Attack of the Coffee Pod People
Of all the stories in this Sunday's Trib, I found this one perhaps most worrisome:
"Single-serve brewing is going to steadily take share from at-home coffee brewing for a long time," said David Palmer, an analyst with UBS who follows Kraft and Starbucks. He described single serve as an "undeniable market opportunity" for both companies.
For the past couple weeks my primary source of coffee has been a single-serve brewing machine, and I think I can safely say that the technology is the boxed wine or Capri Sun of coffee, only without the benefit of price. The coffee is acceptable, better than your typical gas station, and it would probably pass muster at the average diner. On the other hand, the green tea looks like Mountain Dew and tastes like grass clippings, and the "Wellbeing" menu does not, as I had hoped, offer ibuprofen, antidepressants, or motivational messages.
Mostly I just find the pod process slightly creepy, like getting my coffee from Rosie the Robot Maid without the charm: I pop a little plastic-nippled packet into the device, watch the status bar as my drink downloads, and voila: something that basically tastes like drip coffee.
While I shouldn't be surprised at the success of any technological innovation that further separates us from our food, it might not be too late: "Still, the products may be especially appealing to 18- to 24-year-olds setting up their first homes, or older consumers with limited living space, Dornblaser said."
So maybe it's not too late to save the kids. All you really need is something to heat the water (an electric kettle if you want to spend money on something electronic), a french press (if you're insistent on single-serve, I've long loved my portable french press mug), and perhaps a grinder if you want to get fancy about it. And perhaps best of all, it doesn't lock you into a limited market of packaged coffee grounds, giving you access to Chicago's ever-growing coffee-roasting scene.