Nearly two thirds of American adults drink at least one cup of coffee a day. All that grinding, boiling, steaming, and whirring means it’s not just coffee being consumed, but energy too. The greenest way to get your caffeine fix is to make cold brew coffee and a reusable filter, but what if you like the convenience of a coffee maker? Here are our picks for the most eco-friendly, energy efficient coffee makers for 2020.
Did you know? Every minute, an estimated 39,000 single-use coffee capsules are made worldwide, and 29,000 are dumped in landfill sites.
Already settled on getting an eco-friendly, energy-efficient coffee maker? Click here to jump to our top picks.
Six top tips for green coffee habits
There are plenty of ways to make your daily coffee habit a bit greener. These include:
- Ditch the single use plastic pods – These are typically very hard or impossible to recycle, end up in landfill or waterways, can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals that harm you and wildlife, and use up vast amounts of resources and energy to produce, transport, and dispose of. Switch to a pod-free system or one that allows for the use of reusable (ideally plastic-free) pods.
- Take it black (or choose soy or other plant milk/cream) – Ditching the dairy means no extra greenhouse gases associated with animal agriculture and methane-producing cows, and less risk of contributing to antibiotic resistance and animal cruelty.
- Avoid single-serve packaged coffee creamer, milk, and sugar, single use cups and stirrers – Reusable spoons and cups and refillable dispensers are far better for the environment and help reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in single use plastics.
- Only boil the water you actually need and when you need it – This sounds obvious, but the best way to minimize unnecessary energy use is to boil just over a cup of water per desired cup of coffee and no more, then use the hot water right away instead of repeatedly flicking the switch, walking away, forgetting about the water and having to boil it again!
- Choose sustainable, shade-grown, fair trade coffee – check out our best buys here!
- Invest in an eco-friendly coffee maker! – Your best bets are simple, well-designed, non-electric coffee makers you can use on a stovetop or as a French press. The more complicated and hefty your coffee machine, the more resources it uses and the more likely it is to fail and use energy inefficiently. Whichever coffee maker you choose, favor those made with stainless steel, glass, and other non-plastic, non-toxic materials that don’t require plastic or aluminum pods.
Ones to avoid: Consider avoiding Nespresso machines made by Nestle, whose ethical record is less than desirable and who began the coffee pod craze that has led to excessive waste and plastic pollution. Also, consider avoiding Spectrum Brands (Russell Hobbs) as they have a poor record on supply chain ethics, conflict mineral sourcing, and environmental impacts.
A word about drip coffee makers and espresso machines
The more complicated the design of a coffee machine, the more likely it is to go wrong and require servicing, replacement parts, or total replacement. This isn’t very eco-friendly, obviously. Many espresso and drip coffee machines also feature a wealth of plastic parts. Some now claim to use only BPA-free plastic, but it is still plastic, so inherently not eco-friendly or non-toxic.
More complex espresso machines and drip coffee makers also have on-demand hot water, which means they’re constantly using energy. Again, this isn’t very energy efficient. Some drip coffee machines have an automatic shut-off for the warming plate, but most don’t. You can get around this by using a plug with a timer, but this requires additional resources and planning.
So, despite spending hours trying to find a reasonably designed, durable, energy efficient, non-toxic, somewhat eco-friendly espresso or drip coffee machine, I’ve come full circle to the French press and classic percolator for my top choices. I have, however, included a couple of options for drip coffee makers and espresso machines with automatic shut-offs and other more environmentally friendly features.
Keep reading to learn about our top picks for eco-friendly, energy-efficient coffee makers for a variety of different needs. Learn about our methodology here.
Best Eco-Friendly, Energy-Efficient Coffee Makers – In-Depth Reviews
Below, you’ll find our rankings for the best eco-friendly coffee makers. We believe every model on this list is a better buy than most out there.
Note that the best choice for your situation might not be the model we ranked the highest, so pay attention to the differentiating features between them instead of taking our rankings at face value.
The Presto 02811 is a 12-Cup (or 8-cup) Stainless Steel Coffee Maker that costs less than $60 and comes with a 2-year warranty. You can brew 2-12 cups, with a cup a minute, and keep the whole pot piping hot for hours on end. A handy signal light indicates when the coffee is ready, and the insulated design is energy efficient and has a classic, timeless aesthetic that will fit with any kitchen.
