The Keurig. It’s a modern day battle of convenience versus catastrophe (at least environmentally). Enter: biodegradable K-cups.
The machine that was designed to allow users to brew one single cup of coffee with a tidy ease was too good to be true for the planet. Anyone who’s used one of these things at home or work for more than a week or so, has had the opportunity to be horrified by the sheer amount of garbage this thing produces. Fortunately, companies have rallied to reduce K-Cups’ toll on the landfill. Looking for the best of the eco-friendlier biodegradable K-Cups? Look no further. Here are our favorites.
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A Note About the Downside of Biodegradable K-Cups
Technically, traditional K-Cups are recyclable in most places. Just as long as you disassemble the pod, clean out the paper and grounds, and recycle the plastic and foil separately. It’s unlikely that someone who only has moments to brew their cup of coffee in the morning has the time for this recycling song and dance. Take your coffee with cream and Earth guilt? We all have it. Even the Keurig inventor regrets the toll his design has taken on the planet. Finally, we have a better option.
Typically, when we offer eco-friendly product reviews around here, we’ll give you the pros, cons, and features of every product. In the case of these k-cups, the consensus is strong that the cons are the same across the board. In biodegradable K-Cups, the coffee sits in a biodegradable filter (rather than plastic) and are capped with a paper lid and ring. Most reviewers have no problems with this design, but many reported the pods would explode in the Keurig machine, which then needs to be cleaned out.
Another across-the-board con to biodegradable K-Cups are the fact that they are advertised as “compostable,” however they require industrial composting, which many areas don’t offer. You’ll have to check with your local public works to see if they can process this material in their facility, but these pods aren’t likely to break down fast enough in your backyard.
So know that every product featured in this article comes with these two downsides. And if you’ve invested in K-Cup carousels or drawers, you can add one more con: these smaller pods probably won’t fit into those storage methods. Even if they did, their more porous materials require a dark, air-tight seal. Not to worry, the cups arrive in such a bag.
The Best Biodegradable K-Cups
- Highlander Grog Rum and Butterscotch
- Breakfast Blend Light Roast
- Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend
- Intense French
- Cinnamon Sugar Cookie
Cameron’s is widely lauded for their smooth coffee, and flavored coffee lovers are obsessed with the wide variety of options. Fan faves are Highlander Grog Rum and Butterscotch and Cinnamon Sugar Cookie. Their pod is made of eco-friendly beets and wood, and while the coffee is available in a variety of quantities, Cameron’s typically averages about $0.50/pod.
Tayst Biodegradable K-Cups
Tayst’s….well, taste sets this product apart from it’s peers in the biodegradable K-Cup space. Tayst uses Rainforest Alliance Certified growers, which means the farms are good to the planet and good to the laborers who work there.
Bio-materials and corn starch make up Tayst’s pods, and those aren’t the only packaging points this company earns. Fans rave about the burlap bag in which the product comes and the handwritten note that accompanies purchases. This beautiful presentation makes Tayst a popular gift for coffee lovers.
Trying to avoid caffeine? Reviewers are adamant – their Defiantly Decaf is best decaf out there. The sampler packs linked above are other (caffeinated) fan favorites, but if you’re interested in all their offerings check out their website for the full offerings.
Tayst pods are available in a variety of quantites, and the cost of most flavors ranges from $0.65 – $0.77/pod.
More of a tea drinker? Check out this post on eco-friendly reusable tea bags
The Organic Coffee Co.
You can feel good about drinking this cup of joe, because The Organic Coffee Co. gives back. Their Community Aid program offers the towns from which they buy beans resources that help build schools. Most of these towns are in Central America and Africa, in high-altitude locations that harvest these shade-grown beans. And being certified organic, trust there are no rogue chemicals.
The Orangic Coffee Co. sells 80-count packages, with the average cost of each pod at $0.44.
