02.Convenience vs waste
The cost of convenience
The attraction of coffee capsules is the
simplicity and consistency of taste. And
it certainly costs less than an espresso
from a cafe, which sets you back about
$3.50, whereas the cost of a capsule can
vary from 37c for Aldi Expressi to 68c
However, you’ll pay a lot less per
kilogram for your coffee if you make
it at home on a manual coffee machine.
Piazza D’Oro coffee beans are $34.63/kg,
and its ground coffee is $49.10/kg - but its
coffee capsules work out at $118.27/kg
from Coles Online in Sydney.
The environmental cost
When it comes to the packaging
of coffee capsules, the boxes
they come in are recyclable
– no surprises there, since
they’re made of paper.
The capsules, however, leave
a much bigger environmental
footprint. For a start, aluminium
is an energy-hungry product,
requiring nine times more energy
to manufacture than steel. In
Australia, Nespresso capsules
have to be taken to one of the 11
boutiques for recycling. But how
many are actually being recycled?
In 2012 Nespresso said it
reached its “75% recycling capacity
commitment”. But while it may
have the ability to recycle 75% of
the capsules, it has not yet revealed
if that many capsules have been
recycled. Nespresso has sold an
estimated 28 billion capsules
worldwide – that’s about 28 million
kilograms of aluminum, much of
which may be sitting in landfill.
However, Nespresso and
other brands of capsules – which
are mostly plastic rather than
aluminum – generally can’t be
thrown into domestic recycling
bins. They’re too small for the
machines at recycling plants to
separate from other rubbish and
simply drop through sieves into
general waste. Piazza D’Oro and
Caffè Vergnano also have an extra
layer of plastic wrapping around
It is possible to produce a more
environmentally friendly capsule.
The Ethical Coffee Company
has created a vegetable-based
biodegradable coffee capsule
that is Nespresso-compatible
and can be thrown straight into
the compost. They aren’t sold
directly in Australia yet, but we found them on eBay. However, the company says they should be available in Australian shops in May 2013.
With the speedy growth of the market in Australia, there has been a proliferation of capsule machines and suppliers in supermarkets and online. As the vigorous discussions on online forums demonstrate, consumers can be very confused about which capsules fit which machines. For instance, the Aldi Expressi accepts Map and Woolworths Select capsules, but Aldi capsules don’t work with the Map or the Woolworths Caffitaly machines.
Mixing and matching different brands of capsules in one machine can be problematic as each has a slightly different design, which can affect the coffee-making process and hence the taste.
If you don’t like your barista’s coffee you can go somewhere else, but once you’ve bought a coffee capsule machine you’re stuck with the flavours compatible with that machine. If you can, try the coffee flavours in store before you buy. Non-authorised Nespresso compatible capsules are slightly different to the authorised Nespresso products, presumably to skirt around the patents. If you’ve forked out a few hundred dollars for your machine, be aware that, according to Nespresso, if a non-genuine capsule damages the machine or causes a malfunction, the machine’s warranty won’t be valid.