The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Coffee

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Would you say that your daily routine is eco friendly? When you’re thinking about ways to be more sustainable, it’s useful to start with those actions you repeat day after day, and that includes your delicious, vital, rejuvenating, morning coffee.

By now, we’ve all realised it’s time to ditch single-use paper cups and plastic lids. But, what else goes into having a zero-waste approach to making coffee?
In this article, we will run through the best eco-friendly set up for making your coffee at home, zero waste coffee brands, and even what to do with your leftover coffee grounds. Let’s brew some zero waste coffee!

Which zero waste brewing tools should I use?

There are a number of setups which allow you to brew delicious, speciality coffee without any waste. The most important thing to remember is that it’s much better to use durable, long-lasting equipment which won’t end up breaking down after a few uses. Invest, reap the benefits for years to come, and do your favour to the environment.

A brilliant quality grinder - the Wilfa Uniform Grinder

The Wilfa Uniform Grinder is one of the best at-home coffee brewing tools on the market. This piece of kit was designed in collaboration with Tim Wendelboe, coffee legend. You can trust that it’s going to be good!

The grinder is kitted out with stainless steel flat burrs which were made in Italy - only the best, most durable materials. It also comes with 41 different grind settings meaning that you need just one grinder for any sort of coffee. And, don’t let all those settings make you feel overwhelmed. There’s also an app which comes with the grinder with tutorials from Wendelboe himself, making suggestions on which settings to use for different sorts of coffee.

The Uniform Grinder even has an integrated set of scales in its lid. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but the grinder is also economical on space, pushing us closer to the perfect minimalist setup.  

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Use some of your energy rather than electricity - the Comandante hand grinder

To make your coffee-making process as eco as possible, why not use a hand grinder? This way, you don’t even need to use energy from the mains. You can just use your own might to grind up your coffee beans.
We suggest the Comandante C40 MK3 Nitro Blade Hand Grinder. Again, this device has seriously durable, high-quality burrs made from high alloy and high nitrogen stainless steel - they’re tough. In fact, the burrs are made from a single piece of stainless steel.
The burrs ensure that your coffee is ground up with consistency every single time. Comandante is a favourite among baristas around the world and it’s obvious why as soon as you use this grinder. 

A Chemex set up, but with zero waste

Now, onto brewing. The trusty Chemex has been a part of many specialty coffee brewers’ setups for years. But, did you know that there are zero waste alternatives for the Chemex paper filters?
You can purchase Chemex filters made from sustainable material, such as the one from CoffeeSock. These filters are made from organic cotton which is responsibly produced. You simply insert the coffee sock into your Chemex as you would a normal filter, brew your coffee as you would do, and then rinse it and leave it to dry once you’ve finished.
Coffee socks last for over a year at which point you can take them to your local clothing recycling centre. The fact they’re made from cotton also means that they absorb some of the oils but allow the acidity to go through into your cup. They produce a fresh, crisp taste.
Whatsmore, these coffee socks are made in the US and the company prides itself with the fact its employees are well-paid and work in good conditions. Since you’re being mindful about your waste, it’s a good idea to be mindful about everything else too. 

The best zero waste alternative is still classic French Press, even though this option is not appealing to hard-core coffee enthusiasts. Have a look at some sustainable alternatives to add to your kitchen set up at Happy and Green Shop and read more of the tips on zero waste coffee preparation alternatives.

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Aeropress your way to a more eco cup of coffee

Brewing coffee with Aeropress is another cult classic which happens to be a naturally zero waste option!
The filters you use with an Aeropress are compostable. You can also use them more than once. Simply rinse them off, dry them out, and you can use them over and over again. Once you feel it's time for a fresh one, simply throw your old filter in with your compost. The filter itself is also very small, meaning it will break down more easily.
With Aeropress, you can also buy each of the parts separately if you do need to replace something. This means there’s no need to throw away the whole device if something does go wrong with it, creating much less waste. 