The Presto is made of durable stainless steel, including the filter basket and perk tube. There is a small aluminum disc measuring approximately 1 inch by 2 inches in the heating element and a small amount of plastic in the trim, but no plastic comes into contact with the water or coffee. The power cord is removable for easy storage and easy cleaning of the whole coffee maker (once it’s cooled; don’t submerge in water or clean in the dishwasher!).
Best espresso machines
If you absolutely must have an espresso machine at home, here are the two I recommend.
This easy-to-use but impressive looking machine can make two cups of espresso at once, has an automatic shut-off, a grinder with 13 adjustable settings, a compact design, and a convenient water reservoir that you can pull out to fill easily. It comes with a 2-year warranty and a great reputation for performance and reliability.
This single serve espresso coffee maker has a programmable auto shut-off and auto-stop to help conserve energy, an extremely small footprint in the kitchen (which also means fewer resources used to make it), a very fast heating system, easy to use LED control panel, 5 grinding settings, and a removable water reservoir for easy access. And all for under $500!
Best drip coffee maker
The Cuisinart Perfectemp Coffee Maker is a programmable drip coffee machine with a reusable mostly metal filter, charcoal water filter, auto-shut-off, and a 1-4 cup setting, meaning it’s easy to use in a relatively energy-efficient way. The 12-cup model has a thermal stainless steel carafe, while the 14-cup model comes with a glass carafe. Choose the 14-cup for extra energy-efficiency as your coffee will stay warmer for longer without requiring extra energy inputs.
This durable drip coffee maker is self-cleaning (to a degree), has ‘clean me’ alerts and an optional ready alert tone, and can be programmed 24 hours in advance. The auto-off can be programmed from 0-4 hours (choose 0 for the best energy efficiency and brew only the coffee you plan to drink). The water window makes it easy to fill up accurately, and the brew pause feature means you can get that all important first cup before the cycle is fully finished.
A French press is the most environmentally friendly coffee maker option as it doesn’t have to be plugged in, is simple with replaceable parts, and can be easily cleaned and maintained. A French press won’t keep your coffee warm for long, though. So, if you like to brew one big batch and keep it at temperature throughout the day, consider investing in a French press and a thermos, or an insulated coffee percolator to enjoy a giant pot of coffee without requiring additional energy inputs.
The Mueller French Press is double insulated, keeping your coffee warm for up to an hour longer than glass or thinner steel models. It is also dishwasher safe, very robust, comes with a spare stainless steel filter, and currently features a bonus matching travel canister for ground coffee on the road. This design is rust-free and can also be used to make tea, hot chocolate, mct oil coffee, cold brew, frothed milk, fruit infusions and more, and all for under $30.
If you’re looking for a large French press, the SterlingPro 1.75 liter (59 oz.) double-walled French press is just the ticket. With extra filters and entirely made from stainless steel, this coffee maker uses a two-screen system to ensure no coffee grounds in your cup. The double-walled design means your coffee stays warmer for longer without any extra energy inputs, and that the outside stays cooler to the touch.
Stovetop percolators are also a great choice for at-home coffee making (or for use in your workplace if you have a small induction cooking element). These have a simple and durable design that requires zero maintenance and makes cleaning and storage easy. Again, if you like to keep your coffee hot all day, consider investing in an insulated thermos or go for a coffee percolator with an integrated electric heating element and good insulation.
The Farberware 47053 Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 12-Cup Coffee Percolator is a classic stovetop percolator that works with gas, electric, and induction stovetops (the latter being the most energy efficient). At just $35, this percolator is available in an 8-cup and 12-cup design, requires no filters, is durable and made with heavy-duty stainless steel, and has a handy clear glass knob on the top, so you can tell when the coffee starts percolating.
The Farberware percolator is dishwasher safe and fully immersible. The non-reactive interior means no undesirable odors or flavors. And the classic look means the Yosemite will fit in both modern and more traditional kitchens. Farberware has been a trusted name in kitchen appliances for over a century and is an iconic brand.