You have probably seen the story - Takeaway coffee cups are big a polluter.
We made the switch to reusable coffee cups and started to make more coffee at home with our Nespresso machine, but then we found out... Coffee capsules are one the worst single-use polluters in the world.
We came to the conclusion that the most eco-friendly way to make our morning coffee was to go back to basics. Ditch the Nespresso machine (we sold it on eBay!) and make everything at home.
We fell down the rabbit hole and now have this extensive guide with 8 different ways to make coffee at home, we hope you enjoy!
Want even more recommendations to make your 'Cup of Joe' kinder to the planet? See our tips to make your morning coffee eco-friendly blog post.
There are lots of different ways to make coffee at home. But they can be grouped into four main categories.
Before diving into the different brewing methods it's important to understand a bit about the two main ingredients, coffee beans and water.
There are three broad categories of grind:
The basic rule is the finer the grind, the greater the surface area of the beans. Water can more easily penetrate the bean, extract a greater portions of the oils and therefore increase the flavor.
The grind is also an important consideration when using particular coffee preparation method. For example, a coarse grind is need for the French press to prevent smaller particles clogging the filter.
From my own experience, if you buy "ground coffee" from the supermarket the grind is a middle of the road "medium" grind. If you want anything more specific than that you will have to find a specialist supplier or grind the beans yourself.
Unfortunately, many high street supermarket that sell their own branded ground coffees sell coffee package it in non-recyclable bags.
How coffee is cultivated also makes a big difference to its impact on the environment.
Filtered is best, but tap water is fine.
Don’t boil more water than needed. This just wastes energy, not every eco-friendly!
Hot water, not boiling. An important thing to remember is that all coffee brewing is done with hot or almost boiling water. You can use a thermometer to test the water temperature for that perfect brew. Or a good rule of thumb is to turn the kettle off just before you see big bubbles starting to form.
Coffee to water ratio. As a very general rule you want to use 20g (a heaped table spoon) of coffee for every 300ml of water. This is really just a starting point, experiment and find what works for you with each method.
O.K. let's get started….
The Infusion method (also known as steeping) is probably the most popular way to brew coffee at home.
Hot water and coffee grounds are mixed together, the steeping begins and you control when the infusion stops.
This means you can tailor the strength and richness of the brew with more accuracy compared to the pour over method.
The French Press goes by many names; Cafeteria, press pot, coffee press, cafetière, coffee plunger, сafetière à piston.
It comes in countless designs but the basic principal hasn’t changed since it was invented at the beginning of the 20th century. It consists of a beaker and a plunger that fits tightly inside the beaker. The plunger has a fine mesh filter, which allows water to pass through but not coffee grounds.
How to brew: Optional first step. Pour hot water into the beaker, let sit for a few minutes and then empty. This heats up the beaker so that when you add your hot water for the infusion more energy is transferred to the coffee grounds rather than the beaker itself.
Add ground coffee, almost boiling water and stir. Place the plunger onto to keep the heat in and set aside to brew for around 4 minutes. Then press the plunger down. Once the plunger reaches the bottom the coffee will still continue to brew so it's best to serve straight way.
These are the basics, take it to the next level with this video:
Brew time: About 4 minutes before taking the plunge.
Grind type: Coarsely ground coffee. If you use fine grounds they will clog up the mesh filter and seep into the coffee and you will be left with silty sludge.
Resulting brew: French press produces a coffee with body. The mesh filter also allows more aromatic oils to pass through to the coffee more than other brewing methods. Best to avoid the last few sips though as they will likely be silty from the fines.
Difficulty: Easy, just keep an eye on the brew time, that’s the hardest part.
VERDICT: You can't go wrong with a French press, it's easy to use and great if you need to make coffee regularly for a full household because you can get a size to suit.
The vacuum pot wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie. Most people agree it's an insane way to make coffee, it takes ages to make and it’s a real faff.
But, if you want to show off to your friends about how much of a coffee nut you are, or fancy yourself as an amateur chemist, the vacuum pot is what you need.
How to brew: The vacuum pot consists of two chambers. The lower chamber holds water and the top chamber holds coffee grounds.
As the water in the bottom chamber is heated the resulting steam increases the pressure inside the lower chamber. The water is forced from the lower to the top chamber. The coffee grounds are added and the infusion begins.
