Where Do All Those Coffee Beans Come From?

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Representation of coffee cultivation in Brazil, 1889 | Image credit: Stuart via Flickr

If you’re a serious coffee person, then you probably know a bit about where your coffee comes from. But if you’re like many coffee lovers, you may not have given it much thought. You buy your beans at the local grocer or coffee shop, brew them up, and voila! Hot, delicious coffee!

Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or casual caffeinater, your mornings wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without your cup of morning Joe. So we thought we’d take a little bit of time to appreciate the humble, wonderful coffee plant. Join us, won’t you?

The Origins of Coffee

As far as we know, the original coffee plants were endemic to Ethiopia, and the fact that the nation is still one of the world’s largest coffee producers would seem to support that fact.

According to lore, a 9th-century goat herder named Kaldi discovered the rejuvenating properties of the humble coffee bean. While tending his flock in the fields, he noticed that they’d taken a particular liking to the sweet cherries of the coffee plant, and when they ate them as a snack, they seemed particularly jovial.

So he reported his findings to some local monks, and pretty soon, all the monks in the monastery were drinking coffee to stay awake during marathon prayer sessions.

Coffee Goes Global

Over the centuries that followed, the love of coffee spread throughout the Arab world, with the first coffeehouses opening up shop in the cities of the Near East. There, locals would gather for music, chess, news, and witty repartee, much like they do today.

Where is coffee grown?

European travelers took coffee home with them, and pretty soon everyone was drinking the stuff as part of their morning routine. Before the arrival of coffee, some Europeans would start their mornings with a mug of beer. Imagine that!

Before too long, the love of coffee had spread all over the world, hitching rides with explorers and missionaries, royals, and pirates, and taking root wherever conditions were suitable.

Everyone’s Favorite Plant

Under natural conditions, the coffee bean plant is a spindly, nondescript, shade-loving shrub that does best when it’s nestled beneath the forest canopy. The coffee bean is actually the pit of the cheery red coffee cherry, the meat of which has a crisp consistency and a watermelon-like flavor when fully ripened.

The advent of modern industrial agriculture made it possible to grow coffee beans in full sunlight, increasing yields and making coffee production more efficient.

Back to Basics

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Shade grown coffee Santa Cruz, Brian Gratwicke via Flickr

In recent years, however, demand has increased for coffee grown the old-fashioned way, in biodiverse forests and without pesticides. This coffee is referred to as “shade grown” or “bird friendly,” and it fetches a premium among conscientious coffee consumers.

The fact that coffee is now grown in every corner of the globe is part of the reason we have so many tantalizing varieties of coffee to choose from. Every variety you sample has a unique flavor, influenced by terroir, strain, growing conditions, roasting style, and preparation method. Because of this, there’s truly a style coffee for just about everyone!

Coffee: Who Would Have Thought?

The coffee plant might not look like much, but it’s done more than its share when it comes to infusing the human condition with a bit of extra joy. The next time you savor the flavor of an Americano, Mocha, Latte, or K-Cup, we hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate this lovely plant, and the strange series of events that brought it from the Ethiopian highlands and the mists of time to your breakfast table.

George Washington Invented Instant Coffee?

Instant Coffee Invented by George Washington by CoffeeForLess

War hero, founding father, Commander in Chief; George Washington was a busy guy. But did you know that he also invented instant coffee? Well, he didn’t, actually. But another guy named George Washington did… sort of.

Instant coffee’s first mass producer was a man named George Constant Louis Washington, who was an inventor from Belgium. When he first arrived stateside in 1897, he spent a decade or so figuring out what to do with his life.

At first, he started a company that made parts for kerosene lamps, but incandescent bulbs rendered his newly established firm basically obsolete. After that, he went into the camera business. When that didn’t go as planned, he moved to Guatemala to make his fortune as a cattle rancher, but that didn’t really work out either. Within a year, he was back in the New York groove, but he had finally hit upon the idea that would make him a wealthy man: instant coffee.

Rags to Riches

Now, others had made instant coffee before Washington; a New Zealander named David Strang had his own brand, and Japanese chemist Satori Kato had formulated his own version of the stuff, too. But Washington invented a new process that allowed instant coffee to be produced on a massive scale.

