Are Coffee Pods Sustainable?

  1. On the right, the blade plate punctures the bottom of the pod, allowing water to flow into and around the pod.
  2. The lid and lip of the pod forms a seal, so as the water builds up, pressure increases, pushing the pod towards the perforators.
  3. Once sufficient pressure is reached, the perforators are able to puncture the foil and coffee can flow out.
  • Pods that are made out of plastic. First, duh, plastic. Second, you need to be 100% sure that the plastic is 100% certified BPA free otherwise it could be leaching chemicals into your coffee.
  • Pods that claim to be “biodegradable” are often made out of oxo-degradable plastics, which just means they break down into microplastic particles under commercial composting conditions. This is arguably worse than not being degradable. If you must, at least check that the plastic is home compostable (AS-5810–2010 or equivalent).
  • Some aftermarket pods are designed to be deliberately shorter so as to avoid having to be punctured by the blade plate. However, this means they have to be pre-punctured to let the water through, so in order to keep the coffee inside fresh, individual pods are wrapped in their own plastic wrapper. More plastic.
  • Reusable pods either lack the foil lid and have built-in perforations, which don’t allow the correct amount of pressure to build up, or provide disposable foil lids that you attach each time you refill the pod, partially negating the reusability benefit. Using your own coffee also requires some experimentation with grind size to ensure that no grounds end up in your output.
  • Not even the aluminium aftermarket pods are safe! In the process of pressing out the grounds, I discovered that one of the brands includes a filter behind the lid, presumably to allow a finer grind (for what effect I’m not enough of a coffee snob to know). I assume it’s made out of paper — it has the right texture — but I emailed the company to ask, and received a generic response that would neither confirm nor deny.
The aftermath of one of my Outpresso sessions

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Discrete thoughts from an analogue mind...

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Caesar Wong

Caesar Wong

Discrete thoughts from an analogue mind...

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