Are 3 ounces of aluminium really needed to make a good cup of coffee?
I know it’s not really what I usually write about here on CoffeeSamurai.com, but it really makes me so angry, that we are destroying our planet, our home, in the name of more or less “instant coffee”. I feel like there has to be a better way ahead of us because the way we seem to be going is definitely not the correct one!
I hope this article will make you think a little about the choices you make for yourself and your families behalf. A great beginning would be to not invest in a pod coffee machine and instead invest in a good quality espresso machine. Is it more expensive? Yes! It is.. But the taste of good conscience cannot be bought cheap.
We have come to a stage where we all have to take more responsibility for what footprint we as businesses leave behind. It’s small and neat, but few think about how much capsule-based coffee actually affects the environment.
One thing is the waste capsule-based coffee entails, another is how aluminium production affects the environment, and whether 3 grams of aluminium is really needed to make a good cup of coffee?
Aluminium is today, the most energy-intensive and polluted metal to produce, for every ton of aluminium produced, 15 tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere, which is terrible news for both the atmosphere and global warming.
To put this in perspective: The consumption of 10 companies with 40 employees drinking capsule-based coffee, (based on 3 cups per employee per day) equals one ton of aluminium.
To produce aluminium, one has to depend on the mineral bauxite. Bauxite is found and extracted in the Amazon rainforests, where you will also see the world’s largest aluminium refinery. Unfortunately, this production leads to large areas of the Amazon rainforest being cut down and drenched in favour of mining where bauxite is extracted.
The Amazon rainforest is also known as the “lungs of the world,” and absorbs and stores CO2 that the industries release into the atmosphere. Every minute of 2018, an area equivalent to 40 football fields was cut down in the Amazon. This is in addition to the fact that a variety of animal species are dying out and locals are being forced to relocate: The stories of polluted water, health problems and seclusion from hunting and fishing are many.
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How much of capsule-based coffee is recycled?
The leading manufacturers of capsule-based coffee have implemented measures to facilitate better recycling. However, none of the manufacturers today wants to disclose what proportion of the capsules is actually being recycled.
Unfortunately, the capsules are not so easy to recycle because they are often made from a mixture of plastic and aluminium. The complexity of the packaging is often a mixture of different materials – combined with organic waste from unused ground coffee that sits at the bottom of the capsule, making it difficult to process the capsules in ordinary municipal recycling facilities. In retrospect, the lacquer on the capsules must be burned, and aluminium must be re-melted. This, in turn, requires a new circle with high energy consumption and heavy transport.
The paradox is that market leaders still ignore the use of existing technology and materials that are 100% biodegradable, from plant-based fibres, and which are compostable.
A former head of Nespresso, Jean-Paul Gaillard, says it’s time for consumers to start thinking about the price the environment pays for us to achieve convenience. “It will be a disaster, and it’s time to move on. People should not sacrifice the environment for the sake of simplicity ”.
Either way, the main point of coffee capsules is, in our view, not about recycling – it’s about cutting down on the number of things we need to throw or recycle. Recycling should be the absolute last resort when treating waste, not the immediate solution.
How is the quality of capsule-based coffee experienced?
The quality of the coffee beans used in capsule-based coffee is usually of high quality. The challenge, however, is that capsule-based coffee does not contain more than 5 grams of coffee. However, 5 grams of coffee will be good for making an Espresso, or a Ristretto.
1 cup of coffee should be between 1.4 and 1.6 dl, which usually leads to a dose of 10 grams (based on 1.6 dl water).
On this basis, the dosage one finds in capsule-based coffee will be too small compared to 1.6 dl of water, and will lead to a coffee that is so-called over-extracted, involving too long contact time with the water. This means that the negative flavours such as cellulose and other waste products from the coffee can make their mark on the taste, and give a bad coffee experience.
The best coffee experience is often achieved by hitting between an over and under-extracted coffee, where you get 18 to 22% of the flavour and aroma from the coffee. With capsule-based, it is difficult to achieve this balance. The combination of freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee beans with a properly dosed coffee will therefore always result in higher quality in the cup.
During 2019, some of the capsule-based manufacturers have come up with new larger capsules, which will be able to raise perceived quality in the cup. Unfortunately for the environment, this will lead to a doubling of the environmental waste. At the same time, the new capsules are not compatible with the old machines, which in turn contributes to a new chain of plastic and electronic waste.
Is capsule-based coffee a good economic alternative?
A company with, for example, 30 employees will have a consumption of approx. 90 cups per day, (we normally expect an average consumption of 3 cups per head per day). Based on a cup price of USD Cent 50, the annual coffee cost will be in the order of USD. 10,350, – in only coffee purchases (30 x 3 x 230 x 0.50).
For example, if we base a professional JURA fully automatic coffee machine of the type JURA X8C – G2, the annual coffee cost (including rent and technical service) will amount to approx. USD. 5,000, -. So the expenses are halved!
In summary, we see that capsule-based coffee leads to a number of environmental disadvantages, while freshly ground whole beans will provide a higher perceived coffee quality, in addition to a number of financial savings. Last but not least, you can drink your coffee with a good conscience, as all our waste is based on 100% organic, degradable material.
It guarantees good taste and better aftertaste!