A tale of two coffee machines

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… …and with that I’ll end my Dickensian plagiarism and get on with it, my experience with two single cup coffee makers and the coffee they produce. …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

Small steps, small cups

Since this is Blog Action Day, I thought I’d take a look at how I perceive my morning routine is impacting climate change – no real hard science here, but just my pedestrian perspective on¬† my potential impact on the planet.My thinking may be wrong-headed in places (please let me know) but this post is really a review of a series of conscious decisions I’ve made over the years to continue to enjoy coffee, and lessen the impact I make.

It’s all about me
My morning cup of coffee is not just a ritual, it’s essential. Over the years I’ve used percolators, drip machines, French Press devices and most recently, a Keruig K-Cup device. I enjoy grinding my own beans and experimenting with various roasts.

At the drive through
Also over the years, when I’ve missed my morning brew at home, I’ve had to spend time in the Tim Hortons drive through. This is bad from an vehicle idling perspective…I’m trying to reduce this.

Impacts: Vehicle emissions, time, energy

Reduced wastage
In my perk, drip, carafe days, I used to make a full pot of coffee in the morning. This would occasionally be shared with my wife, and the remainder dumped into a thermos and taken to work and either consumed or thrown out at the end of the day.

I felt like I was saving money (not buying a fresh coffee) and not wasting the morning leftovers. Sure, it had continued stewing in the thermos for a few hours until I drank it, and it was more bitter then, but it was drinkable. Just not a good cup of Joe.

Of course, now I had to wash both my travel mug, my thermos, and the coffee brew pot / carafe. I was not happy with the water wasted on cleaning.

Impacts: Water waste, energy waste (brewing discarded coffee), time

Single cup solution

My experimentation in grinding also produced inconsistent results. Often we weren’t pleased¬† with the results.

So we invested in a more consistent coffee solution by picking up a K-Cup machine. For me, this makes sense in so many ways:

  • We always enjoy our coffee
  • Pre-measured water usage
  • Pre-measured coffee packets (cups)
  • Reusable coffee filter option (lets me experiment with grinds & roasts)
  • Minimal cleanup (just wash the mugs)

But, you may say, I’m increasing my impact buy increasing the amount of packaging produced and discarded for each cup I consume.

That is true, but we’ve taken some steps to even reduce that impact. You see, Edmonton (the city I live in) has a world-class recycling facility. They handle an amazing amount of recyclable material. And with a little bit of extra work, we’re able to break down those K-cups into materials that can (I believe) be safely recycled.

The K-cup consists of four components and it’s a simple matter to reduce the cup to its components for appropriate handling:

  • Plastic cup – recycle
  • Paper filter – recycle or discard
  • Coffee grounds – flush down the sink (roughage to keep the pipes clean)
  • Combination foil / plastic sealing lid – discard
Impacts: Packaging waste

Reusing the K-cup
Of course, the best solution for me is the Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter. It’s a mini-filter basket that sits inside a holder. Simply place your own ground coffee inside and viola, a fresh cup of coffee in a minute or so. Nothing to discard and easy to wash. And aside from initial production inputs, no real impact aside from cleaning.

Impacts: Water waste

Ok, enough about me and my quest to achieve my perfect (and climate friendly) brew. Time for your thoughts.

Is this a minor step? Perhaps a very small step, and does it matter? I think so, but then, I’m not really in a position to judge. I’m just one small consumer that’s trying to help out in my own small way. How ’bout you?