Food Organic

Review: One Coffee K-Cup Coffee Pods

One Coffee K-Cup Coffee Pods
A box of One Coffee K-Cup Coffee Pods, ready for action in the office Keurig machine.

Brewing coffee at home with a Keurig or Tassimo machine is like announcing to the world that you’re both lazy and incapable of basic supermarket math.

It’s absurdly easy to make a standard pot of rudimentary coffee at home – fill tank with water, dump a couple scoops of ground beans into the filter, place filter in filter basket, and flip a switch. If you can’t figure out how to make coffee at home, you probably don’t have the mental capacity required to pilot a car or, say, tie your shoes.

That said, I’ll cut you some slack if you use K-Cups in an office. Many offices no longer have a communal coffee pot, and choose instead to rely on a Keurig brewer to handle coffee. Everyone can buy and bring their own pods to work and use them at their leisure, and all the office has to do is supply the machine. Is it great coffee? Not usually. But the choice these days is often between using K-Cups or having no coffee at all.

The Trouble with Pods

The biggest thing that turns me off from pods is all the plastic and foil and that are needed to make a single cup of coffee. I’ve emptied out the garbage container from our big office Keurig machine, so I know how many of these things get used. It’s always struck me as a giant waste of plastic.

When I saw these compostable One Coffee pods at my local Safeway, they struck me as a fascinating solution. It says right there on the packaging: “Organic, Fair Trade, 100% compostable*,” with that starline reading “For collection in municipal programs, where approved.” I checked the One Coffee website, and sure enough, they suggest you contact your local program to find out if the pods are compostable in your city or town. (Note that they recommend against composting them at home in your own backyard compost pile.)

So I took them up on their suggestion and checked with my local waste management folks here in Edmonton, Canada. According to the city, the One Coffee pods are not compostable in our municipal composting program, even though Edmonton has long been a leader in waste management, including a citywide industrial-scale composting program. So if Edmonton can’t compost these, then who can?

Compostable? Kinda.

I emailed One Coffee, which is made by Canadian coffee mainstay Canterbury Coffee, and they responded with a thoughtful note that essentially confirmed that there are no municipal waste programs, to their knowledge, that compost the pods in Canada.

So why do they keep making them, despite this lack of waste processing support? Because they figure it’s better to make the first move and wait for waste management to catch up. (If you show there’s a demand for the needed composting service, then it’s up to municipalities to meet that demand.)

At the very least, the components being used to make the pods are renewable – paper, plant-based plastic, etc. Even though these 100% compostable coffee pods can’t currently be composted, at least One Coffee is mitigating environmental harm by using sustainable materials. In a perfect world, we’d all use coffee grounds in a coffee maker. The One Coffee pods are a means of reducing the impact in an imperfect world where it’s hard to escape single-serve coffee pods, especially at the office.

An aside: As the rep from One Coffee noted, there’s confusion around composting. A typical landfill lacks the oxygen and other elements necessary in order to compost anything. Even if you throw out something that’s fully compostable, it won’t compost in a landfill because it won’t break down.

One Coffee K-Cup Coffee Pods
The One Coffee pods are made with a plant-based plastic ring with a paper top and what appears to be a paper-based filter on the bottom.

The Taste!

So if we can get beyond the unique selling proposition of this particular coffee pod (compostable), what does the finished product taste like?

Brewed at the standard 6 oz setting I use in the office Keurig machine (to avoid watery results), the coffee was much stronger than I expected (good thing). The machine gave me an error about it not detecting a pod, but allowed me to proceed as normal with my brew.

Try as I might, I didn’t get any of the promised floral notes or a fruity finish. It tastes very generic, especially for an Ethiopian coffee. At least it’s nicely balanced, with just the right amount of acidity and body. And to be fair, it’s possibly the best cup of coffee I’ve had out of a Keurig machine, but that’s not exactly a tall hurdle to leap. In a pinch, it’s fine. I can see myself sipping this in a meeting if I didn’t have time to make a cup with my Aeropress.

The Details

Price: $7.99 (on sale) for a 12-pack of Keurig pods at Safeway in Edmonton. Regular price was $10.59, I believe.

Availability: Unsure. This is the first time I’ve seen them, though I’m admittedly not always looking for them.

Nutrition: Coffee, so basically zero calories … until you add milk and sugar.

Verdict: For a K-Cup, the taste is just fine. If you work in a Keurig-only office, then at least you’re getting part of the way to an environmentally friendly solution. The rest is up to local governments.

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