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.
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.