My in-laws were so proud of their new ultra-convenient Keurig single-serve coffee maker when they first got it. They also bought a K-Cup holder to go with it that neatly organizes and displays a variety of flavored coffees and teas in cute little plastic K-Cups. I have to admit, it did seem pretty impressive.
My mother-in-law suggested I try her favorite—a flavored coffee—that reminded me of the flavor of a doughnut, but it left an odd aftertaste in my mouth. For my second cup, I tried Newman’s Organic, but that also left an odd aftertaste in my mouth, even though I didn’t add any cream or sugar (I take my coffee black).
As I sipped my coffee, I couldn’t help but wonder what toxins I was being exposed to, if each freshly brewed cup was really as ‘fresh’ as it was intended to be, and how much waste is being generated for each cup of convenience.
The Inconvenient Truth About Keurig
Mold and Bacteria
If the tank and tubing cannot be completely drained, the coffee maker cannot be completely cleaned, and can harbor mold and bacteria.
With the exception of the Keurig® K15 and Keurig® MINI Plus brewers, once your Keurig® home brewer has been primed, you cannot empty the water from the inside.
The internal tank of the brewer cannot be drained.
The best part of waking up is not mold and bacteria in your cup. That’s just gross.
Just because the K-Cups are ‘BPA-free’ doesn’t mean they’re safe.
BPA-free plastics contain xenoestrogens, which are endocrine disruptors, and they can have unintended detrimental estrogen-like effects in both women and men.
Potential Problems With Xenoestrogen Exposure:
- Increase in breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers
- Decreased fertility in females and males
- Estrogen dominance
- Increased incidence of prostate cancer
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes (adult-onset)
- Premature ovarian failure
- Uterine leiomyomas
- Thyroid disruption
- Testicular dysgensis syndrome
- Uterine fibroids
K-Cups have polyethylene-coated aluminum foil lids. Aluminum is associated with cancer, particularly breast cancer, and the increased migration of breast cancer cells, as well as behavioral and morphological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and age-related neurodegeneration, cell death, and autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome.
According to researchers, “Aluminum can have cumulative deleterious effects that can be extreme and even fatal. For that reason, a repeated low dose exposure may prove more damaging than a single larger dose.”
Aluminum induces entropy in living organisms by disrupting all levels of structure from water molecules through all biosemiotic systems. Entropy-inducing cascades, feedback loops (positive and negative) within and across levels, can damage DNAs, RNAs, proteins, cells, tissues, and whole organ systems.
I don’t have one. They’re kind of expensive to use.
—Keurig inventor, John Sylvan
You can get a Keurig coffee maker for $63, but those little K-Cups sell standard coffee grounds for $40 per pound! That’s three times the price of a pound of overpriced, burnt-tasting Starbucks coffee!
Pollutes the Environment
Nearly one in three American homes has a pod-based coffee machine. According to best estimates, the Keurig pods buried in 2014 would circle the Earth 12 times.
K-Cups aren’t recyclable or biodegradeable, (although some spin-off companies do make biodegradeable options).
Keurig Green Mountain has promised to make a fully recyclable version by 2020, but Keurig’s creator John Sylvan says otherwise.
No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable. The plastic is a specialized plastic made of four different layers.
—Keurig inventor, John Sylvan
Evidently, some spin-offs like the Vue, Bold, and K-Carafe pods can be recycled, but only if fully disassembled into paper, plastic, and metal components, (which kind of defeats the purpose of being convenient).
The Problem With Plastic Coffee Makers
My own coffee maker at home wasn’t much better than my in-laws’ Keurig. Practically the entire machine (with the exception of the glass coffee pot) was plastic.
Most people have heard that Bisphenol-A is harmful to our hormones, brain development, metabolism, and reproductive systems and are choosing products that don’t contain BPA.
Xenoestrogens from ‘BPA-Free’ Plastics
Many people haven’t yet caught on to the fact that the xenoestrogens in ‘BPA-free’ plastics are harmful as well. One study found that BPS (a BPA-free alternative) was as disruptive to hormone signaling as BPA.
Plastic can leech phthalates into food, especially if the food (beverage in this case) is heated, greasy, or acidic. And, of course, coffee is both heated and acidic.
Phthalates can adversely affect thyroid function in both women and men, can increase rates of sub-fertility, and can contribute to breast cancer in women. Since most coffee drinkers are adults, I’ll focus below on the adverse affects of phthalate exposure in adults.
Women: Women of reproductive age might be interested to learn that phthalate metabolites have been associated with increased risk of pre-term birth.
Men: Phthalates can reduce serum-free testosterone in men.
Elderly: BPA and phthalates are associated with carotid atherosclerosis in the elderly.
Become a Coffee Connoisseur and a Conscious Consumer
After researching the risks, benefits, and alternatives, I decided to replace my own toxic plastic coffee maker with a non-toxic stainless or glass percolator instead.
I began extensively researching non-toxic options. I also immediately began exclusively buying organic coffee. I figure, if I’m going to drink this stuff every day, I should buy the best organic coffee I can afford, and brew it in the best non-toxic coffee maker I can afford.
Ultimately, I chose a stainless steel electric coffee percolator, and I love it! There are no plastic parts touching my coffee, and it’s easy to clean. Also, it looks much nicer.
One of these days I’m going to try a French press, maybe something like this.
Discriminating coffee consumers are making a positive impact, not only in their own health, but also in the market. According to author and activist Michael Pollan, the 30-billion dollar organic food industry “was created by consumers voting with their dollars.” Ethical consumers are making more informed choices about what they’re buying, and how it affects our health and our environment, which sends a clear message that can impact real, meaningful change. As more of us join in, and focus our efforts on making incremental positive changes to improve our own lives, the message gets louder and markets evolve to meet those demands.
I’m a busy little bee, so a nice hot cup of black coffee has always been one of my faves in the morning. It warms the old bones, and gets the gears turning. These days, I enjoy my cuppa joe so much more knowing that I’m drinking quality organic coffee, made with love.
How to Make a Killer Cuppa Coffee
Step 1: Exercise your power as an informed consumer in the market and vote with your dollars! If you share my concerns over potential toxins from your coffee maker (especially if you’re an every day coffee drinker like me), then make an informed choice and buy a non-toxic glass or stainless steel coffee percolator, or consider buying a French press.
Step 2: Use only organic coffee. Buy the best you can afford, and consider supporting coffee companies you agree with ethically. You’ll find it tastes better too.
Step 3: Pour only filtered water into the water reservoir of your new non-toxic coffee percolator or French press. (I use a Berkey counter-top water filter and I love it! Once you go Berkey, you’ll never go back.) Add in some love, and brew your coffee.
Step 4: Pour this blessed beverage of the gods into your favorite non-toxic mug or travel cup (don’t you dare use a plastic one). If you prefer your coffee sweet and/or creamy, only add in healthy options. Avoid flavored coffee creamers and artificial sweeteners that are full of toxic ingredients.
Step 5: Sip it nice and slow, and be mindful about the way it makes you feel. Feel the warmth spreading out, and your bronchioles widening, making it easier to breathe (especially if you have asthma or COPD). Coffee is a bronchodilator, so if you struggle with chest congestion and can tolerate coffee, coffee can help you breathe easy.
Relax and enjoy! May your cup runneth over, and may goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life!
“Black as night, sweet as sin.” —Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys