Holding out for a plastic-free coffee maker will mean slightly fewer options, but you’ll still find plenty of choices for brewing a satisfying cup. Whether you favour a drip machine, pour-over coffee, French press, percolator or moka pot, we’ve found the best plastic-free coffee maker for each brewing method.
What’s wrong with plastic coffee makers?
I don’t avoid plastic in my coffee makers. But everyone has a different tolerance for things that aren’t scientifically proven to be 100% safe, and that means some people don’t want it anywhere near their morning brew. They have concerns about the long-term health effects of plastic in food and drink preparation, and those concerns do have some evidence to support them.
The main culprit (although perhaps not the only one) is BPA, which is short for Bisphenol A. It’s a chemical used to harden plastics, and it can leach from plastic containers into food and beverages. Heat can accelerate this leaching.
BPA has similar properties to some hormones, and a few studies have shown it to negatively impact the fertility and healthy offspring development of certain animals.
The risk isn’t definitive by any stretch, but for some people it’s reason enough to seek out a plastic-free coffee maker. I mean, they are available. Why take the chance if you don’t have to? I get it.
The effect of daily habits on your body
The human body is actually an effective detoxifier, and even if it ingests things like BPA, your liver and kidneys do a nice job of getting rid of it. But these processes take time, and your liver and kidneys occasionally need a break.
If you’ve ever watched the documentary Super Size Me, you learned that McDonald’s food isn’t great for you, but your body can handle it. The problems start to arise when you eat it for every meal, every day, for an entire month, as the subject of the documentary did. His liver and kidneys couldn’t keep up.
Well, for most people coffee is a daily habit, which means it’s probably a good idea to keep it as clean as possible.
Some plastic on your coffee machine doesn’t matter. A plastic lid or a plastic handle is no big deal. Where you want to be careful—if you’re the cautious type—is with the parts that have prolonged contact with water, such as plastic reservoirs. You might want to keep plastic out of direct contact with your coffee grounds as well.
Below is a wide range of choices for those who want a coffee maker without plastic. Some have a few plastic parts, but none are problematic in the way described above.
Drip coffee machines without plastic
Plastic or no plastic, the Technivorm Moccamaster is one of the best coffee machines around and certainly the best plastic-free automatic coffee maker. It’s hand-built in the Netherlands since 1968, and is an SCAA-certified coffee maker. That means the Specialty Coffee Association of America, an organization that’s all about good coffee, has given it the stamp of approval.
The folks behind the Moccamaster know how essential the correct brewing temperature is for producing quality coffee, and their machines come with a copper heating element that maintains a consistent temperature of between 198 and 204 degrees through the brewing process. The results are obvious in the cup.
This video from America’s Test Kitchen demonstrates the Moccamaster in all its glory:
The Moccamaster does have a plastic reservoir—the only such coffee maker on our list—but unlike the coffee makers that leave water sitting in plastic for days on end, this one only has water in it while you’re actually brewing. Contact is minimal. The plastic is also free of BPA and most other nasty chemicals.
It’s a big machine that will take up some space on your counter, but it can do 10 cups at a time (there are 15-cup models as well) and finish the brew in 6-7 minutes. Its stainless steel thermal carafe keeps coffee hot for up to six hours. It’s available with a glass carafe as well.
It has no clock for automatic programming, which will be a drawback for some, but it’s very well built and comes with a five-year warranty. Its parts are also replaceable, and there is a service facility in the U.S.
The OXO On Barista Brain is also an SCAA-certified coffee maker, so you know it’s going to get the time and temperature right while extracting coffee from the beans, resulting in a top-notch cup.
This one has a unique selling point in its separate glass kettle, which can be used to heat up hot water at the same time you’re making coffee. You fill up the glass carafe with water and tell the machine how much of it you want use for coffee, and it will heat up the remainder for use with tea or whatever else. Not bad.
The thermal stainless steel carafe is double-walled with stainless steel on the inside, so no plastic worries. It keeps coffee warm for about two hours.
The Barista Brain does have a timer, so you can program it to kick into gear before your alarm goes off in the morning. You’ll want to set it about 15 minutes early, because this machine has to heat the entire water supply before it can start brewing. Not the ideal choice if you want a quick brew.
The other thing to be aware of is that it’s a big machine and will take up space on your counter. But it looks good.
You can get this machine in a 12-cup or this 9-cup version:
Pour over coffee makers without plastic
The Chemex is a classic, and probably the healthiest coffee maker there is. You may have seen it on Don Draper’s kitchen counter in Mad Men, or read about it in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, From Russia, With Love. Or perhaps you just came across it in a display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The one-piece, hourglass-shaped glass carafe with the wood collar and leather thong hasn’t changed its stylish ways since it was invented way back in 1941. It’s been plastic-free since then as well.
The Chemex will challenge your brewing skills. It’s one for the pour-over purists. You start by folding and placing a thick filter in the top funnel, where you’ll scoop in your ground beans, then you slowly pour your hot water through them and watch the coffee flow into the bottom reservoir. The thick filter removes oil from the coffee and gives you a really clean drink.
The size of the grind, the temperature of the water, the coffee-to-water ratio, and the pace at which the water flows through the grinds are what determines success in this type of brewing. That’s a lot of variables you can screw up, but with practice you’ll nail it and be rewarded with an incredible cup. And when you bring in new beans, you get the fun of learning the right combination all over again.
The wood collar provides some insulation and makes it easy to pour straight from the Chemex into your cup after you’ve discarded the filter.
