Is Organic Coffee Shade Grown?

One of our readers recently asked, is organic coffee shade grown? Here is the short answer. More often than not shade grown coffee is organic but organic coffee does not need to be grown in the shade. Read on for more info about healthy organic coffee and shade grown coffee.

Healthy organic coffee has been around for a long, long time. Unfortunately in the modern era the use of pesticides and herbicides has entered the picture in growing many crops, including otherwise healthy organic coffee. Although non-organic contaminants do not necessarily reduce the beneficial health effects of a healthy cup of organic coffee the non-organic contaminants cause problems of their own.

A study in Australia showed that as many as 133 unwanted contaminants can be found in regular coffee. If you want to avoid unnecessary chemicals in your coffee, look for organic coffee certification when you buy.

Just what is organic coffee certification and how does organic coffee certification insure the bona fid cup of organic coffee? Organic coffee differs from regular coffee in several aspects. The soil in which organic coffee is grown must have been verified as free from prohibited substances for at least three years. In addition there must be distinct boundaries between land on which organic coffee is grown and land where pesticides, herbicides, and prohibited chemical fertilizers are used. This guarantees that drift of substances sprayed or otherwise applied on adjacent land will not contaminate the organic plot of land. Organic coffee certification includes the adherence to a specific and verifiable plan for all practices and procedures from planting to crop maintenance, to harvest, de-husking, bagging, transport, roasting, packaging, and final transport.

Organic coffee certification does not require that coffee is grown in the shade but shade grown coffee is more often organic than not. Growing coffee in the shade is going back to how coffee grows in the wild.

Growing organic coffee in the shade is done by two methods. One is to partially clear forest and plant coffee. The other is to plant trees among the coffee in order to provide shade. When fruit trees are used the coffee grower enjoys two crops on the same land. He grows healthy organic coffee and crops such as plantain as well.

When the coffee grower simply plants coffee in among the trees of a mountainside forest it is unlikely that any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides will be involved. This is the natural way to grow organic coffee. This coffee may or may not be certified but it is indeed organic and the method of growing it is the pinnacle of sustainable coffee production. And when the farmer grows coffee in this way it is also good for other aspects of the habitat as noted in our article about coffee for the birds.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a Bird Friendly Coffee page on their web site.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has developed the only 100% organic and shade-grown coffee certification available: Bird Friendly.

That’s right-no other bag guarantees that every bean is produced organically and under high-quality shade. Our seal of approval ensures tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds find a healthy haven when they travel from your backyard to those faraway farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.

The point is that USDA certified and other certifications do not guarantee that the forest habitat was preserved while the Bird Friendly Coffee certification does.

In short, shade grown coffee is typically organic and good for the environment but you can also get organic coffee that is grown interspersed with other food crops such as plantain or banana but not totally shade grown.

The Best Organic Coffee is Shade Grown with the Birds

The Best Organic Coffee Provides Bird Habitat

Why Are There Elephants in the Coffee?

As coffee farmers in India open new land to raise their crops they move into areas inhabited by native wildlife. In the case of India one of those wildlife critters is the Indian elephant!  India is the 7th leading coffee producer after Honduras and before Uganda. It exports nearly 6 million bags (60 kg each) each year compared to 43 million for Brazil, 27 million for Vietnam and 13 million for Colombia. A problem that the top three producers do not have is wild elephants roaming into the coffee plantation! WTOP News notes the issue of your coffee habit and elephant habitat.

Tom Grant, a journalism professor at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and director of the documentary “Elephants in the Coffee,” said in the last 30 years, India’s coffee industry has doubled. As a result, coffee plantations have taken over the natural habitats of many animals, including elephants.

“We were seeing more and more elephants forced into captivity, forced into chains, as one solution to try to keep them away from harming people or harming crops in these coffee plantations,” said Grant, who first became aware of the issue on a trip to Southern India in 2012.

