Posted in Kafevend Blog
Convenience isn't always a good thing, as it will typically come at the cost of something else. Take instant coffee for example- millions of people drink it here in the UK alone, but as more refined coffee drinkers will no doubt make clear to you if you broach the subject, it sacrifices taste for the ease of making a cup quickly. Taste isn't the only casualty when it comes to convenience however, as John Sylvan has been making clear recently.
Back in 1990, John Sylvan co-founded the American company Keurig with his college room mate Peter Dragone. The company was based on promoting a design of Sylvan's, a single serve coffee pod. His reason for making it was to give office workers an alternative to going on coffee runs to nearby cafés and coffee chains like Starbucks- why bother going out when you can just make yourself a cup quickly and easily in your office?
What he wasn't to know at the time was that the single serve coffee pod, and the machines that utilised them, would make their way into people's homes- a recent study in Canada found that around 40% of homes own one of these machines. This means that there are vast amounts of these small pods being thrown out every day. This would be alright if they were recyclable, but they're not, a design flaw which Sylvan regrets. The pods consist of various different types of plastic which are tricky to separate. Keurig have said they intend to rectify this by 2020, but Sylvan- who left them back in 1997- doesn't believe it's possible.
From the viewpoint of office convenience, they aren't too bad. Sylvan predicted that the damage done by the pods would be offset somewhat by the fact that you aren't then using up cups from coffee chains. The issue is their use at home. The time saved using a single serving machine over making a cup in a more traditional manner isn't all that much, and is really outweighed by both the environmental factor and also by the cost. Buying coffee in small self contained packages adds a lot to the price- imagine if you bought your cereal in small foil bags holding a spoonful each. It makes much more sense to buy a larger amount in less ridiculous packaging.
Humanity has figured out a number of ways to make coffee over the years. The French press, percolators, drip filters, and even espresso machines are all much more efficient ways of making coffee than using a single serving pod machine. It's even possible these days to get coffee bags- think tea bags, but with coffee inside instead. Is half a minute really that useful compared to the cost and environmental impact? Probably not.