After the infusion stage has finished the heat source is turned off. The atomospheric pressure in the lower chamber moves back to normal, sucking in the brewed coffee from the top chamber.
There is a filter between the two chambers leaving the coffee grounds in the top chamber.
The bottom chamber can then be removed and ready to serve.
To be honest, describing the process doesn’t do justice to the shear extravagance of it so here a video showing how it's done.
Brew time: All in with setup time, heating the water, infusing the coffee and waiting for the draw down phase, at least 15 minutes.
Grind type: Coarse grind, similar to French press
Resulting brew: Users of vacuum pots swear that they create a superior brew, but then again, for all this work, you would expect it to be fantastic right?
Difficulty: Hard. There are lots of moving parts and clean up can be a real pain.
VERDICT: The perfect gift for someone obsessed with coffee. For a day to day coffee maker it's overkill but if you have lots of time in the morning and love your coffee it might be for you.
Why put in the hard work when gravity can do it for you? With the gravity method, the brewed coffee drips slowly and directly into a cup or pot.
Because the water has less contact time with the grounds drip feed coffee has a much lighter flavour. There is also less grit, this is left behind in the filter, a disadvantage of the infusion method.
Most drip feed setups are small and designed for a single serving, perfect if you just want to treat yourself to a coffee.
Pour over drippers come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. An important thing to realise with most pour over setups is that they require a single-use paper filter. filterless or reusable filter versions are available which we would definitely recommend to stay as eco-friendly as possible!
How to brew: Take your pour over dripper, line with a filter which and fill with coffee grounds. Place the dripper on top of a cup, mug or pot.
Pour a little hot water over the coffee grounds and let them soak it up. This phase is called Blooming. You will see the grounds swell, rise, and bubble as CO2 is released. Allow 30 seconds for the bloom to finish.
Slowly pour the remaining water over the center of the grounds in spiral action, making sure to soak all the grounds.
Brew time: 5 minutes all in.
Grind type: A medium grind should be fine. If using a reusable filter a finer grid may block the mesh.
Resulting brew: Expect a rich, clean and refreshing cup of coffee.
Difficulty: Medium, the key step is remembering to bloom and then the slow poor.
VERDICT: Pour over coffee may seem simple but can be quite involved. It produces a clean and refreshing cup of coffee. Pour over kits are small and portable and designed to make one cup, great if you want to indulge your yourself.
People have fallen out of love with percolators. They were popular back in the 60s and 70s but the introduction of the electric drip coffee makers sparked their end.
The big problem is that they continually cycle the brewed coffee which leads to over-extraction and a bitter coffee. Then again, if you like a strong cup of coffee or have a 'set it and forget it' mentality this might be the method for you.
How to brew: Inside the percolator there is a lower chamber that you fill with water. The upper chamber contains the coffee.
As the water is heated the pressure forces water from the lower to the upper chamber. Gravity takes over and the water seeps through the coffee and drips into the lower chamber after passing through a filter.
Once in the lower chamber, the cycle begins again.
Brew time: 7-10 minutes
Grind type: Coarse grind
Resulting brew: If you drink straightway the coffee will be fine. But the longer the percolator is left to… percolate? The more bitter the brew becomes.
Difficulty: Easy, just add the coffee grounds and water and turn on.
Verdict: Percolates can be useful if you need to make coffee for lots of people and keep it warm for a while, think of the coffee you might get at a breakfast coffee. But you will never get a great tasting brew.
The pressure method has led to the coffee culture we know today. The only way real espresso coffee can be made is under pressure.
Hot water is quickly forced through fine coffee grounds at high pressure. The whole process takes less then a minute and results in a highly concentrated coffee drink with the distinctive layer of 'crema'.
The Aeropress is a relatively recent invention in the coffee world being launched in 2005.
People love this compact device because it is so versatile.
You can't make official 'espresso' coffee as you know it, the pressure just isn't there, but you can make something close to it.
The Aeropress normally comes with single-use paper filters, although you can now get reusable metal mesh filters.
How to brew: The Aeropress is cross between a pour over filter and a french press.
It consist of two nested chambers. A filter is attached to the bottom of the larger chamber. The slightly smaller, tight fitting plunger goes inside.
Coffee grounds and hot water are added to the larger chamber and left to infuse. When the brew is ready the plunger is pushed down. This forces the coffee through the filter and into the cup, leaving behind the grinds.
