Undoubtedly, most of you really enjoy in the morning routine of drinking the first cup of freshly brewed coffee.

In fact, numerous people cannot imagine starting their working day without a cup of this amazing hot beverage. However, living in such a rush due to the everyday responsibilities of the modern world, many people satisfy their caffeine need with the help of a single-cup coffee brewing machines.

According to the National Coffee Association of the United States, last year, 27% of the people in America use the single-cup brewing system, compared to 7% just 4 years ago!

This increasing trend should cause concern, initially due to the effect of the coffee pods on the environment, as well as the impact of the plastic and the hygiene of the machines on our health. Therefore, this article will review the effects of coffee machines.

Environmental impact

Generally speaking, metal and plastic capsules cannot be recycled, or need an additional processing the divide their components before the process of recycling.

Hence, recyclable pods are not offered by the largest companies, such as Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto (which is one of the leading companies in Europe), Nespresso, and Keurig.

Keurig faced criticism due to the difficulties their coffee pods, or K-cups, to be recycled. Clean Water Action condemned them in 2011, forcing them to make their pods recyclable by 2020. Nescafe are also considering some options to make their pods recyclable, but they have not given a precise date for when it will be done.

Nespresso are going to collect their pods in order to recycle them, so you should bring the used ones to a dedicated recycling point. However, they might not be close to your place, or as convenient as you might expect.

These pods are technically recyclable, as they are made from plastic, paper filters, aluminum, and organic material (coffee grounds). Yet, some of them require a previous separation.

Thus, as we actually use these machines to save time, none will spend their time to separate these components, and we all throw the used plastic containers in the bin.

Of course, environment- aware people will spend this time to separate the components, but experts still believe that this recycling process is impossible, as the parts are too small, and fall through the cracks of the recycling facilities.

Moreover, plastics are actually used for the pods since they are stable and durable and 192-degree hot water passes through them, so they cannot be decomposed easily in landfills. they don’t break down easily in landfills.

Not think about the billions of cups dumped annually. Namely, in 2013, the number of sold K-cups was enough to circle the Earth 10 and a half times if placed end-to-end. Nespresso has not released statistics on the number of recycled pods, but many of them will definitely end up in a landfill.

Undoubtedly, the number of pods produced by over 20 single-cup coffee system manufacturers, and the number of the pods sold by numerous other companies to fit these machines, cannot be quantified.

Health impact

The single-serve coffee maker has also faced criticism due to its detrimental effects and results which may vary, from hormonal disturbances to bacteria.

Namely, A Pittsburg station has done a swab test recently on 28 coffee machines and found more than 4 million colonies of dangerous bacteria and mold in the pod compartment, water tanks, tray and spout off over half of the tested machines.

Moreover, they discovered bacteria strains like streptococcus, E.coli, staphylococcus, and pseudomonas aeruginosa.

A study was also conducted by NSF International, the public health, and safety organization, in order to spot the ‘germiest room in the home’, and it was the coffee maker reservoir which showed greater germ counts!

According to Kelly Reynolds, a microbiology specialist at the University of Arizona, this is due to the fact that coffee makers are a perfect moist environment for bacteria and mold, and they lead to various illnesses.

Furthermore, pods are usually made of plastic. Nowadays, numerous experts doubt the safety of this material if used in the food and drinks we consume, but still the FDA claims that it is safe to use it.

The major concern is related to an ingredient in plastic, BPA, which lines numerous food products, but has been shown to severely disrupt the hormonal function, especially estrogen.

Yet, until 2010, the FDA claimed it was safe, and when they reviewed it, they stated that there are some concerns about its possible adverse effects on the prostate glands, behavior, and brain of young children, infants, and fetuses.

This sheds new light on this ingredient and raises a great concern about its presence in common food products.

Yet, Keurig assures that their pods do not contain BPA, and are made of a plastic known as #7 – a mixture a plastics. It is excellent for maintaining the coffee in the pods, but since it’s a combination, we cannot inspect its ingredients, and possible side-effects.

The Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives published a study in 2011 which found that most plastic products have an estrogen effect.

They tested 455 common products, including some which have been labeled as free of BPA, and 70% of them showed estrogenic activity. Moreover, when they were exposed to dishwashing and microwaving, this number has risen up to 95%.

Therefore, we should be worried about the process of passing boiling water through these plastic containers and combining it with acidic coffee grounds, as we cannot be certain to what kinds of chemicals we expose out bodies to, and of course, what kind of effects they can cause.

What’s more, the situation is much more alarming in the case of Nespresso’s capsules, as they are made of aluminum with a food grade shellac coating, and do not contain plastic.

Yet, aluminum has been shown to cause various health issues. Yet, the company assures that the water and coffee do not come into contact with the aluminum, but only with the shellac.

This means that the water actually comes into contact with the plastic in the machine, which raises the same concerns as in the previous case.

Hence, until we get some clear answers to these questions and doubts, we would recommend that you reduce your exposure to these pods.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee is a drink which can be a quite beneficial drink, in case you drink it moderately, and it includes a low amount of calories. Also, the standard espresso pods have the same amount of nutrients as regular filtered coffee.

Yet, this is not the case of specialty coffee pods, like lattes and Cappuccinos. For instance, a Cappuccino pod has about 80 calories, including 5 grams of the dreaded sugar, and 5 grams of fat.

Also, flavored pods include numerous additives such as Dipotassium Phosphate, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Caseinate, flavorings, artificial colors and much more.

To be honest, this is much more than the water and coffee beans you expect to make up your morning coffee!


Despite the effects of the plastic, you need to consider the effects of the pesticides in the coffee beans. Namely, these pods usually include non-organic coffee, freely sprayed with insecticides.

As conventional coffee farmers apply over 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers per acre and, since coffee is imported, we cannot control or examine the kind or amount of pesticides used.

Yet, pesticides have been related to severe health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, miscarriages in pregnancy and cancer; you definitely want to consume them together with your cup of coffee.


A comprehensive study conducted by the New York Times examined single- serve coffee brewers and their effects on your budget, and found that both Nespresso pods and K-Cups cost you more than $50 per pound, which is way more expensive than Fair-Trade coffees and most organic coffees.

Yet, we do not intend to convince you to stop drinking coffee. Yet, we will inform you of various other alternatives that will be more beneficial for your health and environment, and help you avoid these harmful effects of the germ-filled espresso.

If you still decide to keep using the single-cup coffee machine, you should make some changes in order to alter its effects.

Initially, you should clean it properly, run a vinegar solution through the machine, empty the reservoir, air dry it by leaving the lid off, wipe it every day, and change the water after each use.

If you have not used it for few days, you should remove the remained standing water by running several cleansing brews before you use it again.

You should also buy a reusable pod with a stainless steel mesh, to reduce the harmful effect on the environment. Make sure you remove and clean them after each use.

If you review all needed to use them in a safe way, you may decide to return to the conventional, cheap, and trusted method of making coffee.

The Chemex

It is a beautiful glass carafe and brewing vessel, which can make great coffee. You should pour hot water over the grounds, and thus, you cannot over-brew. Moreover, the coffee grounds do not touch the glass, so its cleaning is simple and easy.

The Aeropress

It uses air pressure in order to extract the brew from the beans, and it eliminates the bitter oils. The cup of coffee prepared in this way is tasty, and the cleaning of the machine is very easy.

A French Press / Cafetiere

The French Press brews coffee with an excellent taste, in an easy way. In most cases, it is done with glass and stainless steel, so no chemicals and plastic components can leach in your cup.

However, regardless of the coffee system you use to prepare your coffee, you should make sure it is regularly cleaned and dried well. It is advisable that you use products made of glass or stainless steel and organic coffee.

Our aim was to make you reconsider whether convenience is really needed and beneficial when it comes to the coffee you prepare at home, as it may pose a great risk to your health, and endanger your wellbeing, as well as the environment.