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Jed s coffee bags hero
24 October 2014

Opinion: Coffee bags - the pros and cons

In the back of beyond, any coffee is good coffee.

In the back of beyond, any coffee is good coffee.

I’ll get this out of the way first. I usually buy coffee beans in bulk from the local roaster. I grind them the day I use them and brew with either a manual espresso machine or some type of pour-over device. I enjoy the ritual and process of making good coffee as much as the drink itself. I’m not a coffee-snob, but I have high standards.

Last week I rode my bicycle through the back blocks of the North Island for four days. I relied on motel coffee-making facilities for my daily brew. I knew to expect the worst – cheap motels don’t tend to excel at coffee-making facilities. So on day one of the trip I visited New World in Taihape. Among the pods and bags of ground coffee I spotted Jed’s Bean Bags: ground coffee in a bag, individually packaged and needing just a jug and cup. At $6.99 for 10 bags they weren’t particularly cheap, but finding a convenient way to access half-decent coffee was the priority.

The bags come in five strengths: extra strong, very strong, strong, medium and smooth (I guess they wouldn’t sell many if they described them as weak). I chose the extra strong variety, hoping to avoid the bland middle-ground.

Each biodegradable bag containing eight grams of ground coffee was individually sealed in a hybrid foil/plastic pouch (not recyclable), with 10 of these held in a box the size of which could hold 50 tea bags. The packaging footprint leans heavily towards convenience. Do we really need this waste?

The Bean Bags certainly were convenient – no different to using a teabag. But how do they taste? Ripping open the pouch released the smell of ground coffee – an essential part of the experience. It wasn’t the rich smell of freshly ground boutique coffee, but it was ground coffee nevertheless. After following the instructions (squeeze-brew-squeeze), the resulting liquid smelt like coffee. It tasted like coffee too – not as strong as I’d expected from their strongest blend, and it had an unpleasantly rough bitter edge. It wasn’t great, but it was drinkable and on a par with making a cuppa with a plunger and supermarket grounds. I should have expected that. After all, this is just supermarket coffee re-packaged into a convenient bag.

So, would I use it again on a lightweight bike trip to the back of beyond? Probably yes – when convenience is top priority the Bean Bags are a good option. Would I choose to drink it at any other time? Definitely no – on taste alone it falls flat. Convenience is all well and good, but when I have time I don’t see why I’d settle for anything but a really good cup of coffee.

I’m off to grind, tamp and brew some locally roasted single origin Guatemalan beans…

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