Zero waste coffee 6 ways
Coffee addict or casual drinker, most people who like coffee aren’t likely to give it up soon. I see no reason to do so anyway, since some coffee consumption has been linked to longer life span, and coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (1).
Wait! Aren’t coffee filters compostable? Sure, many of them are. Tea bags are also supposed to be compostable, but some of them aren’t. The resources used to make coffee filters, simply put, could be put towards something more important. Coffee filters that are compostable are made of paper and wood pulp, so using new resources for coffee filters means cutting down trees. If you really don’t see anything on this list to suit your coffee needs, consider buying coffee filters made of recycled paper to show your support for recycled materials!
Reusable mesh filter
Drip coffee pots are what I see the most in the US. They’re easy to use, usually only require one or two steps of loading the machine with coffee grounds and adding water, and widely available first and second hand. Many brands make reusable mesh filters you can buy to fit your coffee pot separately, like this one. The coffee pot I bought for college came with it’s own when I bought it initially. This is a good option for anyone who already owns a drip coffee pot, but my experience with the included filter from my coffee pot was a very gritty last cup of coffee from all the fine grounds that slipped through.
Keurig reusable K-Cup filters
K-Cups are not recyclable! The only viable option for these mixed material, disposable cups is the landfill. They are also much less cost effective than regular coffee grounds, although their appeal is convenience and not cost. Keurig sells their own reusable K-Cup filters here, and they can be purchased in store and are also made by different brands. For many people, they may only need to brew one cup at a time, which is why these machines are so popular, but imagine how that piles up after a week…a month… a year for someone who drinks coffee daily-and so many people drink more than one cup a day! Consider reusables.
The French press is probably the most popular low-waste option for making coffee, with many fans who love it simply because it makes such a good cup of coffee. French presses are readily available throughout the US at department stores and I’ve seen a fair few at second hand stores and thrift shops as well. You simply add your coffee grounds, pour nearly boiling water, let brew, and push down the plunger with the attached filter for a great cup of coffee. I used a French press for months and loved it. My only complaint with this option is that when I ground my coffee too finely (cough, user error, cough), it would result in a sometimes gritty cup. French presses are beautiful (great bonus) and are perfect for brewing loose leaf tea as well as coffee, for anyone looking to own less kitchen gadgets.
A pour over is what it sounds like; you pour nearly boiling water over your coffee grounds and it brews your coffee the same way a drip coffee pot would. There are many different brands, but I currently own a Chemex and find this way of making coffee to be pretty simple, and free of the gritty end-of-cup sip. While Chemex makes their own disposable filters, I forgo those in favor of a reusable option.
I have two CoffeeSock filters, which are easily washable. Mine came almost plastic free, with a paper tag, but two little pieces of plastic stuck through the filters to hold them to the paper. I use my Chemex and CoffeeSock filters every day, at least once a day.
This is something I’ve never seen in an American home, but have had and used multiple times living abroad. They’re simple, make strong coffee, and require no disposable filters. Sometimes called poor man’s espresso, all you have to do is fill the bottom of the pot with water, the middle basket with coffee grounds, and screw the top on before putting the pot on the stove. The water boils up through the coffee grounds (like a percolator), except it then stays in the top chamber. I always enjoyed my coffee this way, but if you’re used to a drip coffee pot, the work to clean and take this apart may not be for you.
This is probably how your parents or grandparents made coffee way back. Before drip coffee pots were all the rage, the percolator was in the kitchen. You may have used one if you like to go camping. Similar to a mocha pot, a basket is filled with coffee grounds, but it is placed in the pot with water and is not attached the same way as a mocha pot. The water boils up through a tube attached to the filter after being placed on the stove and falls back through the grounds into the main pot to be cycled back through the grounds. I have never seen a percolator in a retail stores, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be found. I would recommend you ask around first if you’re interested in this low waste way of brewing coffee. You may know someone, like your parents (me), who has one sitting on a shelf in a basement or attic (me).
Do you use any of these products? Have you found a different way to make zero waste or low waste coffee?