My coffee and water would taste better without chemicals and plastic...
March 1, 2014 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I want to: 1) Try to cut plastic out of my life, at least in coming into contact with beverages I consume. 2) Get my own coffeemaker for my house that doesn't have plastic. 3) Find a solution for drinking water that a) doesn't come in plastic or b) is filtered properly. My city has elevated levels of hexavalent chromium (or chromium 6, the stuff from Erin Brockovich) and Pur faucet filters or even Brita pitchers can't filter that out.

So I can't find any plastic free drip coffeemakers. All I've been able to find are stainless steel French presses. But then I would probably need to boil my water in a tea kettle or something first so it'd be hot. That is so many steps! (And if the kind of stainless steel they used isn't disclosed, I get to worry about that too). Is there not an automatic drip without plastic anywhere? I would need to probably use some sort of bottled or filtered water for brewing my coffee too if I don't want the chromium 6, too. I don't want to buy my coffee from a coffee shop everyday -- I am spending too much doing that already and, on top of that, it dawns on me that Starbucks is probably using plastic to make their coffee. On top of that, it dawns on me that Starbucks is probably using my city's tap water too.

As for water, it seems I can buy a $400 filtration system for my water to get the chromium 6 out (ironically, the filter systems are also made of plastic) or I can get glass bottled water. I've checked and Pur and Brita cannot filter out Chromium 6. I do buy Perrier a lot, but I want non-carbonated water and I wonder if there is a cheaper way to buy it in bulk. Does anyone have ideas for either filtering my water affordably or getting glass bottled water for less cost? When you can get a case of 24 plastic bottles of water for $5, paying $2 per bottle of Pierre is a little steep.

Before everyone tells me plastic is awesome, I realize plastic is awesome and has revolutionized our lives, and made living much easier and better. I also realize that as plastic is stressed (heated and cooled repeatedly) it leaches chemicals, even ones that are BPA-free. I know some plastic may do it more than others, but I would just like to avoid using plastic for my beverages if I can. Whether it's sitting in a hot truck in transit and or whether hot coffee is pouring onto it before it goes into the coffee pot, I just want to avoid that.

Thanks in advance for any ideas!
posted by AppleTurnover to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about an old style percolator coffee maker? You might be able to find an older one with all metal?
posted by ian1977 at 1:24 PM on March 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

As far as the coffee goes, make yourself cold brew concentrate in a glass jar. It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you've made a batch (and I don't bother with filtering twice), it'll keep forever, and all you have to do is stumble to the fridge, put some concentrate in a mug with water or milk, and throw it in your nuker. Once you've made the concentrate, it's less work than a drip machine, and tastes oh so good.
posted by joycehealy at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Chromium is a metal (as I'm sure you know). It looks like this page discusses options for filtering it out of drinking water.
posted by salvia at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

To add to the above, you can maybe cut down on the steps for making cold brew concentrate by making it in a large French press (which is what I do in the summer).
posted by pemberkins at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are ceramic pour-over coffee makers that aren't too hard to find (try checking Starbucks or just buy one online), though you'd still be boiling the water.
posted by hoyland at 1:32 PM on March 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

One coffee option would be a moka pot. Easy to use. You may need to watch out for plastic in the sealing gasket and the kind of metal involved (e.g., many are made of aluminum, a possible link to Alzheimer's? I don't know what the science says about whether that is a real concern).
posted by salvia at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Re: coffee:

The thing about the pour-over coffee makers and using French presses is that I still need to tend to it. I do very much like being able to pour my grounds and water in my coffee maker before bed, and then when I wake up just hit a button. Then as I get ready for work, my coffee is ready.

The cold brew idea so far seems to be the easiest and most feasible. It would be some up-front work but then it would be ready to go every morning -- assuming it doesn't taste stale after it sits. Hot brewed coffee gets gross after it sits for a while. As long as it would taste alright, I really wouldn't mind drinking the cold brew in its cold state.

Re: water:

I've already checked and the only way chromium 6 can be filtered out is supposedly a reverse osmosis filtration system. Those are pricey. Any ideas on what to do instead would be great. I just noticed Aquafina comes from public water sources, ha. But they do say they do filter it, including with reverse osmosis.

Thanks all - keep the ideas coming!
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2014

Try a bialetti style maker. The coffee they produce is not for everyone but it's not bad, per se.
posted by smoke at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2014

Added: you could definitely set it up the night before.
posted by smoke at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2014

A percolator is definitely the way to go. They're all stainless steel, and they really do make excellent coffee. I picked mine up from a thrift store, but amazon has lots of them new. The base is plastic, but the interior is entirely metal, at least on every one I've ever seen (including the amazon one I linked).
posted by zug at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

In terms of water purity, an obvious way to go would be distillation. It should be easy to get rid of particles that are too small for your filters.

I'm not sure whether distillation will get rid of all realistic impurities by itself -- perhaps there are some contaminants that will vaporize with the water. I'm not a chemist. But it seems like in that case a combination of distillation and filtration should do the job.
posted by grobstein at 2:03 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reverse osmosis systems aren't super expensive, in my experience. Try looking on aquarium store suppliers, and you can probably find a good RO/DI system for 100-150 dollars.
posted by gilsonal at 2:11 PM on March 1, 2014

Agreeing with gilsonal... Home Depot has one for $147, free shipping.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:33 PM on March 1, 2014

Something to keep in mind: if health effects are a big consideration, as it seems, then note that paper filtered coffee is not the same thing as metal-filtered (mesh) or unfiltered coffee.