G. Washington’s instant coffee was a huge hit. It was convenient! It was modern! It was pure! The WW I soldiers loved it! Soon, the company could afford to sponsor the popular Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio show, and Dr. Watson invited listeners to join him by the fire for a story and a hot cup of G. Washington coffee.

The only problem was that G. Washington coffee just wasn’t that tasty, and plenty of eager competitors soon cropped up with their own offerings. By World War II, soldiers could choose between a “cup of George” and Nescafe, among several others.

Here’s to the “Other” George Washington

Coffee snobs might turn their noses at the thought of drinking instant coffee, but when you’re on the go and need a quick pick-me-up, it’s certainly better than nothing. And while modern instant coffee may have improved greatly since George Constant Louis Washington’s days, there’s no denying his role as a founding father of the instant coffee world.

Let’s raise our cups and toast to the other George Washington! While we’re at it, let’s thank our lucky stars that we don’t have to drink his original recipe every morning!

No Matter What Your Favorite Brew, There’s Probably a Coffee App For It

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Coffee drinkers of the world, you may not feel like you need to get deeper into coffee culture than you already are. But if you’re like most of us, then just drinking coffee isn’t good enough. You want to obsess. Well now you can rejoice!

There are dozens of ways to obsess over coffee from the comfort of your own smart phone or tablet, no matter where you may physically be. We present a few of the coffee apps available to you today.

CoffeeGuru

While not free – it’s $1.99 – coffee guru is a bargain when you consider how much information this coffee app contains. If you’re looking for artisanal coffee (read, non-chain coffee), then this is the app for you. With listings of more than seven thousand independent coffee shops in Canada, the UK, and the United States, this app is a must have for serious coffee drinkers traveling away from their zone of coffee comfort.

CoffeeGuru also includes a flavor describing wheel and information about house roasts, fair trade and direct trade programs from coffee shop to coffee shop.

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Art of Coffee

At a hefty $2.99, this coffee app might seem a bit expensive. But, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how professional baristas do the job of making your coffee, look no further. The Art of Coffee shows you how to make all your favorite coffee house beverages, and how to make more than thirty designs in the foam on the top of a latte or cappuccino.

CoffeeTalk

At ninety-nine cents, this app is easily the best bargain on the list. CoffeeTalk will teach you and your friends the language of coffee, from affogato to Valencia and everything in between. If you’re ever listened to real coffee nerds go on and on about coffee and wanted a dictionary to help you decipher what they were saying, then this is the app for you.

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An App for Everyone

While this brief list is far from complete – seriously, just do a quick search on an app store or the Internet and see how many results you get – it does represent a handful of the best coffee-oriented apps out there for smart phones and tablets.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional coffee drinker who knows the ins and outs of how to find a great cup in any city in the world or not, you’re sure to find a coffee app that will help you enjoy your favorite beverage even more.

Tips for Enjoying a Fresh Cup of Coffee Every Time

Fresh Coffee Beans by CoffeeForLess

If you’re one of those people who could easily wear a “Coffee First” t-shirt, we’re going to guess you’re serious about your coffee. And we’ll assume that you don’t settle for an average cup of coffee, either. For you, coffee probably has the ability to make or break your day, so you’re likely only happy with a really fresh cup of coffee.

As a coffee lover, do you have a system in place to make sure you always have fresh coffee beans? If not, we can help you. We’re going to tell you how you can always get tasty coffee into your mug exactly when you want it.

Here are some tips for enjoying a fresh cup every time, whether it’s your morning brew or your afternoon pick-me-up.

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Order Coffee Beans on a Regular Schedule

Most serious coffee drinkers will benefit by having a set day each week for ordering new coffee beans. Think of the weekly ordering process as a guarantee that you’ll have fresh coffee available for java on demand, morning or night.

If you set up a reminder for yourself to order coffee beans on a recurring basis, say every Sunday evening, then you’ll never have to deal with running out of coffee, or drinking brew from beans that has been sitting stale in your cupboard. Of course, you will initially have to do a bit of planning to determine how much coffee you’ll need for your weekly fix.

