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In terms of energy and resources use, the coffeemaker is probably the most interesting product in the group of 'small kitchen appliances'. Although, in the end, the legislator's intervention remained limited to inclusion of a paragraph in the Ecodesign's horizontal standby regulation, coffee machines are an interesting case to illustrate the many aspects of Ecodesign decision support.

Champion coffee drinkers

Europeans are large coffee drinkers, consuming 2.4 billion kilograms of coffee beans per year, representing over 31% of world coffee consumption. On average, 2.2 daily cups per capita (1 cup = 125ml, 6-7 g of coffee) are consumed, totalling 400 billion cups per year. Per average household this comes to 2000 cups per year and a daily consumption of 5.2 cups.

 

Regional differences in coffee drinking behaviour are large. Coffee consumption is high in Northern and Western Europe, except UK and Ireland, at on average 3-4 cups per capita per day (8 per household) of which a significant part is consumed at work, in bars and restaurants. In Southern Europe (2 cups/capita/day) and Eastern Europe (1.5 cups/capita/day) coffee consumption is significantly lower, but rising. Whereas in Western and Northern Europe coffee consumption is stable or even in a slight decline, Italian coffee consumption has been rising. For Eastern Europe there is anecdotal evidence that high-end coffeemakers are becoming a status symbol. And even in a tea-drinking nation like the UK, there are reports showing that sales of coffee makers have doubled between 2001 and 2007. 

The consumer expenditure related to domestic coffee making is estimated at around € 62 billion/year, i.e. € 310 per household per year. Costs related to the machine (3%), energy use (6%) and maintenance (1%) are negligible compared to coffee (including filters), which makes up for 90% of EU consumer coffee expenses.

The coffee machine market

Coffee machines, although their expense is negligible compared to that of the coffee, are still economically significant, constituting a market of € 2 billion in consumer prices. Market data in general is very poor for this sector, but it can be estimated that the market is around € 800 million in manufacturer selling prices. Employment in the trade, physical distribution and production is estimated to be significant. At the common ratios for wages against turnover, employment is in the order of 15-20 000 jobs, of which at least two-thirds is in the EU.

 

In 2012, around 70% of installed domestic coffee machines were drip filter machines, 20% were portioned filter machines and 10% were espresso machines. Unit sales are estimated around 20-22 million machines per year. On average the price of a drip filter machine was € 35, portioned filter machines cost about € 80 and espresso machines could be acquired for € 225. The latter is a weighted average of all types, portioned or not and excludes coffeepots directly heated by a hob.

Over the last decade, there has been a strong trend away from drip filter machines and towards portioned paper-filter pad and espresso capsule machines. The latter two are now believed to constitute more than 50% of the coffee machine market value. 

 

Within drip filter machines, standard machines with a glass jug make up 70% of the market, standard machines with a thermos account for 20% of the market and finally electronic drip filter machines have a market share of 10% (market data 2012). Portioned filter machines were introduced in 2002 and now have a 20% market share.

The market for espresso machines is divided between hard capsule machines with 51% market share (€ 156), semi-automatic machines with 30% market share (€ 103) and fully automatic machines with 19% market share (€ 595).

Environmental impact

Contrary to common belief in the press, the Ecodesign studies are not just about energy efficiency, but include the whole life-cycle and look at all environmental aspects. It just so happens, not surprisingly, that the energy consumption during the use of an Energy-using Product tends to dwarf all the other aspects and stages of product life.

Coffeemakers are the exception. Of course, for a 'small kitchen appliance' they are well-used and consume a non-negligible amount of electricity. A large portion of that electricity does not go into brewing the coffee, but into keeping the coffee hot once it is brewed, e.g. in a drip filter machine, or keeping the water storage hot so it is quick and easy to prepare another cup, e.g. in a portioned filter or espresso machine. A simple energy-saving solution for drip filter coffee machines is to buy one with a thermos jug instead of the classic glass jug.

The highest environmental impact comes from the fact that we throw away so much coffee. In particular with the drip filter machine, one-third of coffee is reportedly thrown away. On the one hand, there seems to be a fear to brew too little coffee and thus more coffee is made than needed. On the other hand, when the coffee is kept hot for more than 30-40 minutes on a plate, its taste deteriorates dramatically and even toxins are released. As a result, on average the last one-third of coffee in the jug is left over and thrown away.

A more intrusive solution, albeit one that more and more people seem to like, is to switch to portioned filter or capsule machines. They make one cup at a time, so it is always fresh and —provided that there are enough filter pads or capsules on stock— there is always enough.

 

So, how bad is it to throw away coffee? Coffee-plants are probably one of the most water-intensive crops in the world. One drop of coffee requires 1100 drops of rain or irrigation water. One cup of coffee, 7 g of roasted coffee beans, requires 140 litres of water. Europeans drink some 400 billion cups of coffee per year. This means 56 billion m³ of water, rainfall or irrigation, is used in other parts of the world for our coffee. For comparison: This is more than twice as much as all the sanitary water distributed to EU households through the public grid (27 bn m³). In the so-called 'water footprint' of the Netherlands, taking into account all water that is consumed directly and indirectly (from imports), coffee is prominently at the number one position.

The worst case in this respect, however, is where coffee plants are grown in areas where it is not raining all the time and farmers still want to grow coffee plants to increase their profit. This not only consumes water, but also causes large energy use of irrigation-pumps. This is so much so, that it dwarfs the not-indifferent transportation energy to get the coffee beans from the other parts of the world (South America, Indonesia, Africa, etc.) to Europe. Last but not least, the coffee beans take up more than their fair share of pesticides and fertilisers.

Support

VHK complemented the preparatory research with material resources aspects and technically assisted the European Commission in preparing various rating proposals for Ecodesign measures and/or Energy Labelling. Various impact scenarios were calculated.

 

In that regard, VHK had a modest role, but this is as far as we go. Political decision making is done by the European Commission in consultation with Member States, industry, NGOs and commerce. Apart from technical facts, political considerations regarding a possible EU intervention played a major role in the decision making for a product that is playing such a big part in people’s everyday life.

 

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