I happen to love coffee. This lovely bitter brew, with a swirl of coconut cream, helps start my day off right. But have you ever thought of possible chemical contamination swirling in your cup of jo? I don’t say that to be an alarmist or to be dramatic, but it does seem that many of us are adding to our chemical and toxin load through our coffee habit.
Many of us have made steps to remove plastic from our kitchens. But have you considered your coffee maker?
The Problem with Plastic
Plastic is made up of varying chemicals, many of which are known toxins. Two especially concerning ones are phthalates, and chemicals that mimic estrogen, such as BPA. Phthalates can leach into food and beverages and cause hormonal imbalances and birth defects, and they are unfortunately present in the blood of virtually everyone in the developed world. How does it migrate to what consume? By being heated.
BPA, and other similar chemicals in plastic, has been linked to a wide variety of possible health concerns, including breast cancer, reduced sperm counts, obesity, prostate cancer, and neurological problems in children. When scientists tested Americans for its presence, they found evidence that all of us are getting almost constant exposure to it.
When a lot of this information first came out some researchers were suggesting two things: Avoiding heating food or liquids in plastic, and switching to safer food storage containers such as glass, stainless steel, or ceramic.
Pouring boiling water through coffee grinds sitting in plastic seems like a bad idea.
In fact, in one recent story, a woman cured her perimenopausal symptoms and a sudden skin condition by ditching her coworkers regular coffee maker coffee for a cup made with a glass French press. If that sounds outlandish, consider the fact that studies have linked chemical exposure to early menopause and BPA from cans to increases in blood pressure.
While we can’t all have such dramatic results with one simple change in our habits, if one simple habit change could reduce our exposure significantly, my question is, why not?
Besides, if you like good coffee, the following methods are wonderful!
Let’s start with one of the cleanest options I’ve found that also happens to look elegant.
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How to make: With special filters that fit at the top with the coffee grinds, you slowly pour water over the coffee grinds, until you’ve reached either of the indicated markings.
- Super cool looking
- Made completely with glass and wood (A+ for avoiding plastic!)
- The act of being so involved with your coffee by slowly swirling hot water over coffee grinds makes it an art form (and also makes you look awesome when doing in front of guests).
- You have to actively pour slowly, which takes some minutes to do. So this isn’t going to make your cup of coffee for you while you rush around getting the kids ready for school.
- Harder to make single servings
Another model that I haven’t tried is the Grosche Pour Over , which features a permanent stainless steel filter. Not quite as pretty in my opinion, but I love the stainless steel filter idea. For the Chemex Coffee Maker you can use unbleached filters , a stainless steel filter made by another brand to fit Chemex, or a cotton CoffeeSock .
If you really want to do it right, you can even buy this special kettle for heating water, which allows you to pour hot water evenly over the coffee dripper.
Single Cup Pour Over
How to make: Put a heaping scoop of coffee grinds in filter in the coffee dripper, and slowly pour water through until the coffee cup has reached desired fullness.
- An easy way to make single serve coffee
- Small drawer/cupboard space for a coffee maker
- Is also completely plastic-free (that is, if you get the right coffee dripper!).
- Can only make one cup at a time.
- You are actively involved in slowly pouring hot water
One of the most celebrated brands is Hario Coffee Drippers for pour over coffee. Avoid the plastic ones for obvious reasons. There is a ceramic version, and a glass version (this has a rim that seems to be made either with ceramic or plastic, I am not sure. It doesn’t touch the hot liquid, but steam may reach it), and a cooper one too (though I would be concerned with getting elevated copper levels with the regular use of this one).
How to make: Measure coffee grinds and place in the bottom of the press. Fill with very hot water, and steep for 4-7 minutes. Press, and enjoy.
- So easy! And while you have to pour the hot water in, it really is a painless and easy process.
- Makes lovely coffee
- You can use to make loose leaf tea as well!
Not all presses are 100% plastic-free. I have this Bodum French Press . It DOESN’T have plastic down by the plunger, but some of their cheaper options do have a small piece of plastic. But it DOES have plastic on the lid (It shouldn’t touch the water, but obviously has hot water condensing on it). For a completely plastic-free French Press, you could try out this Frieling Stainless Steel Coffee Press , which is completely plastic-free, but be prepared to spend a whole lot more. However, keep in mind that it does have the added benefit of keeping the coffee warm for much longer.
StoveTop Espresso Maker
How to Make: The coffee grinds are put in the middle of the maker, with water in the bottom. High pressure pushes it up through the grinds, and you have the espresso at the top, ready to pour.
- Espresso shots without an expensive espresso maker! While not quite the same quality as that made from an expensive espresso maker, it’s still quite good.
- Can make into lots of coffee drinks, but also use to make Americanos (made with boiling water, similar to regular coffee)
- Mostly hands off
- You do have to watch it during the end of the process, so it doesn’t burn.
- Takes longer than the other options.
I own this Ikea Espresso Maker (buy from Ikea store, as it is overpriced on Amazon). Other beautiful Stainless Steel options include this Bialetti Espresso Maker , or this Cuisinox Espresso Maker . You can buy models in a variety of sizes to fit different needs.
And yes, I use and own all of the above. 🙂 Do you any any plastic free coffee methods to add? I’d love to hear!