With the current social distancing necessity, I know everyone has needed to begin making coffee at home! I feel like nearly everyone I know drinks coffee. This ritual plays a huge part in so many people’s lives. On average, Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee a day. Furthermore, the United States ranks 25th in the top coffee consuming nations. That means that other countries consume even more coffee than we do here! With all of the coffee our world consumes, we can produce a LOT of waste. Therefore, I want to share some easy ways to help you create great tasting coffee with less waste from bean to cup in the safety of your own home!
Choosing Your Coffee
Before making your morning brew, you have to choose where you will purchase your coffee beans. Over the summer, Sebastian and I took my sister and Vasco to Colombia to visit Sebastian’s family. My sister has worked in coffee for years, and we couldn’t wait to visit a coffee farm with her in Colombia. Honestly, we all loved seeing how Cafe Mesa de Los Santos had a plan for all of the waste it produced. Everything worked together to have a purpose rather than producing any waste.
Often, I think we can become very separated from the products we use. However, watching this product produced from plant all the way to cup helped me understand the amount of work that goes into it as well as the impact I have when I drink my morning coffee! This experience largely influences how I choose the coffees I purchase now.
Personally, I love supporting our local coffee roasters, Jittery Joe’s and 1000 Faces Coffee. Not only do I prefer supporting local businesses, but I think that local companies can offer more transparency about how they source and roast their coffee. Furthermore, Jittery Joe’s uses cans to package their coffee, and 1000 Faces Coffee uses a compostable bag for their packaging. Therefore, I can take the cans back to Jittery Joe’s to refill for me or I can use them as cute little planters!
Also, in Athens, we have a great commercial compost system. That means I can take my 1000 Faces packaging to one of their facilities to help create nutrient rich soil! In addition, both of my local roasters have quickly created efficient ways for our community to receive their coffee while also staying safe in the midst of the pandemic. Anyone can order either of their coffees online right now! Check out your local roasters’ current shipping policies in order to support them as well.
From an environmental standpoint, most small batch coffee roasters source coffee well. With such a large industry that often begins in other countries, I sometimes find it difficult to know that coffee farms produce their green coffee sustainably. When you use a local coffee roaster, they can often elaborate on their farms’ sustainable practices. Furthermore, they often have representatives that visit their partners so that they can keep a close and informed relationship with their producers.
Of course, larger roasters may also source coffee sustainably, but when you choose a local roaster, you have a direct line of contact to create a conversation about sustainability! During our current situation, remember that supporting your local roaster not only helps their employees keep their jobs, but it also supports jobs all the way down to origin countries’ farms.
Aside from using local coffee roasters, if you have a bulk bin section at your local grocery store, choosing to use these beans cuts down on packaging completely. If you plan a grocery shopping trip now, try to only touch what you plan to buy, and remember to sanitize your hands properly.
Grinding Your Coffee
Typically, grinding coffee does not produce very much waste. However, grinding coffee does play a vital role in making a great tasting cup of coffee! While you can always purchase your coffee pre ground, it will taste so much better if you grind it closer to when you plan to actually use it. Carbon dioxide helps transfer the coffee flavors into the water you put the grounds in. When you grind the coffee, you create more surface area for the carbon dioxide to escape. Therefore, the coffee will begin to taste stale faster if you grind it too long before brewing it. For this reason, I recommend purchasing an at home grinder so that you can grind just the amount needed for one cup.
I’ve listed some of my favorite beginner grinders below. All of them use burrs instead of blades because burrs help create a more uniform grind size. Furthermore, you can order these grinders online today:
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- Baratza Encore: This is a very high quality electric grinder. I recommend any of the grinders from Baratza, but this one is a little cheaper and still grinds coffee well.
- Lido 2 or 3: These manual grinders are some of the best on the market. They grind coffee just as well and quickly as an electric grinder but are compact and easy to transport. Furthermore, eliminating the use of electricity can help minimize some of the waste in making your zero waste and great tasting cup of coffee!
- Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill: This manual grinder is a much more affordable option for beginner coffee brewers. While it may take longer to grind the coffee, it still creates an even grind size and does not use electricity.
Choosing Your Zero Waste Coffee Routine Brew Method
Personally, I use a pour over coffee brewer every morning to create my zero waste and great tasting coffee. When I am finished brewing my coffee, I put the single-use paper filters and the grounds in our compost bin. Regardless, I have listed three options below that cut down on waste while still making a wonderful cup of coffee! All three of these methods use a scale and a gooseneck kettle. If you don’t already have one of each, here are a couple of options that I highly recommend:
This scale measures to the nearest 0.1 gram and also keeps time for you to help create a precise brew.
Not only does this scale measure to the nearest 0.1 gram and keep time like the Hario, but you can also recharge it. Therefore, you can eliminate the waste of batteries with this more eco friendly option!
This kettle is loved by all coffee geeks! Not only does it pour well, but it maintains an exact temperature for your brew throughout the process. To create a great quality cup of coffee, a temperature of 205 degrees is ideal.
Now you have everything you need to create a zero waste and great tasting cup of coffee. We can delve into some zero waste methods of brewing coffee.
- Pour Over Coffee: My personal favorite coffee brewing method is the pour over! With this method, you use a paper filter. Regardless, you can always compost this portion with the grounds when you finish using it. The most popular pour overs I’ve come across are the Kalita Wave and the Hario V60. The Kalita Wave is a stainless steel filter system. I would recommend using a medium grind size and a ratio of one part coffee to sixteen parts water. (23 grams of coffee to about 375 grams of water!)
