There are so many ways to make coffee.
It can be a little overwhelming.
How are we supposed to know what is best when there are so many different brewing methods? In my article French Press Vs. Drip, I explore why certain processes fit different kinds of people.
Here at GGC Coffee, we are always striving to give you easy-to-read rundowns of how the coffee world goes round.
Today I want to talk a little bit about the ever-popular K-Cup.
Since it’s debut on the coffee scene in the early 2000s, this single serve brewing method has spread like wildfire. There’s a k-cup like machine in every kitchen in America.
We have an entire store here on the site outlining our thoughts on all the different kinds of k-cups too! You can see what we think the best k-cups are right here.
But as for sustainability there is no doubt that a lot of progress can still yet be made–there are in fact only a small fraction of brands that make anything truly compostable or biodegradable. Our favorites include:
- San Francisco Bay OneCup Gourmet Coffee Pods
- GloryBrew Compostable Coffee Pods
- Ethical Bean Coffee: Compostable K-Cups
There are others too of course so click here to skip straight to our reviews of the top biodegradable k-cups.
What is clear however is that coffee lovers love the convenience of the Keurig-style coffee maker and it’s not going away any time soon.
Why is that?
There are a few contributing factors that made this a genius idea.
#1 it’s easy
#2 it’s cheap
#3 you don’t have to learn any of the barista science
You don’t really have to think about it. Even though the idea of a perfect cappuccino in the morning is one I think we all share, there is so much equipment involved in bringing the cafe experience home. And the thought of a carafe full of dark french pressed coffee is mouthwatering, there is a chemistry to it that a lot of people just don’t want to mess with.
With the K-cup you just pop the pod into the machine, clamp the top, push the button and voila!
It seems fool proof until you think of the environmental and health repercussions.
John Sylvan, the creator of the Keurig system, admittedly regrets making the product.
He states in an interview that he never thought that it would become a household name.
As of 2014, there were enough leftover pod containers to circle the earth 10+ times. We’re talking billions of plastic exoskeletons piling up in landfills all over America. This is around the same time that the petition and #killthekcup arose among environmental activist circles.
Along with the green groups, holistic practitioners across the country began to question the safety of the product itself. Hot plastic is usually a bad thing. Plastic boosts estrogen levels and is usually partnered with several carcinogens. And then you have the lids which are made of aluminum foil. It’s been proven that prolonged exposure, say 2-3 times a day, can lead to neurodegenerative disease, changes in behavior (like developing anxiety or depression,) inflammatory gut issues and even auto-immune disease.
I think we can all agree that this is no bueno.
The researchers who are speaking out have opened up the eyes of a lot of Americans. The stock market value of the Keurig has dipped substantially.
Because of all the spotlight, the company pledged to have the crises fixed with new design by 2020, but it’s looking pretty rough.
“The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers.” Sylvan expressed, as he stated his doubts that they could ever come up with a fully recyclable version of his product.
However, I wouldn’t toss out your rig just yet!
These are the Best Biodegradable K Cups on the Market Today… Compostable and Environmentally Friendly
The coffee community has heard our cries for safe, sustainable single-serve coffee.
There are companies that are putting the brain and the elbow grease in to offer these products to us.
Words like biodegradable, compostable, organic and responsibly sourced have become big topics among the coffee elite.
What is best for the company?
These few coffee companies have found a way to use plant based, or recyclable materials. So that almost nothing goes to waste and will eventually give right back to the farming community that brought us the beans in the first place.
Fair warning here: most of the pods on the market are not 100% biodegradable.
But stick with me and we will look at the best and most beneficial of the environmentally conscious k-cups available.
San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee: OneCup
-100% certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute
-Lid: wood pulp
-Ring: plant products
-Filter: plant products
-Packaging “Mother Bag”: paper and wood pulp
-“Good Plastic”: made of Polylactic Acid, biodegradable pliable plastic made up of plant based products, like corn starch, cassava roots, chips or starch, or sugarcane.
The reviews online could NOT be better.
Fans of the product rave about the Mother Bag because it keeps the coffee grounds nice and fresh. Not as pretty as the classic k-cup carousel, but the absence of plastic leaves your cup of coffee tasting like it was made in a pot.
Some even say it tastes like it was poured straight from a French Press!
The mesh filter leaves that beautiful silt that French Press lovers so adore.
One mention-worthy caution to this almost flawless product: Do not throw it into your own bokaski bin or compost heap.
-They are not certified for at home composting…YET. They’re working on it.
-According to their site, “Our pods will break down in the trash but do not do so in the required amount of days to be certified.”
-You must bring your used pods to a community composter. Click here to find the one closest to you.
An amazing pro is that this spearhead company didn’t stop at providing a revolutionary product, they gave us an array of roasts to choose from.
Check out the different varieties of SF Bay Coffee OneCup pods here!
Glorybrew Pods for Keurig Pod-Style Machines
-compatible with the newest Keurigs
-breaks down completely into soil in 7 weeks
-ring: coffee chaff
-filter: bio-based products
-coffee is certified by: Rainforest Alliance™
The yays have it! The people LOVE this coffee. Their dark roasts have some of the best compliments, likening them to the same quality of artisan coffee shops.
They only have 3 roasts available, but you can order an assortment.
Why wait? Click through to see all Glorybrew compostable K-cups before you place your order!
Cameron’s Coffee EcoPods
With their slogan, “Better Taste, Less Waste” Cameron’s Coffee has succeeded in bringing their loyal clientele all flavor without the guilt since 2012.
-Ring: corn, beets, and wood
Big pro here is that the company states that their products are compostable AT HOME. Click here to learn more about how to start this process in your own back yard.
The reviews rave about this company’s smooth, rich flavors.
The downer is that they do not come in a container that keeps the product fresh. So most people resort to using plastic baggies, which is worrisome if you were trying to stay as environmentally friendly as possible. (The alternative would be to use an air tight glass jar.)
They have a variety of different roasts and blends available. Ranging from intense dark roasts to flavored coffees like, “chocolate caramel brownie.”
Find your favorite flavors of Cameron’s Coffee pods here.
Here are Some More Biodegradable Options
The three companies featured above are just a few options in this space. Here are a few more brands that make biodegradable, compostable, and otherwise earth friendly k cups.
- Boyd’s Hi Rev Coffee Pods
- Oakland Coffee Works Single Serve Pods
- Faro Roasting Houses Rainforest Alliance Compostable K Cups
See folks? It is absolutely possible to be smart and sustainable without sacrificing your preferences.
If you’re ready to take your first step into the world of single serve, here are a few different coffee machines.