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Michael Bettencourt

Keurig Thinking

The other day I came up with what I thought was a clever term: Keurigization.

Seems I was late to the game.

There’s a great discussion of the term on MetaFilter called “Measuring Out My Life in K-Cups” (a nod to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”) and a site dedicated to the death of the K-Cup (www., where they have a killer video – literally – where the 9 billion K-Cups thrown into landfills come back for vengeance.

John Sylvan, the inventor of the Keurig coffee machine (the name comes from the Dutch for “excellence”), does not use the machine and has been quoted as saying, “They're kind of expensive to use – plus, it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”

There’s a good online 2015 article in The Atlantic that takes apart some of the high dudgeon over the device, noting that the Keurig does solve breakroom conflicts about clean-up and coffee-making responsibilities and, from some angles, is a more efficient coffee delivery system (i.e., has a smaller environmental footprint) than Bunn coffee makers or the French press.

Of course, this being the United States under its 21st-century capitalist overlords, Keurigization has leaked into other product lines, such as oatmeal (Nature Valley Bistro cups), wine (Kuvée), tortillas (Flatev), cookies (Chip Smart Cookie Oven), and beer (Pico Home Brew Beer), all of which use the pod technology and are based on the notion that our lives are too [fill in the adjective] to do such simple things as boil water to pour over instant oatmeal or roll out and bake your own damn tortillas.

While arguments about convenience and carbon footprints are interesting, to me they miss this last point about the workings of capitalism, a system which slices reality into finer and finer segments to make products for those segments and extract the profits that come from that segmentation. This is how capitalism works best: divide us, conquer us, laugh all the way to bank, repeat.

What a dull and graceless answer to the catechistic question of “What is the chief end of man?” (The catechism doesn’t offer much of an answer either – “to glorify God” – itself a dull and graceless answer to the suffering and anxiety of human life.)

On the other hand, perhaps it will be in the arguments over how best to brew a heady caffeine concoction that we can find reintegration as a community and a re-loving of the senses, where we can un-Keurig ourselves from the K-Cups of our political principles and moral beliefs and brew something human, affectionate and bracing that above all its other merits can be shared, savored, banked in the commons, repeated without end.

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Michael Bettencourt is a playwright and essayist.
He also writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
Visit his website at:
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check the Archives.

©2017 Michael Bettencourt
©2017 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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