Charity leaders from across the nation are calling for a reinstatement of the Federal ban on automatic espresso makers. Caffeine-related violence over Tassimos, Keurigs, Cuisinarts and Oster coffee-making machines has left more than 100 wounded at charities from coast-to-coast.
“This is the worst coffee violence we’ve seen since the Mr. Coffee riots in the late 1970s. There’s too many of these machines on the streets. And some of them are getting into the wrong hands,” said Neville Snidely, CEO of the League of Big Honking Charities, which is calling on the Obama Administration to take action.
In the latest violent incident last week 14 people were injured at hospital foundation in Boston when an annual gifts worker walked into a staff eating area with a fully-loaded, automatic Keurig espresso machine. The worker made more than 147 cups of rich, full-bodied coffee before running out of coffee discs and being tackled by co-workers. Foundation staff took days to recover from the caffeine overdose.
The League says it supports the US Constitution which expressly gives Americans the right to drink massive amounts of coffee, but it says automatic espresso makers are not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they spoke of a “wide-awake militia”.
Changes in espresso machines are partly to blame. Ten years ago, the only espresso came from an Italian machine that weighed 300 pounds and came with Italian-language operating instructions. It could create one or two lattes every five minutes. Today’s smaller, sleeker machines can spit out espresso drinks two times every 30 seconds.
“We can’t have this kind of violence in our charities and nonprofits,” said Snidely. “These are military-grade machines that were designed for only one thing – to deliver massive amounts of caffeine as efficiently as possible. They’re not for hunting and only if you’re planning a huge party with some really big donors do you need them for home security. We should ban them.”
Critics say incidents of violence involving automatic espresso machines are significantly higher in the US where rules about coffee-makers are lax than in Europe where such machines are highly regulated or in Japan where they come with a robot who tells you not to drink so much coffee. Charity espresso violence in the US last year was ten times the rate as in Canada, although Canada has in fact ten times less the population but ten times more polar bears.
The espresso lobby is fighting calls for more regulation with its own for safety. The largest, the National Espresso Association, has come up with a plan to put a handsome, shiny and easy-to-operate automated espresso machine in every charity office in the nation.
“The only way to stop bad coffee is with good coffee,” said Wayne Lappyhair, Vice-President of the pro-espresso maker organization that has more than 2 million members. “Espresso machines don’t make charity workers crazy on caffeine, people do.”
Politicians are vowing action, even though the NEA is one of the most powerful lobbyist groups on Capitol Hill. Several attempts last year to bring in bills to control the machines when pro-NEA senators adjourned the House for a “coffee break”.