Ross: The coffee jitters are the least anxious part of my morning brew

Jan 19, 2023, 7:51 AM | Updated: 9:39 am
Keurig coffee test samples. The coffee on the left was made using their traditional machine, while the sample on the right was made with the newest Keurig, which utilizes multi-stream technology to pierce the pod in five spots. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Washington Post has finally answered a question that I assume many of you ask yourselves every morning as you listen to this broadcast.

Is it environmentally responsible to make your morning coffee with a single-use coffee pod?

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Many of you are staring at the Keurig wondering, should I do this? Or am I the reason the king tides are so high?

Well, good news, coffee-podsters. According to the Washington Post headline, “Single-use coffee pods have surprising environmental benefits over other brewing methods.”

The article quotes a study from the University of Quebec that finds that the old-school filter coffee method can create 1.5 times more emissions than a pod machine – even when you account for disposing of all those plastic capsules.

They’ve got it figured down to the gram! Pod coffee emits 180 grams of CO2 per cup. Old-style filtered coffee – just over 250 grams per cup.

The most responsible method? Instant coffee is only 160 grams of CO2 per cup.

And this counter-intuitive result is because the University of Quebec is tallying up the entire cost of the coffee, including water, electricity, manufacturing, and disposal. Since the pods are precisely measured, and the machine only heats only enough water for one cup, it’s more efficient.

It also matters how your electricity is generated, of course, and whether you add milk because then you have to add the footprint of dairy cows and milk trucks.

But the researchers are still leaving out one important calculation.

The amount of mental energy we have to spend second-guessing every single thing we buy, eat, or drink.

Twenty percent of the body’s energy is used by the brain, and I have to believe that trying to decide what’s sustainable is pushing that even higher, which is also going to generate more carbon.

In my own case, each day I have to choose between the single-use pod, the multi-use basket for when I grind my own, the instant Italian espresso, the loose tea, or the tea bag.

And now – I’m wondering whether we should have a hot drink at all. Maybe just orange juice, or even better – just eat an actual orange! Unless it dribbles on your shirt, and you have to wash it in hot water. Or it leaves pulp in your teeth, and you have to buy extra floss.

I’m just terrified that one day there’ll be a knock on the door, and it’ll be Greta Thunberg with a subpoena.

So maybe the responsible thing is to just settle for a morning glass of tepid tap water. Or – being that it’s January – just stand outside with your head tilted back and your mouth open.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: The coffee jitters are the least anxious part of my morning brew