Conflict between agriculture and wildlife is not new or unique to India. Elephants see coffee plantations as forests – they find water, shade and food there, Grant said. They also find fear.

If elephants become a problem for coffee growers the elephants are scared off and sometimes captured. They are huge animals and they scare people. Likewise the elephants become frightened and then become aggressive. About 300 people a year are killed by elephants in India.

Major coffee companies such as Starbucks and Tata have instituted practices on their farms that move toward coexistence. Their workers monitor elephants and move around them as they come through the plantations.

“When the elephants are in one sector, they warn all the workers through text messages, and then move the workers to another area,” Grant said.

The problem is that coffee farmers and elephants are competing for the same habitat as coffee growing is forced into smaller areas due to climate changes and related coffee infestations such as coffee leaf rust. We wrote about how climate change has driven coffee production to high elevations.

In the coffee growing region of Colombia they grow varieties like Caturra at lower altitudes around 3,000 to 5,000 while Arabica grows best in the 5,000 feet and above range. Part of this is because of coffee leaf rust which thrives at lower altitudes. As temperatures have risen on the mountainsides of Colombia, Arabica is being planted higher and higher while left rust resistant Caturra replaces it in the low and middle altitudes. This problem is not limited to Colombia as climate change drives coffee farmers to higher elevations.

The problem when it heats up is that it also can get very dry and the combination of heat and drought in an area like Ethiopia which has an arid climate anyway can be devastating. Coffee farmers will keep moving up the slopes so long as there is room to plant and the necessary water.

The other issue is that coffee leaf rust is more prevalent at lower altitudes.

Is Organic Decaf Coffee Bad for You?

One of our readers is concerned about making decaf from organic coffee. Is organic coffee bad for you and does it degrade the coffee to remove the caffeine? Years ago we wrote about decaf coffee risks.

The concern today with a decaf coffee risk is that decaf coffee contains greater amounts of two substances which are known to elevate cholesterol. Although kahweol and cafestol are both removed by coffee filters, not everyone uses a paper filter when brewing coffee. (Think French Press.) The two substances, kahweol and cafestol, are diterpenes, and they have been found to raise low density cholesterol and triglycerides by as much as twenty percent. The flip side of this concern is that the two substances also seem to have anti-cancer properties. Considering that coffee consumption is known to reduce the risk of liver, prostate, colon, and endometrial cancer, it cannot be all bad. So, is there decaf coffee risk with higher cholesterol levels? There is no long term risk that we know of for increased heart disease with regular or decaf coffee.

Kahweol and Cafestol

These are two virtually identical chemical substances. writes about Cafestol and Kahweol.

The concentration of these two compounds depend on the type of coffee; arabica beans contain both cafestol and kahweol, whereas robusta beans contain half as much cafestol and hardly any kahweol. In arabica beans they may be present in up to 1% of the total volume of the beans.

Cafestol raises serum cholesterol more potently than kahweol does. A mixture of cafestol (60 mg/day) and kahweol (51 mg/day) increased serum cholesterol only slightly more than pure cafestol (64 mg/day) did. Results with pure kahweol are not available due to difficulties with purification and stability of this diterpene.

Because these substances stick to paper filters they occur in lower concentrations in filtered coffee. Both paper filters and cloth filters remove significant amounts of both chemicals. And both of these substances also have anti-cancer properties as well and considering that drinking coffee reduces the incidence of various cancers perhaps having a little Cafestol or Kahweol in your coffee is not all bad.

Other Problems with Decaf Coffee

Positive Wellness lists a whole host of negative effects of decaf coffee. One of them is the residual chemicals from common decaffeination processes.

The most common method for decaffeinating the coffee beans uses chemical solvents that may leave a residue on the coffee seeds. Soaking the coffee seeds in several chemical solvents such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate for about 10 hours may be the reason for this.  The beans are steamed again to remove most of the solvents. Be known that the FDA allows residues of these solvents to remain on the decaf coffee beans even after roasting.

