Why Use Refillable K-Cups?
When I was ten years old, my parents started Wild Card Roasters and launched the brand, Weaver’s Coffee & Tea, with John Weaver and Bryce Inouye. Remember, in late 2007, when the economy went sideways? They made it through tough times, worked really hard, and have weathered many storms over the last decade. Once, when I was young, and helping at the Roastery I mentioned to my mom that k cups looked like a cool way to make coffee, and I told my mom that I thought we should do those for Weaver’s Coffee. She would just smile at me and say, “Alexander, we are artisan coffee roasters, we do not manufacture k cups.”
My first job was helping out at the Roastery. I was eleven years old when I learned how to pull a perfect espresso and I was a fully trained Barista at the age of twelve. It took me a few years to figure out everyone else around me was getting paid, and finally when I was old enough, I was started at minimum wage and have been working, on and off, between Boy Scout High Adventures, high school, water polo camps, and college, at the Weaver’s Coffee & Tea Café’s and the large Coffee Roastery.
The last few years my mother has been hammering me to help her with various aspects of the business, so when I finished the extensive list of items she needed completed, she said, great now you can work on a blog post. I explained I had never written a blog post, and she replied, “Alexander, think about something that interests you and write about it”.
Being born in Hong Kong and then spending the first six years of my life in Tokyo, Japan, I find that I think differently about the world. We moved to Pacific Palisades, California when I was entering elementary school and the healthy beach lifestyle was how I was raised, surfing, playing water polo, eating healthy organic foods, gardening, composting and recycling. Now I live in Santa Barbara, where I attend UCSB, and environmental issues are discussed on campus on a regular basis. This being said, a lot of my friends at college have Keurig coffee makers and other types of single cup serving coffee machines in their houses, so I thought I would do some research on the k cup.
For the average coffee drinker a day starts with jumping out of bed and brewing that essential cup of coffee. Unless of course, you are older, then it is more of a slow roll out of bed and a stroll to the coffee machine. In the past decade with the creation of the K-Cup by Keurig, the process of making coffee has been simplified to the push of a button. As of 2018, 42% of U.S. coffee consumers own a single-cup brewing device similar to that of a Keurig coffee maker, and who could blame them because they are super easy to use with limited clean up. While the usage of Keurig coffee machines and other types of single cup coffee machines may benefit the time it takes to produce a single cup of coffee there are certain aspects of these k cup coffee makers, specifically pre-packaged k cups which take away from coffee’s flavor and negatively impact the environment.
When you roast green coffee beans into black coffee beans, gases, including carbon dioxide, form inside the coffee beans, and they go through a lot of chemical reactions. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into smaller molecules, coffee beans begin to brown, and a lot of water vapor and carbon dioxide are created. When coffee is roasted from a green coffee bean to a roasted coffee bean an individual bean expands to nearly two times its size and half of its weight. Once roasted, the coffee beans begin to degas. Degassing is when gases from the roasted coffee beans are released from the bean. This is why Weaver's Coffee uses a very expensive bag with a one-way valve, once we fill our freshly roasted coffee into the bag it degasses and seals in freshness. When examining a Weaver’s Coffee bag you can see that there is a small hole in the bag in the center of the one-way valve. This is intended to allow the coffee to be able to expunge the gas inside the bag, which prevents the bag from bursting. This also seals in freshness. When you click on the short video below, you can see the one-way valve on the front of the bag, it is just above the the label.
This brings to light a flaw within the k cups, most k cups do not have holes for the carbon dioxide to escape. So, in order to prevent the pre-packaged k cups from expanding prior to usage, companies that produce k cups are usually forced to stale the coffee to stop the process in its tracks. By doing so they may have eliminated the issue with cup expansion but they have significantly altered the flavor of the coffee. While the stale ground coffee may be easier to package and produce it takes away from the morning cup’s full potential. There are new discoveries and advances in the way we package coffee, and we know Keurig is committed to changing the k-cup packaging itself, including moves to make it 100 percent recyclable. However, the creator of the k-cup, worried about the effect they are having on the environment.
In addition to pre-packaged k-cups having stale coffee they affect the environment negatively due to their lack of recyclability. "Coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet," said John Hocevar, the campaign director of Greenpeace USA, an environmental nonprofit organization. "Many end up getting incinerated, dumping poison into our air, water and our soil.” In the year 2015 alone Keurig sold over 10.5 billion K-Cups. Because the capsules are often too small for various sorting systems at recycling plants they bog down the entire waste management system. While Keurig continues to work on better recycling options for their K-Cups, they have realized that recycling is very important. Read more on their commitment to changing the K-Cup to 100% recyclable. https://www.keurig.com/recyclable
Presently, the best bet for the concerned consumer is to buy an affordable refillable k-cup that is easy to wash out in your sink at home. There are plenty of options available depending upon which k cup coffee machine you use at home. Check out the options online and let us know what you find by commenting below.
Whether it be before your commute to work on your way to class, the refillable k-cup is easy to use and tastes better than the store bought pre-packaged cups you can find at your local grocery retailer. Plus, using a refillable k-cup will save you a lot of money. Filling up a reusable k-cup is as simple as opening the lid, filling it to the brim with your favorite Weaver’s Coffee selection, popping it in the Coffee Machine and pressing go. To clean it out is easy, empty the coffee grinds into the trash, or into your garden or compost, wash out the refillable k-cup in the sink, and you’re ready for your second cup of coffee. Figuring out which coffees to buy for your refillable and reusable k-cup can be an enjoyable experience. We recommend buying coffee beans and then grinding the coffee to a #7 for drip coffee, but you may have to play around with the grind depending on your single serve coffee maker.
Taking an extra ten seconds out of your day to fill up a reusable k-cup, you will impact the environment more positively and give yourself a better cup of coffee. While technology in the coffee industry is continuing to focus on speed and proficiency its important as coffee drinkers to not sacrifice flavor and the environment for ten seconds of your day.
When I was ten years old and my mom said to me, “Alexander, we are artisan coffee roasters, we do not manufacture k cups”. I did not understand what she meant, but I do now. If you are using a single cup coffee maker, please do some research on what is available as a reusable k cup filter for your k cup coffee maker. This way you will be helping to save the environment, save yourself some money and also get a better cup of coffee.
Alexander Brown is studying Global Studies and Minoring in Japanese & Technology at USCB. However, his real passion is performing as musical artist.
Listen to his music on Spotify.