BPA-free coffee makers?
February 25, 2009 9:47 PM   Subscribe

BPA-free coffee makers?

Bringing boiling water into contact with plastic containing BPA seems likely to be a bad idea - but it is very difficult to get information on the plastics used in most coffee makers.

It looks like I will be abandoning my (otherwise terrific) Zojirushi, and right now the best option I have is a french press from IKEA, which has only metal & glass in contact with hot water. The coffee is not nearly as nice, and so I am looking for better options - ideally those that have no plastic at all in contact with hot water.
posted by pascal to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was going to suggest a press, but if you don't like that, why not switch to an espresso maker where the hot water is only in contact with metal? You can make an Americano.

Alternately, it seems like someone must make one of those single-serving drip filter holders out of something other than plastic. If someone out there hasn't made one out of glass or metal, then I'll be surprised.
posted by zippy at 10:19 PM on February 25, 2009

Ah, here we go. Chemex: "I also like Chemex because it is (besides the filter) all glass, and the easiest-to-clean brew device out there."

And here's the Bodum Kona Coffee Maker: the filter holder is made out of borosilicate glass.
posted by zippy at 10:21 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stovetop espresso maker? All metal and rubber, makes a great cup of coffee, and easy to use and clean.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:02 PM on February 25, 2009

Thanks zippy, those look like options worth checking out. FWIW, I do already have an espresso machine, but for some perverse reason I do like filter coffee.
posted by pascal at 11:29 PM on February 25, 2009

Just out of curiosity, what's irking you about the French press coffee? I'm a barista, and I've rarely heard anyone say that they prefer any drip coffee to a properly brewed French press cup. If you do really prefer the taste of drip coffee, a Chemex or a porcelain Mellita manual drop pot are your best bets.

Also, be careful about the Aeropress; at least as of last year, it leeched low levels of BPA.
posted by thisjax at 11:30 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

thisjax: I'll concede that it could just be lack of recent practice with the french press - what's my most likely mistake? That said, the other problem with my FP is that it won't make two decent-sized cups of coffee, so I do need to buy something. That might be another FP, but I was disappointed to note that all of Bodum's stuff seems to have plastic parts in the plunger.
posted by pascal at 12:14 AM on February 26, 2009

Pascal: Your water-coffee bean proportion is possibly off — two tablespoons to 6oz of water should do the trick. If you're acclimatized to drip coffee rather than espresso, then you might want to use less coffee. FP coffee is absolutely nasty if you're using more beans than you need. Also, make sure your beans are ground at the coarsest setting possible.

IIRC, all the regular glass Bodum presses (most of their product lineup) don't have plastic parts in the plunger. Were you thinking of the ones with the plastic ring around the circumference? Only the presses made from unbreakable polycarbonate or metal have those.
posted by thisjax at 12:55 AM on February 26, 2009

I'll concede that it could just be lack of recent practice with the french press - what's my most likely mistake?

Pressing too fast, or letting the plunger handle tilt to one side, can allow the grounds to get into the filtered top area. Here's a guide.
posted by zippy at 1:30 AM on February 26, 2009

The plastic bits of my Bodum are polypropylene, so no BPA there.
posted by scruss at 4:44 AM on February 26, 2009

I have the ceramic cone filter holder on this page, and it works quite well.
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 5:02 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have the ceramic listed above. It is fine and super sturdy. I too was a bit weirded out by the BPA issue. Now I am searching for a travel mug with no plastic in contact with hot liquids of a decent size.

The advantage of the ceramic filter cone is that I can make enough coffee for me or company very easily just by changing from a #2 to #4 filter.
posted by jadepearl at 5:31 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Other French press important tip - the grind of the beans needs to be coarser than you'd use for a drip/filter machine.
posted by dnash at 7:23 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have the Kona, and it does work well. Its one problem is that the coffee cools quickly, not being on a heater. You can either put it on a low hot plate or wrap a dish towel around it.

If I were buying again, however, I'd buy the Bistro double-wall, essentially an insulated Kona.

I can appreciate wanting drip over a press. They do make different coffee; we want what we want. I do prefer a press myself, but realize that they're a bit more fussy and produce a rather grittier drink. A press requires attention for 5-6 minutes, a drip maker, even a pour-over type, need much less hovering.
posted by bonehead at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2009

A moka pot, like the one spinifex23, links to is also a decent alternative: all metal-parts, easy to make and clean. It's not really espresso, but it's not drip coffee either, sort of half-way between.
posted by bonehead at 8:28 AM on February 26, 2009

The Bodum Santos (a coffee siphon) is my favorite. And it's a really cool process that delivers my favorite cup.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

The only place where polycarbonate plastic would be used in a coffee maker would be the window in the water reservoir. And the likelihood of that is pretty low. Do you actually know for a fact if your Zojirushi actually uses polycarbonate?
posted by zsazsa at 10:32 AM on February 26, 2009

zsazsa: No, I have no idea. Most parts I can see look like polyprop to me - but the problem is that it is difficult to find out for sure. In addition, BPA is not just used in polycarbonate but is used in things like coating (for example, food tins.)
posted by pascal at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2009

AeroPress are BPA-free: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/195166?Page=155

Aren't moka pots like my beloved little stovetop brewer aluminum, though, and thus Alzheimers-riffic?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:15 AM on February 26, 2009

Aren't moka pots like my beloved little stovetop brewer aluminum,

Quite often, yes, though stainless steel one also exist.

though, and thus Alzheimers-riffic?

Absolutely not. Aluminum plaques are a result of Alzheimer's, not a cause. There's a good review of the issues here.
posted by bonehead at 12:02 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you grind your own beans, you may need to switch to a burr grinder to cut down on grit. Blade grinders inevitably produce at least some dusty grounds that swim right through the filter on a press.

I use a burr grinder set almost, but not quite, at the coarsest grind. After experimenting, I've settled on a beans-to-water ration that I like with my press. So, that's my recommendation to you: Experiment. Play with the brew time and the grounds-to-water ratio.

Bodum seems to make both plastic and metal and glass and metal presses. The only plastic in mine is the rim around the lip of the press itself. Check the usual online suspects if you can't find one locally.

I find the downside of a press is the cleaning after each use. Stains still build up on mine. I've found that I can use a scoop of one of those oxygen cleaning powders dissolved in a few inches of hot water to make the metal parts clean and shiny again.
posted by justcorbly at 5:31 PM on February 26, 2009

Thanks for all the answers. I have ended up for now with a Bodum "Columbia" insulated french press. This does have plastic parts in the plunger, but it is all polypropylene. This is a result of the insulating design - otherwise there would be metal/metal contact in the plunger.

Bodum's glass french presses have no metal in the plunger but do have polyprop around the lid. The "Kona" filter coffee maker mentioned up thread also has a number of polypropylene parts - not least of which is the frame of the reusable filter.

That said, polypropylene is not polycarbonate and does not contain BPA - so these products are all great unless you are completely shy of plastics around food (which I am not.)
posted by pascal at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2009

I will second the Chemex. Delicious coffee, easy prep & clean, just glass + filter.
posted by judith at 1:56 PM on March 1, 2009

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