Saturday, June 30, 2007

Coffee brewing choices

I'm new to drinking coffee, and not knowing any better I bought a French Press coffee maker at Ikea. Supposedly this is the best way to prepare coffee by steeping. Unfortunately it broke the other day, leaving me wondering what to do to replace this coffee brewer. And, I wanted to do this in a sustainable way.

In terms of sustainability, there are two considerations. One is the sustainability of the source of your coffee, the other is the sustainability of the preparation process you use. I'll mention that shade grown coffee distributed under fair trade terms is the most sustainable, and leave that argument for another day. For coffee preparation it's clear to me paper filters are a highly unsustainable method. Paper filters are a fine example of the use-it-once-and-throw-it-away model that's become popular in America. This is the very model of unsustainability, right? Further most paper filters are white, meaning they're bleached, and bleaching paper releases harmful chemicals into the environment. In any case, to be sustainable the preparation method I'm looking for will use some kind of reusable filter.

First step in my research, what is the range of alternatives to preparing Coffee? The Wikipedia coffee preparation page does an excellent job.

I tend to dislike the highly bitter coffees, so an espresso machine probably isn't for me, except that espresso is the basis of many different coffee-based drinks. An attraction to the espresso machine is it uses a metal mesh filter.

The wikipedia also mentions several forms of cowboy coffee. One basically boils ground coffee in a pot, then carefully pours it off hopefully leaving the grounds in the pot. Hurm, doesn't sound very attractive unless you're out on the trail somewhere.

The moka pot sounds interesting, except the page describes maintenance including replacing a rubber seal. Clearly something that gets replaced regularly isn't quite sustainable.

The drip brew machines are ubiquitous, right? However these generally use paper filters. I vaguely remember seeing reusable filters. The Gourmet Coffee Maker - 10 Cups includes a reusable filter in the kit. Yahoogling for "reusable coffee filter" turns up lots of choices.

But it looks to me that another french press style coffee maker will suit me best. I'll just have to look for one with a sturdier construction.