- French Press Coffee: When you choose a french press, you eliminate all waste because this method does not involve a paper filter at all. Therefore, you can put your grounds in the compost or your garden when you finish using it! While this method uses no waste at all, I don’t think every coffee tastes as great when I brew it with this full immersion method. Again, I would recommend using a ratio of one part coffee to sixteen parts water, but I would adjust the grind size to a good bit coarser. This is one of the most popular ways to make coffee!
- Cold Brew Dripper: If you enjoy cold coffee, not only does this method take away the paper filter, but it also eliminates the need to heat any water at all! I have this cold brew coffee dripper, and I really love it. To use it, you adjust the collar to create about a 12 hour brew cycle. Then, you leave it in your refrigerator until it is done brewing. For this method, I recommend using a coarser grind size and a ratio of one part coffee to fifteen parts water. (50 grams of coffee to 750 grams of water)
- Reverse Brewing: Some people prefer using a stovetop espresso maker like the Moka Pot. This is a classic and beloved brewing device that has been a staple in coffee lovers’ kitchens for decades. Just fill the bottom chamber with water, add finely ground coffee to the middle basket, screw on the top chamber tightly, and place it on a stovetop or heat source. As the water heats up, it creates pressure, forcing hot water through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber, resulting in a delicious brew that’s reminiscent of espresso. These stovetop coffee makers are easy to use and make a great tasting cup of coffee.
Of course, plenty of other methods offer a very sustainable brew. However, I think all four of these methods are great places to start.
Choose a Reusable Filter
Consider using a reusable coffee filter also! Coffee Sock is a unique and eco-friendly alternative to traditional coffee filters. Made from organic cotton, the Coffee Sock offers a sustainable way to brew your favorite coffee. Simply place your desired amount of loose coffee grounds into the sock, immerse it in hot water, and let it steep to create a flavorful and aromatic brew. The reusable and washable nature of the Coffee Sock makes it a cost-effective and environmentally conscious choice for coffee enthusiasts.
When you finish brewing your zero waste and great tasting coffee, you have a few different options for your used grinds. Personally, I love composting my grinds when I finish making my coffee. The grounds help produce nutrient rich soil for my garden. Specifically, coffee grounds are great for vermicomposting because worms love them! Regardless, you can also add grinds directly to your garden beds or potted plants. Coffee grounds can help get rid of slugs and snails. Also, plants like blueberries, azaleas, carrots, radishes, and rhododendrons love them. If you don’t have as many plants as I do, you can also use your old coffee grounds to create body scrubs. Not only do they make a great exfoliant, but they can also help protect the skin from sun damage.
Organic & Fair Trade Coffee Beans
If you’re unable to find locally roasted coffee beans, consider purchasing organic and fair trade coffee beans online or in stores when possible. You might even be able to find some sustainable coffee bean brands in compostable packaging. These are several popular fair trade and organic coffee brands that prioritize ethical sourcing practices and environmentally-friendly cultivation methods:
- Equal Exchange: Equal Exchange is a worker-owned cooperative that offers a wide range of fair trade and organic coffees. They work directly with small-scale farmers to ensure fair prices and sustainable farming practices.
- Café Direct: Café Direct is another well-known brand committed to fair trade and organic practices. They source coffee from cooperatives around the world, ensuring farmers receive fair prices for their products.
- Pachamama Coffee Cooperative: Pachamama is a farmer-owned cooperative that produces high-quality, fair trade, and organic coffees. They prioritize sustainable farming practices and focus on building long-term relationships with their growers.
- Allegro Coffee: Allegro Coffee, a subsidiary of Whole Foods Market, offers a wide range of fair trade and organic coffees. They work closely with farmers to source high-quality beans while promoting sustainable farming methods.
- Peace Coffee: Peace Coffee is a Minnesota-based brand known for its fair trade and organic coffees. They work with farmer cooperatives to source beans directly and ensure fair compensation for growers.
- Organic Coffee Co.: The Organic Coffee Co. specializes in certified organic coffees sourced from various regions worldwide. They offer a diverse selection of single-origin and blend options.
- Conscious Coffees: Conscious Coffees focuses on sourcing high-quality, fair trade, and organic coffees while building long-lasting relationships with farmers. They offer a range of single-origin and specialty blends.
- Kicking Horse Coffee: Kicking Horse Coffee is a Canadian brand known for its organic and fair trade offerings. They prioritize sustainability and source beans from various regions worldwide. They grow beans without the use of pesticides.
These are just a few examples of popular fair trade and organic coffee brands available in the market. It’s important to note that availability may vary depending on your location, so it’s worth exploring local and regional brands as well to support sustainable and ethical coffee production.
Zero Waste Coffee Routine and Beyond!
Obviously, this post only brushes the surface of at home zero waste coffee routine ideas. If you typically drink your coffee at a coffee shop where you bring your own container or mug, this should get you started with some sustainable alternatives in your own home. For now, follow your local government’s recommendations for quarantining and social distancing, and stay clean! If you are a fellow coffee drinker, what method do you use to create your perfect cup of waste free coffee? Can you think of other ways to reduce waste in your morning coffee ritual?