Coffee lovers and their friends often joke about how the world actually runs on coffee, but there’s no denying how much of the drink is made and consumed on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s a kind of human fuel that does have its own negative effects on the environment, even if indirectly. Used coffee grounds are thrown away and wasted by the tons, cups either increase plastic waste or paper use, and coffee machines get broken and disposed of indiscriminately. While there are already attempts to address the first two problems, there are very few solutions when it comes to the sustainability of coffee machines. Just like every other appliance, not much thought is given to their life cycles, which is what makes this modular coffee machine design rather revolutionary while also being aesthetically interesting.
Designer: Thomas Mair
Appliances are made for human convenience, not only in their use but also after they can no longer be used. While repairing broken appliances is ideal and more cost-effective, chances are people simply dispose of them and buy new ones. Whichever path they take, most appliances end up in landfills, and only a fraction of their parts can actually be reused or recycled because of their composition. Either way, it’s not a sustainable situation for our future.
Coffee machines might not be the most common consumer electronics in homes, but their widespread use and the way they operate make them ideal for a thought experiment. Kara is the result of one such process, resulting in a modular coffee machine that’s meant to last forever, even when the manufacturer has stopped producing replacement parts. The secret is that these parts can be 3D printed if access to the original is no longer possible. The more technical components can be replaced or substituted with other electronics, presuming those are still in production.
Unlike most designs that promote repairability, Kara doesn’t require advanced knowledge or skills to make that possible. Some parts are connected using magnets, making it trivial to take the coffee machine apart and put them back together again. For those parts that need a bit more handling, a small screwdriver is also included with the machine and replacement parts. The process is easy enough for anyone to do, but the machine also offers step-by-step instructions through its built-in screen or a connected smartphone.
Different parts of Kara use different materials, and these use different colors for easier identification. It also creates a unique visual of the coffee machine, which easily makes it stand out from other coffee makers that usually embrace black and silver motifs. It is definitely an interesting solution to the problem of sustainability, one that coffee enthusiasts can embrace to make them feel good while they sip their cup of Joe.