The coffee capsule market is big business. With major players ranging from Nespresso to Lavazza, Starbucks and Gourmesso, the $12.3bn global sector is expected to grow to $16.7bn by 2026, according to ReportLinker.
In the UK, close to half of households are estimated to drink capsule coffee, with coffee capsules producing around 100,000 tonnes of waste globally, every year. Some pods are recyclable or biodegradable, however a large proportion is still thought to end up in landfill.
In an effort to reduce capsule waste, Swiss retailer major Migros has developed what it claims to be the ‘world’s first’ coffee capsule system without a capsule. Instead, the system uses a small ‘Coffee Ball’, made from pressed coffee.
After half a decade of research, CoffeeB’s capsule-less system and ‘Coffee Ball’ products are now on the market in Switzerland in selected European countries. Its aim is to ‘revolutionise the way the world drinks single-serve coffee’.
The compressed Coffee Balls are encased in a tasteless, colourless, seaweed-based layer which gives it structure while protecting it from flavour loss – eliminating the need for traditional capsule casing.
The thin, plant-based protective cover isn’t consumed and remains on the ball of used coffee after brewing. The whole Coffee Ball – including the casing and coffee – is fully garden compostable. Within four weeks, the Coffee Balls decompose into ‘humus’ – the dark organic matter in soil that is formed by the decomposition of plant matter. “Humus is full of nutrients and makes the soil fertile so that plants can grow,” explained Migros.
As well as reducing aluminium and plastic waste, CoffeeB also uses less coffee per cup compared to a fully automatic machine, cafetiere or filter coffee – equating to a 40% reduction in carbon footprint.
How does the new capsule-less machine and Coffee Ball technology perform? According to Migros, in blind tests CoffeeB performed just as well as conventional coffee capsules.
In France, where the machine has been on the market since September, reviews have been generally positive. French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir reported that CoffeeB was ‘easy to use’ and zero waste, which is a ‘nice surprise’ in a market where ‘innovation is rare’ and ‘usually go in the direction of more waste’.
“We…welcome this initiative from Migros, even if the machine suffers from slight [teething] defects…Our lab tests will now determine how this model holds up against top-selling machines.”