Read the article for more info but remember that the reason you are drinking healthy organic coffee is to avoid all of those unwelcome chemicals that can be found in regular coffee. If you do want decaf remember that decaf is not caffeine free. Drink five cups of decaf coffee and you will get about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of regular java. And if you are really concerned about your cholesterol you might consider Robusta or simply use a filter when you make your coffee!

What Is the Most Expensive Coffee in the US?

Some folks are willing to pay a premium for unique coffees. That person is a coffee gourmet.

Are you a coffee gourmet? If so you probably like healthy organic coffee. Are you familiar with Panama mountain grown organic coffee or Colombian organic coffee brands? Do you prefer coffee house coffee on the way to work? If you are a coffee gourmet you have refined tastes for coffee and a passion for higher end varieties of the beverage. You probably insist on Arabica coffees and avoid Robusta at all costs. And, if you aspire to be a coffee gourmet what is the best way to proceed?

Or do you prefer gesha coffee?

Gesha coffee is a gourmet variety grown in the highlands of Chiriquí Province in the west of Panama, the last Central American country before you get to Colombia (South America). Once part of Gran Colombia, the Panama has a climate along its mountainous spine similar to the much larger Eje Cafetero in Colombia. It is in the coffee growing region of Panama near the town of Boquete that planters grew a leaf rust resistant Ethiopian coffee variety. Gesha gets its name from the Ethiopian village where it was first found. Planters tried Gesha in the 1950s but it was when the variety was resurrected in the early 2000s that its quality was first noted. Today Gesha coffee sells for as much as $35,000 for a 100 pound bag at auction! Considering that standard green coffee sells for a couple of dollars a pound, the Gesha coffee variety is in the stratosphere.

A true coffee gourmet is willing to pay a lot for a special coffee. We wrote recently about third wave coffee as a phenomenon. But the most expensive coffee in the US is really from Panama. CNBC writes about $350 a pound coffee, gesha!

One brew is for fanatics only: an $18 cup of coffee at the Extraction Lab by Alpha Dominche in Brooklyn, N.Y., as seen on an upcoming episode of CNBC’s “Secret Lives of the Super Rich.”

The beans are a high-end variety called “gesha” beans, which come from Ninety Plus Gesha Estates in Panama and allegedly have a lighter, “more tea-like” taste than other blends, Eater reports. It goes for as much as $350 a pound, and is the most expensive coffee in America, according to “Secret Lives of the Super Rich.”

Because folks are drinking a cup of coffee and not buying a pound or more of gesha coffee beans at auction the price is high but affordable. More affordable is to go to the El Rey supermarket on Via España in the capital city of Panama and buy a half pound bag of gesha coffee, not at auction, for around $14! There are several growers in Panama who produce gesha coffee and you don’t need to bid in the hundreds of dollars go enjoy the coffee. You do, however, want to drink this coffee black. That is because too much milk, creamer or sugar will overpower the unique taste. You also want lightly roasted beans to preserve the natural flavor.

Is Coffee Healthy for You or Not?

Despite repeated scientific studies showing the benefits of drinking coffee a lawsuit is moving forward in California claiming that coffee causes cancer. We just wrote an article, Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

The lawsuit hinges on whether or not the chemical acrylamide which is produced when coffee is roasted causes cancer in coffee drinkers. But it gets a little more complicated because of the law in California which maintains a list of chemicals that have caused cancer when given, sometimes in huge amounts, to laboratory animals. And if a chemical is on the list it should not be given to humans. The problem here is that when something is given in 10,000 fold higher amounts to a lab rat and causes cancer there needs to be some human evidence that the amounts that humans are exposed to really cause cancer. In addition the half-life of acrylamide in the human body is about two hours. That means every two hours after ingestion your body reduces the amount in your system by half. It does not hang around very long.

