As someone who often makes a cup of instant coffee out of sheer busyness laziness, this news piqued my interest: Steeped, a Santa Cruz, CA-based startup, has launched a coffee brewing method that combines the speed of an instant brew with the quality of a high-end, single-serve cup o’ joe.

At least, what’s what Steeped claims. Yesterday, the company announced via press release the nationwide launch of its Steeped Coffee Method. The patented system looks like a tea bag, right down to the little tag on the end of the string. As with tea, you let the bag steep in hot water about five minutes to get the recommended strength and flavor. (It’s also not unlike the French press method in this regard.) After a few minutes, voila — you’ve got a high-quality cup of coffee.

The bags are filled with specialty coffee that’s then nitro-sealed, which enables a longer shelf life, provided you don’t open a bag up and leave it out. The product line includes five different brews: light, medium, and dark roast, as well as French roast and decaf.

“Premium coffee roasters have shied away from offering their specialty beans in single-serve packaging because it’s been nearly impossible to keep ground coffee fresh, which quickly ruins the taste,” company founder Josh Wilbur said in the press release. “With our Nitro Sealed bags, oxygen is replaced with nitrogen, so the coffee stays fresh as if it was ground moments ago.”

So it’s kind of like Keurig in a bag, right?

Well, yes and no. In terms of general purpose, Steeped Coffee and Keurig have a lot of similarities: They’re both single-serving coffees, take almost no time to make, and can last on your pantry shelf for a long, long time. But K-Cups are almost impossible to recycle, and so bad for the environment that even their creator regrets ever making them. There’s also the matter of K-Cups requiring a clunky countertop machine, which is also not recyclable when it breaks and needs replacing.

By contrast, all you need to make a cup of Steeped coffee is some hot water. In fact, Wilbur spent seven years trying to find a way to replicate K-Cups’ taste and convenience without wasting 10 billion single-serving pods in the process. Finding a way to avoid that level of waste was one of the key motivators behind starting the company. To that end, Steeped bags are made of plant-based renewable, compostable material. Because of the way they’re sealed, there are no glue, staples, or wax involved. All coffee is ethically sourced, as well.

Right now you can purchase Steeped via the company’s website as a one-time buy or as a subscription service. For the latter, you select the amount of coffee you want and the frequency with which you’d like it delivered. A 10-pack box will cost $14, and a 30-pack goes for $30.

As at-home coffee goes, that’s a tad steep (please kill me for that) compared to a $3 jar of Publix instant coffee. A 30-pack of K-Cups on Amazon, meanwhile, is just under $22 for a one-time purchase and $20 for a subscription; the price goes up when it includes pods from bigger-name brands like Starbucks and Dunkin’.

Here at The Spoon, we’ve yet to try Steeped’s coffee bags (we will let you know as soon as we do), so the jury is still out on whether Steeped can deliver both a comparable price point and good-tasting coffee. Keurig, Nespresso, and other pod coffees won’t win a competition in the taste department, but there are plenty of single-serve pour-over bags that might, so Steeped has some competition in that department.

The convenience factor will be the real key, though. Like it or not, most of us, yours truly included, will often sacrifice quality and the health of the planet to get our consumable goods faster. If Steeped has found a way to deliver fast coffee without the burden of 10 billion plastic pods, I’m on board.

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.

3 COMMENTS

  1. But what is their single-serve package made out of? It looks like plastic packaging. Wouldn’t it be better to package the coffee loose, in a kraft-paper style bag, along with a metal tea-ball that could be reused forever? That would be sustainable and relatively zero waste.

    • From the article: “To that end, Steeped bags are made of plant-based renewable, compostable material. Because of the way they’re sealed, there are no glue, staples, or wax involved.”

  2. Right, I read that too. However, unless compostable bags are composted at home, for the majority of consumers they go into the landfill as most municipalities have not set up a composting infrastructure yet.

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