Sign Up for Regular Coffee Delivery

If you don’t want to think about when to order your beans, you can sign up for a coffee delivery program that will send out fresh coffee beans to you on a weekly basis. Delivery programs vary, so you may be billed weekly or monthly for the service, but once you input your credit card into the program shopping cart, you really don’t have to deal with the details of your order again if you don’t want to.

Regular coffee delivery service is a great way to have fresh coffee beans in your mailbox for your weekly coffees, with little or no effort on your part.

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Order Whole Beans

Whether you order your own coffee beans weekly or use a coffee delivery service, you’ll get the freshest cups if you buy whole beans and then grind them yourself. Coffee beans lose some of their aroma and flavor after grinding, so if you opt for whole beans, then you’ll get more of the original freshness and purity of the beans into your cup.

When your whole beans come in the mail, make sure you only grind a cup’s worth or a day’s worth at a time, so that remaining beans keep their flavor and freshness intact until brew time.

We know how important fresh coffee is, which is why we offer many types of coffees and coffee delivery options to make sure you have a fresh cup whenever you want one. Take a look at our whole been coffee options and choose your favorite one, before you stock up for the upcoming week.

K Cup Holders Options At CoffeeForLess

Keurig Carousel K-Cup HoldersK-Cups are convenient, but one thing that I find is that my quest to try new coffees often outpaces my consumption of coffee. When this happens, I end up with a box of miscellaneous K-Cups all mixed up in a box in the cupboard. This is clearly not the most effective way to store my K-Cups.

CoffeeForLess offers a variety of options for K-Cup storage, and these well-designed K-Cup holders are truly the solution to this problem. They are specifically designed to hold a variety of K-Cups in a way that allows you to easily access and choose from your K-Cup selection.

Which K-Cup Holder: The Carousel or The Tower

CoffeeForLess carries two K-Cup holders, and both are within range of each other price-wise. Choosing one will entail looking at what they feature and whether they offer utility that is best suited to your needs.

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35 K-Cup Carousel K-Cup Storage (available in Black and Chrome)

The K-Cup holder known as Keurig K-Cup Carousel is an excellent choice for those with utility in mind. It is slightly cheaper than and just about equally as functional as the other options. The Keurig K-Cup Carousel holds twenty-seven K-Cups and rotates to allow you easy access to every K-Cup that it holds. This K-Cup holder is good for homes and small offices.

The Keurig K-Cup Carousel Tower offers the functionality of the regular Carousel but with more storage — 35 K-Cups — and design more geared toward those with an eye for appearances.

Don’t be fooled though. Whichever K-Cup holder you pick, you are getting a great deal on excellent K-Cup organization and storage. These two K-Cup holders are reasonably priced at CoffeeForLess.

Try a Coffee Hair Dye for a Natural and Healthy Makeover

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Hair dye is a wonderful thing. It allows you to change up your whole look, and if you’re worried about people seeing those pesky gray hairs, you can easily cover them up with a good, quick dye job.

That being said, your usual salon-grade hair dye may have some pretty scary chemicals in it. According to the National Cancer Institute, conventional hair dyes may contain as many as 5,000 different chemicals, some of which have been implicated as carcinogens. Yikes!

Fortunately, your favorite morning pick-me-up can also be used as a hair dye. You read that correctly: you can dye your hair with coffee! And as an added bonus, a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology found that caffeine is “a stimulator of hair growth.”

If you’re graying and getting a little thin on top, it sounds like coffee dye could be the miracle cure you’re looking for.

Get Prepped

Before dying your hair with coffee, wash your hair thoroughly with your usual shampoo to get rid of buildup or debris. This will allow the coffee dye to fully penetrate the hair. You’ll also want to brush out any tangles that could result in an uneven application. Finally, wear clothes that you’re not too attached to. If you get this stuff on a white t-shirt or towel, you’ll quickly find yourself searching for our post about how to remove coffee stains.

How to Dye Your Hair With Coffee

Start off with a strong pot of coffee brewed from espresso beans. If you’re really serious about avoiding chemicals, you may want to opt for organic coffee, but regular coffee will work just as well. Let the coffee cool at least to room temperature. You don’t want to burn your scalp!

coffee-hair-dyeNext, mix two cups of the leave-in conditioner of your choice with 2 tablespoons of fine-ground coffee and a cup of the cooled coffee you’ve just brewed from espresso beans. Stir the mixture until the color is evenly distributed, then apply it generously to your hair and leave it in for 60-90 minutes.

