Food & Nutrition

Why haven’t coffee bags changed the world?

coffee bag

Published by Finn Hayden

I tried a variety of coffee bags recently, and enjoyed all of them. I'll admit though, it does feel a bit weird to use them, and I thought it would be interesting to explore why that is.

Coffee bags are confusing because, if you closed your eyes and did a blind taste test, most of us wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a coffee made from a coffee bag or a coffee made from a cafetière. Coffee bags also much faster to prepare compared to most other methods of making a coffee, they make less mess, and unlike instant coffee, they're made from 100% ground coffee that hasn't been freeze-dried or anything like that.

Despite all this, coffee bags aren't really catching on. I don't see them flying off the supermarket shelves, none of the coffee lovers I know are using them, and many companies who launched a range of coffee bags have since discontinued the range.

I think there are lots of things at play here. For starters, many of us don't drink coffee just because we like the taste of coffee. We also like the faffing around - the various tools and gadgets one can use to create the coffee, experimenting with pressures, temperatures, and sizes of grain. The end result almost seems irrelevant for many people. Coffee bags deprive us of all this faffing around.

On top of this, coffee bags are probably too quick to prepare. In our minds, instant coffee is in a different category to a normal coffee, so we're more accepting of how quick it is to make. We drink it understanding that it won't be as nice as a normal coffee, so we accept the speed in which it can be made. Coffee bags are problematic because they're quick and taste just like a coffee made from a cafetière. The human brain doesn't accept that both speed and great taste are possible - there must be a catch somewhere.

This isn't to say that I think coffee bags will never catch on - the world of coffee has been successfully challenged before by an idea which, on paper, seemed ridiculous. Nespresso told us that we needed to buy a machine and start putting pods into it, and they actually managed to make a lot of people put down the cafetières and start making coffee from pods. But that trend was bound to catch on, what with all the odd-looking machines and faffing around involved.

I think coffee bags will eventually catch on, in the same way that people eventually realised how brilliant air fryers and coffee pods are. My suggestion to coffee bag companies is to try and make the coffee bags a bit more of a faff to use - maybe there could be some kind of process where we need to put the coffee into the bag, tie it up, and then brew it? Maybe then we'd believe how brilliant they are?

On a sidenote, this is why I believe that loose leaf tea will eventually overtake the tea bag. Anything which allows people to waste a bit more time near the kettle (or, for the sophisticated, Quooker) is bound to catch on eventually.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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