As a nation of coffee enthusiasts, it’s no surprise that one in three Americans own a single cup coffee maker. However, the country’s coffee habit is substantially impacting the environment as many leading brands’ coffee pods aren’t recyclable, meaning they’re filling up landfill sites across The States. The population shows no signs of giving up their caffeine habit, though. In fact, America’s latest coffee trends show they’re more addictive than ever before. Therefore, the news that the industry is working to make eco-friendly pods and capsules one of its main priorities is very much welcome.
What the big brands are doing
In 2015, industry leader, Keurig, sold more than 9 million coffee pods to the public. However, none of them could be recycled, meaning consumers had no choice but to dispose of their pods along with the rest of their household waste. Thankfully, Keurig worked hard to overcome this issue and launched recyclable K-cups for some of its products. Following their success, the company are now aiming to make all of its K-Cups recyclable by 2020. While, Starbucks, Nespresso and Tassimo all have pods on the market which are recyclable.
A turning point for the industry
For years there has been pressure on the coffee trade to do more to positively impact the environment and to reduce the waste that comes with a good quality mug of coffee. So, the news that the coffee pod industry is going green is a step in the right direction and is encouraging others in the trade to do their bit too. In a bid to promote sustainable consumer goods and to cut down on the millions of paper cups and lids which the chain dish out year, Starbucks, has just announced a $10 million design a compostable coffee cup.
What you can do
There’s no need to ditch your beloved coffee brewer and pods in an attempt to stay green. When shopping for pods, look for brands which clearly state that they are recyclable and ensure that you dispose of them with the rest of your recycling rather than in the normal trash can. Or, if you love your go-to brand so much but find they don’t offer a recyclable option, utilize the collection service that Terracycle offer. It’s also worth reviewing the amount of coffee you consume per day and ensure you don’t exceed your recommended daily caffeine intake. Simply, ditching one or two mugs each day can be all it takes to reduce your carbon footprint and any negative impacts on the environment.
The multi billion pound coffee industry has a responsibility to produce green, eco-friendly products. Thankfully, news of recyclable coffee pods is encouraging the general public and big names within the business to do their bit to preserve waste and its impact on the world.
Funny-man Jerry Seinfeld hit the nail on the head when he said, “We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.” Coffee and speciality coffee, in particular, are fast becoming the beverage of choice in America with speciality sales increasing by as much as 20% per year, according to E-importz.
While many Americans still enjoy a regular cup of Joe, up to 50% of the population turn to speciality coffees such as espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and cold brews while closely following the latest trends the industry has to offer. Coffee drinkers are becoming more fastidious in their preferences, seeking out interesting and unusual brews in addition to their regular caffeine fix. Apart from new flavour offerings in terms of both instant and brewed coffee, a few other trends are still continuing strongly amongst American consumers.
Cold brew coffee remains one of the most popular cold beverages sold at coffee shops across the USA. Cold brew coffee is significantly stronger than traditionally brewed coffee and also contains less acidic and bitter flavours, rendering it an overall sweeter taste. Nitro coffees (cold brews infused with nitrogen) are becoming increasingly popular due to their rich, creamy texture. Nitro coffee is generally very strong and a number of companies have started selling it in cans that can be conveniently purchased at your nearest grocery store.
Direct-trade and fair trade coffee
Coffee drinkers are becoming increasingly concerned about where their favourite beverage comes from. Direct trade coffee aims to cut out the middleman completely, allowing coffee shops to purchase directly from the farmer. Consumers feel that, by drinking coffee from a single farmer, they are assured the best quality brew each and every time. Direct trade also benefits the farmer and the coffee shop as the farmer gets a larger portion of the profits and the coffee shop is guaranteed direct access to fresh, high-quality coffee beans.
Fair Trade coffee standards encourage the use of sustainable agricultural practices in terms of growing coffee with most Fair Trade coffee also being certified as organic. In order to be certified as Fair Trade, farmers have to follow sustainable practices which include environmental preservation as well as ethical labour systems. While direct trade focuses on procuring the best coffee beans possible, Fair Trade aims to improve the lives and business prospects of the coffee producer.
Low acid coffee
The acids in coffee are what supply us with the vivid, tart flavours that we all find so alluring. Unfortunately, these acids can lead to a great deal of health-related complications such as tooth decay, heartburn and acid reflux. Cue the introduction of low-acid coffee that is becoming increasingly popular amongst health-fanatics and general coffee-fundies alike. Low-acid coffee is gentle on the body and is typically made from Arabica beans which are harder to grow, produce a smoother, sweeter and richer taste and contain less caffeine and acid. Coffee shops around the globe have started offering low-acid brews in a bid to attract an even more diverse coffee-drinking market. If your favourite coffee outlet does not have a specific low-acid coffee opt for a darker roast as coffee beans that have been roasted for longer will have more acid burned off. Espresso Italian and French Roasts are generally good examples of low-acid dark roasts.
