Modern coffee makers are pretty energy efficient, but the biggest drawback that has a lot of consumers looking for alternatives is the large number of plastic components they use.
In addition to plastic being a delicate material prone to breaking under the temperature extremes present in a coffee maker, when heated, plastics are known to release harmful chemicals that can find their way into the water being processed by the machine, and right into your body.
Though many companies are ousting BPA, which has been shown to cause hormonal imbalances when consumed, studies are showing that even BPA-free plastics release a number of chemical compounds that act just like estrogen, disrupting our body’s natural hormonal balance.
Alternatives to Plastic Coffee Makers
While many companies are attempting to create plastic-free coffee makers, the overwhelming majority of them still have plastic components that come into contact with the water in the machine, defeating the purpose for many coffee drinkers.
Until the innovation with coffee makers catches up, right now it seems that moving away from a coffee maker altogether is actually the simplest solution, and it’s why a lot of people are saying goodbye to the countertop coffee machine, and instead opting for ways to brew coffee without a coffee maker at all.
Pour Over Coffee Drippers
When I first got rid of my coffee maker, this was where I started – the over-the-cup cone coffee dripper. These coffee drippers are inexpensive, easy to use, and are available in a 100% plastic-free stainless steel version that doesn’t even require a paper filter. Some are available in porcelain. Models are available that brew one cup at a time, as well as multiple cups.
Using one is easy:
- Boil your water on a stovetop, either in a kettle or saucepan.
- Place your coffee grounds in the strainer basket, and carefully place the pour over coffee dripper on top of your coffee mug.
- Once steaming, pour your water over the coffee grounds, taking care to watch the level of the coffee as it goes into the mug below.
- Once the grounds cool, dump them out right away and rinse the dripper to avoid them getting stuck on (they’ll be much harder to clean off later).
In addition to the stainless steel pour over coffee drippers, Chemex makes a beautiful glass version of this, using instead a wooden collar to secure the glass cone over the receptacle, and cone-shaped coffee filters in place of mesh. The designs are 100% plastic-free, incredibly beautiful, and are even available in larger sizes for people that want to brew more than one cup at a time.
Stainless Steel Mesh Coffee Strainers
Another over-the-cup option, mesh coffee strainers are nice for people that prefer an extra strong cup of coffee, because the grounds actually sit down in the water. You can leave the basket in for as long as you like, and get a much more potent cup of coffee.
What’s really nice about these coffee strainers is that they allow the beneficial oils of the coffee beans to work their way into your brew, giving the full host of antioxidant benefits that a strong cup of coffee has.
This is another alternative to coffee makers that doesn’t use any paper filters, and doesn’t have a single plastic component to it. Just pour your hot water over the coffee grounds in the basket, let steep, dump out the grounds, rinse the strainer, and reuse it again tomorrow morning.
For those that prefer to make more than one cup at a time and keep it hot, percolators are a great alternative to the gigantic plastic coffee makers, and are easy to tuck into storage when not in use.
Though some use paper filters and are typically not 100% plastic-free, percolators are still a great option because no plastic comes into direct contact with the hot water. (We prefer using the metal basket without a paper filter, which allows the flavor oils that naturally exist in the coffee bean to stay in the coffee and contribute to its amazing and full flavor.) Most percolators allow you to brew up to 12 cups of coffee in just a couple of minutes, and will keep the coffee warm for as long as you need it.
The Italian-made Moka pot (a.k.a. macchinetta del caffè) is small stove-top powered machine, usually made of aluminum (though stainless steel models are available). They’re becoming more popular lately, in large part because it produces such a deep, dense expresso. Moka pots are easy to use, a snap to clean and work surprisingly well even over a portable camp stove. And best of all, it makes a delightful gurgle as it works its magic.
A favorite of coffee aficionados everywhere, the French press has all of the benefits of the mesh coffee strainer, while also allowing you to get more of the coffee beans’ flavor and oils out with the pressing motion.
You’ll have to be extra critical of the details when looking for a plastic-free French press – some have plastic components and lids that come into direct contact with the water inside. If there are plastic pieces that don’t come into contact with the coffee however, it’s a winner in my book, and a great way to brew a robust cup of coffee in the morning.
Though they don’t typically make as much coffee as a percolator does, most French presses still make between two and four cups of coffee at a time, depending on the size.
Brewing Coffee in a Tea Ball
Stainless steel mesh tea balls and infusers are great ways to brew a cup of coffee with just a kettle, and are really cheap. The trick here is to make sure either your coffee is coarse enough or the strainer’s mesh is fine enough to keep too much of the grounds from seeping out, but it’s a simple and cheap way to brew a cup of coffee without a coffee maker.
The Plastic Free Coffee Maker is Already Here
It may not be electric and automatic, but there are alternatives to the conventional coffee maker that won’t leach hormone disruptors into something you drink every day, and look pretty great doing it. These alternatives not only keep harmful plastic chemicals from leaching into your coffee, but also reduce the demand for petroleum, simply because they’re not made out of plastic, which is a product of oil.
It’s time to rethink the way we make coffee – how will you reinvent your morning cup?
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