Slog: News & Arts

RSS icon Comments on Starbucks' Watery Controversy


The 'dipper well' we had when I worked in Houston always had a nice milky foam on the top of it. I'm surprised The Sun is up in arms about it though, when a few years ago Thames Water was losing 240 liters of water out of its ancient Victorian pipes per household in Greater London per day.

Posted by Barky | October 6, 2008 9:29 AM

Ah, the Sun. Never met a story it couldn't get wildly over-the-top about.

Posted by Abby | October 6, 2008 9:34 AM

Whatever. The average liberal will complain either way. Dear Science: What do you make of the idea that water flowing down the drain will never be seen (or clean) again?

Posted by pfff | October 6, 2008 9:36 AM

What about the coffee they dump down the drain? Every 30 minutes (or is it 15?) they dump out all the drip coffee and replace it with more, because that way people get 'fresh' coffee. Also a colossal waste.

Posted by Original Monique | October 6, 2008 9:41 AM

Once they turn it off, who's going to deliver all the water they save to Namibia? Anybody? Hello?

Posted by elenchos | October 6, 2008 9:44 AM

I get irritated at the way they clean their Frappe whatzit blenders. They just stick it under a blasting faucet and let it overflow for a couple of minutes.

Posted by Jeremy from Seattle | October 6, 2008 9:44 AM

No doubt they could conserve water, and a tap that was turned on and off constantly all day wouldn't breed bacteria any more than one that runs continuously.

But here's the thing. That little sink allows them to use the same utensils repeatedly; they're basically being slowly, continuously rinsed for the whole shift. The alternative would be to use a new utensil each time (or, at least with each change in type of milk, which would be almost every time), and keep washing them and putting them back in rotation. Seems to me that this would use at least as much water.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | October 6, 2008 9:54 AM

This Starbucks wage and health care slave has always found the dipping well annoying - it is a collosal waste of water, but damned if it's not convenient. Furthermore, the 'public health' standards most businesses are forced to abide by are written to protect those of the weakest immune systems. Unfortunately this has had the side effect that perfectly healthy young adults believe their immune systems to be as ineffective as a 70 year-old pregnant aids patient, so everbody demands to be treated like the frailest members of society. We've developed a nation of hypochondriacs.

Posted by McStudent | October 6, 2008 9:58 AM

It's not just Starbucks. Almost every coffee shop, ice cream shop, etc; any place that has to use utensils repeatedly, has these dipper wells with running water. Why not attack the millions of mom and pop coffee shops that do the same thing?

Posted by joe | October 6, 2008 9:59 AM

The same dipper well is used in a lot of restaurants and ice cream shops - so it's kind of a surprise that this is just about Starbucks.

@4: Yeah, every 30 minutes they dump a few gallons of unused coffee. Since each location has to have a decaf and two additional coffee blends, it's very unlikely that enough customers will buy three brewers-full of coffee every 30 minutes.

Posted by Jaymes | October 6, 2008 10:01 AM

doesnt a tub of ice water (in the deep, square, chest fridge inserts) achieve the same thing?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 6, 2008 10:02 AM

9: I think the drive behind hitting Starbucks is the company;s professed "green" concerns, but other than that, yes, there is an arbitrariness to the focus on Starbucks...

Posted by David Schmader | October 6, 2008 10:12 AM

2 words: motion activation.

Posted by max solomon | October 6, 2008 10:18 AM

Man, who the fuck still goes to Starbucks?

Posted by kerri harrop | October 6, 2008 10:23 AM

#14, me.

Posted by w7ngman | October 6, 2008 10:34 AM

BA - then the question is which is worse: the marginal amount of water saved by using ice rather than a running tap or the energy requirements of making ice. I suspect the answer depends on location: in the Southwest, water is scarce; in the Northwest, water is plentiful (most of the time).

Posted by tt | October 6, 2008 11:03 AM

It's KC Health Department law. Utensils used over and over serving dairy (milk, ice cream, etc) have to remain in a cold running water bath. It's true of every coffee establishment in town and King County, including all of the esteemed ones mentioned (advertised) in your publication. There are plenty of other reasons why Bux is a POS (bad employee relations, for starters), but this ain't it.

Posted by tpn | October 6, 2008 11:11 AM

I run an ice cream shop here in town, and I have to do the same thing. I worked with the health Dept on this one. It is a huge waste of fresh water. I have a constrictor set on mine, and it allows the minimum amount of water through. It is still I don't know how many gallons a day.

Posted by fulltil | October 6, 2008 11:22 AM

It's really no different from restaurants running water constantly over frozen meat for hours at a time to thaw it out...

...except I guess if they didn't do that they don't have to deal with the people dying thing.

@8 - sorry. I'm one of those weak immune systems that they think about :/

Posted by Dean Venture | October 6, 2008 11:32 AM

I worked for Starbucks when the Frappucinos were introduced and I immediately wrote the Employee Question department to ask if there had been a projection of how much our water usage would increase based on needing about a gallon of water every single time a Frappucino pitcher was rinsed (even more when, as a poster above noticed, employees leave the water blasting after it's already full).

