Do you remember the Divx DVD players made popular by Circuit City about fifteen years ago, only to slowly die a painful death and ridiculed by all who looked back upon it? If you don’t remember it, here is how it worked. Instead of playing ordinary DVDs, the Divx player worked by playing a special kind of rental disc. The disc could only be played for forty-eight hours. If you wanted to watch the movie after that, you would have to pay a further rental fee. If you were not interested in paying again, you could just use the Divx DVD as a coaster — which many ended up becoming as their owners quickly realized that they did not want the burden of hooking up a DVD player to a phone line that had to be connected in order to watch a movie. If any of this sounds confusing or you are wondering what Circuit City is, don’t worry — it was an ill advised move by a company that saw big profits in the short run without considering the practical considerations of people physically owning discs that they couldn’t watch without paying over and over and over again.
It seems to be happening again in a way with the new line of Keurig coffee machines being developed. If you are somehow not familiar with Keurig machines, they take a disposable plastic pod that has coffee or tea in it and make exactly one serving of the coffee. It is extremely convenient for the end user and, naturally, makes for a landfill full of plastic and coffee that is at the moment improbable to recycle in any meaningful way. Other companies started making compatible coffee servings that work well in the Keurig machines — and some companies make a reusable pod that is made of metal and can be filled and refilled time and time again. This does not sit well with Keurig, which is now seeking to use Digital Rights Management in their new coffee machines.
What Digital Rights Management means for the coffee drinker at home is that if they own the new machines, they are obligated to use only one kind of disposable coffee pod — or the machine will not recognize it and will not make coffee or tea.
As much as I was opposed to Keurig for the quantity of landfill they were producing, I am so much more opposed to their machines now that they are trying to lock users into their brand of coffee. What if my local roaster makes a blend of coffee that I want to use in a reusable pod? I suppose it’s a bit academic to ask because I do not (and now, will never intentionally purchase) a Keurig machine and prefer to brew coffee in a pour over or french press way, releasing more flavor and not contributing to the landfill through a disposable product.
If you currently own a Keurig machine and enjoy how you can use a wide variety of coffee pods, be aware that Keurig is fighting back — and if your machine needs to be put out to pasture and you only have new models from which to choose, you may no longer have the luxury of this variety of pods. I would strongly advise looking into the exciting world of french press coffee makers, which fundamentally only involve boiling water and pouring it over the coffee grounds. French press makers traditionally do not even need a disposable filter — so you can make some nice addition to your garden while brewing yourself and friends a good cup of coffee!