Many of us here at tentree start our day off with a cup of coffee (and then proceed to have a few more throughout the day), but in everything we do, we strive to be more eco friendly. Given our caffeine fiending ways, we set out to find the most eco friendly way to make a cup of coffee. There were a few things we looked for: waste, compostability, and energy use.
No matter how you make coffee, there is a waste byproduct. If you make coffee in a pod coffee maker, there’s plastic and coffee grounds. If you use a drip coffee maker, a pour over, an aeropress, or similar ways of making coffee, there’s a filter, usually paper and bamboo, and coffee grounds. In terms of most wasteful, the pod coffee maker seems to be #1. The least wasteful option seems to be the French press, which requires no filter. Your only waste product is coffee grounds.
Winner: French press
Coffee grounds are compostable, which is a great, eco friendly way to dispose of your old grounds. But what about coffee filters?
Of course, there’s your pod coffee maker which has plastic waste byproduct. You can’t compost plastic, so the pod coffee maker definitely isn’t coming in first place for most compostable. Sorry my pod-filled friend.
Coffee filters can be composted, but we recommend only composting brown filters. White coffee filters are sometimes treated with bleach and other synthetic chemicals, which could harm the overall health of your compost heap. You can take all the guesswork out of composting paper coffee filters by not using them at all. It looks like our friend the French press wins this round.
Winner: French press.
All coffee needs to use some amount of electricity for the heating of the water (although cold brew is an option). We did a little research on which option uses the most electricity. The results are admittedly kind of underwhelming, but this is what we found out.
An electric kettle used to heat water for a pot of coffee made with a pour over or French press, on average, uses around 1,600 watts of electricity.
A drip coffee maker uses approximately the same amount of energy as the electric kettle – between 1,200 and 1,700 watts.
A pod coffee maker will use approximately 1,500 watts of electricity.
Idle energy use is worth taking into consideration too. It takes electricity for coffee, once made, to be kept at a hot temperature. This is a difficult thing to measure, but assuming that the average coffee pot remains on for a while after the coffee is made, the electric kettle may be the most energy efficient way to make coffee.
Winner: Electric kettle and by proximity, French press and pour over coffee.
When you break it all down, it appears as though the French press is the most eco-friendly way to make coffee. There are no filters involved with making the coffee, the grounds are completely compostable, and the electric kettle (likely) uses less energy than a drip coffee pot or a pod style coffee maker.
That said, if you’re using a regular coffee pot, we aren’t necessarily suggesting that you junk it in favor of a French press. If that is what you decide, please donate to a charity second hand shop so it can be resold and reused. But there are things you can consider doing, like buying fair trade, non-slave labor coffee and using a reusable mug, like our Enamel Juniper Camp Mug.