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You’re googling around, looking for a plastic-free coffee maker. Every article you find seems to have a long list of them. You get your hopes up. Then you read them and you’re like, “WTF? Half of these coffee makers have plastic in them!”
I’ve been there.
Coffee makers that are truly free of plastic are hard to find. If you’re looking for a plastic-free automatic coffee machine that you can just fill with water and ground coffee and then press a button and let it do its thing, I have some bad news.
It doesn’t exist.
I wanted to give you the bad news right off the top, so this article doesn’t mislead you like all the other ones.
The good news is that you can find French presses, pour-over drippers and moka pots without any plastic. So I’m going to divide the coffee makers in this article into these three categories:
|Coffee Makers With No Plastic Whatsoever|
|Hario V60||Pour Over|
|Frieling Stainless Steel French Press||French Press|
|Cuisinox Roma||Moka Pot|
|Coffee Makers With No Plastic Touching Water or Coffee|
|Presto 12-Cup Percolator||Percolator|
|Bialetti Moka Express||Moka Pot|
|Coffee Makers With Some Safe, BPA-free Plastic|
|Technivorm Moccamaster KBGV||Automatic Drip|
|OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker||Automatic Drip|
|Ratio Eight||Automatic Drip|
|Cafe Du Chateau French Press||French Press|
In the final category, I will point you toward a few automatic coffee makers that keep the plastic to a minimum, limit its contact with your water and coffee, and use only BPA-free plastic. They should address a lot of your concerns.
Before we get to the brewers, let’s first talk about why plastic-free coffee makers are so hard to find.
Why Are There No Plastic-Free Automatic Coffee Makers?
Plastic is cheap. Manufacturers of coffee machines use it to keep costs down. Much of what they build could be done with glass or metal, but that would result in a much more expensive coffee machine.
The truth is that relatively few consumers have concerns about plastic. Any manufacturer that caters to them will have to price their machine at a level that is easily beaten by competitors. They simply won’t sell very many coffee makers.
What’s Wrong With Plastic Coffee Makers?
Personally, I don’t mind a bit of plastic in my coffee makers. But everyone has a different tolerance for things that aren’t scientifically proven to be 100-per-cent 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.
Scientists from the Jordan University of Science and Technology tried an experiment where they fed hot water to different groups of rats. For one group, the water came from glass cups. For another, it came from plastic cups. Four weeks later, the rats drinking from plastic cups had 50 per cent more BPA in their systems than the glass cup rats.
BPA has similar properties to some hormones, and a few studies have suggested it negatively impacts 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.
The Effect of Daily Habits on Your Body
The human body is actually an effective detoxifier. 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. 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 arise when you eat it 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.
Where Plastic Matters
The parts of a coffee machine that come into direct contact with hot water or coffee warrant the most caution when it comes to plastic. A plastic water reservoir that holds cool water isn’t as problematic as plastic tubes that carry the water after it’s been heated, or a plastic basket that comes into contact with hot coffee.
Cosmetic parts like handles, buttons and dials are unlikely to have any negative health effects even if they are plastic.
Now let’s get to the brewers…
Coffee Makers With No Plastic Whatsoever
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. (In case you didn’t know, we’re suckers for coffee scenes in movies.) 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. Our Chemex brewing process begins with folding and placing a thick filter in the top funnel, where you 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.
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 French press.
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 pots are generally great choices for avoiding plastic in contact with your coffee, but plenty of them contain aluminum. The Cuisinox Roma manages to avoid both entirely.
It’s made by a Québec company and has a lot of fans. We’d expect nothing less from a heavy-gauge stainless steel moka pot that comes with a 25-year warranty!
What you get is a model that’s built to last. This is real-deal stainless steel. You can see and feel the quality. The Roma has a brilliant, polished shine to it and feels very solid in your hand. It’s a good long-term investment. If you buy this coffee maker, you can expect it to still be brewing years from now.
The Roma departs from the traditional Italian moka pot design, foregoing the pinched waist and octagonal sides of the Bialetti in favor of a smooth, sleek profile that tapers from bottom to top.
It works effectively on all types of stoves, including induction stovetops as long as you use the smallest element.
The coffee tastes great, of course—as good as any moka pot out there when you brew it right.
You’ll want to be careful with the handle, especially if you use it with a gas stovetop. It is also stainless steel, which conducts heat, and it doesn’t sit particularly far from the main pot. Try to keep it away from your burner by positioning the pot slightly off-center, and use a cloth or pot holder when handling.
If you want to maintain the silvery shine, you also need to make sure you remove it from the heat as soon as your coffee finishes brewing. This stainless steel will darken and tarnish if left dry over heat for too long.
Some users have accidentally melted their rubber gaskets this way, which may be why Cuisinox includes an extra gasket with the moka pot.
The Coletti Bozeman percolator is designed for camping but it works just as well on your stovetop. Like all percolators, it produces a big, bold cup of coffee by recycling already-brewed coffee through the brewing process over and over again until you remove it from the heat.
Percolation is a cool brewing method. 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.
We compare percolator coffee to drip coffee in a separate post.
The Coletti Bozeman is a hardy little device without any plastic in sight. The carafe itself and all the brewing parts are made of high-quality stainless steel. There’s some rosewood on the handle and a glass knob on top of the lid. That’s it. It can go on the stove, on the campfire, and in your dishwasher.
Very little can go wrong with a coffee maker built like this. Maybe the worst that could happen is you chip that knob on the lid.
