Pod brewer or portafilter machine? The most sustainable ways to drink coffee
Coffee is clearly in fashion. Every year, Germans drink an average of 162 litres of coffee each – that’s more than a bathtub can hold! And apart from espresso and latte, good old filter coffee has made a comeback. But what’s the best way to make coffee? Pod coffee brewers are generally considered bad for the environment, while portafilter machines and automatic coffee makers are regarded as a better alternative. But actually, it’s not quite as simple as that.
Coffee’s the new wine: enjoying it has become an art form. People are salvaging porcelain filters from their grandma’s cellar, making cold brew coffee in summer, and spending hours philosophizing about aromas, how finely the beans should be ground, roasts, and the ideal brewing temperature. Those who know enough about making coffee have the right these days to call themselves barista experts.
Many coffee-lovers buy themselves a portafilter coffee machine for the kitchen. Others swear by pod coffee makers because they prepare coffee quickly and easily and it tastes as if it’s been made by a professional machine. Even so, filter coffee is enjoying a true renaissance. In 2017, the trend for cold brewed coffee spilled over from New York to Germany. But what’s the most sustainable way to make coffee?
Automatic, pod or filter machine: The simplest way to brew coffee
Probably the simplest, most convenient and therefore the most popular ways to get good coffee or espresso at home are fully automatic, pod and filter machines. But what do customers need to watch out for when deciding what to buy?
- First of all, environmentally friendly, energy-efficient appliances needn’t be pricey. There are plenty of inexpensive, economic coffee makers.
- The maximum annual energy consumption shouldn’t exceed 35 kWh for pod machines or 45 kWh for fully automatic machines.
- Standby mode: To avoid wasting valuable energy, fully automatic machines should leave standby mode by themselves after no more than 30 minutes, and coffee pod brewers after 15 minutes. After all, three quarters of the electricity they use is consumed solely by heating up, standby mode, and the keep-warm function.
MediaMarkt and Saturn stock a variety of fully automatic coffee machines, pod machines and filter machines which meet the highest energy standards and are equipped with several energy-saving features. In Saturn’s online shop, particularly energy-efficient, eco-friendly friendly appliances are labelled ‘Go green now’. And in Austria, MediaMarkt draws attention to top energy-saving products in its online shop under the motto ‘Green and good’ and provides tips and advice on saving energy.
Especially energy-efficient coffeemakers are marked ‘Go green now’.
Portafilter or pod machine: Which is more energy-efficient?
As far as energy consumption is concerned, portafilter machines perform the worst. Not only do these large appliances consume the most energy and resources in catering establishments, their energy efficiency is also lower when used every day at home. Portafilter machines consume huge amounts of electricity and take so long to heat up to the right temperature that they’re really only worth using for several cups.
By contrast, the energy consumed by a pod coffee maker is much lower. However, valuable raw materials are used to manufacture the pods, namely plastic (i.e. oil) or aluminium. Making aluminium pods is especially energy-intensive and bad for the environment. And of course, pod machines produce far more waste. Owing to their low quality, plastic pods can’t usually be recycled after use and are incinerated instead. By contrast, if pods are made out of aluminium, this valuable raw material can be recycled with low energy input – as long as customers remember to throw the pods away in the recycling bin.
According to manufacturers, the energy efficiency of pod coffee makers is improved by the fact that they require much less coffee than other machines because the aroma is better preserved by the aluminium packaging. In addition, less coffee is wasted because coffee is made cup by cup. This effect at least partly compensates for the poorer life-cycle assessment of coffee pod production.
Accordingly, there’s no simple answer to the question of whether a portafilter machine is better than a pod machine or vice versa. It all depends on consumers’ behaviour. Customers certainly can’t go wrong with an energy-efficient automatic coffee machine, including from an ecological point of view.
Slow coffee: Making coffee in a moka pot or French press
The greenest way to make coffee is to brew it in an espresso maker on the hotplate (also known as a moka pot) or in a French press (also called a coffee plunger). The French press has a particularly favourable ecological footprint because the water can be heated efficiently in a kettle and the glass beaker is easy to make and recycle.
Coffee can also be fair
Once the customer has decided on a coffee machine, the next question is what coffee to use. The answer is fair trade and organic coffee.
But what exactly does this mean? Fair trade coffee means that everyone involved in its production – cultivation, processing and distribution – is paid fairly for their work. Organic farming involves compliance with higher environmental standards and the use of smaller quantities of pesticides and chemical fertilizers than in conventional agriculture.
Customers can recognize sustainable coffee by the use of special seals. The four best-known labels used to indicate fair trade or organic products are Bio, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified.
Sustainable coffee is always stocked by MediaMarkt and Saturn. As well as popular brands like Lavazza, Jacobs and Dallmayr, we also offer sustainable varieties such as Rainforest Espresso from De’Longhi and San Antonio coffee beans from Jura.