Whether you are a coffee-connoisseur that can tell a medium-from a dark roast just by sniffing it or simply an average Joe who enjoys a good cup of coffee, you will find the brew of your dreams amongst the myriad of options on the market. Coffee trends may come and go but the ability to appreciate a delicious cup of steaming (or icy-cold) java will evoke memories that will last forever.
Keurig was John Sylvan's brainchild, but he doesn't even use the environmentally disastrous coffee pods.
“Kill the K-Cup before it kills our planet.” That was the key message about the nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable coffee pods of a sci-fi-style clip released in January by Canadian-based video production outfit Egg Studios. The video's infamous K-Cup monster and accompanying hashtag went viral across social media. Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too.
“I don't have one. They're kind of expensive to use,” Sylvan told The Atlantic. Sylvan isn’t just worried about the negative impact of K-Cups on his wallet. As with plenty of environmental activists, he’s concerned about all those plastic pods ending up in landfills. With enough K-Cups sold in 2014 to encircle the globe at least 10.5 times, Sylvan seems to be regretting his invention.
“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” he said.
When Sylvan sold his company back in 1997, he never expected that the machines he invented would become so popular that one in three households would have one, or that billions of the plastic #7 coffee pods he created would be chucked into the trash every year. Although Keurig Green Mountain's sustainability report indicates that it's working to make the single-use containers fully recyclable by 2020, Sylvan said that’s not possible with the way the pods are designed.
“No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan. “The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers."
Most recycling plants aren’t equipped to handle #7 plastic. Along with being tough to recycle, that plastic may contain BPA. The containers are also attached to a foil lid, which has to be separated from the plastic, or it can't be recycled. Most users who are attracted to the convenience of K-Cups aren't going to take the extra time to do that.
Sylvan told The Atlantic that he knows how to make the pods sustainable, but that Keurig Green Mountain refuses to listen to him. Companies will listen to consumers, however, if their bottom line and brand begins to be negatively impacted. People can continue to put pressure on Keurig Green Mountain by spreading the #KillTheKCup hashtag and signing the Change.org petition that asks the company to start making universally recyclable K-Cups now, not five years (and billions more of the containers in landfills) from now. In the meantime, consumers looking for a more environmentally friendly way to get a quick java fix can try brands, such as the San Francisco Coffee Company, that are making recyclable pods or switch to one of the reusable pods out there that sometimes work in Keurig machines.
3 Ways To Spice Up Your Cold Coffees (by Sally Perkins)
The beautiful simplicity of a cup of coffee is not to be diminished, but sometimes your morning (or afternoon) brew needs a bit of a lift. As iced coffee and cold brew are both known to soak up flavors very well, the summertime is just the time to give these ideas a try.
- Essences and Extract
Vanilla flavored creamers and syrups are available everywhere, but try using vanilla extract on its own. It is all flavor and no extra sugar. If you’re trying to capture the flavor of an alcoholic brew without the alcohol, a dash of almond extract gives you that essense of amaretto. A chocolatey coffee might also pair very well with mint extract. Perhaps a trip to the baking section is in order.
- Dip into your spice cabinet!
Cinnamon is a go-to spice for most bakers, but maybe going a bit further afield to Cardamom and Ginger might add a bit of interest and freshness, even a bit of an exotic edge. If you’re more the fiery adventure type, a bit of cayenne or even chipotle will definitely add a bit of excitement to your morning. And, of course, the fad at the moment is pink peppercorns. These pink berries have a sweet but peppery flavor and are an amazing alternative for the person who has tried it all.
- Non-dairy love
While soya milk has been mainstream for a while, there are other non-dairy options. Oat milk has a rich, almost nutty flavor that has a nice body. It can be used just like normal milk and you won’t even miss the dairy alternative. Coconut milk is silky and strong, bringing life and vibrancy in addition to a massive coconut flavor. It whips up well in a latte or just a bit of cream on top.
Top Tip for Cold Brew
Salt - Salt brings out the flavor of foods and beverages and, as cold brewing sometimes mutes the coffee's flavor, it is just the thing to add a bit of punch. Discussions differ as to how much, but some people swear by this method.
Top Tip for Iced Coffee
Coffee Ice cubes - Make a batch the night before and freeze it in ice cube trays (the more fun-shaped the better). Use those to cool down the coffee - it won’t water down the coffee like normal ice. What can be better with coffee than more coffee?