Coffee, then adulting.
I don't describe myself as a coffee addict. I can make it through many days without drinking coffee. Most days, I only drink half a cup, but regardless coffee remains a staple in our household. My husband drinks it everyday and my husband and I go on coffee dates often. We've tried all kinds of ways to drink coffee: pour over, French press, espresso machine, and instant (occasionally) so I thought I would break down what each one takes and how you can reduce your waste.
This post contains affiliate links. See Disclosures for details.
If you are not familiar, pour over is a simple process where you pour hot water over freshly ground beans to produce a fresh, hot coffee. It's similar to the standard drip, but this one takes time and care. If you are very into coffee, then this requires the right water temperature, the right angle for poured water, the right ground size, the pre-process to wet your filter and the slow drip of coffee to your mug. If you use a large carafe, like this one from, you can make enough coffee for 2 people, but if you just have a mug mechanism like we do, it takes time.
For a pour over, you need three things:
freshly ground coffee
a filter holder (dripping mechanism)
For a time, we use a pour over system that I gave my dad years ago. Apparently, he never used it, so we reclaimed it and reused it. (Side note: part of the reason why we no longer give presents in our family, but spend time together because some presents just were not being used and seemed like such a waste.) This is a simple system with ceramic cup and a filter holder. For the filter holder, we used those paper ones as we seemed to have an endless supply of them in the house even though we haven't bought any. If we are to buy, I would get these compostable filters. This method asks that you use freshly ground coffee, but as such we didn't want to buy a grinder, we opted to get our freshly ground each week which can get time consuming and costly.
For this type of coffee making, the waste you will be generating is from the grounds and filter. The grounds are a given and that can be composted or added to soil. The filter can be composted. As an alternative though, you can buy a cloth filters like this one from Etsy which you can wash and re-use. I have not tried the cloth alternative, but would expect it to work just the same. The great thing about the pour-over too is that you don't necessarily need a special mug to catch the coffee. I think any mug will do as long as it sits flat. Of course, you can get fancy with this setup, but I think a classic pour-over works just as well. We also don't have a fancy kettle to stream the the hot water in the right angle and we don't mind it.
Ready to see the impact of your
consumption on the planet,
sign-up for the 15 day
The Espresso Machine
Next up is our foray into getting an espresso machine. We really wanted one and a few things clicked into place for us to get it. It wasn't the most expensive model, but we didn't really want to shell out money for it. So I found a way to return some of the wedding presents we received from our wedding registry. The caveat was that we had gotten married 3 years before, but a little sleuthing and I found all of the gift receipts. Macy's actually accepts unopened items as long as the receipts are attached to them and as long as they can reference it back to the original registry. The only reason we returned the presents was that they were sitting in a closet unused. Truthfully, we had all that we needed when we got married, but got caught in the trap of needing to put a registry together. We kept a few items, but the rest were duplicates and honestly, I don't remember what was even returned.
OK, so back to the espresso machine. We ended up using the credit from the returned items to purchase the espresso machine. Of course, with the machine, we also got a brand new grinder. Can't do things halfway. Using the espresso machine was a bit of work because you have to measure out the coffee into the portafilter and tamp it. It was an espresso machine so it only made small batches of coffee. The milk frother was a separate action you had to complete and it takes skill and practice to master the milk frother so as to not boil the milk.
For an espresso machine, you need the following things:
freshly ground coffee
espresso machine with portafilter, tamper, milk frother
For this type of coffee making, I think this takes up the most electrical energy because you do have to keep the machine plugged in and warmed up before making a new cup. The waste in the end is just the coffee grounds, but not as much grounds because it is concentrated coffee unless you have a few espressos a day which my husband sometimes does. It does need to be cleaned often especially where the grounds and water connect as well as the milk frother part. So after a few years, we ended up giving it up and selling the whole thing + grinder on Craigslist. For a period of time, it was just too much work and none of us are baristas. I am still dreaming of getting the automatic machines where it grinds and adds milk at exactly the right amount. One day!
The French Press
This has been my preferred way of making coffee for years. There's something about it that calms me when I make it. Unfortunately, earlier in the year, I broke ours and it took some time for us to find a new one, partly because I didn't want a glass one and we went back to the pour over as a temp solution. Thankfully, I found the Espro stainless steel French press secondhand on noihsaf_home. I was able to get it at a few percent off than the original and it was in great condition.
This press is vacuum, insulated stainless steel, the same material as my much loved water bottle so I knew I would like this item. It has a double filter to remove the fine grounds that regular French press leaves behind. It also keeps the coffee warm for a longer period of time so this made sense for us since my husband wakes up early, has his coffee and I follow a few hours later and finish the rest.
For an French press, you need the following things:
freshly ground coffee
This method of making coffee results in just the grounds to be composted. The press itself is easy to clean and maintain. Honestly, I just sometimes just rinse it and let it dry completely for the next morning's batch. This has been by far the best process for us because it takes up very little space, takes very little maintenance and produces the least amount of waste.
With regards to coffee, we use to get them every week freshly ground at WFM, but this adds up pretty quickly especially at around $9.99 a pound. So we have opted to buy the Costco 5lb bag of organic, farmer friendly, non-GMO verified coffee at $40 a bag. We grind it at Costco and once home I transfer it to large glass containers to keep them fresher. I know it's best to grind it before you make it, but we aren't keen on buying another device for the kitchen so for now, this will do. The coffee does come in the large foil bag so I haven't figured out how to best discard that. This method just makes sense for us given our coffee consumption which I keep saying isn't a lot, but totally adds up.
Coffee too takes a lot of resources to grow, harvest and get to our cups. Coffee is primarily grown in between the Tropics line so it's other people from other parts of the world that put in a lot of the effort. It is also a very water intensive process so it's good to keep this in mind. I also want to be conscious of that and not waste it easily, which is why I try to use it up as much as I can. With summer here, I am also saving the leftovers into ice to add to my iced coffee so I don't get diluted coffee at the end of the day.
Coffee On the Road
If we are heading away from home and won't have time to have coffee or stop by, I bring it in my Klean Kanteen stainless, insulated cup with the loop cup. This just makes it easier to throw in my bag. Because I also add the good fats in it, it's also easy for me to shake it up and mix everything back up. I also then have the cup for more coffee to refill on-the-go. I've never had an issue getting it refilled so that is a huge plus. I won't be one to carry coffee in a glass jar (unless my husband has gotten hold of my KK cup), because there's just a high chance of me breaking it to props to folks who can do it.
I mentioned coffee dates and wanted to add a few words to it. In the mornings are usually a rush to get to places so every now and again, my husband and I will go out for coffee dates. We, of course, try to get ours to-stay so that we can chat about everything and anything. It's a great way to pause and enjoy each other's company. We've found some cool coffee spots doing these coffee dates so we are always on the hunt. It’s also much cheaper than going out on dinner dates. We know we can make better dinner at home and while we have good coffee at home, without an espresso maker, we still long for that nice espresso time and time again.
I used to get nervous going into new places figuring out if my coffee would be served in a disposable cup, but now it's part of my habit to look around, look on top of the espresso bar and order with confidence to have our coffee in a mug and I have to stay 9 times out of 10, it's been pretty successful. There's the occasional mishap because it might be busy in the cafe or the cashier goes into default mode. I do love that more coffee shops offer coffee to stay now. My go-to order is normally a flat white or a cortado, because I love the espresso to milk ratio.
How do you try to make the best of your coffee? Do you add anything else to it?