Never did get an answer back on that one.

In the end, I left because of the damned Frappucinos. I felt my hearing was being ruined from standing near two industrial blenders going off pretty much all day. And all because the PTB didn't want to be like other chains and serve granitas i.e., basically the same thing.

Posted by Chrissy | October 6, 2008 11:32 AM

You realize, #8, that the reason the health department sets rules based on protecting those with the most vulnerable immune systems is that while insufficient care would cause you or me a stomachache, diarrhea, or some similar inconvenience, it could KILL one of those vulnerable ones? Have a little compassion, huh? What if it was your grandma?

Posted by Greg | October 6, 2008 11:53 AM

But the earth recylces water, the water in your coffee may have been peed by Cleopatra.

Posted by raindrop | October 6, 2008 11:54 AM

@22: Or John McCain.

Why not solve both the running water and the dumped coffee problems at once by just ditching all the whipped stuff, and ordering more drip instead? As coffee shops go, a good cuppa drip does separate the men from the boys.

Posted by onewink3 | October 6, 2008 12:06 PM

@23: Yeah but Starbucks drip sucks. It tastes like i'm licking the inside of a weber grill fueled by ashy coffee beans. but, i guess that's what their espresso tastes like too.

Posted by erik | October 6, 2008 12:31 PM

Back in the day (late 80's) when Starbucks coffee was some of the best in town, there were no dipper wells. You just tossed the large spoons for manipulating cappuccino foam into the washer and got a clean one. Quite a few of them can fit in a dishwasher.

Posted by kraskland | October 6, 2008 1:27 PM

I never insinuated that it wasn't important to protect those who Are Vulnerable, I also never suggested that it was a good idea to do away with health codes or loosen restriction and thereby put people at risk. I explicitly wrote that health codes are written to protect vulnerable populations, and never advocated any change. I guess "Unfortunately this has had the side effect that perfectly healthy young adults believe their immune systems to be as ineffective as a 70 year-old pregnant aids patient, so everbody demands to be treated like the frailest members of society. We've developed a nation of hypochondriacs," wasn't clear enough. It is an unfortunate Side Effect that healthy people think they are as prone to illness as vulnerable populations; I never said it was a reason to do away with regulation. Read carefully before you judge and be judicious when you make assumptions about others, it's usually offensive and sometimes dangerous - I doubt any of my grandparents rotting remains would be much affected by a bacteria-burger, but hey, you never know. Maybe feeding my dead grandparents tainted food will have some sort of a 'Dawn of the Dead' effect, then I could finally meet my dad's dad!

Posted by McStudent | October 6, 2008 1:51 PM

Simple theorem-
Don't buy Starbucks coffee> they lose money> more of them go out of business> and this ridiculously wasteful practice is over.

But of course that would require us to be inconveinenced and brew coffee at *gasp* home or *gasp* work.

Posted by Simple | October 6, 2008 4:05 PM

Simple theorem-
Don't buy Starbucks coffee> they lose money> more of them go out of business> and this ridiculously wasteful practice is over.

But of course that would require us to be inconveinenced and brew coffee at *gasp* home or *gasp* work.

Posted by Simple | October 6, 2008 4:05 PM

@26: That was some epic backpedaling. I especially liked the gratuitous play for sympathy over your dead grandparents.

Posted by Furcifer | October 6, 2008 4:56 PM

@26 stay in your room until you are mature enough to play with the grown-ups.

Posted by Really now. | October 6, 2008 9:08 PM

In good news today, American consumers are cutting back on unnecessary expenditures.

Especially on Starbucks.

Bonus win!

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 6, 2008 9:31 PM

How is it that the people who hate Starbucks, and want them to go out of business, never figure out that that will put upmty-million people out of work, in and economy that has lost 750,000 jobs in the last year?

Posted by Silverstar98121 | October 6, 2008 10:33 PM

I really don't know why everyone hates Starbucks anyway, except that it seems to be a hipster thing to hate them. If I was forced to choose between working at Starbucks or McDonalds I know which one I'd choose. I seriously have never read an article that clearly and unbiasedly goes over the evils and the good things about Starbucks. Could it be that they aren't completely evil or completely saintly? And anyway, who/what company is completely saintly? Or is this about the idea that ALL corporations are evil? and all of capitalism is evil? Why must we see the world in nothing but black and white terms?

Posted by Kristin Bell | October 7, 2008 8:33 AM

@33 -finally some sense!

Posted by holly | October 7, 2008 12:53 PM

IF Starbucks used FiberStone™ labels for all of those coffee bags they would offset a tremendous amount of this water waste! This is how they should handle this. Forget Global Warming, water IS going to be our biggest crisis going forward.

Posted by Jeff Salisbury | October 7, 2008 6:16 PM

Have them build 10,000 Starbucks in Nambia, problem solved!!!

Posted by Rick | October 9, 2008 12:19 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.