So, as a Roastmaster of a micro-roastery in Middle-Of-Nowhere, USA, I am confronted with the very real impact of the Keurig on the world of coffee. Keurig has had a very obvious impact on the coffee industry since its introduction in 1998. Since then it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with a Keurig brewer in nearly 1 in 3 American households. There are clearly advantages that Americans liked about this machine. But as a micro-roaster that is mindful of the complete impact of this machine, I would be remiss if I didn’t state the truth. There are very big problems that go along with the Keurig.
As we established our tiny business and began roasting coffee, we have talked to numerous customers that are owners of the Keurig. For many, this was huge step up in the coffee they were drinking at home. They were offered a quick, simple way to brew a single serving of coffee. They were exposed to a bigger and better selection of coffee. The coffee they were drinking was fresher due to the individual packaging. It was a win-win-win situation. We, as a micro-roaster began looking for ways we could join in on this new approach to coffee. Along the way, as we looked closer, we found this path was fraught with problems. So, here I want to explain our thoughts and concerns on the subject as well as explain our approach as a roaster in dealing with the realities of the Keurig.
As we looked into the possible manufacture of K-Cups with our coffees, we came to the realization that, to jump into that endeavor, we would just be lumping on to the growing environmental problem with the waste steam created by throwing out K-Cups. We just cannot, in good conscience, do this. In 2014 alone, enough K-Cups were produced, that if you stood them end to end, they would circle our globe at least 10 and a half times. These K-Cups eventually find their way to a landfill. The problem being… they just aren’t really recyclable. To separate the components that make up a K-Cup for proper recycling is just not economically viable. This creates a huge sustainability problem.
Further, we found that while some experience gains in freshness using the K-Cup method, this is only true for those who were using pre-ground coffee previously. The innovation of a K-Cup is to grind approximately 12 grams of coffee into the K-Cup and seal it in Nitrogen so that oxidation does not occur. So, while this does slow down oxidation, which slows down the staling of the coffee, it is only superior if you are comparing it to pre-ground coffee. It does not compare to the freshness of grinding whole bean coffee for each serving. In fact, there is no better way to prepare coffee than grinding coffee from whole beans just before use. That is the standard we strive to encourage with all of our customers. There are many brewing methods, a few that we feel are superior, but, until you are grinding fresh coffee for each use, it is near impossible to produce truly great coffee.
Another problem we came across is that production of K-Cups is very expensive. With packaging and production of a K-Cup, when you calculate what you are really paying for coffee, it often exceeds $40 per pound. In the world of specialty coffee, we find some of the highest rated, most flavorful coffees coming in at far less than half of that price. A lot of what you a paying for in a K-Cup is the cost of manufacture and packaging of the cup itself.
Beyond that, we have concerns with the machines themselves. These machines are very challenging to clean the interiors properly. To compound that, there is very little awareness of how important it is to keep the interiors of the machine clean. We have found that many are finding this leading to mold problems within the machine. This creates vast health and safety concerns. We recommend any Keurig users to learn proper cleaning and maintenance of their Keurig.
So, our approach at City Roastery, to dealing within the environment of the Keurig is to try to improve the problems that we can control. We are currently testing proper grind and tamping methods for using our coffees in a My K-Cup. Please look for future publication of the recommended methods. The My K-Cup is a reusable device that you use rather than the plastic K-Cup. You can put any coffee into the My K-Cup. So, using this device with City Roastery coffee, rather than a standard K-Cup, you can, all at once, use fresh ground coffee with your Keurig while not producing the problematic waste of a K-Cup. Win-Win!
I must say that I feel the Keurig is a bit of a fad. There has been a lot of backlash in recent years due to the problems associated with using a Keurig. There is a movement afoot called “Kill The Keurig”. In recent years, this movement seems to have had an effect. Sales of Keurig brewers since 2014 has steadily and rapidly declined and many consider the Keurig 2.0 a complete flop. This appears to be happening as people have become aware of the shortcomings of the Keurig. At City Roastery, we will continue to promote sustainability and recommend use of our products in such a way. Using our coffees in a My K-Cup with proper grind and tamp is the only way we can recommend use of our coffees with a Keurig.
Finally, I will say that if you want to experience the very best in coffee that City Roastery has to offer, get a good grinder. Preferably a burr grinder. Order our coffees in whole bean form and grind them fresh before each use. There are many suitable brewing techniques, including the Keurig. Of course, if I were recommending a single serve brew method, I would recommend a manual brewing device like a Hario V60, a Chemex, a Clever, or a french press. There is also the Aeropress, which incorporates pressure, that produces coffee similar to the Keurig. If you aren’t worried about speed of brewing, I would look into a coffee siphon. With any of these methods, you will experience just how good coffee can be and you will likely never go back.
Take care and good brews!