Coffee is among the most appreciated beverages in the world, and there is a wide variety of methods of coffee consumption, inside and outside the home, with a significant growth in the coffee machine market for single serve. Due to this significant growth and in agreement with the current sustainability directives, the objective of the present article was to evaluate the environmental performance of the preparation step of the most representative methods of beverage preparation.
The principles of the life cycle assessment (LCA) were applied to evaluate the environmental efficiency of the beverage preparation stage for the following methods: the traditional espresso, the French Press, the AeroPress, filtered coffee systems in coffee shops, the homemade filtration, and single-serve automatic machines. The boundaries of the study included the agricultural stage, the industrial roasting/grinding, and the beverage preparation up to final disposal of waste. Data were collected from 40 establishments among coffee shops, bakeries, and homes, with 153 individual data. The environmental efficiency was measured regarding energy, water consumption, waste generation, and the environmental impacts scores related to global warming, eutrophication, acidification, abiotic depletion, and human toxicity calculated by CML 2001 method.
Results and discussion
Individualized data of coffee roasting/grinding from the industrial process was provided. The preparation of a single-serve soft pod (paper sachet) using an automatic machine resulted in the lowest emission of 14.3 g of CO2 eq/50 mL of beverage in the monodose category, and also a non-biodegradable packaging waste to landfills about 11 times less than the single-serve plastic capsules with aluminum top seal, which had the highest consumption of energy, water, and waste generation in the single-serve category. In the category of consumption outside the home, espresso coffee, produced under pressure and higher temperatures, had the greatest impact, mainly due to its concentration, and the energy demanded by the automatic machines.
The study identified that the concentration of coffee, as well as the ratio of packaging mass per volume of beverage prepared, has a significant effect on the calculated environmental impacts. The single-serve pods method using paper sachets can associate convenience with low environmental impact. The results obtained allow the consumer to include the environmental aspects in the choice of method for beverage preparation and also provide relevant information for public policy concerning residue generation.
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The authors are grateful to all the people who welcomed us in the cafes and bakeries visited and also to all consumers who agreed to participate in the survey. The authors would also like to thank Stephen Shaw for his careful review of the English.
Responsible editor: Shabbir Gheewala
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de Figueiredo Tavares, M.P., Mourad, A.L. Coffee beverage preparation by different methods from an environmental perspective. Int J Life Cycle Assess 25, 1356–1367 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01719-2
- Coffee beverage
- Coffee brewing technique
- Environmental impact
- Life cycle thinking