Why Don't We Sell Coffee Pods?
Date Posted:23 July 2016
Quite often we get asked whether we sell coffee pods for machines such as Nespresso – we don’t. Clearly the market for coffee pods in enormous and still growing. A bit of ‘Googling’ revealed that in Australia we go through about 3 million of these pods per day, and apparently the Green Mountain company (who manufacture the K Cup machine which is the most popular in the USA) produce 8.5 BILLION pods in one year alone!
So if people want coffee pods, why choose not to sell them? To us it comes down to three predominant reasons – environmental, cost, and quality.
Using a couple of little coffee pods a day and throwing the leftovers into the bin might not seem like a big deal at an individual level – but extrapolate that across the national and global numbers and the environmental considerations of coffee pods cannot be overstated. The vast majority of pods produced are neither biodegradable nor recyclable, and end up in landfill along with all of our other domestic waste. Some pods can be recycled, including the Nespresso pods which are popular in Australia, but they can only be recycled by taking them to recycling stations – not by putting them in your recycle bin. Nespresso don’t disclose how many pods they successfully recycle but, given that the main ‘benefit’ to consumers using pods is convenience, it’s fair to extrapolate that it’s unlikely a significant number of pods end up being recycled.
Even if the pods were successfully recycled in good numbers, that doesn’t negate the huge amounts of energy required to produce aluminium in the first place. It takes nearly ten times the amount of energy to produce aluminium as it does to produce steel. As Piotr Barczak of the European Environmental Bureau stated, “… recycling should be the last resort when tackling waste, not the immediate solution”. In other words, don’t create the problem in the first place.
Earlier this year the German city of Hamburg became the first to ban the use of coffee pods in their council buildings due to the environmental considerations. It is likely that awareness of this impact will grow over coming years, and we don’t wish to contribute to the problem at SFCB.
Wait, cost? Those Nespresso pods only cost about 70 cents each, that’s pretty cheap isn’t it? It sounds like a bargain, but look at it more closely and the numbers don’t stack up so well. Coffee pods are small, with typically five to six grams of pre-ground coffee in each pod. At 70 cents a pod for 6g of coffee, you will end up paying well over $100 for a kilo of coffee.
At SFCB we are very careful about which coffee roasters we partner with – you are only buying freshly roasted quality specialty coffee, and you still won’t be paying $100 a kilo.
Granted for some people, the taste of their coffee isn’t much of a consideration, but if you are on this web site then that’s probably not you. As already mentioned, the typical coffee pod only has a small amount of coffee inside it, so invariably they end up tasting weak and watery and generally lacking in flavour.
The lack of taste isn’t just because there isn’t a lot of coffee in the pod, it’s also about the coffee the manufacturers put in the pod. The pods are manufactured on a huge scale, and huge scale means mass-commodity and low grade coffee. You aren’t likely to find much if any information on the pod packaging about the origin or varietal of the coffee inside, and with good reason. Additionally it’s quite possible that the coffee in the pod was ground weeks, months or even years before it ends up in a coffee machine. Once ground, coffee quickly starts to oxidise which means a loss of flavour and aroma. Freshly coffee will also go through a period of degassing after roasting, releasing C02. That’s why coffee bags have a one-way valve, so the gas can be released. Coffee inside a pod would not be able to release gas, so it’s fair to assume if it doesn’t need to degas then it’s another indicator it isn’t fresh.
If speed and convenience is a big factor when it comes to how you chose to drink your coffee, then a brewing method such as a French Press or the Aeropress is a great option. They are quick, simple, easy to clean and hard to stuff up! Producing great coffee doesn’t mean you have to use expensive equipment.
John Sylvan, who was one of the inventors of the Keurig K Cups, has since been widely quoted as saying he regrets creating them, “I feel bad sometimes I ever did it”. Enough said.
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