America in a Nutshell: K-Cups

KeurigI never drank coffee until I became a teacher. Sure, I would enjoy the occasional caffeinated beverage, but a month into teaching, a habit was born–thanks to late nights, early mornings, and a free-flowing coffee maker in the teacher’s lounge.

Since then I have been perfectly content brewing my own coffee each morning. For many years it was the usual drip coffee pot. Put the water into the machine, scoop the coffee into the filter, flip the switch and you’re out the door in five minutes. When you get home, clean the pot, throw out the filter, ready to go tomorrow morning.

Most recently it was the French press. With the benefit of not having to buy filters. Ground the coffee a bit coarser, boil the water yourself, and pour the water directly onto the grounds in the glass container. Let it steep for a few minutes, and it’s ready to go.

Then two unexpected occurrences changed everything. In the same week my French press broke, my parents offered me an extra Keurig machine they weren’t using.

The Keurig machine cuts approximately three minutes off my morning routine…and I’ve never gone back. Sometimes I consider my old coffee life and it seems tiring. How did I ever live like that?

Now, I see K-Cups at the doctor’s office. In the lobby of the bank. At work. They’re everywhere. In 2014, Keurig’s Green Mountain took in $4.7 billion in revenue.

K-Cups have two distinct qualities. While coffee-making used to be at least potentially communal, the K-Cups are rugged individualists, designed for one. Also, K-Cups offer plastic waste destined to decompose in a landfill for the next 500 years. The containers used so far would apparently wrap around the Earth 10 times over.

So goes K-Cups, so goes America. This new way of ingesting caffeine has us spending more money for something more individual, with the side-effect of destroying the environment. The price of convenience.


After falling sales last year, Keurig sold out to a privately owned European company. More competition and increased environmental awareness are changing the single-serve coffee industry. Maybe the new coffee way is better for efficiency, as we only drink the coffee we plan to consume.

Per usual, technological development leaves me conflicted. Even coffee is complicated these days.


Author: Billy

High school teacher and blogger.

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