Finally, rinse out your hair with apple cider vinegar to help seal in the color. Oh, and take a shower, rinsing your hair thoroughly with warm water. We love the smell of coffee, but espresso mixed with conditioner and apple cider vinegar? Not so much.

When you’ve finished the process, your hair should be a rich, lustrous new color. If you don’t achieve the desired result on the first try, or have particularly stubborn gray hairs, then just repeat the process every day until your hair reaches the color you prefer.

That’s a nice color on you! Coffee wakes you up and helps you stay beautiful! Who knew that was going to be the case?

The Practice of Coffee Cupping

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Most people are more familiar with wine tastings, but coffee cuppings are equally fun and interesting as an entertaining, informative event. Cupping is one of the methods coffee cuppers use to evaluate aromas and flavor profiles. Of course, you don’t have to be a seasoned expert to enjoy a good cupping session; you can do it at home with your friends.

Coffee cupping is a great way to gain new appreciation for different types of beans from all over the world. And if you’re a relative newcomer to the world of coffee connoisseurs, don’t be intimidated. Sure, your fellow tasters may be able to describe their beverages with purple prose worthy of Charles Dickens, but remember: your opinion is every bit as valid, and you don’t need to be a Master Taster to appreciate great flavor during a coffee tasting.

How Coffee Cupping Is Done

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about the basic concept of coffee cupping, let’s see how it’s done.

what-is-coffee-cuppingTo start off, you’ll want to select a range of different coffees for the tasting. It’s a good idea to choose beans from a wide array of growing regions so you can fully appreciate the immense variety of flavors and aromas that beans can have. The beans should all be light to light-medium roast. You might not notice the difference from day to day, but tasting and smelling different beans in close succession really brings out the contrast.

Once you’ve chosen the beans, you’ll need to set the stage. The setting doesn’t need to be fancy, but there are a few things you can do to optimize the coffee cupping experience. First, eliminate distractions. The cupping should take place in a well-lit, clean, and quiet environment that is relatively free of odors. You may want to ask the participants of the coffee tasting to turn off their phones while the cupping is underway, and you should never have television or music playing during the session. The goal is to be focused solely on the drinks.

Getting Ready for the Coffee Cupping Session

With the groundwork laid, we’re ready to prep the samples. Pour each of your bean selections into cups, being careful to note which is which. If you’re doing a blind coffee cupping, you’ll want to put post-it notes or tape on the bottom of each.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the cupping glasses should be ceramic or tempered glass, with a capacity of 7-9 fluid ounces and a top diameter of 3-3.5 inches. They should all be identical. If you don’t have cups that fit the bill, you can order cupping glasses online if you really want to make it official.

Start your water boiling before you grind the beans. That way, it will be ready when you are. The ideal temperature is 202 degrees Fahrenheit, but as long as you’re in the ballpark, you’ll be just fine.

When you grind the beans, aim for a medium consistency, like you would when making drip coffee or French press. Clean the grinder between samples to prevent cross-contamination.

Smell each sample as the water is coming to a boil, making notes on the aroma. Now pour about 6.5 oz of water into each sample, starting with the oldest grind first and wait 4 minutes.

Stage Two of Your Coffee Cupping Event

Now it’s time to “break the crust.” Get your face close to each cup, and with your cupping spoon, break the layer of grounds that have gathered on the surface of each sample, and slowly run the spoon across the surface, from front to back, inhaling as you go. What an aroma!

Ideally, each of your fellow cuppers will get first dibs on breaking the crust of at least one sample. Make sure you dip your cupping spoon in a pint glass of water between samples so you don’t mix them together, and repeat the process for each sample.

Now it’s time to taste the drinks. Take one small spoonful at a time and slurp it into your mouth while gently inhaling, like you would if tasting wine. You want to get the full effect of the flavor profile coupled with the wonderful aromatics, so take it slow, and make sure each coffee cupping sample coats your whole tongue. You don’t have to swallow your samples, but it’s a good idea to swallow just a little bit so you can evaluate the aftertaste.

