Time for a coffee machine renaissance

When coffee is the question, the trendy K-Cup is not the answer

We have a complicated relationship with coffee, and the Keurig K-cup is not the answer.

In 2015, John Sylvan, the inventor of the K-Cup, had his Oppenheimer moment during an interview with The Atlantic.

“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” he said, in reference to the negative environmental potential of his tiny coffee delivery system.

Since then, the coffee world has gone into a tailspin and people everywhere have had to imagine mountain ranges of K-Cups emerging from the sea with infant turtles wearing them like mini top-hats against their will. This — the environmental impact — has been the major argument levied against the K-Cup.

Although the environmental effect of the K-Cup may be harmful, something in which this writer is not qualified to opine about, there are other reasons students need to recognize the danger of the pod and stop the decline of potted coffee.

First and foremost, when compared to a traditional coffee machine — what some refer to as an automatic drip-brewer —  the K-Cup is not more convenient.

The size of the K-Cup machine is the same as a traditional coffee machine. One may contend that the K-Cup machine is better suited for dorm use, as it does not have a pot which has the potential to shatter. My response to that would be that the pot is actually incredibly tough to break and one should not pretend that they are constantly knocking over their Keurig, which is expensive to replace in and of itself.

Chris Brindle
Old faithful. The simple, reliable, traditional coffee machine no one uses in the newsroom.

Secondly, the labor required to make the coffee is the same. Not only does each delivery system require one to repeatedly fill a reservoir of water, but now, since we have become more environmentally conscious, many have opted for the more responsible, refillable pod.

So as it stands, not only does each machine require the refilling of water, but each brew in the Keurig requires one to scoop grounding into their mini filter — the exact same process required to make a pot of coffee, but the Keurig only rewards the laborer with one cup, where as a full pot can yield up to 12.

When one realizes this, they begin to see how severely we have been deceived by the coffee industry’s chicanery.

Now there are some more impressive alternatives to the K-Cup, such as the new pods whose lower halves have been replaced with fabric sacks, which prove much friendlier to the environment while preserving the convenience, but there is a subtler reason students should reject the K-Cup completely, and return to the days of pot coffee.

The K-Cup gives one the illusion of convenience, but there is an ignominious emptiness which comes over one as they disassemble the bottom portion of the Keurig, just to wedge their travel mug in on a slant and watch an unceremonious little dribble empty into their container.

This feeling of emptiness has had a profound effect on a portion of the population’s psyche. As John Locke observed, labor is important to the human condition, in so far as one’s work gives them a sense of purpose and pleasure, which is distinct merely from the material reward.

The little coffee pod has wrapped the brewing process in a veneer of automation, which has left some thirsting for the meaning they once derived from the scooping of grounds into filters. Now there is a cottage industry of students who have felt this emptiness and gone out in search for the satisfaction again.

We are all familiar with these students. They not only grind their beans by hand, but they brew the drink by hand, probably with water they heated over a little flame they constructed by rubbing twigs together with beans they grew in their own dorm using homemade compost.

We must rescue these understandably lost students and return to them the equal satisfaction and dignity of making a pot of coffee.

I should hedge this argument with a caveat. The K-Cup delivery system is useful for some settings. For example, in an office where there is no designated coffee-funding system or pot-tender, or for one who enjoys their own specific brand or flavor. In such circumstances, I cannot help but utilize the one-button option, but when appropriate, students should preserve the tradition of potted coffee when possible.

In anticipation of a public outcry, I shall not close this article without addressing those of you who are thinking, “why has he not mentioned the French press?”

In the spirit of candor, must admit my ignorance on the topic and confess that I have not once used a French press. From what I understand though, it appears to be a useful and popular little device, based off of the simplicity of design and the quasi-religious fervor with which it’s adherents profess it’s superiority — their enthusiasm and zeal has caught my attention, and made me think highly of the method.

But, the French press also fails to compete with the traditional coffee machine in competition for the best day to day coffee creator.

“You can control the strength of the coffee,” they will protest, “because of the hand-press method.” This is a fair point, and something to consider, but one can sufficiently control the strength of one’s coffee in a traditional machine based on the grounds purchased, and the amount used per brew.

The French press, which may be a good treat for the weekend or holiday, fails insofar as one must heat water separately, wait for it to cool, and then create the coffee. In a semi-miraculous fashion, a regular coffee machine begins to brew instantly upon command, or if one prefers, can be pre-set to brew, which enables one to awake to the aroma.

Finally, the K-Cup is too individualistic, whereas the pot is communal by nature. It not only serves more than just one drinker in a fraction of the time it takes to brew and reload pod after pod, but it allows a potential suitor or suitress to utter a hallmark phrase of courtship from the past several decades in America.

“Come on over, I’ll put a pot on,” one can say, as the evening begins to fade into night.

Coffee pots have been a staple in the American kitchen and small-town diner for close to 50 years now. Innovation is no sure sign of improvement and it is time we give the backwards little K-Cup a second glance and return to our roots.