Cars as Keurigs

Recently here in Minnesota it was Christmas, an annual holiday that for many involves paid time off and a stressfully misadvertised “gift swap.” There was also a Christmas Market in Downtown Minneapolis and it was nice. It should be repeated next year with some minor changes based on suggestions generated by the community the first time around and boy howdy did you guys see all those tens of thousands of suburbanites and outstaters walking around, looking at reindeer and paying downtown sales taxes? Exactly.

If you do celebrate Christmas, I think it’s safe to say you probably received a Keurig® coffee brewing system. A Keurig®, which generally retails for at least $100.00 USD + $19.99 USD for a Rutgers University decal, brews single serve cups of coffee and other hot beverages for consumption by on-the-go coffee and hot beverage consumers. It serves a purpose! Sometimes, one person in one place wants one modestly-sized cup of coffee one morning. Must be a crazy way to live, drinking one modestly-sized cup of coffee in one place one morning–it’s something I will never understand. The Keurig® takes little single serve plastic cartridges (K-Cups!) full of coffee grounds and a filter and pokes a hole in them and shoots hot water through that hole into your mug.

At one point this winter, during the time that I set aside each day to think of new analogies, it came to me that there was a totally undiscovered transportation/coffee analogy:

Regular coffee makers are to transit as Keurig® coffee brewing systems are to cars. Or, more professionally, regular coffee makers:transit::Keurig® coffee brewing systems:cars.


The bus could also be a train

In one corner, you’ve got this coffee maker that can make 12 cups of coffee at once from coffee grounds purchased in bulk and then heat it indefinitely. And a bus that can carry ~40 people at once along a route, and heat (or cool!) them indefinitely. In the other corner, you have a coffee maker that can make one (1) cup of coffee from an individual K-Cup. And a car that, generally, is used to carry one (1) person from Point A to Point B.

And sometimes, that’s what’s happening, right? Sometimes you’re just trying to have one cup of coffee, or you’re just one lady trying to get from Brooklyn Park to IKEA on a Sunday afternoon to buy a dresser, and it probably makes sense to not attempt that trip via mass transit or brew all 12 cups of coffee.

A lot of the time, though, the regular coffee maker/transit is the clear winner. Are you a dense, walkable transportation corridor with many trip generators, or an office of with fifty coffee drinkers? You may want the transit/regular coffee maker option! If all fifty people in the office had their own Keurig® coffee brewing system to brew a single cup of coffee every morning, that would be silly, and surely the office would quickly form an organized coffee club (transit system) or, bare minimum, some selfless employee (the FTA?) would just buy pounds of coffee periodically and make it and demand nothing in return.

Also, per trip/cup of coffee, the regular coffee maker/transit option is going to be cheaper and more environmentally-friendly, and it may encourage camaraderie and team building. In a vacuum assuming that you are the only person who exists, the car/Keurig® option will often be more convenient, but it’s also important to consider the long-term inconvenience of moving everyone in Bangladesh to higher ground/absurdity of regularly making four or five individual single-serve cups of coffee on one machine in one morning.

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27 Responses to Cars as Keurigs

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller January 8, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    I enjoyed this analogy.

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele January 8, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    No wonder I’ve always disliked Keurigs.

  3. Evan Roberts
    Evan January 8, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I also enjoyed this analogy, but I feel you could push it a lot further. The Keurig and its ilk are incredibly expensive ways to get single servings of [awful, execrable, but I digress] coffee, but they price it in such a way that the true costs are obscured to the user.

    Compared to nearly every other method of making coffee the environmental costs of the Keurig are also high (does this remind you of cars?).

    For further reading on this point

    There are plenty of decent ways to make coffee for a single person quickly starting with a French press which you can buy for $10 at Target, or a stovetop espresso maker (maybe $15), or a Vietnamese coffee filter which is actually the cheapest of the lot and makes a more American style weak coffee.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino January 8, 2015 at 10:44 am #

      French press = bike?

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele January 8, 2015 at 10:47 am #

        pourover = fixie

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell January 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

          Aeropress = practical Dutch city bike

          Nespresso = ??

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig January 8, 2015 at 11:06 am #

      Be careful how you push the analogy. One could make the counter argument that, since coffee typically = caffeine, and large amounts of caffeine are bad, you should go with the single serving (Keurig) over the regular coffee maker.

      Or, better yet, don’t drink coffee at all (i.e. don’t drive or transit). Drink tea (bike) or water (walk) instead…

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke January 8, 2015 at 11:38 am #

        i’ll make a kitchen counter argument…

        um, coffee grounds are like CO2, coffee is gasoline for people getting things done, oil fields = coffee plantations.

        coffee is older than oil, in terms of when it became wildly popular. (1600s vs. 1900s) but they both have saturated the planet, pretty much. people go to drive thru starbucks all the time. cars have lots of cupholders now but they didn’t in the 80s. starbucks is one of the last places to sell CDs which people only listen to in their cars now. both coffee and oil are black. beans have oil which is why coffee tastes good.

        which is cheaper by the gallon: coffee or oil? right now, oil, i’d bet. that’s weird because coffee doesn’t do as much work as oil does.

