The Social Inequity of Keurig and Other Cartridge Systems

I’ve been try­ing to decide what it is that so annoys me about the Keurig and oth­er Car­tridge Sys­tems.  At first, one could eas­i­ly decry the Keurig for envi­ron­men­tal waste.  Giv­en their mar­ket, how­ev­er, it was inevitable that they would mit­i­gate this prob­lem.  Too many crunchy-gra­nola types like their fan­cy cof­fee or tea.

Social Coffee

Social Cof­fee

The prob­lem with Keurig has been hov­er­ing around the periph­ery of my  mind for ages… just out of reach.  I saw a car­tridge based bread mak­er for sale in a fly­er some time ago, and still draw upon it as an exam­ple of what is wrong with soci­ety.  I see restau­rants serv­ing Keurig and I fur­ther decry the demise of life as we know it.

But what is wrong here.  At first blush, it seems to be a solu­tion look­ing for a prob­lem.  It’s cer­tain­ly not dif­fi­cult to make cof­fee.  Even the dif­fer­ence between mak­ing bread, oper­at­ing a tra­di­tion­al bread-mak­er and using the car­tridge-based bread mak­er are not that large.

Car­tridge based cof­fee sys­tems were becom­ing pop­u­lar in offices more than 10 years ago.  If any­thing, Keurig took it’s sweet time to appear as a con­sumer prod­uct.  Even before that, cof­fee machines man­u­fac­tured swill to order.  If any­thing, the car­tridge-based sys­tems should be hailed as a step up from those efforts.

If you haven’t yet guess from the title, my the­sis is that the real cost is social, not envi­ron­men­tal.  Cof­fee is a social bev­er­age.  If I put on a pot of cof­fee, I am pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to the rest of the office while ful­fill­ing my own need.  From the pot, I can pour sev­er­al cups of cof­fee and enjoy a moment with oth­er peo­ple shar­ing cof­fee.  Even those who drink tea are com­ing to the same area.  I don’t live in Eng­land, but I sus­pect some bet­ter work estab­lish­ments must have a com­mu­nal pot of tea around.

But the Keurig would have me self­ish­ly make my own cup of cof­fee — to not share with any­one.  The time it takes the Keurig to brew, while short, pre­cludes the inter­ac­tion over the fresh hot bev­er­age as I will move on after get­ting my cup of joe — not want­i­ng to appear lazy by wait­ing for a coworker’s cup to brew.  Most impor­tant­ly, Keurig denies me the sim­ple plea­sure of mak­ing a pot of cof­fee for oth­er peo­ple.

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