Once upon a time, I relied on electric coffee makers for my morning dose of awesome. There were some handy features, like I could set the timer and wake up to coffee (if I remembered, which I generally did not), but the machines themselves never seemed to last very long before breaking, not to mention that’s one more item on the counter that kind of nagged at me as I was decluttering the world.
I really enjoy a clean, empty counter.
I happened to be chatting up Peggy at my favorite coffee roasters a year or two ago, and saw the coffee cones she had for sale. Small. Compact. Easily storable, easily transportable. Plastic, but less than an electric maker. Less than $4.
I mean … that was an easy sale on Peggy’s part.
It took some experimenting to get a good cup of coffee, but it didn’t take long before I knew that this little cone was the best thing I’d brought into my kitchen in a long, long time.
It uses #4 coffee filters. I’d grab a box or two of the unbleached ones every so often, and didn’t think any more about it.
When I started the project, though, I started looking at every disposable item we were using. And that daily filter — sometimes two, who am I kidding? — was adding up.
That’s when I decided to try a stainless steel tea strainer. It was about $14, but I figured I could use it just like the coffee cone — add my grounds, pour in hot water from my stainless steel teapot, and BAM. Coffee!
Except it didn’t work that way.
So it turns out that tea strainers really are just for tea. (Ah, if only I’d listened to those friendly teashop employees.) After cup after cup of terrible coffee with lots of grit, I was all, Walker out. I have very few food pleasures in this world, what with my jerk of a stomach, and coffee is at the top of that list. I’m just not willing to compromise on that one.
I started researching other options, although, as Eric pointed out, I already had a pretty earth-friendly system going and bigger fish to fry. That was all the justification I needed to buy one more small carton of filters while I figured this thing out — because I really feel like replacing disposables is a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish this year. Even biodegradable ones.
I looked into muslin coffee filters — found THIS tutorial, even — but ultimately decided that was just one more thing I’d have to wash and eventually replace. I looked into French presses — tried finding one in a secondhand shop, scouted options online — but couldn’t figure out how that amount of plastic was any better than the plastic cone I already owned (and am admittedly very attached to).
So I started googling “reusable coffee filters.” And presto! There was the “permanent coffee filter,” less than $4, promising to eliminate my need of paper filters for all time.
Again, some plastic, but since it’s smaller than a French press, it seems safe to assume this is also less plastic. I actually had one of these in a coffee maker of yore, and I wish I’d have held on to it when I got rid of said machine. So I had a good idea of how it would work.
It finally came last week — cardboard box, plastic bag, could recycle both — and I was excited to see that it fit into my coffee cone perfectly. Compared to paper filters, this makes a fast cup of coffee. I’ve had to alter my measurements slightly — it’s too strong otherwise, which is really saying something — but the ground is fine (I have a coffee grinder and I like to just push the button until I can’t stand the sound anymore.). And the finished product is good.
I should probably admit that I have been looking into ceramic coffee cones … but since I already have a perfectly good (albeit plastic) one, it seems kind of dumb to get rid of it. Also: Ceramic coffee cone and my tile kitchen floor. That is just a disaster waiting to happen.
And: Had I not already had a cone, I would have gone the French press route. It seems like that wouldn’t be too hard to find secondhand, and if it was, there are plenty of options out there in varying degrees of plastic.
Just for the sake of expanding our zero waste collective knowledge, however, I would love to hear about the coffee (or tea) systems you all have going — anyone use cotton/muslin filters? Love their French press? Also use a cone? Something else I hadn’t thought of? I think that would be helpful info for anyone else looking into this whole ordeal.
Next up: Um…