As we mentioned in the article, The American Cancer Society explains how scientists combine lab evidence with animals and studies of large human populations to gain insight into issues such as whether or not coffee causes cancer. The bottom line with coffee according to the scientists is that there is no clear proof for or against in the cases of cancer of the kidney, endometrium or ovary. But if chemicals in coffee cause cancer in lab animals how do we know it is doing so in people. After all the bottom line for whether coffee is healthy or you or not comes down to not only incidence of disease but life expectancy. In other words can you live longer by drinking coffee?

Drink Coffee and Live Longer

CNN just published an article asking, is coffee healthy and quote yet another study showing longer life with coffee.

In a new observational study involving close to 20,000 individuals, people who consumed at least four cups of coffee daily had a 64% lower risk of early death compared to those never or rarely consumed coffee.

The study was published in the journal of the European Society of Cardiology and reported by Science News. It says that higher coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of early death.

Higher coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of death, according to research presented today at ESC Congress. The observational study in nearly 20,000 participants suggests that coffee can be part of a healthy diet in healthy people.

In addition the benefit of longer life in coffee drinkers goes up with higher consumption and is especially strong in people aged 45 and more. The underlying assumption is that the antioxidants in coffee reduce inflammation which contributes to many disease of aging.

Scientifically an antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the cell damage and cell death in human cells caused by oxidative breakdown of other molecule in the cell. Oxidation is a factor in sickness and aging. Antioxidants help prevent the damage caused by excessive oxidation and to a degree inhibit the aging process. When an oxidative reaction brought on by disease gets going it produces free radicals that start chain reactions which in turn cause cell and tissue damage. The human body has or uses antioxidants to control this situation. Natural means of controlling oxidation include vitamins C and E as well as glutathione. It is low levels of antioxidants that can lead to a condition referred to as oxidative stress and resultant damage to cells in the body. Organic coffee antioxidants are in the same class of molecules that help reduce oxidation.

Is coffee healthy for you? The clean answer is, yes it is.

Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

Newsweek reports that California is going to add warning labels to coffee out of fear that coffee causes cancer. What is this all about? First what does Newsweek say?

A lawsuit filed by the organization in 2010 resumed earlier this week, the Associated Press reports. Its chief complaint is that retailers such as Starbucks, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s violated the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65, according to court papers.

The plaintiff argues that these companies knowingly violated the health code, which states, “No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual.”

The lawsuit hinges on whether or not the chemical acrylamide which is produced when coffee is roasted causes cancer in coffee drinkers. But it gets a little more complicated because of the law in California which maintains a list of chemicals that have caused cancer when given, sometimes in huge amounts, to laboratory animals. And if a chemical is on the list it should not be given to humans. The problem here is that when something is given in 10,000 fold higher amounts to a lab rat and causes cancer there needs to be some human evidence that the amounts that humans are exposed to really cause cancer. In addition the half-life of acrylamide in the human body is about two hours. That means every two hours after ingestion your body reduces the amount in your system by half. It does not hang around very long.

What Is Acrylamide and How Does It Get Into Coffee?

The American Cancer Society web site discusses acrylamide.

Acrylamide is a chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes, such as in making paper, dyes, and plastics, and in treating drinking water and wastewater. There are small amounts in some consumer products, such as caulk, food packaging, and some adhesives. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.

Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.

Foods that may contain acrylamide include potato products, grain products, or coffee. French fries and potato chips have the highest levels. When coffee is roasted acrylamide is formed and higher temperatures and longer roasting produce more of this chemical. The site discusses how scientists determine if a food substance causes cancer by first testing it on lab animals and then looking at human populations to see if folks who consume that food or drink have higher levels of cancer.

The only types of cancer where there may be a problem are cancers of the kidney, endometrium and ovary and those results are mixed. For example in 2011 we published a report of reduced endometrial cancer in coffee drinkers.

Researchers have noted a reduced endometrial cancer incidence in coffee drinkers. Data from the Harvard School of Public Health Nurses’ Health Study indicates that high coffee consumption is related to a twenty-five percent lower incidence of cancer of the lining of the uterus, endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is the most common type of cancer of the uterus.