Percolators are known to produce some sediment, so Coletti includes a set of filters with this percolator to keep your coffee grounds where they belong—in the basket. If you run out, you can order more and I’m told Melitta makes filters that will fit this brewer as well.
The Bozeman comes in a 9-cup size and a 12-cup size. Both are reasonably lightweight for camping.
Coffee Makers With No Plastic Touching Water or Coffee
You don’t see nearly as many percolators these days as you did back in the 1950s and ‘60s when they were everywhere, but there are SCAA-certified percolators like the Presto available. You have to admit this one has a nice retro look about it.
The Presto is mostly stainless steel, with just a little bit of aluminum at the bottom of the main chamber and some plastic exterior parts. 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.
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 should fill the grinds and water to capacity each time—so you’ll want to choose your size carefully. It comes in many sizes, but bear in mind that Bialetti considers coffee to be a 2-ounce drink. The 6-cup moka pot actually makes 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.
The Bunn VP17-1 is a commercial coffee maker usually found in offices, restaurants or diners, but if you have a big kitchen you could probably squeeze it in. The Bunn VP17-1 is about as compact as any commercial unit Bunn makes.
These things are built for durability and high-volume usage, which means lots of stainless steel. Everything that touches hot water is made of stainless steel, with the exception of the funnel.
The good news is, you can buy a compatible stainless steel funnel for it instead. It has a wider opening than the plastic version—which makes the water flow even faster—but Bunn makes a special nozzle that you can buy and screw into the hole to slow the flow down.
With those two simple additions, the VP17-1 really can be the rarest of things: a drip coffee maker that keeps plastic away from your hot water.
You plug it in and its heater makes a low humming sound as it takes about 15-20 minutes to heat up. After that, you’re good to go for as long as you leave it plugged in.
This machine brews fast! It does a full 12-cup carafe in less than three minutes. (Beware that the carafe is sold separately, so you should count on adding 10 per cent to the cost.)
You have to act fast when you’re brewing as well. This machine has no brew switch—you just pour cold water in the top and it does its thing. Like, immediately. I don’t advise using the coffee carafe to fill the water tank, because it starts brewing so quickly that you probably won’t be able to get the carafe back under the dispenser in time. Fortunately, the machine comes with a plastic jug for filling the tank.
This coffee maker does well with coffee that has been pre-ground for a drip brewer, but because the water flows so quickly through the funnel you’ll likely get richer coffee if you use a finer grind.
Do some measuring first—this thing will need about a foot and a half of depth on your counter, and the same amount of head room.
Coffee Makers With Some Safe, BPA-Free Plastic
Plastic or no plastic, the Technivorm Moccamaster KGBV is one of the best coffee machines around and certainly the best BPA-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 our review of the Moccamaster KB, a close cousin of the KGBV, 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.
If you don’t believe us, consider this quote from a happy Moccamaster user on Reddit. They claim to be a chemical engineer, and we have no reason to doubt them:
I use a Technivorm KGB at home, and I have no concerns with it. It uses an all copper boiling element, and silicon tubing/seals everywhere that touches hot water other than the brew basket and the “brew thru” lid on the glass carafe. The brew basket is a black opaque plastic that I wouldn’t doubt is as safe as plastic can be, is manufactured in Europe (shocking I know!), it only touches hot water molecules for ~1min or less each molecule during brewing, and it never seems to get ludicrous hot itself during a brew.
Just compare the Moccamaster to the Bonavita coffee maker, for example, and you’ll notice immediately that the Moccamaster relies a lot less on plastic.
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.
If you want to learn the difference between the KBGV, KB, etc., review our post about how to choose a Moccamaster.
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 9-cup version.
If you have money, like pretty things and hate plastic, the Ratio Eight is the coffee maker for you.
There’s been a lot of buzz about this brewer—particularly among those who have been waiting a long time for a plastic-free coffee maker.
We wish we could tell you it’s all plastic-free, but there are a few small plastic parts, primarily for leak prevention. It’s a shame they can’t make the “no plastic” claim, but the plastic they do use is BPA-free and about as safe as it comes.
And the Ratio Eight is a pretty slick brewer. It’s hand-built and stylish, and makes fantastic coffee.
Basically, they’ve built a high-end, nicely accented frame around a Chemex-style glass carafe and automated the pour from a glass reservoir. You can get the reservoir in BPA-free plastic if you prefer.
You have to look pretty hard to find the plastic here. Even the water pours from a stainless steel shower head, specially designed to spiral water over the coffee grounds.
It’s a hip coffee maker designed and built in a hip town (Portland), and if you order it with the wooden accents you’ll have all the northwest vibes you can handle.
The Café Du Chateau French press is as close to plastic-free as a coffee maker can get without actually being plastic-free.
It’s a French press with a glass carafe that sits in a shiny stainless steel base. The plunger and all filters are made of stainless steel.
The only plastic parts on this brewer are the rim strainer that circles the underside of the lid, and a small nut that holds the plunger in place. They are both BPA-free, and neither of them touches your coffee except when you pour it.
French presses don’t vary a great deal in the quality of coffee they produce. This one has a four-piece filtering system, which will no doubt reduce the amount of sediment in your cup. It means more pieces to take apart for cleaning, but they can go in the dishwasher.
I think it’s a great-looking press, though. Most French presses are predominantly glass or predominantly steel, and this one’s kind of half-and-half.
And the handle—which I believe can elevate a French press more than any other part—certainly passes the test.
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.