Like millions of coffee lovers, we too like the concept of coffee capsules - they offer a fast and convenient way of making a coffee drink by selecting from a range of capsules with varying coffee profiles. Made all the more popular by handsome actors and beautiful actresses, what's not to love? Well, we think there is actually" a lot not to love. While we like the concept, we are not fans of the reality that coffee capsules have significant environmental and cost drawbacks.
The environmental drawbacks are more immediately apparent than the cost drawbacks, but we'll cover both here, because proper assessment is needed before you rush out to buy a coffee machine. There are in fact five types of coffee machine - your choices are filter coffee machines, coffee capsule machines, liquid coffee machines, soluble powder coffee machines and coffee machines that use coffee beans to create your cup of coffee (bean-to-cup coffee machines). We'll look here at how coffee capsule machines and bean-to-cup coffee machines square up.
First, the environmental concerns around coffee capsules. There is little doubt that plastic packaging brings with it environmental challenges, and since most coffee capsules today are made of plastic, it is not difficult to look at the impact capsules have on our environment. Some calculations indicate that by 2025, coffee drinkers will be spending $15 billion on them. When we think that today, 39000 capsules are being made each minute around the world and that 29000 of them will end up in landfill sites, we start to see the scale of this impact.
That doesn't let the bag holding your coffee beans for use in your bean-to-cup coffee machine off the hook. Far from it, because it too has a plastic layer to keep oxygen out of the bag. The difference is that it has less surface area than an equivalent amount of coffee containing capsules and being one larger item, is likely to be recycled. So while not great, better than the capsule packaging. It is of course a key priority for many coffee capsule sellers to focus on recycling initiatives and hats of to Nespresso as an example, for its leadership here. The challenge now is to move from the low percentage of recycling currently happening, to the much higher levels needed if this is to prove really meaningful to our planet.
So no gold star here for coffee capsules in the environmental review and so we ask "is there a cost saving benefit for going the coffee capsule route?"
The answer is simply No. Sure, a coffee capsule machine sells for way less than an automatic bean to cup coffee machine, but the cost of the capsules are far higher than the cost of the coffee beans to make each cup of coffee. It takes just a few months to cover the extra cost of your automatic coffee machine. Don't agree?
Well here it is in numbers:
Within 6 months, a two-person household drinking only 4 cups of coffee a day, will cover the extra cost of the automatic coffee machine due to the reduced cost of coffee beans over coffee capsules. During the 5 year life of each coffee machine, they can save over $4000 by choosing an automatic bean to cup coffee machine. Why would anyone buy a coffee capsule machine then?
Could it be the taste of the coffee? The freshness perhaps? We don't think that makes enough of a difference and there are many more coffee roasters out there than capsule manufacturers, so getting a taste that suits your palate will be easier when buying coffee beans. Freshness? Capsules packed with nitrogen to remove any trace of oxygen, will remain fresh longer than your bag of beans once opened. Rather buy smaller bags or ensure really good sealing and storage of open bags but all said, there isn't going to be a really noticeable difference in freshness between coffee capsules and coffee beans.
So we think it really is the perceived convenience and of course, the ability to select different types of coffee really easily. You can have 10 different coffee types in your kitchen cupboard, whereas 10 bags of different coffee blends really would take up space and once those bags are opened, the coffee could degrade within weeks without proper storage.
For us though, Frontier Coffee will simply not recommend a coffee capsule machine to our clients for the reasons of environmental protection and budget protection!