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Coffee Pods vs Plunger Coffee Makers

Coffee Pods or AeroPress?

In a move that will rattle the espresso cups in his old office, Jean-Paul Gaillard, the former CEO of Nespresso, has come out with a damning assessment of the environmental impact of the pods that he helped take worldwide throughout the 1990’s.

A couple of facts about coffee pods in case there’s any confusion. They are not biodegradable and they take up to 500 years to breakdown. On the billions of pods going into the ground (billions, not millions) Gaillard says…

“It will be a disaster and it’s time to move on that. People shouldn’t sacrifice the environment for convenience”.

Of course. And as if the environmental impact isn’t enough, we only need to take a quick look at the price of coffee pods to add to the angst. Pods cost around 5 times the cost of fresh or ground coffee beans. 500%. Quintuple. Cinq fois. Cinque volte.

You can have one cup of pod coffee for every five cups of AeroPress coffee. Not five cups of instant coffee, five cups of smooth, rich, velvety, fresh and sooo tasty AeroPress coffee. That excludes the cost of buying the coffee machine to put the awful little aluminium suckers into. It just gets worse.

Are pods really that convenient? Using an AeroPress to make your coffee does require a couple of minutes work, perhaps three or four minutes including the coffee grinding (which some people see as a light workout) and rinsing the AeroPress components after the plunge. But hey, even podsters have to get the pod out of the box, slip it into the coffee machine, remove the pod after the coffee has been made and place the pod in the bin (for landfill).

A recycling company called TerraCycle is working with coffee pod companies to take the nasty little pods, separate them into their organic, metal and plastic components, and refashion each component for reuse.

Recycling sounds good, but let’s consider what that entails. Firstly you have to make the pods. Dig up aluminium, mix the right chemicals together to get the plastic you want and transport everything to a factory to make the pods. Collect the pods after use (somehow), transport them to the recycling factory, melt them, separate the components and then transport the components to wherever they are used.

The idea that recycling pods makes everything okay misses the point that just making them in the first place is bad for the environment.

The alternative?

Hand grind fresh coffee beans. Hand plunge the coffee ground through the AeroPress. Place spent coffee ground (organic matter) into the bin or spread it across your garden/veggie patch/compost bin. Easy, and you have a great coffee.

Yes, there’s the filter, unless you use a reusable metal Able filter. But even without going heavy metal, the AeroPress micro filters can be reused by simply rinsing them under running water. And they’re paper. Biodegradable. Tiny. Not metal landfill.

Oh, and what about portability? The AeroPress is a cinch to carry with you, so no matter where you are you can make yourself great coffee. Pod machines are tethered to a powerpoint and in every practical sense a fixed piece of machinery.

Pods or AeroPress? In summary:

  • Environmental impact – AeroPress wins in every way possible
  • Coffee quality – AeroPress wins on freshness
  • Cost – AeroPress wins on both the upfront and running costs
  • Portability – no contest
  • Ease of use – we’re going to call this a draw

Are you a pod user? Let us know what you think.

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