buy 12 or 24 coffee servings in a box.
The key selling points of these “coffee systems” are that you get the taste of brewed coffee instantly, you can have a different blend or a different flavour every time you make a cup, each family member can choose their own favourite, and there is no clean-up. When you’ve brewed your cup of coffee, you just throw out the K-Cup.
If you were accustomed to making a pot of coffee in the morning and you regularly threw half of it out, then making it by the cup in a Keurig or Tassimo might be slightly less wasteful. But so would any single-serving coffee maker. I think offices like them because everyone can bring their own coffee cuplets and no one is stuck with the mess.
You have probably guessed by now that I will never own one, even though I am a huge coffee fiend.
First of all, there is the cost. In my area, a package of 12 Keurig K-Cups costs, at best, $7.99. If you haven’t already worked it out in your head, that is $0.66 per cup – for coffee you make at home!
I discovered that a K-Cup contains about 10 grams, or 2 tablespoons, of coffee. By comparison, I get a 1 kg bag of fair-trade coffee for $15.99 at Costco, and I also use 2 tablespoons in my single-serving French press coffee maker. Therefore I get 100 cups (16 oz mugs, actually) for $0.16 each. I use the same coffee ratio in my drip coffee maker – 6 tablespoons makes 3 sixteen-oz. mugs of coffee.
I buy inexpensive store-brand espresso, and also use 2 tablespoons for a 2-ounce serving (adding milk or water to make a latte or an Americano). It costs me $0.18 per serving, plus the milk.
The only plus about the cost of K-Cups is that they’re cheaper than a take-out coffee from Tim’s!
Next, there is the waste. Each Keurig K-Cup or Tassimo T-Disc is made of plastic with a paper filter inside and a foil lid (and a shot of nitrogen to keep the coffee fresh). You throw the whole thing away. They are essentially non-recyclable because of the mixed materials. There is no clean-up, though, and I’m sure that’s a major part of the appeal.
Meanwhile at my house, a typical Saturday would go like this:
- Make an espresso, clean out the coffee receptacle with a little spatula, and rinse it out
- Later in the day, make a coffee in the French press, clean out the bottom of the pot with the spatula and rinse both parts
Sounds tedious, eh? I think I can handle it.
You can now get refillable K-Cup replacements, i.e., you can put your own coffee in them! That makes much more sense to me. But of course you would have to clean them after every use!
Another thing to think about is the hot water in the Keurig machine going through the plastic K-Cup into your coffee mug. Heat and plastic are not a good combination for ingesting, either in a Keurig machine or most cheap drip coffee makers.
I hope it won’t be long before there is a collective “a-ha moment” about coffee cuplets and they are suddenly seen in the same light as bottled water.
It probably won’t surprise you that I don’t prefer the taste of cuplet coffee either, no matter what the brand or blend. It makes a good attempt to taste like real coffee, but because it is brewed in 45 seconds, it doesn’t have time to develop, like richer coffee-brewing methods.
I know that not everyone is a coffee fanatic like me with 3 brewing systems (French press, espresso maker and drip). No matter what system you use, I hope I can convince you to reduce disposables:
- If you have a Keurig or Tassimo coffee maker, consider the refillable cuplets
- Make only as much coffee as you will drink, rather than extra “just in case”
- Use a real ceramic mug at work and (gulp) wash it
- Bring a travel mug for the car, meetings, hockey games, etc.
When North Americans travel to Europe, we notice that no one walks around or drives in cars with paper cups of coffee. When you pay your $3.50 for a cuppa, you sit back and savour your time in the café before getting on with your day. You feel the weight of the mug in your hand, and you enjoy the conversation, the music, or the quiet.
I have recently cut back on coffee a little bit, not because I have any fears about it, but because I want to slow down and enjoy it more mindfully.
What is your coffee story?