Have I ever mentioned that I really love coffee?

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.

It's stainless. It's steel. It's a huge learning curve.

It turns out tea strainers are really just made for tea. Johanna is a big tea fan, so she’s keen on me keeping it. I’m not sure what I’ll do, actually. I have a coworker who drinks loose-leaf tea and this might end up being his Christmas gift.

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.


Live coffee brewing action shot! I have to be very careful not to overfill this filter with water -- or my cone runneth over (ask me how I know). It's easy to clean, too: I collect the grounds in a dish, then run the filter under water.

Live coffee brewing action shot! I have to be very careful not to overfill this filter with water — or my cone runneth over (ask me how I know). It’s easy to clean, too: I collect the grounds in a dish, then run the filter under water.

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’m happy.

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…

38 Responses to Have I ever mentioned that I really love coffee?

  1. OK, over here in the UK we use the French term cafetiere, but as far as I can tell that’s what you call a French Press right? Anyhoo, neither of mine (we have a 2 cup and a 4 cup, I’m not sure why!) have an ounce of plastic in them. The 2 cup I’ve had for, ahem, well, since I was at university which is many moons ago and it’s on it’s, um 4th, 5th glass jug (I’m occasionally clumsy!) and it’s 2nd metal filtery sieve thing, but the rest of it has lasted a looooong time. I love them. So simple. You do need a coarser gind than for a fine nylon or paper filter, but it makes a lovely cup of coffee. With no plastic 🙂

    Thanks for your blog. It keeps me inspired to keep trying to reduce what comes into the house (which reduces waste) even if our recyling bin is still fuller than I’d like each week.

  2. I use a stainless steel french press. It is all metal, cleans up like a dream, and makes me a wonderful cup of coffee twice a day. Also it’s sized for one large cup of coffee, which is perfect for me. It’s a Double-wall Straight Sided Cafetiere by Grunwerg. Cost me 16 pounds (in Scotland at the moment). It’s one of the few things I’m taking back to the states with me when I move back next year.

  3. Double sized french press (coffee for me and my husband) that I found at a thrift shop. It makes great coffee and there’s no filter. And since the grounds are loose, I’ll use that as fertilizer on any of my plants that like acidic soil instead of just putting it in the compost.

  4. French press lover here! (Called a cafetiere in the UK.) Ours does have a plastic ‘frame’ which holds the glass, but Bodum makes a metal-framed one, and I’ve seen stainless steel options. Le Crueset even makes an enamel one which is, of course, beautiful. In mine, I like that I can replace the glass when it breaks without replacing the whole thing, and I reckon I could even recycle the plastic frame because it separates from the glass. In general I like a French press the best, because it seems to me like the simplest option and it’s easy to adjust the strength of the coffee. You do, of course, need an easy way to boil water, but with my British husband there’s no way we’ll ever be without a kettle!

  5. We also have a small one-cup version of the filter you’re using. It comes from Germany. We’ve had it a couple of years, and it has lasted.

  6. Me again! I grew up with my mom using the muslin cone in the cone-shaped thing over a carafe. But for the last umpteen years I have moved to the French Press Camp! We have two french presses, one does about three cups which we use when we have people over. Otherwise for myself I use my small one-cup press. It is fast and easy so it is not a PITA if I want more…and we compost the grounds. We also use a tiny stainless steel espresso maker on a daily basis. Most mornings I actually have my first cup of coffee from the espresso maker only I add soy milk to it and drink it like an american coffee not like an espresso. We also grind our beans and I use the same setting and same beans for both types of coffee.

    • Jewel! I think that’s why I like my coffee cone so much, it’s stinkin’ fast to brew a cup. Or four, if I brew it in a quart jar instead of my Klean Kanteen. (And yep, Americanos. I’m very partial. Today I had three. It’s possible I have a problem.)

  7. Hubby has an Aeropress (it’s plastic but you can buy permanent filter for it). It replaced our glass with plastic handle/lid Bodum French Press that broke after 22 years. I am a tea drinker. I use a stainless steel strainer. Both Aeropress and tea strainer wash up nicely and make single cup at a time.

    • I’ve seen those at my favorite coffee roasters — interesting! (Oh, and poor ol’ French press. That must have been a sad day.)

      • It was a sad day. It was well loved. At least we were able to recycle most of it. BTW hubby loves the quality of coffee from the Aeropress. He uses a hand grinder while waiting for the water to boil.

    • Oh, have an aeropress too, love the coffee it makes. But I didn’t know they have permanent filters for it, have to research if I can get those in Europe, that would be great.
      Before I had a french press, I like the coffee, but not so much the coffee grounds I always had in my coffee. But never saw a french press with plastic? Only totally metal or metal with glass …. hmmm, perhaps the handle is plastic.
      Someone commented about being able to replace the glass jar if it breaks, well, I did that once with a bodum french press, and the replacement cost almost as much as a new french press.

      So many comments, we all seem to love our coffee 🙂

      • Not sure if Aeropress makes the filter or some other company does. He is still working though the 300 paper filters that came with it. They go into the compost with the grounds. It looks like little hockey pucks

  8. Is the french press you speak of a glass beaker with a metal press down plunger? Tis seems to me to be the best option available

    • Ooooooh, that’s gorgeous. And hey, if it didn’t shatter on a rock, then it may just hold up against my tiled kitchen floor! 😉

    • HOLD THE PHONE. I’ve never heard of a coffee sock! I just Googled it and it’s like a whole new world. Which one do you use? I’ve been eyeing cold brew systems and am seriously tempted by that half-gallon coffee sock option. The only thing holding me back is my minimalism.

      (And on my tomato post I wrote “half the tomatoes” and then realized I meant “halve” after it went live. DETAILS. So boring.)

  9. Tea drinker here. I got a tea strainer that fits into my teapot at Teavanna. It came packaged in a cardboard box and that’s it. It came with a nifty lid/saucer that keeps the tea from making a mess of the counter. (I really, really love it.)

  10. Coffee is one area I prefer not skimp on… cheap coffee=poor farmers.
    But here are a few things in my armoury you might be interested in… the chemex with a stainless cone by ablebrewing (i also have paper filters), hario woodneck (with a cloth filter), the humble french press, v60, kalita wave, aeropress, moka pot.

    You could try drinking your coffee ‘cupping style’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e84ejgE6Gsg

    • Totally agree!

      And you must be a coffee pro — I did a quick search of your suggestions, that was fun. Thanks for sharing!

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