Book Review: Coffee for one by K J Fallon

coffee for one K J FallonWhile there has been growth and change in our coffee consumption out of the home in coffee shops as they have become staple features of the daily lives of many people across the globe, the patterns in coffee consumption at home has been changing too. One of the big changes over recent decades is a switch from consumers (both home and in offices etc) from instant coffee, or coffee brewed in bulk by machine to the single serve machine and the coffee pod.

‘While proliferation of specialty coffee was one of the factors that paved the way for the single-serve option, other events lay the groundwork for single serve’ (KJ Fallon, 2018,p. 19).

Coffee for one: how the new way to make your morning brew became the tempest in a coffee pod by K J Fallon explores the emergence and rise in popularity of the single serve coffee pod.

The book is divided into three sections. The first, ‘Crop to cup through the decades’ takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of coffee consumption, identifying some of the ‘revolutions’ that changed the coffee industry including, the Mr Coffee machine, the birth of the coffee house in the US, and the coffee bag, as well as some key points in coffee history and the coffee production process. The second, ‘Loving the single life?‘, moves on to the core focus of the book to explore how the single serve coffee pod options came to be, highlighting the key players (Keuring, Nespresso etc), influences that shaped the market, and how the K-cup came to dominate.

‘The Single serve represents not just a brewing sea change for the United States forty billion dollar industry, but also a lifestyle shift. No need for someone to have a pot of coffee for a family or group. Now you can make fresh-brewed coffee just for yourself, without engaging anyone in conversation and without even looking up from your iPhone‘ (KJ Fallon, 2018:p. 46). 

The third and final section ‘Coffee for one evolves’ considers some of the environmental issues associated with the coffee pod machines, coffee and health, and consideration of what might happen to single serve coffee and coffee brewing more generally in the future.

The book provides entertaining narrative about the history of coffee, and particularly the history of coffee in the home. Although the book may be very focused on the US market, there are likely to be synergies with consumption patterns that have taken place in other mature coffee consumption markets too. In the UK even some specialty coffee companies have been producing coffee pods including Colonna Coffee and Volcano Coffee Works, suggesting the UK too has a thriving coffee pod market. From my own research perspective I found the examples about efforts in sustainability (both environmental and social) from Oakland Coffee Works (started and owned by members of the band Green Day) and the Laughing Man Coffee Foundation (established by Hugh Jackman), interesting. The environmental impact of coffee pods is an important issue given the rapid rise in popularity of these single serve machines.

The single serve coffee machine has become an integral part of daily lives for many people and is an important part of global coffee history, and this book provides a good overview of how this coffee option came to be some prominent in the US.


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