Have you heard about the crusade against K-Cups? In the unlikely case you need a refresher, “K-Cups” is the abbreviated term for those little vacuum sealed pods of ground coffee used with a Keurig machine to produce a single serving of coffee with the push of a button and less than a minute. A few years ago, Keurig machines were the it product, the must-buy at holidays or for weddings or housewarming. The crusade itself is even old news now. Way back toward the beginning of 2015, one of the founders declared his regrets for inventing a product that in a single year (2014), produced enough waste to circle the globe more than 10 times. The Internet rallied. First of all, what a novel thought, that there exists an entrepreneur who thinks about more than his net worth, who admitted he wished he did something differently. Secondly, how could he have been so thoughtless? We, millions of followers, succumbed to the promotions and temptations of technology and then were FORCED to buy billions of pods that could not be recycled. What a calamity! Oh have we learned our lesson.
The reactions I came across were fairly unanimous in their abject hate toward K-Cups. There was little controversy over the suggestion to eliminate K-Cups from your diet for the betterment of the world and your taste buds. I stood by, a little irked. Why such consensus about K-cups? Couldn’t we all unite over something more significant?
I was reluctant to take another side in the crusade, until now. A little more recently, I read a Thrillist post shaming K-Cup users that was so terribly done it made me angry. Now I will have my piece. No, I won’t heap praise on the product, but I would like to point out why this topic seems overblown.
#1 Which is worse?
How many people have used Keurig machines in their offices? In my opinion, adding Keurig machines can have a positive impact. Yes, with businesses subsidizing cups for their workers, some people may have had cups they
#2 Convenience Factor
In one of my recent jobs, we placed a Keurig machine on top of a tiny table next to a tiny fridge in the hallway outside our various shared offices. Now, you might say (or as Thrillist is pretentiously exhorting), put a coffee maker there and use fresh grounds! I say, are you kidding? What a mess. Do you know how rarely this area was cleaned? To get to the closest sink, you had to walk down the hall, through one set of doors, across an atrium and through another door…and that was for a bathroom sink. Washing a pot and filter and any other components was unlikely to happen.
Let’s acknowledge that since many of us require caffeine to function effectively, coffee is probably here to stay for awhile. If you clicked on the Thrillist link, you’ll see that the #1 listed reason to quit K-Cups is “You shouldn’t make coffee like a monkey.” Really, this is your argument? “Our ability to use complex tools is what separates us from other primates.” I guess the author is a fan of those fancy corporate espresso machines that are so complex that they can impossible to figure out.
My thought is if K-Cups provide a quick source of caffeine to get someone’s brain functioning in order to use other complex tools to solve critical world problems, then it’s OK that they didn’t have to use much of their brain to make that cup!
#4 Bigger Picture
What frustrates me the most is that the Atlantic interview that got everyone riled up was actually somewhat balanced. The reporter pointed out significant facts about how other home coffee machines use more electricity, brew inefficiently and result in plenty of wasted water [update: I came across a study that was externally-reviewed (yet, of course, commissioned by a biased source) that found single-serve coffee capsules have a lower overall environmental impact)], how non-renewable resources are used to transport coffee to places like Starbucks and for the customers to drive themselves there, and how coffee itself is a water-intensive crop. “Thinking about all of this has been almost enough to make me feel like every coffee method is so far from perfect that I should just give up entirely,” Hamblin said.
When other media outlets picked up the story, did they include these facts? Not so much. Not Business Insider, not CNN, not The Washington Post, to name a few.
It goes to show, take any news story about your grains of coffee with a grain of salt.