Ihave a coffee problem. I love it. I drink too much of it. And I most surely have a caffeine addiction. But today I’m not talking about me (for once). My coffee problem has to do with you. You, America, and your obsession, addiction and love affair with the Keurig.
Perhaps you thought that, since it is April, this might be some sort of jokey column. Sorry. Coffee has been banned throughout history — in Mecca for stimulating radical thinking, at the Vatican for being satanic and in Sweden for interfering with beer profits. But today it is the second-most-traded commodity in the world (after oil). Which is why I feel it is my civic duty to warn you:
Single-serve coffee pods are evil incarnate.
This is not an April Fool’s joke. This is deadly serious. This is a red alert. Here’s why:
Save the Planet
I will start with the obvious: Those plastic pods are killing the planet. The company responsible, Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, produces about 9 billion K-cups (each making only one cup of coffee) every year. Stacked up, they would circle the earth more than 10 times. Even if you personally use the 5 percent of K-cups that are recyclable, there are still 95 percent out there that aren’t. And you know where they end up, don’t you? In the fast-growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch with the rest of the world’s plastic, swirling endlessly in a gyre, slowly breaking down, but never disintegrating. Actually there are now two patches in the Pacific, and they are each the size of Texas. Even the inventor of these pods, John Sylvan, has admitted he feels bad about that. Plus, because pod waste has a mix of aluminum, plastic and ground coffee, even if they do make it into the recycling bin, most municipal recycling plants are not equipped to process them. Even well-intentioned reuse of the pods is ridiculously difficult. Why even bother using a canvas grocery tote if you’re filling it with these planet killers?
Even if you don’t care a fig about the planet, those K-cups are making you sick. They are made from #7 composite plastic, which, although BPA free, have tested positive for estrogenic activity, which interferes with natural hormonal cellular function. (I’m not a scientist, but I think that probably means you’ll grow extra boobs.) Plus, although composite plastic #7 is a secret proprietary product, we do know that it contains styrene, which is harmful to your nervous system. And don’t forget the aluminum top of each pod, which creates health concerns of its own, including links to a spectrum of neurological diseases.
Save your Money
Using K-cups is stupidly expensive. The average machine costs around $100. A typical drip machine is about $40. But worse than the pots are the pods, which The New York Times has calculated are costing you $50 per pound of coffee. Even the best coffee at the hippest coffee bar is not $50 a pound. (There is that $600-per-pound Sumatran kopi luwak coffee. But that’s because it’s fermented in wildcat poop. I am not making that up.) And what do you get for your buck? Most pods are two parts coffee to one part packaging, which makes it seem like you’re paying for garbage. Oh, yeah — you are.
Save the Coffee
You only want one cup? Three things:
• What’s wrong with you? Coffee is so delicious! I just sip it all day long. This is, I’m pretty sure, how I am going to die.
• You can buy single-serve drip makers (see Mr. Coffee) which use loose ground coffee and cost around $30.
• You can use leftover coffee in a number of delicious ways (see recipes below) including just chilling it and drinking it later.
“But K-cups are so convenient.”
This is the part where my head explodes and I cry for humanity. Brewing coffee is not hard. You don’t have to grind your beans anymore. You don’t even have to boil water. Brewing a pot of coffee is literally the easiest thing there is to cooking. College kids can do it. Blondes can do it. Trump can do it. You are saving, at most, eight minutes with your planet-killing, money-eating pods. Of course, maybe you are using that eight minutes to save the world in some other way, like recolonizing honeybees or harassing the NRA. But chances are you will waste at least eight minutes staring at your phone later today, so I am not impressed.
Save Your Arguments
Sure, everything is plastic. Toiletries, tools, electronics, toys — they are all made and packaged with plastic, and we are drowning in it. But why opt for a product that exacerbates the problem, when there is a perfectly wonderful, tried-and-true method already in use? Using a K-cup is a corporate money grab that you have been sucked into because it’s cool, and that is just silly. Let me also mention that the company is testing K-cups for instant soup, which, if true, will mean an entire stupid system of products to create a food that no one voluntarily eats unless they are sick or broke.
So join me in shunning the K-cup trend. Stick it to the man. Just say no. Don’t be a sheep. Stand up for what you believe in — civic responsibility, smart consumerism and good coffee.
LEFTOVER BREWED-COFFEE IDEAS
Coffee Pot Roast and Brisket
Replace the water in your favorite pot roast recipe with brewed coffee. The acidity will balance the rich, fattier meats.
Coffee Braised Chicken
Same as above. Coffee added to braising birds will not make it taste like coffee. Rather, it will add a layer of flavor complexity that will be your little secret.
Tired of your usual marinade? Mix coffee with soy sauce or Worcestershire, garlic and herbs for a delicious alternative.
Coffee BBQ Sauce
Similarly, a good BBQ sauce perfectly balances sweet, salty, acid and bitterness. Use it in place of water.
Coffee Chili and Baked Beans
Use coffee in place of water in your best chili and bean recipes. That touch of acidity eases the richness.
Coffee Truffles, Frosting and Sauce
Replace half the liquid in your ganache recipe. The combination of chocolate and coffee is a tried-and-true pairing. And for bittersweet chocolate lovers, the coffee accentuates the bitterness in the chocolate.
Coffee Chocolate Cake and Brownies
As above, adding coffee to your cake recipes in place of the liquid makes the cake taste more chocolatey.
Use cooled coffee for half the liquid in your favorite pudding mix.
Use it instead of water, then add a little cinnamon, nutmeg and some chopped nuts. It’s the breakfast of champions.
Your guests will be blown away when you serve them refreshing granita for dessert. Just freeze the coffee in a shallow pan and stir it every 30 minutes or so, as the ice crystals form. Topped with a little whipped cream and a crisp cookie, it is a showstopper. (I confess; this is also a guilty-pleasure breakfast food for me.)
Coffee Ice Pops
When the summer swelter arrives, imagine how happy you’ll be when you remember you have iced-coffee pops in your freezer. You can use fancy popsicle molds, or the time-honored Dixie-cup method.
Coffee Caramel Sauce
Adding coffee to your caramel sauce recipe, or stirring it into ready-made sauce, makes it taste like toffee.
Coffee is the most important ingredient in this Italian classic.
Feed Your Garden
For plants that crave an acid-rich soil, coffee fits the bill.
Clean Your House
Acid helps cut through caked on grease, and coffee works great on ovens, stovetops and outdoor grills.