What to Do?

The EPA regulates the acceptable level of acrylamide in water from industrial exposure. It may turn out that some government agency will regulate the acceptable level of acrylamide in coffee. In the meantime please realize that the Council for Education and Research on Toxics appears to be a front for the law firm pursuing the suit in California. A somewhat cynical web page put up by another lawyer is instructive. It appears that the only purpose of the “Council” is to lend legitimacy to the law suit. If the plaintiffs win they will want “$2,500 per exposed person each day” as damages. That is a lot of money for alleged damages from a drink that has been shown to prolong life, reduce the risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, various forms of cancer, etc.

Could You Really Die from Death Wish Coffee?

A couple of years ago Death Wish coffee became a household name due to an ad run during the Superbowl. The name Death Wish has to do with its high caffeine content.

If you watched Super Bowl 50 you may have seen the commercial for Death Wish Coffee. Vikings rowing a long boat on a stormy sea that turns out to be Death Wish Coffee!

Death Wish coffee contains both Robusta and Arabica coffee beans. The increased caffeine content comes from the Robusta while Arabica provides the flavor, similar to Italian espressos. But could you really die from Death Wish Coffee? You could if the canned coffee contained botulism toxin! Eater reports a lethal botulism risk in one of the Death Wish coffees.

Death Wish Coffee, a brew that claims to be the “world’s strongest coffee,” has announced a wide recall of its cold brew coffee cans.

According to the FDA, all 11-ounce nitro cold brew cans of Death Wish were processed in a way that “could lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin, botulin.”

Botulin, which grows in low oxygen and low acid environments, causes botulism in humans. The often fatal form of food poisoning can, according to the FDA, cause “general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing… [and] difficulty breathing.” Authorities advise anyone experiencing these symptoms seek medical care.

No deaths or illnesses have occurred from drinking Death Wish canned nitro cold brew but the process by which the coffee was made could allow a common spore that causes botulism to survive in the cans and create a lethal toxin. The company says that it has ceased production until manufacturing can be updated to preclude botulism as a contaminant of their coffee.


Is botulism something that you can get from drinking coffee? A spore called clostridium botulinum is common in the soil and in water. When it grows in a low oxygen environment, such as in canned meats and vegetables or coffee, it secretes a lethal toxin. The botulinum toxin causes muscle paralysis which may be limited to weakness, blurred vision and trouble speaking but can in higher amounts cause respiratory paralysis and death. The reason that canned meats and vegetables are taken to a high temperature before being sealed in a can is to kill the botulism and other spores and germs. The acidity in canned fruits tends to inhibit the growth of the botulism germ and even kill it. Unfortunately coffee is not sufficiently acidic so canned coffee could contain botulism if not heated to a high enough temperature for long enough before being sealed in a can. Killing the spore requires heating in a pressure cooker environment to 120 degrees Celsius or 248 degrees Fahrenheit which is well above the boiling temperature unless in a high pressure container. Killing the toxin is accomplished by boiling at normal pressure for ten minutes. That is the part that Death Wish Coffee needs to add to its manufacturing routine.

Although there could be botulism spores in your coffee they won’t be producing toxin. The issue has to do with putting coffee, meats or vegetable in cans for storage, not with grinding coffee beans and making a cup of coffee.

When Starbucks Invades Italy

American GI’s learned about coffee house coffee when many were stationed in Europe after World War II. Many Americans back home learned about coffee house coffee from Starbucks. Now a clash of business cultures is looming as Starbucks invades Italy. Reuters writes about coffee rivals in Italy are gearing up for the Starbucks invasion.

Two of Italy’s biggest coffee houses are reinforcing their brands with flagship cafes in Milan near the spot where U.S. rival Starbucks (SBUX.O) is set to begin an invasion next year.