This family owned company is the internet’s Miss Popularity. More than 32,000 reviews give this coffee 4.5+ stars. That is an incredible consensus. All the love may come from those who favor a dark roast. The company tends to roast darker than their peers, so if you love that flavor profile, SF Bay may be your brand.
To that point, tasting notes include intriguing nuggets like “A coffee with an intense, smoky flavor. Not for the faint of heart,” which describes the French Roast.
SF Bay is available in a variety of quantities ranging from $0.42 – $0.75/pod.
For those who’ve fallen in love with Hawaiian coffee either on vacation or from afar, taste the relief of the ability to brew paradise at home. What’s more, Kauai and Keurig teamed up for this collaboration, which means these pods are the most well-behaved biodegradable K-Cups, even in a Keurig 2.0 (more info on that below).
Packs in a variety of quantities are available, but these pods cost anywhere from $0.62 – $0.84/pod. The lower end of that range is a really great deal for Hawaiian coffee.
Boyd’s Biodegradable K-Cups
Both USDA Certified Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified, Boyd’s is good for you and good for the planet. If you know you like coffee, but don’t care to get bogged down with specifics, their Good Morning medium roast is a great choice. It’s a “medium roast for universal appeal,” according to the company, and reviewers agree. However, the runaway favorite is the Organic Red Wagon Dark Roast, and for good reason: Boyd’s has offered this particular coffee for 100 years.
Boyd’s is available in 12-count boxes ranging from $0.58 – $1.25/pod.
Whether you’re now working from home full-time, or just trying to cut down your coffee shop trips, Oakland’s Fourth Wave medium-dark roast is the closest thing to a coffee shop cup you can make at home, according to reviewers. Countless drinkers have saved wads of cash!
Oakland Coffee beans are grown at small farms and co-ops in Peru and Honduras, and their philanthropic wing has helped construct water infrastructure, an educational center, and ER in Central and South America.
Available in a variety of quantities, this brand’s pods range from $0.69 – $0.95.
Wild Jo bloomed from the founder’s hobby of roasting coffee – and who among us can’t appreciate when a side hustle becomes the main hustle? Especially when that main hustle is is certified organic and fair trade. Additionally, fans of Wild Jo love the coffee’s flavors, with tasting notes like “intense, dark cocoa, dark brown sugar.” And what’s more, Wild Jo is the only biodegradable K-Cup that claims, “They can be disposed of in your own garden after use!”
Available in a variety of quantities, this brand’s pods range from $0.73 – $1.00.
Of course, if none of these strike your fancy, you can also stick with a pack of reusable K-Cups. These are filter-less, and just require a rinse between uses. And if you’re still looking for a non-pod coffee, I am loud and proud of my love for my Trade Coffee subscription.
How Do You Dispose of Biodegradable Coffee Pods?
With the exception of Wild Jo, the biodegradable K-Cups are technically compostable, but with the caveat that they be composted industrially. This means the temperature and pressure are controlled by a facility. You’ll have to check with your local public works department to see if this is available in your area.
The good news is, even if you don’t have a compost facility in your area, your morning coffee won’t be adding more plastic into our environment with these pods. This alone is a great reason to make the change.
Want more info on backyard composting? Check out things you can pitch in your backyard bin in this post
Will Biodegradable K-Cups Work in Keurig 2.0?
All coffee pods mentioned in this list should work in a 2.0. However, if you use the now-discontinued Keurig 2.0, you’ll know the struggle of finding compatible K-Cups. (If you’re not familiar, these machines have a laser that scans the pod to ensure only Keurig-approved pods are used.) To bypass this – and free yourself up to use the eco-friendly pods (only the Kauai brand was specifically developed in partnership with Keurig) – many users have luck with this Freedom Clip, which attaches to the machine and gives you a wider range of options for coffee brands.
Have you switched to biodegradable K-Cups at home or work? They’re a guilt-easer, that’s for sure. Let us know your favorites!