When we think of coffee, we generally think of coffee grounds, coffee pots (sometimes instant coffee), and so on. When we think of tea, we think of tea bags and loose leaves. But you don’t usually think of coffee bags. (Well, many people do, but it was historically ridiculed).
When I set out to go digging around for coffee and different types, I started with the easy stuff like beans. But as you dig deeper, you invariably find yourself into things like brewing styles, equipment, espresso pulls, and very quickly, you realize that there is a lot more to coffee than pouring it out of a pot in the morning.
So, are there coffee bags like tea bags?
To my considerable surprise, yes! They are very new sort of thing; in the 1970s, it was attempted, but it never took off. In the last year or two though, they’ve slowly come back.
However, the big question now is: are they any good?
Coffee by the Pouch
So, what’s the deal here?
Teabags work by straining water through the bag (and through the tea leaves in the bag) and as you let the bag sit in the cup, it filters through and the water absorbs the tea leaf flavor. Coffee bags work pretty much the same way.
The bags are heat-sealed and made with gauze cloth, just like a teabag. Then you pour boiling water over the bag in your cup and let it infuse for three minutes. Stir, squeeze the bag, remove the bag, and voila: coffee.
There are several companies now coming out with these and they generally go for the usual coffee beans to make into their bags: Columbian, Arabica, and Robusta.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Coffee Bags?
There are several benefits and several drawbacks to this rather odd way of brewing our cup of coffee.
First, the advantages:
- A lot less waste. A coffee bag makes one cup of coffee. No wasted, old coffee in the pot, no use of pods, and a lot less water being used. You get one cup, you get one pouch, and you throw away (or I suppose recycle or compost) the bag after. Done.
- They are portable. It’s a lot easier to carry a coffee bag around than it is to carry a coffee pot. And there’s hot water everywhere.
- They’re quick. Once you have your boiling water, you wait three minutes, and you have coffee.
- They’re slowly growing more accessible. There are several companies that make them now.
But the disadvantages:
- Per cup, they are still more expensive than the humble coffee pot and grounds, unless you buy your own bags and fill them with your own ground coffee before using them. (And even then, you’ll have to find bags that won’t let the grinds escape during the brewing process, so you may still be paying some extra money, though at least you get to keep the bags).
- Speaking of the bag, you need to make sure you find ones that won’t let the grounds escape into your cup. Coffee grounds are much finer than tea leaves, so you need to make sure that the bag is also very fine and sealed properly, or that you have a bag that stands upright (think like a bucket) so that the grounds are left in the water, but they cannot escape out the top.
- Coffee bags can’t be stored as long as tea bags because coffee goes stale faster than tea. This also means that prefilled bags might be staler than you’d expect.
- As usual, you’re at the mercy of the company picking the coffee beans and grinding them for the flavor profile. You also don’t have the same level of control over brewing time and so on.
- You have to be very careful to ensure that you don’t use too much or too little water. A coffee bag is usually good for a 150mL cup. Too much or too little water will make too weak or too strong a cup. You also have to mind your timing – the longer it steeps, the stronger it will be.
Is it worth it? That’s really up to you. Some people love them because they are convenient and no wasted coffee, others don’t like that they aren’t as easy to customize.
Where I can definitely see the benefit is to be able to have good coffee while you are traveling – gas station coffee is very hit and miss and airline coffee is terrible. Hot water on the other hand is pretty hard to screw up!
It’s also easy to pack a few coffee bags instead of trying to pack cans or jars of grounds. And you can usually get decaf as well as caffeinated coffee, so you’re covered both ways.
But Does the Coffee Taste Good?
There is no easy answer to this because it really depends on the quality of the bean that was used, whether it’s fresh or stale, and the grind. Assuming you buy quality coffee bags, you’re more likely to get quality coffee, that’s all there is to it.
And as stated before, you have to mind your brewing time, particularly since the water doesn’t get to interact with the coffee in the same way that it would in a pot or French press. This can impact the flavor.
Assuming all things being equal though, coffee in a teabag tastes pretty similar to immersion brewed coffee: strong and full-bodied, but not as much as a French press. It also tends to be a bit cleaner. So, it’s definitely not terrible, assuming you started out with good beans.
I was definitely a bit surprised to see that coffee bags are a thing now! Technically they’ve been around since the 1970s, but they faded out very quickly and have only recently started making a come-back.
They are eco-friendly, portable, and easy to use, making them pretty tempting. On the other hand, you’re just not going to get the same level of tweaking and fiddling that you can get with your own ground coffee and your own machine.
At the end of the day, it’s really going to depend on your tastes and what you are hoping to get out of your coffee.
Have you ever tried coffee bags? Did you like them?
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