Lavazza opens its first flagship cafe in the coffee-obsessed city on Tuesday, not far from the renovated 19th century palazzo where Starbucks will open its first Italian store, a ‘Reserve Roasteries’ outlet offering speciality blends and fine food.

Another top Italian brand, illycaffe, opened its own luxury cafe close to the Starbucks site in May, in a cosy courtyard in Milan’s most fashionable street. Lavazza, which is opening near the city’s famous La Scala opera house, and illycaffe both deny their moves are a response to a global rival’s impending arrival, a first step in what may become a 200-store expansion.

Starbucks has grown to a global presence by recognizing what many Europeans already knew. People will pay a premium for good coffee, good service and convenience. In fact Starbucks chief executive calls Italy the home of perfect espresso and the inspiration for the Starbucks brand. The game plan is to start with a store in Milan to be followed by 200 more around the country as indicated by success with first efforts.  How is the Starbucks invasion going to work out?

Price Is Important

Starbucks makes money on premium coffees by charging what the market will bear. However, in Italy an espresso typically sells for one euro or a dollar twenty US. Starbucks charges $1.75 for a basic espresso. Will Starbucks compete on price or on name, location and range of offerings?

Basic Coffee House Coffee and More

Basic coffee house coffee includes these items and they all start with espresso.


Americano is a coffee house coffee made from espresso and diluted with water. This goes back to the World War II era and after when GI’s who were used to Mom’s home perked or boiled coffee asked the barista to add water to their espresso to make it less strong. Think “weak espresso.”

Breve and Latte

Both of these are made with espresso and foam. Latte is made with steamed milk and breve is made with half and half. For latte think “coffee with milk” or café au lait and for breve think “coffee with milk and cream.”


Cappuccino is made with espresso plus hot milk plus lots of steamed foam.


Mocha is for coffee and chocolate lovers. It is made with espresso plus chocolate syrup plus milk.

How do these compare with the Starbucks menu of coffees and other drinks? Listed on the Starbucks web site there are 30 espresso-based coffee house coffees starting with Americano, latte, mocha and cappuccino. Then the list goes on to caramel macchiato, cinnamon dolce latter, plain espresso, espresso con panna, espresso macchiato and flat white. Then the basics come as iced coffee plus iced pumpkin spice chai latte, iced salted caramel mocha and more until it ends with vanilla latte and white chocolate mocha. If the Starbucks invasion of Italy succeeds it will be based on variety, service and convenience of locations not to mention adding tasty foods to the coffee menu. It will not work just based on price.

Organic Coffee for Flavia

Organic coffee lovers support sustainable coffee production as well. There are several agencies whose certification tells you that sustainable agriculture was used to make you coffee. One of the brands that offers sustainably produced organic coffee is Alterra. They make a single serve, Flavia Alterra, which can be had as organic. These folks have been in the coffee business for more than 20 years and started out as Colectivo Coffee Roasters. You can get their coffee though their chain of coffee shops or directly from the company and of course you can find this coffee on Their coffee is certified by Rainforest Alliance.

An alternative to organic coffee certification is for a grower to be Rainforest Alliance certified. The Rainforest Alliance is a non-governmental organization that works to conserve biodiversity. It does so for agricultural products by influencing consumers to buy what is good for the environment and good for small farmers. Rainforest Alliance certified means that the coffee that you buy was produced using good land use practices. Rainforest Alliance certified coffee is part of a broader sustainable agriculture program of  tropical crops, including coffee, bananas, cocoa, oranges, cut flowers, ferns, and tea. Certified coffee farms meet a strict set of environmental standards that include preservation of the ecosystem and reduction in use of synthetic chemicals of all sorts.

The advantage for growers who are Rainforest Alliance certified as opposed to USDA certified is that Rainforest Alliance works to help growers sell their coffee at a price consistent with the work done to produce organic coffee.

Alterra Coffees

Coffee Distributing Company has a page of Flavia Alterra Sustainability and an excellent listing of their coffees.