Make notes on each sample as you go. Professionals evaluate coffee on a few key criteria, including mouth feel, sweetness acidity, flavor, and aftertaste. Don’t worry if you don’t know the Master Taster’s argot. Just describe it in your own words, and compare notes with your friends.

That’s it! We hope you had as much fun as we did during our first cupping experience!

The Coffee Sleeve: Hot Coffee’s Best Friend

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Coffeeshop Prop Humor No. 1 | Pen Waggener, Flickr

Of course we love coffee! Who doesn’t? There are a lot of coffee enthusiasts out there, and the world attracts plenty of enthusiastic connoisseurs. Coffee lovers fetishize many aspects of preparation, from vintage Italian espresso machines to retro-futuristic steampunk labs.

But one piece of paraphernalia often goes uncelebrated. Yes, we’re talking about the humble coffee sleeve. The coffee sleeve or coffee cozy is generally unremarkable. They’re often made of paperboard, and some have cool designs or advertisements. And coffee sleeves are typically not much to look at.

Double Cupping Is for Chumps

But where would we be without coffee sleeves? Well, for one thing, we’d be using a lot more paper. Before the sleeve was invented, many people would double-cup their paper to-go cups to insulate their hands from the scalding liquid inside. If you’ve ever tried to hold on to hot java in a thin paper cup, then you know it can be rather uncomfortable, if not downright painful.

Polystyrene? No Way!

Rather than double cup, some vendors used to use polystyrene cups. They’re much better at trapping heat than paper, but they’re environmentally disastrous, not to mention unhealthy. They never biodegrade, and chronic exposure to polystyrene can cause depression, headaches, and impaired kidney function. Yikes!

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

The coffee sleeve is the unsung hero in your daily coffee adventure.

The coffee sleeve is the unsung hero in your daily coffee adventure.

While other inventors claim to have come up with the coffee sleeve, Jay Sorenson, who named his product the Java Jacket, filed the first patent in 1993.

He had the idea for the Java Jacket a couple of years before, when he dropped a scalding cup of coffee into his lap on the way to drop his daughter off at school.

So, he decided to do something about the most dangerous part of getting joe on the go.
As an added bonus, Java Jackets keep coffee warm longer, so you have more time to enjoy your to-go coffee on the way to work.

From Humble Beginnings…

Java Jacket is still one of the best-selling coffee sleeves on the market, having sold more than 4 billion sleeves since they first started selling Java Jackets to local coffee shops out of the back of their car.

Their products are now available in a wide array of colorful designs, and you can even have Java Jackets custom printed with your logo. Plus, they’re made of recycled paper. It sure beats Styrofoam cups!

A Moment of Appreciation

If you’re a frequent to-go customer, then your best bet is to use a ceramic travel mug, which protects your hands, insulates your beverage, and can be used over and over again. For maximum enjoyment, toss a couple of Coffee Joulies in your cup.

But the next time you leave your favorite coffee mug at home, take a moment to appreciate the brilliance and simplicity of the humble coffee sleeve. It may not be the most stimulating aspect of your daily ritual, but what it lacks in aesthetic appeal, it surely makes up for in functionality.

Save a trip to the grocery store with this coffee creamer recipe

Coffee Creamer Recipes You Can Make at Home by CoffeeForLess

Coffee with cream is a treat that so many love every day. And of course, many of us love the creamers that are specially flavored with ingredients like hazelnut or mocha. However, the store-bought creamers don’t always have the perfect blend of flavor to suit your exact needs, or you save the flavored creamers for special occasions.

But did you know that it’s possible to create your own flavored creamer at home, using a simple coffee creamer recipe? By learning how to make coffee creamer on your own, you can save a trip to the store and have a unique addition to your next coffee experience.

Homemade Is Always Better

When you make your own items at home, you have immediate control over all of the ingredients. You can limit the sugar or add extra sweetness, if that’s your passion. You can limit the creaminess and milk-fat, or decide to go whole hog in your coffee creamer recipe. You might even create wholly unique flavors that your friends can only find at your house, or end up creating a product that’s worthy of a new small business venture!

