Much to the dismay of many, the seemingly infamous Keurig and similar quick brewers have recently received a bad rap from bloggers, environmentalists, and even health professionals.
The National Coffee Association tells us that almost 1 in 5 adults use single-cup brewers daily – they are just so darn convenient. In fact, so convenient that this is the second-most popular way to brew coffee after the traditional drip methods.
GreenMedInfo’s report about the disadvantages of the Keurig system became widely viral when they uncovered what was under the lid of that machine. Here is a quick summarization of that report (but it’s still not the main reason I no longer use the Keurig, I’ll share that soon):
1. The major gripe against these “one-cup wonders” is that the tiny plastic pods are not at all environmentally friendly. Most people just use them and throw them in the trash (in most places the cups are actually non-recyclable). They eventually end up in already over-filled landfills.
2. Although the #7 plastic used in K-Cups is noted to be BPA-free, there is some thought that these plastics may test positive for estrogenic activity.
3. Another faux-pas is the use of the aluminum foil seal at the top. This use of aluminum, again, isn’t sustainable, and there are a few documented sources that note health risks associated with consuming anything that touches aluminum. Studies show that heat causes aluminum to leach out into foods and into coffee. Over time, aluminum accumulates in the body and may lead to Alzheimer’s disease or osteoporosis.
4. The last major argument is that the single-cup brewers do a very good job at hiding mold in hard-to-reach places that vinegar can’t even clean. To remove all of this mold and build-up, you would have to dismantle the machine, almost to the point of no return, to just get a small glimpse of it. And of course, there are a few health implications of consuming mold.
Although, not all mold is bad, right? Well, maybe the kind found in the back of your one-cup brewer is.
… As you can see, there is a strong case against our beloved pod inseminators.
I admit it. As the publisher of an Alternative Health news site, I had one (actually, I still have it but…. it’s now in the garage). Long before these popular articles came out, I always had a bit of guilt every time I purchased the K-cups, brewed a cup, and then threw out the pods. But it was so easy to make a cup of coffee whenever I felt like it – seriously, you can’t beat the convenience.
I’d wake up in the morning, drop in a K-cup, and within 30 seconds, a hot cup of coffee was ready for me to enjoy the rest of my alone time, while my wife and daughter were still soundly asleep. The brewer was so quiet, it woke no one – even our two small dogs who bark at everything.
There I was: sitting on the patio, sipping a fresh cup of coffee. Wait… hmmm. One more gripe I had: it wasn’t that fresh. Those grounds in the K-cup were probably roasted and ground months ago. Oh well, at least it was convenient.
Back to the story: There I was sipping a hot cup of coffee, when, before I knew it and halfway through my morning routine, it was gone. Ok, I’ll throw in another K-cup. 30 seconds later, instant gratification!
Perfect, right? Now I could go complete other tasks and projects in the morning, checking our website, sending emails while slurping down my coffee.
In the same manner, when I needed my early afternoon fix, BAM!, right back into the cup, mindlessly going about other work.
However, I did notice that the coffee never tasted quite as good as other local coffee shops. I do consider myself a coffee connoisseur and found myself searching for that perfect cup. The Keurig coffee always tasted just so-so, but I had a hard time letting go of the ease of operation.
Ah… the perfect cup. I like mine bold and dark, and I like it consistent all the way through. My Keurig only provided a B-effort, every time. I wanted the A+ that I had tasted at places like Konos and Pacific Bean in San Diego. Or, the local Cuban cafes here in South Florida where the coffee can literally put hair on your chest. Even the dreaded Starbucks has a very consistent, bold, organic roast.
Why couldn’t my Keurig do that? I decided to try something else. Motivated and in search of the best, I purchased a French press and dabbled a bit in it. A couple weeks later, me and Monsieur Press had a Deep, Dark, Bold relationship. He lost in the end. It was too strong and I didn’t like the fine remnants of my grounds in the coffee.
There I was: lonely, staring at my Keurig, longing for something more and something better…
Then I started my research. I loved espresso. It was always consistent, and definitely bold the whole way through. If I wanted a quick shot, it would work. If I wanted something a bit lighter, an Americano would be perfect.
So I purchased an espresso machine. It had a really cool pressure meter on it. I had no clue what it meant. And like with any coffee maker I had before, I spent about an hour cleaning it with warm, soapy water, flushing it with vinegar, then rinsing with more water while reading the handbook.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What the hell is tamping? I have to be responsible for the “dosage” of grinds? And the responsibility lies on me to determine the grind size? I was in over my head. It turns out that pressure meter would turn into my arch rival.
You see, the instruction book said that if you get all three elements correct (dosage, tamping and grind size) then game on, the meter will display the perfect pressure and you will have an irresistible espresso.
Mine was light brown and weak (yes even for espresso), and only ran for a few seconds. The book then said a good espresso should take anywhere from 12-15 seconds. Mine was done in 4. It tasted awful. I then proceeded to run 15 more single shots through to get it exactly right. Don’t worry, I only tasted a few along the way.
I went to bed frustrated. What did I get myself into?
I woke up the next morning, glared at the espresso machine and went back to Ol’ Reliable, the Keurig. She had been so good to me, and I could count on her every time.
While sipping my mediocre cup of coffee, I started researching espresso. What’s the difference between Espresso Roast and an Espresso machine? Do I have to use Espresso Roast? No?! That blew my mind! I could use whatever I wanted?
I then watched about 30 people on YouTube making espresso. How to tell if the dosage is right, what’s the best way to tamp, the best way to grind the bean, what it should look like throughout the whole process of dripping.
I was getting schooled in this game of espresso making. I went back to the kitchen and decided to give it a… shot (yes, it’s intended), Too strong, but I decide to drink it. I definitely regret that one.
I went back in the kitchen and made another. Too weak.
Six tries later… perfection (again, I didn’t drink all these). You’re able to tell from the pressure meter and the drip how the shot is looking, and I knew that I HAD to drink this one. And it was the most amazing espresso I had ever made ☺
It took about another couple days to figure it out and get that perfect routine of tamping, dosage, and grind.
Later that week I also bought another coffee maker. A drop coffee maker. I have lots of family members who enjoy coffee, so when eight people are over, it’s kind of hard to turn the espresso machine over sufficiently. The new drip machine is great. It grinds your own beans, pick your strength, picks your size (it even doesn single cups!), and then drip into the thermos for all to enjoy.
But here’s the real reason I Divorced from My Keurig…
With my reliable Keurig, the mentality was “Make Coffee Fast!” It’s not like that with my espresso machine or drip coffee maker now. When friends and family are over they enjoy my details of the trials and tribulations of what went into making their coffee.
Now it’s an experience. An enjoyable one. I have a lot of responsibility in this. I have to pick the beans (always organic and Rainforest Alliance certified). This is a huge benefit over the K-cups. Of course they have the customizable pods, but it simply isn’t the same. Then, it’s a decision on espresso, Americano, or good old drip coffee. Each time, an experience awaits.
That’s when it hit me. As we rush to get everything done in life, we always try to get “there” as fast as possible, while completely ignoring the current experience we are all having. And when we do get “there,” we start rushing to get done and on to the next situation in our lives. And as petty as picking out a coffee maker may be, it was a perfect opportunity to slow down and enjoy even the menial task of waking up and putting the coffee on.
When I finally made that perfect cup of coffee, it was delicious. I made it right there in my own house. And as I make that espresso, Americano, or drip cup for friends, family, or just myself, I realize that the perfect cup of coffee wasn’t what I was after. It was the whole experience.
As I walked my old friend Keurig out to the garage, I was appreciative for the instant gratification she gave me. Instant gratification is nice, it’s an experience we all have access to in life. But while we are all thinking we are after that perfect cup of coffee, quite often we find out that it’s that experience that leads us to it, that we were after all along.
– Jake Carney
Jake Carney is the founder and CEO of The Alternative Daily. Meditation & Flexible Lifestyle are his passions and he strives to teach this to everyone. When he’s not writing and running operations at Alt Daily, he is probably enjoying some time on the beach with his wife and daughter.