The Rainforest Alliance is an independent non-profit which works to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable lifestyles by transforming business and land-use practices, as well as consumer behavior. Nine ALTERRA Coffee Roasters™ coffees and three The Bright Tea Company™ teas carry the Rainforest Alliance seal, sourcing over 30% of packet contents from certified sustainably-managed farms. Barista’s Blend contains 100% Rainforest Alliance certified coffee.

This company is now owned by Mars, the candy people. Their sustainability brochure provides specifics about their coffees and how much content comes from sustainable coffee production.

We’re on a path to creating a sustainable business and, because you also care about your business, we want to support you to be sustainable too. We’re supporting you by making our products as responsible as possible. We have made some great progress so far on our sustainability journey and we want to continue this with our 5 milestones.

A big part of their sustainability plan to a goal to eventually make sure that zero percent of their products including packaging end up in landfills. This especially important for single serve coffee.

Last year we questioned if organic coffee in a K-cup made sense.

Billions of K cups go into landfills each year. If part of the reason you drink organic coffee is that you want to protect the environment then even organic coffee in a Keurig K cup is a problem. But there was a solution. Keurig also made refillable K cups under the brand, My K Cup. You could also refill these with any coffee of your choice, which would commonly be cheaper than the coffee from Keurig.

Thanks to Mars and Alterra for aiming at zero land fill content in their product.

Fresh Ground Coffee for Backpacking

What if you are an outdoors enthusiast and also a lover of healthy organic coffee? The last time you went backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, walked the Pacific Crest Trail or walked around the high country almost anywhere how was your coffee? The odds are that you brought instant coffee and tried to forget how good it would have been to drink freshly ground organic coffee from Colombia. There are several problems with getting good coffee on the trail at high altitude and the first has to do with weight. Backpackers know that every ounce they pack in they either need to consume or pack out. And where can you plug in your coffee grinder on 12,000 foot Bears Ears Pass in the Wind River Range of Wyoming? Here are a couple of solutions starting with a light weight portable electric coffee grinder.

Grinding Beans on the Trail

Digital Trends has an article about how not to camp with bad coffee again.

For campers, it is all about that morning ritual after spending the night in a tent. Upon waking up to the early morning sun, nothing cuts through the brisk air better than a fresh cup of coffee. Rather than using stale grounds or instant coffee, the portable Lume coffee grinder provides the freshest grounds for a better morning. At just 22 ounces, Lume is the lightest auto-grinder available on the market. It’s roughly the size of a water bottle.

This portable coffee grinder comes with LED lights and a battery capable of providing twenty hours of light at night or ground coffee for 50 cups. While there are plenty of manual grinders for the trail this high tech machine is said to provide a more even grind. The early bird price is $59 but be prepared to pay $119 later on. Joyride Coffee provides a review of manual coffee grinders for backpack brew. They have two suggestions for manual grinders.

If you just have to have a hand grinder out on the trail, there are two that fit the bill. The first is the Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder, which actually boasts a ceramic conical burr and yields a surprisingly consistent grind. Another option, marketed specifically as a camping grinder, is the GSI Outdoors JavaGRIND Coffee Grinder. While I have not used it myself, it has a worryingly low Amazon rating, due to poor build quality and consistency.

Both of these grinders weigh 11.2 oz.

That is half the weight of the battery driven device and you will still have power on an extended trip in the high country. A drawback to coffee grinders on the trail is that you don’t want to get them wet.

Iodinated Organic Coffee

If you are hiking into Cirque of the Towers to climb Texas Tower be aware that the entire valley has giardia lamblia in the water so you need to treat the water you are drinking. To save fuel you will probably treat with iodine and put up with the taste. Because you probably don’t want to taste iodine in your freshly ground Colombian Arabica coffee just boil your water for coffee for three minutes and that will kill any giardia even if you are camping at 10,000 feet and the boiling point of water is 193 degrees Fahrenheit. The Spruce has a table of boiling points by altitude.