      • Nick Magrino
        Nick Magrino January 8, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

        I either drink 32 cups of coffee a day or no coffee for several weeks, I am currently restricted to tea.

  4. Monte Castleman January 8, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    Maybe you have a Keurig in your office, so it’s a lot less convenient and less private to go to the break-room, and find that you have to wait because no one has made it yet. Of course when I worked night shift for a while I was the only one that drank coffee so I’d make a pot, I guess the equivalent would be driving and empty bus to work.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino January 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

      Let me tell you: there is someone around here driving an empty bus by making a FULL POT at 11:30 AM and drinking one (1) cup

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele January 8, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

        That’s usually me. And then I’ll dump it out and make a full pot at 3 PM because the old pot has been simmering on a burner for 4 hours.

        • Matt Steele
          Matt Steele January 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

          Not sure how it extends the analogy, but I make a full pot of coffee even if I drink one cup because my office provides free coffee, but not free Keurigs.

          • aexx January 14, 2015 at 10:23 am #

            Just like saying you need to own a truck to tow or carry around stuff that happens approximately once a year.

            In both cases–coffee made your way and driving a monstrous, inefficient vehicle–you end up with a lot of waste.

  5. Joey Senkyr
    Joey Senkyr January 8, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Then, I suppose, the giant vat coffeemakers at church functions and the like are like trains. Overkill for a lot of situations, but better in every way than buses for certain situations.

    Also, I know I read just a couple days ago that the Holiday Market was universal disparaged, so I’m super confused by your first paragraph.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke January 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      for the record, Amtrak coffee is mediocre and costs $2

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell January 8, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

        You are being quite generous about Amtrak coffee.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke January 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

          everything tastes better on a train

          • Rachel Q January 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm #


  6. Jake Krohn January 8, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Quite profound. For the past several months, my thoughts about our current situation have been revolving around the question “Yes, we can do it, but is it necessary?” Somehow I feel like this analogy makes things very clear.

  7. Julie Kosbab January 8, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    You would be surprised at the number of competitors in the “one cup at a time!” brewer market for small businesses through enterprise environments, N:ck.

    Oddly, many of their positioning statements still work with your analogy, especially the ones about “freshness” and “uniqueness” and not having Bob’s stanky coffee polluting your brisk and refreshing hot tea, but they can be brewed with the SAME UNIT!!!!

  8. Dana DeMaster
    DanaD January 9, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    The analogy rests on the use of K-Cups, which are the extremely wasteful part of the Keurig. But, there are also reusable cups that can be filled with regular, bulk coffee. Is that sort of like Hour Car?

    An aside…there is a handmade sign near the coffee area at my place of employment that says brewing a pot of coffee at 3 pm and then only drinking one cup is wasteful (yes) and causes the price of the Koffee Klub dues to increase. I understand the wasteful bit, but fail to understand how it increases Koffee Klub dues whether the coffee is brewed at 3 pm or 11 am or how much of the coffee is drunk. Explain.

  9. Steve Gjerdingen January 10, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    We have a Keurig at my place of business. I tried it, first buying the cups individually, and then eventually scouting out some environmentally friendly ones on Amazon. I even did the whole reusable K-cup with grounds thing too, but it was a pain to wash out every time. Eventually, the cost just seemed too high from a time standpoint (re-usable cups) and a money standpoint (disposable ones.) Now, enough of my coworkers share a pot so that we don’t have to walk down several hallways to the official breakroom anymore where the tall vats are served. I guess in a way, you could say my organization is pretty multi-modal when it comes to coffee.

  10. Stuart January 10, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    When I read just the title from the home page, I assumed this would be about a new trend of installing portable Keurig machines in the dashboard of expensive luxury vehicles. I am both happy and sad that I was mistaken.

    Also, my office has one of those machines that takes whole bulk beans, and then grinds/brews individual cups. I assume that this is the coffee equivalent of personal rapid transit.

  11. Peter January 12, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    What if I brew a mug of cider in my personal Kuerig at home and then take it on the train with me?

  12. aexx January 14, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    I have to imagine that a Keurig in a work environment might also be considered a taxi/Uber/whatever: assuming many different tastes (locations you might be heading), it could be the most efficient method.

    Instead of, for instance, Abe brewing a dark roast, Janet brewing decaf (why?), and Zack steeping tea, potentially with different methods/machines, they could all do so on one machine (albeit, in fairly mediocre fashion). In the same way, you could utilize one car to meet multiple people’s transportation needs (at different times) without need multiple cars in a busy area, but expect it to be somewhat mediocre (my cabs and Ubers always seem to miss the highway exit I clearly tell them to get off on).


  1. Sunday Summary – January 11, 2015 | - January 11, 2015

    […] Cars as Keurigs explores or exploits the analogy between those convenient single serving coffee pods and single occupancy vehicles compared to transit and full pots of coffee. Commenters helpfully extend the analogy and consider the question of convenience, comparing coffee and oil as fuel, and more. Somewhat related, “People Like Their Cars” questions whether it is a love of cars which leads to car-only thinking or a lack of convenient alternatives that creates the love of cars.  Comments consider how to live car-free, how land use affects transportation choices, and the perception that transit is wonderful on vacation in Europe but curiously impossible back in the USA. […]

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