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Zero Waste Coffee Brewing Methods

zero waste coffee brewing

Below I list the most sustainable ways to brew zero waste coffee and how each one works. These brewing methods were chosen based on what materials are used and that every item can be washed and reused again. Ideally for zero waste coffee, you buy the brewing materials once and your set for the next few decades, if not a lifetime. Regardless of which method you prefer to brew (listed below) what you decide to do with the coffee grounds afterwards is what truly makes it “zero waste” coffee.

Best Zero Waste Coffee Brewing Methods

If your going to use any coffee brewing method that uses a filter, always use a reusable filter. Cloth or stainless steel filters work but stainless steel filters provide the best taste and benefits. The disposable paper filters are not only bad for the environment, since they are single use items, but they also add a cardboard like taste to any coffee brewed with them. You can do a side by side taste test with a paper filter versus a stainless steel coffee filter. There’s a very noticeable difference in flavor.

pour over coffee

That aside, these are the simplest and most minimalist ways to brew zero waste coffee at home while retaining high quality flavor.

  1. French Press
  2. Pour Over method
  3. Cold Brewed Coffee
  4. Espresso Machine

I’ve personally brewed coffee using the French Press Method for the past 9 years and the only waste has been the coffee bags and the grounds, which I feel a little guilty about. I’ll discuss solutions to that later in the article. Some of the best things about making zero waste coffee in a french press is that there’s 1 item to brew the coffee, there’s no filters needed and all you have to do is add hot water to the ground coffee, wait, press and pour. Its an extremely simple and efficient process in making coffee which is why I’ve made it this way for years. When you’re done pouring your french press coffee you can add your coffee grounds to a compost bin or use them for other purposes I mention later on.

The Pour Over Method for brewing coffee is becoming one of the most popular ways to make coffee at home. Its familiar since its a “manual version” of the automatic coffee maker process and the pour over method also makes incredible tasting coffee. It gives you more control over the brewing process and with this method, there’s almost a zen art in making/pouring the coffee.

Learn How to Brew Pour Over Coffee in 3 Minutes
  1. Heat your water just like you would with any coffee (preferably electrically).
  2. Place your reusable stainless steel filter in the top of the pour over container.
  3. Pour your ground coffee into the filter.
  4. Once the water is heated, slowly pour over the ground coffee in circular motions evenly drenching the coffee.
  5. Once the drip process is done which will only take a few minutes, your pour over (zero waste coffee) is ready.
zero waste cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee may be one of the best tasting and waste reducing ways to make coffee. Since cold brew coffee will make use of a refrigerator (which is already plugged in) its using far less extra energy to produce. Natural gas or electricity isn’t used to heat water in order to brew the coffee. The process is also really simple to do which saves time. Its as easy as

  1. Placing ground coffee into an air tight container
  2. Filling it with cold/room temp water
  3. Close seal and place into refrigerator over night.

In the morning, all you have to do is filter out the cold brewed coffee and prepare it in any one of numerous cold brew recipes that are fun to play around and experiment with. Cold brew is fairly strong right out of the jar so try adding some cold water, plant milk and/or ice cubes to the mix.

Using the pour over method, french press, espresso or cold brewing will always be one of the most zero waste ways to make coffee. If you combine these methods with an electric kettle or water heated on an electric stove, its going to be the most zero waste coffee you’ve ever made.

Zero Waste Coffee Reusable Filters

Brewing Pour Over Coffee

Coffee filters have been made from paper for the longest time as a disposable one time use product out of convenience. This is one of many products that has created a wasteful society. Reusable coffee filters are the solution to create truly zero waste coffee. One form of reusable coffee filters are reusable/washable cloth filters. Often these are made from hemp or cotton and while they work, cloth filters tend to strip out some of the beneficial oils in the coffee the same way paper filters do. So a better alternative is stainless steel coffee filters. They’re reusable, washable, will last years compared to the cloth and paper filters. Most importantly, stainless steel filters won’t strip out the beneficial oils in the coffee.

You can take zero waste coffee a step further and instead of throwing away the coffee grounds they can be used for a variety of purposes to continue the life of the product.

Zero Waste Coffee Ground Uses

Used coffee grounds can be repurposed and made into:

  • Compost and/or natural fertilizer
  • Grow mushrooms at home
  • Soaps and skin cleanser
  • Cleaning scrub for surfaces, pots and pans
  • Natural dyes

Its not only the coffee grounds that are being wasted. Coffee makes up one of the biggest consumer markets in the world and there is an incredible amount of waste that comes from the coffee industry. This includes to-go cups (both paper and plastic), plastic straws and one of the biggest problems is plastic packaging. To tackle one of the biggest waste materials from the coffee industry I think that if it were possible for coffee bag manufacturers to find a way to make truly recyclable coffee bags, this would make the entire coffee industry a lot more sustainable. For coffee brands, I think the reason they don’t bag they’re coffee in truly recyclable, sustainable packaging is because there is a lack of choices at the moment.

Zero Waste Coffee Benefits

There’s a wide variety of benefits from making zero waste coffee. Not just for the environment but for you and your coffee too.

  • Benefits for you: By using a stainless steel filter your saving yourself hundreds of dollars over the course of a few years. By using the pour over method your not only making better tasting coffee but your practicing the art of mindfulness and being present which is a great practice to start your day. When using a french press to make your coffee you’re saving time and also making the process simple and efficient.
  • Benefits for the coffee: When using a stainless steel filter it doesn’t filter out a lot of those healthy oils that are often stripped out with cloth and paper filters (same goes for the french press and cold brew methods). By not using a paper filter your using less water and don’t have to be concerned about the “cardboard taste” being added to your coffee. Because these zero waste coffee methods take a little longer to do, you’re allowing a lot of the beneficial compounds to be extracted which makes healthier and more flavorful coffee.

Send us some of your zero waste coffee recipes or unique ways of using left over coffee grounds in the comments below. Enjoy making some awesome tasting coffee!


Jacob Haust

With a passion for design, electric vehicles, engineering and the environment, Jacob is combining his interests to help make the world a more sustainable place for generations to come. He went to University for Industrial Design where he understood materials, processes and manufacturing. This is a key part as a designer in order to understand what can and can't be done when manufacturing with certain materials and what materials to choose when designing for specific applications. So he has a fairly deep understanding of materials used in everyday products and the processes used to make them. As a kid he also lived in Iceland for years where he toured geothermal power plants and gained an appreciation for the engineering and sustainability of this energy source.

jacob haust


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