Choose Your Base First in the Coffee Creamer Recipe

When you learn how to make coffee creamer, you will first need to decide how heavy you’d like the creamer to be. You can go for decadent cream, whole milk, half-and-half or even a non-dairy milk such as almond milk, hemp milk, or soy milk. Some people use condensed milk, too.

Keep in mind that you can even get soy milk in a ″cream″ variety that is thicker and just as satisfying as dairy cream. Start with about a pint of milk or milk substitute in your coffee creamer recipe. From this point, you can create as many varieties as you see fit.

Use Your Favorite Ingredients

For French vanilla, you can add vanilla extract to your milk. Use two teaspoons of extract to the milk and mix well. For an extra homemade flair, use vanilla beans. Slice them open and scrape out the insides until you have two teaspoons. This may take some extra mixing, but the results will be well worth it. If you’d like a ″Strudel″ variety, add a tablespoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of almond extract to your coffee creamer recipe.

Coconuts Coffee Creamer Recipe

Coconuts are everywhere these days, so why not ride the wave with a coconut-flavored coffee creamer? For a thicker result, start with a can of coconut milk, and then thin it out with regular coconut milk that can be found with the other milk alternatives. If that’s not enough, add in two teaspoons of cocoa powder. Hazelnut extract might also be a worthy addition, as is cinnamon. Use two teaspoons of either of those in your coffee creamer recipe.

Keep Experimenting!

As you can see, learning how to make coffee creamer is relatively simple, and you can experiment with as many flavors as you can dream up. Add raspberry syrup, peppermint oil, or caramel topping to your cream base and adjust to your taste. If you have an espresso machine with a milk-steaming attachment, you might froth your creamer and make extra-fancy cappuccinos for your friends!

Easily Recycle Your K-Cups With Zero Waste Boxes From TerraCycle

Many of us know recycling K-Cups, pods and capsules is not always the easiest, and there’s some confusion around what part of the capsule is actually supposed to be thrown away or separated. We’ve seen all kinds of recommendations and clever ideas on how to recycle K-Cups and make use of leftover waste. Well, we have good news: recycling your coffee capsules just got much easier. CoffeeForLess.com has partnered with TerraCycle to turn your K-Cups, pods, and other capsules into recyclable materials — and all it takes is a box.

The best part about all of this? There’s no separation needed on your part. Simply collect all your K-Cups, capsules, or coffee pods, toss in the Zero Waste Box, and send it off. The label is already there for you.

So How Does it Work?

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The TerraCycle Coffee Capsule Zero Waste Box™ can hold 600 capsules

Use the Zero Waste Box to recycle any and all pre-packaged capsules used in capsule-specific machines, including K-Cups, Nespresso-compatible capsules, and coffee pods.

  1. Purchase the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box from CoffeeForLess.com. It will be
    shipped directly to your door.
  2. Fill the box with used coffee K-Cups, capsules or pods. TerraCycle estimates the small Zero Waste Box can hold about 600 capsules!
  3. When the box is completely full, hand it to any UPS delivery person (return shipping is included) and they will bring it to a TerraCycle Zero Waste facility.

The cost of the Zero Waste Box includes:

  • Color printed shipping box
  • Pre-paid UPS return shipping label
  • Processing of waste

Important tip to keep in mind: Please do not include used tea or coffee filters, loose coffee grounds, electronics (coffee makers) or any other coffee and tea accessories.

Coffee Capsules Get a Second Life

TerraCycle re-purposes the waste into sustainable, affordable building materials, and other consumer products by making every part of the K-Cup recyclable. From the TerraCycle website, the process is broken down:

“The collected waste is mechanically and/or manually separated into metals, organics and plastics. Metals are smelted so they may be recycled. The organics (such as the coffee grounds) are composted. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products.”

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Source: zerowasteboxes.terracycle.com

You can now recycle your Keurig K-Cups, capsules, and pods effortlessly with a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle. As the popularity of K-Cups and capsules continues to climb, we’re glad to offer a revolutionary solution that helps reduce the environmental impact and product waste left behind by our favorite brewed beverages.

In the comment section below, let us know if you’ve had any experience reusing or recycling your K-Cups. We’d love to hear your feedback, or any questions about the Zero Waste Box program.

Cheers!