Friday, September 26, 2014

How Germy is that Keurig?

In just a few years, the Keurig has become a wildly popular way to brew coffee. Relative to other methods, it offers slightly more convenience in exchange for extremely high costs, poor quality, and excessive packaging.

I have been unable to wrap my head around a central paradox of the rise of Keurig, which  has been contemporaneous with my own development as a coffee maven. That paradox is that shortly after it was launched, Keurig was purchased by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which was still a mid-sized coffee roaster in our region. I have meet Green Mountain staff on several occasions while exploring socially and environmentally sustainable coffee in Matagalpa, and I know the company does a lot of good. Even though a lot of that good work continues, by growing its business around convenience at all costs, that work is diluted -- as diluted as the coffee itself. For every partnership with a halo brand such as Newman's Own, there is a dalliance with such perditious brands as the dreaded Dunkin Donuts. With Keurig, GMCR has lost its way.

The power of convenience is so strong, however, that Keurig continues to grow. Even if they eschew the overpriced pods from the manufacturer (I had the privilege of watching these get filled at the factory -- truly amazing, but not worth $40-$70 per pound), people find a way to keep using their Keurigs. Even if they know about the waste and the poor quality (even the best coffee cannot stand up to the Keurig treatment), they embrace these machines. (For alternatives, see my Coffee Care page.)

But perhaps the latest news will change that .What if the Keurig is just disgusting? When microbiologist Erin Chamberlik found that she could not get the inside of the Keurig dry, she started a little investigation, and concluded that she had no choice but to Kick the Keurig to the Curb.

I am reminded that in my own building -- a $100,000,000 science facility -- we have no real coffee source, though students, faculty, and staff have proposed a world-class café. So in addition to the unsustainable vending machines in the lobby, the offices of scientists are gradually filling with unsustainable -- and unhealthy -- coffee machines.

Note: To learn more about efforts to change the coffee culture at BSU, visit the Ben Linder Cafe page on Facebook.

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