Brewing coffee at home is an excellent way to save money and cut down on your carbon footprint.
Some problems of going out for coffee include…
- Insane prices: $2-$5+ for a cup of coffee (yikes).
- Gas use: You need to drive to get coffee out (unless you walk).
- Time use: You’ll have to waste time getting to the coffee shop.
- Lack of choices: Want Fair trade, organic or vegan milk for your coffee? You may get it at your local coffee shop, but you also may not. It can depend on where you go, plus, even if you find your ideal coffee choices, they’ll be marked up in price.
- Waste issues: If you frequent go-to coffee shops, hopefully you take along a reusable mug. However, even the best of us forget our mugs at time, meaning we have to take a disposable cup.
It’s easy and less expensive to brew your coffee at home – but your coffee maker matters…
Coffee makers at home can add up when it comes to household electricity consumption. The 2005 Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) estimated that coffee makers may account for 0.5% of residential electricity consumption. One European study showed that coffee machines may account for as much as 4% of the electricity consumption of households, but that depended on the device and usage.
With the above in mind, if you’re looking to keep your home-brewing more efficient and eco-friendly, you should first choose a decent coffee maker. Coffee makers are not officially labeled by Energy Star yet, but Energy Star does have a report available that discusses features of a good coffee maker. Some of their tips include:
- Don’t leave the coffee pot warming plate on for long periods. Ideally get a model that turns off automatically or one with a timer you can set. Energy Star notes that coffee makers with an auto-power down feature, “After 60 minutes and 30 minutes following brewing completion has the potential for 14% and nearly 23% energy savings, respectively.”
- Single-serve and espresso machines consume the greatest amount of electricity according to the report, due to their ability to maintain water temperature in ready-to-use mode. That said, consider a boring ol’ regular coffee maker instead.
- Get a coffee maker with a double-wall insulated, stainless steel carafe, which keeps your coffee steamy hot without a warming plate at all. This is the sort of coffee pot I have and it works really well, keeping my coffee hot for hours after the maker turns off and I unplug it.
The Energy Star report notes that if just 25% of folks replaced their less efficient coffee makers with more efficient models, the national annual energy savings would be about 124,000 MWh – that’s a figure that would reduce annual CO2 emissions by approximately 190 million lbs. Pretty significant for a little ol’ coffee maker.
Other eco-friendly home brewing tips:
Buy the best coffee maker you can afford – especially if you use it a lot. Tossing a broken coffee maker is very wasteful. When you are done with your coffee maker or it dies, recycle it. You can find a place to recycle even dead pots at Earth 911. If there’s no recycling center near you, contact Seattle Coffee Gear because you may be able to ship your coffee maker to them and they’ll recycle it.
Unplug your coffee maker when it’s not in use.
Always use a reusable coffee filter. They’re cheap, last forever and save a ton of paper. I’ve had two reusable coffee filters over the last 15 years or so and I make about 2 pots of coffee a day. Can you imagine if I was using paper filters? That would be a HUGE pile of paper and cardboard.
If you can swing it, buy organic, Fair Trade coffee. I know it’s more expensive but one thing you can do to cut down on price is to ask for coffee as a gift. I usually get coffee for all the holidays because I make sure people know it’s the one thing I LOVE. If you can’t always afford organic, be sure to buy as much coffee as you can at once, to cut down on packaging OR purchase beans in bulk, using a small reusable produce bag.
Get OCD about water use – meaning, don’t set your coffee pot under the faucet, then walk away.
Bonus link for coffee lovers – learn how to make a super amazing organic mocha “Frappuccino” at home.