If you are a coffee connoisseur, there is a chance you have heard of the coffee bag, deemed as the next big thing in the coffee world.
But there is an even better chance that you haven’t heard of them.
They aren’t quite mainstream yet, but they are heading that way. They fill that perfect gap on the market for something which is simple, mess-free and requires no machine, yet is superior to instant coffee for those who want the real thing.
So what is a coffee bag? If the first thing that pops into your head when you hear that phrase is tea bags, then you’re actually on the right track.
A coffee bag simply has ground coffee inside, as opposed to tea. This ground coffee is the stuff you would normally put in a cafetiere, drip coffee machine or espresso machine so essentially, it is the coffee and the filter without the need for the maker.
Some people may wrongly think that it is instant coffee in the bags, but instant granules would dissolve in the water anyway so there is actually no need for them to be contained in the bag.
It isn’t clear just how long they have been around for. Some people who love them now have known about them since the ‘70s or ’80s, hence why they are on the ball. So they are by no means a recent invention but have certainly risen drastically in popularity over the past five or so years.
It’s thought that they were mainly for commercial use when first released, supplied to factories and large workplaces where large machines weren’t possible but where the workforce needed the fuel. A few decades on and the rise of speciality and ‘proper’ at-home coffee has seemingly reinvigorated the demand.
So if you have ever wondered “Why doesn’t coffee come in tea bags?”, now is your chance to give them a try.
How Are They Used?
You can use them just like you would a teabag. Pop into your mug, pour hot water over them, give it a squeeze with your spoon and then allow to brew for as long as you like to adjust the strength and taste.
Make your tea in a teapot rather than a mug? These bags can be used in a cafetiere or similar vessel too – the bag just keeps the grounds contained for less mess at the end of the process.
You can add milk and sugar as you would normally because there is no alteration in the taste from the bag compared to regular coffee servings.
They are really handy for taking to work if you want to avoid buying a coffee every day, or even for taking on holiday or camping when you have to go without your home machine. They would also be great for anyone who doesn’t want the initial expense of a high-end coffee machine, or who doesn’t have space for one.
Which Brands Make Coffee Bags?
As mentioned, they have been around for a while, especially in the catering trade, and it was originally Lyon’s coffee who were the champions of the good old coffee bag. No surprise that they still make them today, but a few rivals have joined the market too.
Taylors of Harrogate relaunched theirs with a £2 million advertising campaign in August 2019 for the product it claims is “a genius invention” (despite not technically being theirs to claim). They are now the biggest brand in the UK for the bags, so it did the job.
Another big brand who have jumped on the bandwagon are Nescafe themselves, with their espresso and Americano offerings for a black cup. A company as global as this joining the coffee bag revolution meant the entire coffee industry really pricked up their ears to the power of the humble take on the teabag, and they undertook an £8 million marketing push.
Other brands to look out for include Percol, Rington’s, Rombouts, Cafe Express, and some supermarkets such as Tesco and Waitrose have started up their own, too. We have no doubt that more will catch on throughout this year.
How Much Do They Cost?
Buying coffee bags for regular use will likely be a bit more pricey than buying pure ground coffee, but you don’t need any machines or equipment so you are saving money this way.
Per bag, you may find yourself spending as little as 12p for the lower quality offerings and it could go up to almost 50p for the best picks.
This could mean that you choose to stick to instant or other methods at home, and save the bags for when at work, going camping or off on holiday.
What About Their Eco Credentials?
First up, packaging. This varies from brand to brand. Some bags are loose in the cardboard box, but others are all individually wrapped.
This could change in the future but at the time of writing, the Lyons bags are all individually wrapped in foil packaging, just as you would find those little tea bags left in hotel rooms or buffet breakfasts. Good for this kind of thing, but not so good if you will be the only one using them anyway.
Then there is the bag themselves. Shop around if you want something compostable or recyclable. The Taylor’s of Harrogate bags are compostable and Carbon Neutral, and the sealing material is a plant-based bioplastic made from corn starch as opposed to ordinary plastic found in the majority of teabags.
Popping ground coffee in a cafetiere, pour-over maker or other similar manual coffee machine is probably still the best way to stay almost entirely eco-friendly, but there is no doubt that the bag brings convenience when you need it the most.