Enjoy your coffee with the Frank Green reusable coffee cup 

Finally, when it comes to sipping on your delicious coffee, reusable coffee cups are the way to go.
Our recommendation? Frank Green reusable coffee cups are made with stainless steel, making them highly durable. You can tell how much care has gone into making them - they keep their contents hot or cold for ten hours. And, you can just put Frank Green cups on your way without having to worry about them spilling. They’re the perfect, zero waste way to drink your coffee, outperforming any other sort of cup.
Frank Green cups are also very easy to maintain. You can clean each of the parts individually, making them even more long-lasting. Try one out in the colour combination which best suits you.

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Where should I get my coffee from?

Good quality, sustainable beans and eco-friendly packaging are the next ingredients to that zero-waste cup of coffee. Over the past few years, the market for biodegradable and recyclable packaging has boomed. Of course, the sustainability of the beans themselves is also very important. We’ve rounded up some of the best options here. 

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Find your local package-free supermarket

For a local alternative, find your local package-free supermarket and see if they stock coffee beans. This way, you can travel to the store sustainably, on foot or by bike, and then collect your beans in a reusable container. To store your beans, you still need to make sure they’re in an opaque, air-tight container. This keeps them fresh and stops the flavours being interfered with by the sun.
In Copenhagen, Bean Bro’s home, we have Løs Market where you can buy a range of coffee beans from some of the world’s best coffee regions. Zero waste supermarkets are popping up all over the place. It’s important that we support them so that they can stay around for years to come!

What if my coffee bean packaging isn’t compostable?

Many coffee bean retailers do not have compostable packaging, and there is a good reason for this. Only 3% of the coffee’s environmental impact comes with the disposing of the packaging. Therefore, companies want to make sure that the coffee arrives with the consumer in good shape so that none of the environmental impact is wasted on a second rate final product.
This means that lots of coffee packaging, including Bean Bro’s own, is highly durable and designed to keep your coffee in the optimum condition possible. This also means that the packaging is brilliantly reusable - something that you can put to other purposes once you’ve finished the coffee inside.
The Bean Bros coffee bean bags are resealable, meaning that you can use them to store all sorts of things. Make sure to rinse the bag thoroughly once it’s empty and use them to transport your dry ingredients from the package free supermarket home, meaning you don’t have to cart around big glass jars. After you’ve finished with the packaging, remember to recycle!

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What should I do with the leftover grounds?

Finally, what’s left over once you’ve enjoyed your cup? The coffee grounds are, and there are plenty of things you can do with your grounds so that they don’t go to waste. 

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Compost your coffee grounds

As coffee grounds are a natural material, you can compost them. This means that the coffee grounds will break down and turn into a compost that you can use to make your plants grow better.

In fact, compost made from coffee grounds is amongst the best, most nutritious compost you can make. Studies have found that compost made with 40% coffee grounds produce fewer greenhouse gases and better quality compost than compost with just normal food waste.

Coffee grounds make your plants happier

Apart from just making compost, you can also put your grounds directly on your plant’s soil to make the plants healthier!
How does it work? Coffee grounds contain a number of the key ingredients plants need for growth. They are nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and chromium. These minerals don’t always naturally occur in the soil, so adding your coffee grounds makes a brilliant cocktail your plants will benefit from. Coffee grounds also attract worms which decrease the concentration of heavy metals in the soil - a win-win.
Simply sprinkle the grounds onto the soil around your plants and watch them grow!

Clean your kitchen with coffee grounds

Because coffee grounds have a naturally rough texture, they’re great for scouring your pans with. Simply apply some of your grounds to a pan which has some stubborn food on it and the grounds will help wash the dirt away.
Coffee grounds can also help your fridge smelling fresh. If you put a container with grounds in it in your fridge, the grounds absorb any odours from other food, stopping them from transferring onto other food items. 

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That’s it for our ultimate guide to zero waste coffee. There are so many things you can do to streamline your coffee brewing routine, making it more eco friendly. Our eco tips even have other benefits too. So, you can enjoy sipping on your speciality coffee and reduce your impact on the environment all at the same time.