The Chemex comes in 3, 6, 8 or 10-cup sizes. They’re not literally that size, because Chemex sizing is based on a fairly small 5-ounce coffee cup. So the 3-cup version is really like a single mug, and the 10-cup version is like six regular coffee cups.
You’ll want to find a prominent but safe spot in your kitchen for this one. It’s as breakable as it is good-looking.
Like the Chemex, the Hario V60 gives you full control over how the coffee is extracted from your beans. It’s known for its gaping hole at the bottom of the funnel, which makes the size of your grind and the rate of your pour absolutely crucial. If you grind too fine and pour too slowly, you’ll over-extract and have bitter coffee. If you grind too coarse and pour too quickly, you’ll under-extract and have watery coffee.
And again, when the roast changes, you’ll have to adjust your manual process until it’s right for the roast. While this seems like a lot of fuss, when it’s done right you can bring out really nuanced flavours from a lightly roasted bean.
It helps to have a gooseneck kettle for pouring, which gives you much more control and the ability to easily prolong the brew for three or four minutes, which is ideal.
The Japanese-made Hario is inexpensive, and comes in single, double and 4-cup sizes. You also have a choice of materials: ceramic, glass, plastic (no!) or metal. The copper version looks particularly smart. Plastic is the cheapest, copper the most expensive, and the rest fall somewhere in between.
Coffee percolator without plastic
Percolator coffee was everywhere back in the 1950s and ‘60s, but you don’t see too much of it any more. Still, there are SCAA-certified percolators like the Presto available, and you have to admit this stainless steel number has a nice retro look about it.
It’s a cool brewing method, too. The grounds sit in a perforated container near the top of the percolator, while the water heats up in a lower chamber. When the water gets hot, it rises through a tube to the top of the percolator and spits out onto the container that contains the grounds. It soaks into the grounds and then falls, as coffee, from holes in the bottom of the container. When these drops fall back into the main chamber they mix with water, and the cycle continues. So the coffee continues to recirculate, gradually becoming more and more concentrated over time.
The Presto is mostly stainless steel, with just a little bit of aluminum at the bottom of the main chamber. It’s really durable, and takes up only a modest amount of space on your counter.
The machine brews about one cup per minute, so 12 minutes for a full pot of coffee that will serve your whole dinner party. Its power cord is removable, which makes it perfectly appropriate to take to the table.
The coffee is as good as you would expect with the SCAA’s seal of approval, but be aware that a little sediment in the cup is hard to avoid with any percolator.
French press coffee maker without plastic
French press is my go-to for everyday coffee, and you’ll have a hard time finding a better one than Frieling’s stainless steel coffee maker with no plastic parts.
Steel costs more than glass, so this is pretty high-end for a French press. It’s built to last, and comes with a five-year warranty. The double-walled exterior provides really good insulation and will keep your coffee hot for four hours.
The Frieling’s plunger and filter fit snugly in the cylindrical pot and it has a very fine mesh, so it really cuts down on sediment in your coffee. It’s also really easy to disassemble for cleaning, and if you want you can put the whole thing in the dishwasher without any worries. This is a much sketchier proposition with a thin glass vessel.
But the greatest part of the Frieling might be the handle. It feels so comfortable and solid in your hand, well-balanced, and makes pouring very easy even when you’re using the big 44-ounce version. (Other sizes are 8, 17, 23 and 36-ounce.)
The Frieling comes with an exterior of either brushed or mirrored steel, and moves easily between casual everyday use and more formal occasions.
Moka pot coffee maker without plastic
The only plastic on Bialetti’s Moka Express is the handle, and you’ll want to be careful about that—not because it’s going serve you BPAs, but because moka pots brew on a hot stove which can easily melt your handle. Watch your positioning, and your heat level.
Moka pots come from Italy, and since the 1930s they’ve provided an easy way to make strong, espresso-ish coffee. It’s not the real deal with the thick crema on top, but it’s a stronger coffee than you’ll ever get with drip, pour-over or French press. It’s really nice stuff to mix with milk or cream.
Making the coffee is simple. It works a little like a percolator, with the water in a bottom chamber and the grounds in a perforated tray above, but in this case the steam from the hot water rises up through the grounds before entering a tube that carries the coffee to its final resting place: a separate top chamber.
Cleaning a Bialetti is simple, too—a rinse is really all it takes. In fact, you’re better off not using any scrubbers or detergents, because these coffee makers need a little seasoning, like a cast-iron frying pan. Let the oils from the coffee coat the inside of your moka pot and leave them there.
The Bialetti moka pot isn’t designed to make partial portions—you have to fill the grinds and the water to capacity each time—so you’ll want to choose your size carefully. It comes in a 3-cup size and a 6-cup size, but bear in mind that Bialetti considers coffee to be a 2-ounce drink (remember, it’s strong!). The 6-cup moka pot is actually making about 12 ounces of strong coffee. That’s a “tall” at Starbucks. If you’re brewing for yourself, choose the 3-cup. If there are two of you, go for the six.
The Bialetti comes with a two-year warranty and will last much longer than that—as long as you don’t melt the handle.
Plenty of options for going plastic free
Insisting on a plastic-free coffee maker isn’t going to limit your options as far as brewing methods go. As we’ve seen here, you can find something for just about every type of brew. So decide how you want to make it, and then go enjoy your shopping—and your coffee—without having to worry about those nasty BPAs.