The Pods Are Coming!

The PodsActually, they’re already here. Millions of the little buggers. In fact, according to this article that nicely sums up the scariness of coffee pods, the number of “K-cups” sold by Keurig in 2013 would wrap around Earth 10.5 times.

Shall we laugh, cry, or do both?

Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come. Before long, our quest for convenience and our penchant for all things cheap and plastic will have rendered Earth uninhabitable. We’ll be living inside larger pods, aboard a giant space ship, and we’ll be sucking calorie-restricted, nutritionally-balanced, artificially-flavoured meals from tubes. Because it’s convenient. We should therefore be grateful for the early training opportunity provided by Nespresso.

I’m reluctant to heap scorn upon pod users themselves, though. Like you, I have close friends and family members who have succumbed to the ease of the pod, and yes, I have sipped the evil brew.

But at what cost convenience?

The author of the pod article raises some valid concerns: environmental impact, cost, and mediocre taste. But there is another aspect, a greater ill, that isn’t explicitly mentioned. And it’s an Escapologist’s nightmare. Pods are Exhibit Z in the slow, tortured death of true leisure. They are symptomatic of a society that’s increasingly willing to forego creativity, quality, and craftsmanship in favour of speed. All so that we can get back to our busy lives.

But there’s still hope! There’s an antidote available. In fact, it’s probably within your reach right at this very moment. To get it, all you need to do is walk down to your local coffee house, order a cup of direct-trade coffee, patiently watch as it’s prepared with care, and then sip the goodness. Be sure to enquire about the origin of the coffee, and to ask the barista how long they’ve been working to hone their craft.


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Lentus Ambulandus is New Escapologist's Chief Leisure Officer. He advocates doing the things worth doing (hiking, cycling, sipping coffee, reading books), and proudly accomplishes less in a month than most people do in a week. His creed is simple: Death Before Employment.

6 Responses to “The Pods Are Coming!”

  1. Fraser says:

    A life-long tea-drinker, I’ve just recently got into filter coffee. Spooning the ground beans into the cone and adding, and then adding again, the hot water, has become a soothing little ritual. The brew really tastes like it’s been made by human hands, and not leaked out of a machine. And it makes me loaf about much more alertly.

  2. Drew Gagne says:

    Good for you, Fraser. That feeling of “ritual” is one of the important aspects that’s been lost through the use of super-automatic and pod machines. Delicious coffee can certainly be had using the pour-over method, or by using a French press. No fancy machines required, and very little waste.

  3. Tim Stobbs says:

    I’ll second the French press for great coffee. Use free ground beans, filtered water and you literally won’t be able to get a better cup just about anywhere.

    It’s a shame people forget the joy of just doing something for yourself. I use pods at work (free) and brew my own coffee at home in the mornings.

  4. I used to use those pods at my old office too (likewise, because they were free) but I think I stopped in the end in favour of tea. At home, I likewise use the French press.

    A few months back, Drew sent me a kind of ‘best practice’ for French presses, which I printed off and tacked to the inside of my kitchen cupboard. I mostly adere to it, with a couple of minor concessions (I have my beans finely ground rather than coarsely because I find the increased surface area makes it stronger and I don’t object to the mouthfeel of any dust that makes it into my cup; and I use slightly less than the full two table spoons because I’m cheap!). Anyway, here it is:

    Source: The Art and Craft of Coffee – An Enthusiast’s Guide to Selecting, Roasting, and Brewing Exquisite Coffee (Kevin Sinnott)

    1. Fill kettle with appropriate volume of water. For 4 x 6-oz (180 ml) cups, heat 3 cups (720 ml) of water, plus 8 oz (240 ml) for scalding the press pot and evaporation. Heat until boiling.

    2. Grind 2 tablespoons (10 g) whole bean coffee coarsely for each 6 oz cup.

    3. Preheat press pot by scalding it with 4 oz (120 ml) of hot water. Swirl the water and discard.

    4. Add ground coffee to empty pot.

    5. Pour half your hot water over the coffee. Foam will form and swell. Let the foam rise and fall.

    6. Set your timer to 4 minutes. and then immediately pour the rest of the hot water into the pot.

    7. Place the plunger cap on the cylinder. Depress the plunger just enough so that the top of the grounds are held under the water.

    8. Start your timer. Once each minute, agitate the grounds by pressing the plunger up and down, or by stirring, to prevent clumping and encourage maximum extraction.

    9. At the 4-minute mark, fully depress the plunger.

    10. Pour the coffee slowly to minimize grinds entering your cup.

    – evenly distribute the coffee in each cup by pouring a little into each cup then repeating.
    – brew small batches to preserve the heat…otherwise, use a thermal carafe
    – keep filters clean…don’t just rinse them, wash them properly (by hand, not in the dishwasher)
    – grinding: grind in a burr grinder (blade grinders are too inconsistent) on an as-required basis. You should be using a course grind. Ask your local coffee expert to show you the proper size. NOTE: Darker roasts need to be ground slightly coarser.
    – buying: buy from a reputable shop that depicts the roast date on the package, and that uses one-way valve packaging. Use within 90 days of roast date.
    – storing: store your whole beans in the freezer in a double-bagged zip lock with the air squeezed out, and only take out what you need.
    – if buying ground coffee, buy in small quantities and use quickly. Buy the beans and get them ground to the proper coarseness on date of purchase. Store the grounds in air-tight containers.
    – brewing: the ratio of 10 g of beans to 180 ml of water is long-established. Beethoven used to count 60 beans per each 6-oz cup.
    – that said, you have basically 4 variables to play with: bean type, grind coarseness, coffee-water ratio, and contact time. start with the standards outlined here and experiment.
    – water: ideal temp for water at contact is 200F (93C)…hotter can result in bitterness…so if you have a kitchen thermometer, use it to gauge temp after the boil.
    – 98.65% of your coffee is water…so it pays to use good water. If you want to ensure good water, look for the following: soft-medium (100 total dissolved solids (tds) or less), pH of 7.1, chlorine free (use filter or let water sit in open air for an hour prior to boiling)

  5. Drew Gagne says:

    Tim, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment (during work hours, no less!…good on you). Another benefit of the french press, as I’m sure you can attest, being as you are from “The 306”: they’re also useful when it’s time to get back to the land.

  6. Tim Stobbs says:

    @Robert – Thanks for posting the guide. It’s like 90% similar to what I already do at home except the grinder…I’ll have to look into that a bit more.

    @Drew – I always stop by and read what is new on the blog. You always need a bit of sanity break at the office. Oh and I totally agree a french press is required for camping. Ironically I got our for camping…never understood people that used instant coffee…ick.

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