Keurig Just Killed The Coffee-Pod With Their New Biodegradable Compressed Coffee Pucks

Around 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed on a daily basis, and even if a fraction of them are produced in Keurig or Nespresso machines, those are a LOT of coffee pods that get thrown in the waste after they’re used. Keurig’s finally tackling this persisting problem with the K-Round, an alternative to the pod that’s biodegradable, plastic-free, and still manages to produce a great brew. The K-Round is essentially a compressed disc or puck of coffee grounds (sort of how your local barista tamps down coffee into a puck), bound together with plant-based materials like cellulose. The K-Rounds go into Keurig’s upcoming machine, the Alta, which can process these rounds, extracting coffee from them without leaving you with a throwaway plastic and metal coffee pod like your regular Keurig machine currently does.

Designer: Keurig

Every company reaches a level of scale where it suddenly becomes difficult to sustain growth, and Keurig’s CEO Bob Gamgort mentioned that the company had reached that point. Creating great coffee is easy, but that isn’t precisely what Keurig does. The company creates great ‘single-serve’ coffee, helping users brew exactly one cup at a time instead of an entire pot and then having to either consume more coffee than needed or throw the rest. The company pioneered the single-serve coffee movement, and now, in order to grow even further, has realized that generating more waste in the form of use-and-throw pods isn’t particularly tenable.

Enter the K-Round, a puck of compressed coffee that achieves a few things. For starters, it does away with the pod entirely, using only plant-based natural materials in its design. The K-Round is entirely biodegradable and leaves no waste apart from a small leftover disc that can easily be composted or discarded with natural waste. But more distinctly, the K-Round reinvents the perception of the pod by allowing users to have a sensorial experience BEFORE the coffee is even brewed. Most coffee pods are shrouded in mystery – nobody knows what’s in them or how they work, and all you really have is a label on top that tells you what’s inside the pod. The K-Round on the other hand, is much more sensorial. Users can actually look at the pod and see how coarse or fine the grounds are, or if they’re light or dark-roasted. The pods also give off a distinct coffee aroma, helping prepare you for the brewing/drinking journey you’re about to embark on, all while keeping the process relatively simple – place the pod in the machine, shut the lid, hit the button, and voila! Barista-level coffee brewed in mere minutes.

The K-Rounds are essentially just roasted/ground coffee that’s been compressed into the shape of a puck, and bound together using a plant-based coating of cellulose and alginate (the same stuff used to create those bursting pearls in boba tea). Different variants also have sorbitol, a form of sugar that’s 50% as sweet as sucrose, and is non-fermenting (you don’t want the coffee turning into alcohol in the pod). The engineers at Keurig Dr. Pepper (yes, that’s the name of the company, I didn’t know they were co-owned either) developed the K-Rounds to be space-saving, shelf-stable, and entirely plant-based, while still ensuring that the resulting coffee tastes great and doesn’t have any underlying undesired flavors or aromas. Their inspiration for the puck shape came from the way baristas tamped down coffee into pucks before loading them into coffee machines. The pucks come in a variety of sizes, depending on the type of brew. Espressos are smaller and flatter, while other ‘larger’ brews like double shots or tall cold-brews result in taller pucks. The K-Rounds currently only work with the upcoming Keurig Alta coffee machine, which can apparently identify each puck and automatically adjust temperature, water-level, and brew time accordingly. Notably, the Alta is designed to be backwards compatible too, and will accept the older use-and-throw K-Cups coffee-pods too. The Alta and K-Rounds don’t have an official date – Keurig says it’s still fine-tuning the two based on consumer feedback. If you want to be a part of the beta test, Keurig’s inviting coffee aficionados to sign up on their website.