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Waste Not
So Long, Coffee Pods ... Hello, Coffee Balls?

The inventive, waste-free, single-serve coffee system means that portioned coffee no longer needs to be surrounded by an aluminum or plastic capsule.

Today, Swiss retail giant Migros has launched CoffeeB — a new, capsule-less Coffee Ball that could potentially stir up the single-serve coffee market.

The Coffee Ball is part of a first-of-its-kind, zero-waste system that brews coffee without the need for plastic capsules.

Plastic coffee pods produce 100,000 tons of waste globally per year; and while some of the pods in the marketplace are recyclable or biodegradable, the majority still end up in landfill.

“The next generation of capsule coffee is here, and it comes without a capsule,” says CoffeeB’s Dr. Caroline Siefarth, who co-developed the system. “After half a decade of research, we’ve created CoffeeB — which will revolutionize the way the world drinks single-serve coffee.”

All the taste, zero waste

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The first coffee capsule — also invented by the Swiss — hit the shelves in 1986; 36 years later, after five years of development, Migros — Switzerland’s largest retailer — has designed and patented a brand-new way to package portioned coffee. The compressed Coffee Balls are encased in a tasteless, colorless, seaweed-based coating that gives it structure and protects it from flavor loss — completely eliminating the need for traditional capsule casing. In blind taste tests, CoffeeB has performed as well as conventional coffee capsules.

The thin, plant-based protective cover isn’t consumed and remains on the ball of used coffee after brewing. The whole Coffee Ball — casing and coffee — is fully garden compostable (the company says they decompose into valuable humus within four weeks). In contrast, biodegradable capsules are still made of plastic — which can take months, if not years, to fully decompose.

“274 tons of coffee capsule waste is produced globally every single day. By taking the plastic and aluminium casing out of the equation, our fully plant-based Coffee Ball helps eliminate one of the biggest concerns with capsule coffee — waste,” Siefarth says. “Consumers continue to become more environmentally conscious; and CoffeeB wants to be the catalyst that changes the way we drink coffee, for the good of the planet.”

And while CoffeeB requires its own machine and isn’t compatible with the now-ubiquitous single-serve coffeemakers proliferating the market, the company believes that the ‘no-capsule system’ is the future and will replace traditional capsule systems over time, becoming the industry standard.

The CoffeeB Globe Machine

CoffeeB has designed its trademark Globe coffee machine, a single-serve brewing system designed specifically for the Coffee Balls.

The machine is also sustainable — it’s made partly from recycled materials and is easily repairable in a bid to further reduce e-waste. It has a modular design so that individual components can be replaced as required. The machine’s packaging is also fully recyclable; and the machine boasts an A+ energy-saving rating.

"We aimed to create a more sustainable coffee experience without having to sacrifice the convenience of capsules. CoffeeB has done just that. You can still enjoy your favourite cup of coffee, but with a cleaner conscience,” says Frank Wilde, Head of CoffeeB. “The process has not always been smooth sailing, but the vision of developing a completely waste-free capsule system was always stronger. CoffeeB is the single most significant product innovation in Migros’ history.”

Less coffee, same experience

As well as a massive reduction in aluminium and plastic waste, CoffeeB uses far less coffee per cup compared to a fully automatic machine, cafetiere or filter coffee — meaning a 40 percent reduction in carbon footprint.

The beans selected for the Coffee Balls are also sustainably sourced and are either Rainforest Alliance certified or organic and fairtrade. CoffeeB has initially released eight blends, to cater to a variety of tastes.

The US launch of Coffee Balls and Globe Machine is yet to be confirmed. A pack of nine Coffee Balls (which also comes in recyclable, cardboard packaging) will retail in Switzerland from CHF 4.60 ( ~~ US$5). The Globe machine — available in black and white — will retail for CHF 169 (~~ US$176).