September 3, 2020

Three Ways To Cut Down On Coffee Waste At Home


Are you drinking more coffee at home? You’re not alone. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, home coffee consumption has increased as coffee shop sales have gone down. However, more home brewing often means more experimenting, which can mean more coffee waste as a result. 

Anything from using a different grinder to trying an entirely new brewing method can mean you waste more coffee than you usually would. Not only does this cost you more money, it’s also worse for the environment. Read on to learn how you can keep waste to a minimum.

Lee este artículo en español 3 Formas de Reducir el Desperdicio de Café en Casa

How Much Coffee Are You Wasting?

For starters, you might spill a few spoonfuls here and there when transferring coffee from your grinder to your dripper or French press. Furthermore, if you grind coffee too finely while calibrating a grinder, you may have to throw it out. While it might not look like you’re wasting too much coffee, it can add up.

Furthermore, this doesn’t include coffee that’s wasted after it’s brewed, including coffee that’s gone cold or hasn’t been brewed to taste. Then you have people throwing out stale coffee because it’s too old or hasn’t been stored properly.

Wasting coffee will do more than cost you more money. In the UK alone, up to half a million tonnes of coffee grounds go to landfill every single year. This produces an estimated 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Anna Naliato and Alder Santos own The Coffee House Online in Nottingham, England. They tell me that people need to appreciate the impact that coffee has on the planet. “We believe consumers should understand that coffee comes from a complex process.

“It starts with a humble bean picked at a specific coffee plantation in one of 70 different countries around the world. Then you have processing, roasting, and transportation… [this has] a huge impact on the planet and shouldn’t be ignored.”

Alex Henderson owns the Coffee Collective in Manchester, England. He says: “We should all care about waste and do our bit for sustainability by looking at ways to reduce what goes in the bin. 

“Recycling, composting, and reusing where possible are great ways to ensure we minimise the negative impact from our lifestyle choices and reduce our carbon footprints.”

You may also like How To Reduce The Environmental Impact Of Your Coffee Habit

Tip #1: Buy Only What You Need

Incorrectly judging how much coffee you will drink will contribute to how much you will waste. Anna and Alder tell me: “Planning how much coffee you will consume in a certain period of time is key to avoiding waste.”

She recommends buying fresh beans in small amounts. This will prevent you from buying too much of a coffee you may end up actually disliking, or having your purchase go stale. Remember that coffee has a limited shelf life once it has been roasted. 

While there is no consensus on when coffee actually goes “bad”, most specialty coffee roasters will include a roast date on their packaging. Roasters also generally recommend that their coffee is consumed within a certain time period (often three months or less).

If you don’t want to have to keep reordering or going out to buy coffee, many roasters are now offering online subscription services. These will deliver coffee to your door (usually within a few days of being roasted) which can keep you supplied without the risk of your coffee going stale.

Using coffee pods will mean you waste less coffee, but you will also generally sacrifice quality unless you buy capsules from specialty roasters. Even then, many capsules are made from non-recyclable materials, and some recyclable capsules can’t be reused if they are not properly cleaned. 

Tip #2: Store Your Coffee Properly

Storing coffee properly will stop it from going stale quickly. Keeping roasted beans in a resealable, foil-lined bag with a one-way valve will protect them from the elements. The valve allows the coffee to release carbon dioxide safely without being exposed to too much air.

When you buy coffee online, it will often be delivered in resealable bags, but be sure to double check before you buy. However, if you have purchased your coffee directly from a local roastery, it might come in simpler paper or plastic packaging. If this is the case, make sure you transfer the coffee beans into an airtight and preferably non-transparent container once you get home. 

This will protect your coffee from oxygen, humidity, and direct sunlight. Anna and Alder recommend “using an airtight container protected from direct light and humidity for no more than two months”.

Tip #3: Brew To A Recipe

There are many different ways to brew coffee at home, and each provides a unique way to enjoy your coffee. However, no matter which method you prefer, using a precise and repeatable recipe is important. Not only will it help you create consistent results, it will also mean you waste less coffee.

Anna and Alder say: “When using a brewing device, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay attention to the correct amounts [or ratio] of coffee and water.” 

Your choice of brewing method will also impact how finely you grind your coffee, as certain grind sizes work better with different brewing methods. When brewing with a French press, for example, you should use a coarser grind size than you would for pour over. 

Anna and Alder tell me that “during preparation, it’s essential that you pair your grinder settings with your brewing device to avoid disappointing results”.

Other Tips To Consider

Use a scale. Weighing your coffee rather than pouring beans into a grinder on sight alone will improve your precision. This will also allow you to follow a recipe to the letter and make sure you use the right coffee to water ratio for your brewing method. 

Make sure you clean your equipment properly after brewing. This will ensure your coffee tastes as it should, by making sure that no residual oils and flavours are left on your equipment. Alex says: “It’s important to ensure your equipment is well-maintained and set up correctly/dialled in. This reduces waste and increases productivity.”

Check your water – it will make up the majority of your cup of coffee. Make sure you use filtered water if possible and heated to a temperature between 90.6 and 96.1°C will improve your coffee’s taste.

If you don’t have access to filtered water, consider other ways of filtering it. Filter jugs, for example, can improve the quality of your tap water by removing any trace minerals or elements that can affect the flavour of your coffee. 

Home brewing is a great way to get more involved with the world of specialty coffee. It allows you to try a number of different coffees from the comfort of your own home, and experiment with your chosen brewing method.

However, if you’re not careful, it might lead to wasted coffee. By planning how you are going to buy, store, and brew your coffee, you will be able to minimise your coffee waste. This will make your coffee drinking more cost-effective – not to mention better for the environment.

Enjoyed this? Then read Sustainable Coffee: How to Reuse Your Coffee Grounds

Photo credits: Gaia Schirru, The Coffee Collective

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