We’re all pretty bored with plastic or aluminum pods for brewing coffee, and I guess buying pre-ground coffee, a bean-to-cup maker, or simply grinding your own beans is too much work for some people. Swiss coffee brand Migros has launched the CoffeeB machine, which uses coffee balls instead of traditional capsules. He wants to create a space between the convenience of capsules and the eco-factor that the DIY crowd is used to.
The Coffee Ball is part of a new coffee capsule system — the first of its kind — that operates entirely without capsules and generates zero waste. The company claims it is “revolutionizing an industry plagued by colossal waste” and claims that capsule coffee drinkers produce 100,000 tonnes of waste globally each year. Some pods are indeed recyclable or biodegradable, but most still end up in the trash.
“The next generation of capsule coffee is here, and it comes without a capsule,” says Dr. Caroline Siefart of CoffeeB, who helped develop the system. “After half a decade of research, we’ve created CoffeeB, which will revolutionize the way the world drinks single-serve coffee.”
The party trick for CoffeeB is to compress the coffee balls into a tasteless, colorless seaweed-based layer that gives the coffee structure and prevents it from losing flavor. This means that the coffee pod itself is fully compostable.
Of course, CoffeeB is the only company that makes these capsules, and while they’ve released eight different blends since day one (“from a balanced lungos to strong espresso”), I’m still a bit “unhappy” with the whole concept. My fear is that if the rollout goes like this, there will be a bunch of shiny new machines out there that people can’t buy coffee for anymore. Two guesses re: where do these machines end up? Yes, in the same dump that the company has so gleefully tried to keep capsule-free.
For now, the machine is only available in Switzerland and costs a pretty reasonable $175 (CHF 169). A pack of nine coffee balls costs about $5, which seems roughly in line with other capsule-based systems.
The main reason I decided to cover these machines is because it shows that rethinking how we do things can give the environment a bit of a breather. Better design that underpins the environment will be a big piece of the puzzle to prevent a climate crisis.
I have to say, though: We live in a bean-to-cup world, and we’re not exactly short of coffee beans in the world, from the insanely cheap variety at the big box stores, to specialty hipster cafes, to being able to roast your own if you really want to control every aspect of your caffeine hit. The beans need less processing and less production gimmicks (not to mention we don’t add algae to the mix), it looks like we already have a green solution and that educating coffee drinkers (or maybe making sure people pay ” green fee’ for using plastic or metal capsules) would be a better solution.