You have to apply quite a bit of pressure at this point so make sure the cup is sturdy.
Brew time: 2-3 minutes
Grind type: Any. The great thing with the AeroPress is that it doesn’t matter. If you stick to the general rule of finer grind = lower brew time you can't go far wrong
Resulting brew: Clean and bright due to the low infusion time and filtration process, but this also results in a brew with less body.
Difficulty: Easy to learn, difficult to master. There are so many customisable aspects to the brew process, becoming an AeroPress master will take a lot of experimentation but the basic mechanics of the device are really easy to use.
Verdict: A versitile and compact coffee maker that you can take with you anywhere. You are limited to about two cups of coffee per extraction so it's not the best if you have a large household to cater for.
These iconic coffee makers have been around since the 1930's, created by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti.
How to brew: The moka pot has three main components. A lower chamber to hold the water. An upper chamber to hold the resulting coffee. A middle chamber to hold the coffee grounds.
When the pot is placed on a heat source the water heats up. This causes the water to evaporate and transform into steam.
As the pressure builds, water is forced up through the middle chamber holding the coffee. The water saturates the coffee grounds and the brewing starts. As the pressure continues to rise the water is finally pushed all the way to the top of the pot where it spills over into the upper chamber.
Once all the water has left the bottom chamber the coffee is ready to
serve. You can tell when all the water has moved from the bottom to the
top chamber when you hear a gurgling sound.
Brew time: Quick compared to other methods. About 3-4 minutes
Grind type: Medium-fine to fine
Resulting brew: An espresso like coffee and if you have the right mix of grind and coffee you can produce an emulsion similar to a crema
Difficulty: Easy. Just fill up the chambers and you are ready to go
Verdict: They make a great cup of coffee and look really cool in the kitchen. The brew can be on the strong side.
Boiling was the main method used for brewing coffee until the turn of the 20th century and is still the method of choice in some African and Middle Eastern countries.
All you have to do is heat water, chuck in the coffee grounds, steep for a few minutes and drink.
It makes you thing why we always over complicate things.
Traversing the wild west on horseback didn’t leave a lot of room for luxuries let alone a fancy coffee brewer.
This back to basic method is still commonly used around campsites where nobody has bothered to pack any coffee making gear.
How to brew: All you need is a saucepan and fire.
Take the saucepan and add water. Bring the water to the boil and let it cool for a minute. Add the ground coffee and let it infuse for a few minutes.
You can then serve by slowly pouring the coffee. Make sure not to do this to quickly as you will get a mouthful of grounds in your mug.
Brew time: 4 minutes
Grind type: Ideally you want a coarse grind so that the big heavy grounds sink to the bottom , otherwise you may be taking a sip of coffee sludge.
Resulting brew: Better than instant but can be hit and miss. It will, however, have a little bit of sediment, so leave the last few sips in your cup.
Difficulty: Easy, but a steady hand is needed for the final pour, or use a ladle if you have one
Verdict: No special equipment needed so great if you are in the sticks and you get to feel like a cowboy. But it can be messy and you definitely will end up taking in a mouthful of coffee grounds.
This method can trace its roots back to the Ottoman Empire. Strong coffee was considered a drug in the Quran and its consumption was forbidden for decades.
The coffee is made in a small pot call an ibrik, normally made of copper. And here's a fun fact your, the word 'coffee' derives from the Turkish word 'kahve'.
How to brew: Add water to the ibrik and finely ground coffee. Place the pot on a stove on low heat and let it heat up for a few minutes.
Stir the coffee and wait for it to come to the boil. The coffee will froth up and create a foam ontop. Spoon a little of the foam or crema into your cup.
Put the ibrik back on the heat. When it froths up again its ready to serve. When pouring make sure you do it slowly so you don’t ruin the foam you added to the cup previously.
Serve with a glass of water to clear the palate before each sip.
Brew time: Less than 5 minutes
Grind type: Super fine, as fine as you can make it, like flour.
Resulting brew: Thick, strong and aromatic but it will be silty. If you like strong black coffee, you’ll love Turkish coffee.
Difficulty: Easy, just make sure it doesn’t boil over.
Verdict: If you like strong espresso style coffee you will love this. Minimal equipment is need and its quick and easy to make. You do have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil over but an interesting way to prepare coffee compared to what we are used to in the west.
Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks