Pod-type coffeemakers — Keurig and its more elaborate cousins — may represent the ultimate in convenience and style, but they rank pretty low on the environmental-friendliness scale. In fact, the disposable pods have been called “one of the most wasteful products to hit the market since bottled water.”
According to a 2013 study from the National Coffee Association, roughly 13% of the U.S. adult population enjoys a daily dose of coffee made in a single-cup brewer.
- That’s a lot of disposable pods — an estimated 9.1 billion of them.
- And that’s a lot of plastic and aluminum going into the landfill — 19 million cubic feet of waste, enough to fill 16,500 shipping containers, 62 miles’ worth of them.
- It’s also a lot of money being spent on those expensive pods, or a lot of time and mess if you’re using refillable pods.
When our 12-cup under-cabinet coffeemaker died last May, a little research provided me with an alternative to the pod-type device: the award-winning Hamilton Beach Scoop single-cup coffeemaker. (As far as I know, Hamilton Beach is the only manufacturer that makes a scoop-type coffeemaker.)
Much simpler than the pod style, this coffeemaker uses a metal scoop to hold the coffee grounds. The process couldn’t be simpler:
- Fill your cup with cold water and pour it into the reservoir.
- Scoop the grounds from your coffee canister and place the scoop into the machine. (You can also use the scoop to hold a teabag or loose tea leaves.)
- When the coffee’s brewed, take the scoop out of the machine, dispose of the grounds (into the compost bin, of course), rinse and replace the scoop, and you’re done.
I see a lot of advantages here:
- You’re saving money, both on the hardware (the scoop-type coffeemaker is significantly less expensive than the pod type) and on the coffee.
- You’re reducing waste: no disposable pods to throw out or send to a recycler.
- If you’ve been using refillable pods, you’re avoiding a mess: the scoop is simple to fill and to clean, unlike most refillable pods, and it has a handle, making it easy to remove, even while it’s hot.
- You’re using fresher water: it hasn’t been sitting in a reservoir.
- You’re not limited to the kinds of coffee the pod manufacturers want you to buy.
- If you unplug the coffeemaker when you’re finished using it, you’re saving even more money.
- Replacement parts are readily available, reasonably priced, and simple to install.
The pod-type coffeemaker has its place, especially if a lot of people are brewing coffee for themselves. But the coffeemakers are expensive, the disposable pods are expensive, and the pods end up in the landfill (although a California-based company is producing a 97% biodegradable pod and is working to make it 100% biodegradable).