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  1. Business

U.S. coffee consumption is down and the reason might surprise you

A few months ago, the leading nutritional panel in the United States shared an encouraging bit of news. Not only did its members arrive at the conclusion that drinking coffee was a perfectly fine thing to do — they also suggested that drinking more might even be ideal.

Well, that seems to be falling on deaf ears — at least here in the biggest coffee consuming nation in the world.

The amount of coffee Americans consume is slated to drop this year by more than 1 percent, or almost 300,000 60­ kilogram bags (in coffee beans, not liquid, of course), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which released its latest report on the global coffee market Friday.

If that sounds unusual, it should. There are other countries that are expected to drink less coffee this year than they did last year — South Korea, Thailand, Switzerland, Colombia, to name a few — but none is experiencing a drop­off like the one happening in the United States. This country is the only one in the top eight that will consume less coffee this year compared with last.

It's tough to pinpoint exactly why a country falling head over heels for fancier coffee (see Blue Bottle's ascendance for evidence) is at the same time losing its taste for coffee overall. But there is at least one trend that is changing how much coffee Americans drink.

Coffee pods, the single most influential invention in the coffee world over the past few decades, have caught on like wildfire in this country. When people drink coffee pods, they drink less coffee.

Coffee pod sales have grown by 133,710 percent since 2000 (yes, 133,710 percent), and now account for more than a third of all the coffee sold in the United States, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor.

But the overwhelming popularity of the pods has actually caused a bit of a headache for coffee bean roasters and growers, who help supply the largest market in the world with its fix.

Americans have traditionally brewed their coffee using drip machines, which are terribly inefficient ("How much coffee should I put in this filter? Never mind, I'll just eyeball it"). As a result, people have historically bought more coffee beans than they might need.

But extra coffee doesn't just end up down the drain — some of it finds its way into your stomach. The consequence of brewing coffee by the pot is that there's often more just sitting there, tempting you to have another cup.

Coffee pods, however, are incredibly efficient by comparison. People tend not to make more than they will drink — or, at least, first intended to drink.

Currently, an estimated 25 percent of U.S. households have a coffee pod machine. One can only imagine what happens when that number creeps upwards, closer to the 80­-plus percent of this country that, according to the National Coffee Association, still drinks coffee at home.

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