In general, coffee studies have been pretty positive for health outcomes, at least in moderation (up to 28 cups a week). However, the majority of them have been done for paper-filtered coffee. There have been some for unfiltered and/or French press style coffee, and there are some cautionary notes there. It appears there are some oils in coffee that can definitely raise your LDL cholesterol, and that might be a negative - those oils get into the coffee that's prepared by the French press or other metal/mesh filters. Paper filters seem to remove those oils, and are therefore probably a healthier (though some would claim less tasty) choice than metal filters.

There are those who are especially particular and will choose paper filters that have been produced by a formaldehyde-free method, to avoid any possible paper contamination.
posted by VikingSword at 3:19 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hooray in your quest! I've been on a similar path*, but I luckily don't have to deal with the Chromium 6. These ideas keep you in the under $400 range, but they're not perfect:

The Travel Berkey water filter is $228.

The largest stainless steel Napoletana will run you about $75.

It looks like the Berkey's spout is plastic, and you'd need to stay near the Napoletana while it heats up, but it doesn't require a separate boiling apparatus or filters.

* I love my stainless Napoletana, but often I just use a Bee House Dripper with an organic cotton #2 Drip Style Coffee Sock. Or I'll use my Chemex. I boil the water in a separate stainless steel kettle.
posted by metarkest at 3:29 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, regarding glass bottled non-carbonated water: Whole Foods - if there's one around you - offers discounts on cases, and I think they have a line of glass bottled non-sparkling water.
posted by metarkest at 3:30 PM on March 1, 2014

Lots of stores offer some sort of filtered water dispensing system, and those are generally reverse-osmosis based. You can buy your own glass carboys (homebrew shops are one place to get them) if you want to get large quantities of filtered water from one of these dispensers and store it in glass.
posted by rockindata at 3:49 PM on March 1, 2014

I love my percolator. It doesn't get much simpler, the coffee tastes great and is just the right temperature, and as zug said, only metal is in contact with the water.
posted by Kriesa at 4:40 PM on March 1, 2014

I'm not sure about the best way to filter your water, but once you do figure out a way, you could get a Flaska to use as a water bottle.

They are Slovenian thick glass water bottles that are resistant to falls and their "Organic" version has a cork stopper.
posted by donut_princess at 5:36 PM on March 1, 2014

As far as the coffee goes, make yourself cold brew concentrate in a glass jar. It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you've made a batch (and I don't bother with filtering twice), it'll keep forever, and all you have to do is stumble to the fridge, put some concentrate in a mug with water or milk, and throw it in your nuker.

No, don't microwave the whole beverage. Boil water in a tea kettle. Meanwhile, pour the cold concentrate into a mug. Pour the hot water over the cold concentrate, and there's your hot coffee.
posted by John Cohen at 5:44 PM on March 1, 2014

Not all risks are created equal. If minimizing them is easy with items like glass, that's one thing. But not all plastics are created equal. And stainless steel is specifically created to not leach metals. Many bottled waters are less well regulated and less safe than tap water.

So first, educate yourself on relative risks. For the tap water it may be that the elevated hexavalent chromium risk is unacceptable, or not, really. Your state drinking water agency and your consumer confidence report should give you unbiased information about that.

In order to make your coffee, buy a stovetop espresso pot, fill it with the grounds and water the night before, then turn on the burner in the morning.
posted by ldthomps at 7:18 PM on March 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I use a Berkey water filter and really love it. It is affordable when you consider the long life of the (expensive) filters. It comes with a plastic spigot but you could switch it out.

I do recommend filtering rather than buying water... it's so environmentally unfriendly to ship water by truck, especially in a heavy container like glass, and more of an ongoing hassle.
posted by metasarah at 7:30 PM on March 1, 2014

AppleTurnover: "I do very much like being able to pour my grounds and water in my coffee maker before bed, and then when I wake up just hit a button. Then as I get ready for work, my coffee is ready."

A percolator on a hot plate with a timer would get you this same functionality.

Also if the paper filter thing is a concern you can get paper filters for percolators.
posted by Mitheral at 4:05 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most French press pots -- including Bodum, which are ubiquitous -- have plastic parts. Usually either shrouding the joint where the screen mounts to the plunger post, or as a gasket around the circumference of the screen mount.

The stainless steel pots made by Frieling are entirely metal. I've been happy with mine -- it's double walled and is good for keeping the coffee warm for a couple hours when I pre-heat it with hot water for a few minutes before brewing. Without preheating, it's good for about an hour and a half.

Cleaning french press pots is not all that onerous. When you use an evenly-ground medium or coarse grind, all the particle matter comes out very easily. And all the parts in a Frieling are dishwasher-safe. Vacuum pots are much more labor intensive, and drip makers are probably the worst, because it's nearly impossible to properly scrub out the sides of the vanes in the basket.
posted by ardgedee at 10:49 AM on March 2, 2014

Nthing a percolator. I enjoy using ours because it's fun to watch and makes a great, HOT cup of coffee. There's nothing like having a cup of coffee with cream continue steaming for a while.
posted by at 11:42 AM on March 2, 2014

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