Compostable K-Cups?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2014 • all rights reserved

Compostable K-Cups?

When I wrote about using a Keurig Coffee Maker on a boat, I mentioned that I had discovered some compostable K-Cups and would report on them after I’d used them for a while.

I bought 4 boxes of them — Espresso, French Roast, Fog Chaser and Donut Shop — not knowing which would be our favorite.

I really wanted to like these little pods, called Rogers Family Coffee One Cups.  You can buy them directly from the company or in larger quantities (at better prices) on Amazon.  Buying them in 80-packs on Amazon is one of the better deals I’ve seen on K-Cups, although they’re still not “cheap.”

Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why I’m just not thrilled with them and don’t intend to buy more:

  • They’re hard to ready for the compost:
    • You start by taking the top off — and they don’t just tear off, you have to cut it with scissors to make a flap to grip to pull it off.  I couldn’t just tear it from the hole that the brewer makes as it’s a really tough material.
    • Then you have to dump the grounds out.  That part is easy.
    • Then you have to pull the bottom filter off the ring; the ring is compostable but the filter part isn’t.  And that means you have to get the filter TOTALLY off . . . and it seems to be glued on with something akin to 5200.  I’ve never gotten it totally off, which means there will be shreds of filter in my compost, since it won’t break down.
    • This whole process takes me about 3 minutes per cup . . . and as noted above, it’s still not perfect.  It takes me less time to fill and dump out a reusable K-Cup, using the little filters to make it easier to clean out — and those can be easily composted with no “prep.”
  • The Rogers Family pods come in a cardboard box with a “biodegradable” bag holding the pods.  Forget about pulling the bag open:  I’m not strong enough.  I have to use scissors.  I also cut the bag up before putting it in the compost so it mixes in better.  Another bit of time . . . maybe a couple minutes.  Just as a side note:  once the bag is open you have to keep the pods in an airtight container (not too different from any other type of coffee other than actual K-Cups).  

biodegradable-bags

  • The ring and bags do not break down quickly or easily.  The first ones have been in our compost pile for over two months and look like I just put them in.  Admittedly it’s winter, but the food scraps I put in at the same time are definitely breaking down.  Yes, I marked where I put those first ones and dug them up just for this post — the things I do in the name of research!  On the Rogers Family Coffee website, it says that it will take a year to break down (I didn’t see this page when I purchased them, so didn’t realize how long it would take).  Everything else we put in the compost takes 6 months or less, so this means that we have to separate these out to use the compost.

not-breaking-down

  • Finally, and this is a personal matter, we just weren’t that thrilled with any of the coffee varieties we tried.  However, I see lots of great reviews online for the coffee — both in the pods and in one-pound containers — and guests that we had really liked it.  So that’s just our preference and not really a reason for you not to try them.

Another point is that their shipping is slow.  It took 8 days from ordering to receipt — and shipping was by UPS.  If you’re used to getting something by UPS in 2 to 3 days, you definitely have to allow more time! Not a deal-breaker by itself, just an annoyance.

All that said, Rogers Family Coffees are all fair trade, many are hand-picked and/or organic.  I think they’re on to a great idea here, with compostable K-Cups, but the idea just needs more refinement to make it really work.  Right now, the work involved and the length of time for the pods to break down just make them impractical for all but the most dedicated.

I find it a lot easier to use my favorite coffee in the reusable K-Cup with a compostable filter which makes it much easier to dump the grounds.  Initially I found it a bit of a pain to fill the container and it’s gotten a lot smoother with practice.  Using a refillable K-Cup is also cheaper.  I got my set up on Amazon, although some larger grocery stores are now carrying them too:

Has anyone else tried the pods from Rogers Family?  What are your thoughts?  Please leave a note in the comments!

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Comments

  1. I love the idea and we have one, but we are still sold on the French Press for coffee. Yes a bit more to clean up but we feel it is worth the mess.

  2. Nancy Orloski says:

    We have a reusable K-cup that we use, not the brand you have referenced. I don’t use a filter with it. Should we? Have you tried your brand without one or is it specified to be used with that brand? Just curious. My favorite coffee does lose some of its strength in these cups so I prefer the ready made cups over the reusable but it is way cheaper to use the reusable for sure.

  3. David Holbourn says:

    Hi, you say the packaging items are compostable including the bag. The bag in fact says biodegradable. Here in UK we have a standard norm that if anything is said to be Compostable (this is different to Biodegradable) it has to conform to the EU standard EN13432, and has to break down in 90 days. With bags in a good compost bin it usually breaks down to good Humus, is about 30 days.. For it to break down it must have heat, moisture and micro organisms- missing one and it won’t break down… There are degradable plastics – these do NOT conform to the standard often contain nasty heavy metals and will often spoil the soil structure, where as you should always get Compostable products made from waste renewable materials. I have developed a series of products that do that and soon will be launching a range that is also sea degradable soon… In UK and EU you should look for the seedling logo and the EN13432 on the product, inslsonset up the trade body for monitoring to ensure that said products do confirm to the standard.. Also it is bad practice to mix compostable and non compostable products together if they cannot easily be seperated… I would say that the people who designed this product do not have a full grasp on the concept.. Anyway I could waffle on and on on this somewhat boring subject. Dave

    • On their web site, they talk about putting the bag in home compost piles (we’ve had one for years, and everything else breaks down well) so I’m not sure they’ve got a distinction between biodegradable and compostable. And I agree that it’s bad form to put compostable and non-compostable materials together when they’re this tough to separate!

  4. I find using Nescafe Instant just as good and NO waste. Plus you can use the glass bottle for storage items later.

    • I only like Nescafé Mountain blend coffe!! I have tried so many coffees (including k cups) but they just don’t compare!!

    • Yes, we just use instant expresso or similar in granular form. If you make it up in the caffetiere and stick it on the table no-one is ever any the wiser. In my optionion those nespresso “cup” thingies just taste awful – and really you just can’t beat freshly filtered coffee anyway!

  5. tea kettle and stainless steel thermal coffee press on our boats! fast, delicious, and easy cleanup… requires no gen or battery too, so easy on the hook.

  6. Chris in Oregon says:

    I use the refillable k-cups but mine have much more screen then the ones you have shown there. I found that the trick is not to try to empty them until they are dry. I have 6 of them, so after using one I toss it in a bowl with the others to let it dry out, when dry (next day) I open and the used coffee easily comes out, no cleaning involved. I also found a small scoop that I keep in my ground coffee container that easily fills the k-cup with with just two quick scoops.

  7. We start our day with one pod while coffee is brewing. I let the pods dry, then cut the pod and tap out the dry grounds for composting. I am eagerly awaiting fully comfortable pods….. I teach composting and offer students a range of options to suit there lifestyles. Great topic, Carolyn.

  8. Just one more comment here – if you can, get a Quooker! They are magic!

  9. I also have tried the San Francisco Bay coffee, their Fog Chaser and decaf because of the good reviews and price point. I was not impressed at all. The Fog Chaser was way to weak for my taste more like washed out. Their decaf gave me a caffeine buzz after just drinking one cup and I ended up having to throw them all out after only 4 or 5 tries.

    A year ago the best deal I could find for them was from Costco with free shipping.

    Aside from the ease of making coffee with the Keurig no matter what brand of k-cups I have used I still find grinding my generic store beans and using an AeroPress provides a much better cup of coffee.

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