Plastic free coffee – a guide
I find it hard to describe just how much I love coffee. I love the taste, the way it smells, the way it perks me up in the morning, the way it can offer a pause in an otherwise stressful day. I’ve been drinking the stuff for longer than I can remember, or at the very least since my Dad showed me how to use a cafetiere when I was a kid (so that he could get me to make coffee – smart move). I’m even drinking it as I write this. But there’s a catch: so much of our enjoyment of the stuff in this day and age involves the use of plastic. Brewing a truly plastic free coffee is, for me and many others, an important step in the plastic free journey.
No matter whether you’re at home or on the go, our enjoyment of coffee seems to produce a huge amount of plastic waste. If we’re out and about it’s particularly bad. Cardboard cups with plastic film that stop it being recycled, plastic lids, plastic stirrers, little plastic pots of milk, plastic instant coffee sachets… the list goes on. We often forget, though, the plastic we generate during our coffee rituals at home. The bags for our beans and coffee grounds? Barring one or two exceptions, they’re almost always plastic. If you’ve got a coffee pod machine, it’s even worse – those little suckers are mostly going straight to landfill, even if they’re made of metal.
So, how can you drink a plastic free coffee whether you’re at home or on the go? Here’s some tips to get things sorted!
Plastic free coffee on the go
If you’re out and about, the obvious choice is to make sure you have some kind – any kind – of suitable cup with you. This is what gets talked about the most and it’s the easiest change to make. You can start by finding a cup that suits you best. For me, I use a cup I’ve had for over a year now that fits in my rucksack and also the cup holder of my car.
Get a cup that will fit in your bag
The great thing about using cups like this on the go is that, currently, many coffee shops offer you a small discount for being so awesome. However, the biggest challenge can be making sure you’ve actually got it with you! If you’ve got one that fits in the bag you use regularly, you’re more likely to have it with you at all times. Because they all come in different shapes and sizes, make sure you get one that works for you.
Don’t have a bag you carry regularly? Time to change!
For what it’s worth, my opinion is that owning a good rucksack is incredibly helpful and I often think of it as being my secret weapon for using less plastic. The one I use has pockets on either side – one for a KeepCup, the other for my stainless steel water bottle – and I always make sure it’s loaded up whenever I leave the house.
Go insulated if you think you’ll need it
Some people like cold coffee(!), but not me. If you think you’re going to go sometime between sips, make sure you take a look at insulated cups instead as an alternative option.
Check it will fit in your cup holder if you have one
On the road for work, but still need that coffee fix? It’s going to suck when you buy a cup then find it won’t fit in your cup holder. Take a look at the dimensions and see what will work best before buying.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
The first time you hand your cup to the barista and see it disappear behind the counter may feel, at first, a bit odd. But the great thing I’ve found is that they’re totally used to it by now. And, when you get it back at the other end, that feeling that you’ve just used one less plastic cup is hard to beat. There’s nothing quite like the taste of a freshly-brewed plastic free coffee!
Plastic free coffee at home
If you’re at home, the challenge is a little different. The best two options for making plastic free coffee at home are stovetops coffee makers and cafetieres. Why not drip systems? Well, they use filters that contain plastic similar to tea bags so they’re sadly not ideal.
Ditch the machine
Obviously, coffee pod machines are out of the question, so not using them is the first big step. Many machines use plastic pods and even the ones that use metal are pretty bad for the environment. The biggest change we can make is to just flat out refuse to use these machines. I confess, I used to use one and loved how convenient it was. But when I started down this path of going plastic free, it made me feel awful to think how much plastic I’d sent to landfill just to satisfy my own need for convenience.
Do as the French and the Italians do
The two best options for coffee? Cafetieres and stovetops. The former is best for those longer, lazy coffees and that satisfying feeling when you ‘plunge’. The latter for those shorter, faster hits of intense caffeine the way the Italians like it. Neither need any plastic to work, can be used time and time again and should last a lifetime if looked after properly.
Grind your own
To use stovetops or cafetieres, we need coffee grounds. To get coffee grounds we either need to buy it in bags from somewhere or grind it ourselves. What I’ve found is that it’s incredibly hard to buy grounds without plastic, but significantly easier to buy coffee beans. I’ve been using Plastic Free Pantry and have been really impressed with the coffee they’ve been sending me. To grind the beans they send me, I’ve been using the Krups Expert GVX231 Burr Coffee Grinder. It’s great because it allows me to change the coarseness of the grind – very coarse for cafetiere, very fine for stovetop.
Grind enough for a week, once a week
Because the grinder I have is on the bigger side, two max capacity grinds take about five minutes and the resulting coffee lasts me just over a week. It’s not fun to be grinding coffee every day, so this really works for me. I keep all my grounds in a kilner jar in the fridge to keep them fresh (way fresher than store bought).
Plastic free coffee – not as hard as you think
The best part about all of this is that plastic free coffee is such an easy win. It doesn’t take much effort to change, and the changes are only small. You’re not going completely plastic free in an instant – that’s just not possible – but you are making simple changes that go a long way towards helping the environment. The best part? Once you’ve made this change, the next one is going to feel much easier and much more achieveable. Now that is priceless.
So what do you think? Any other tips for how to use less plastic when drinking coffee? Drop a comment below and get involved!