My Zero Waste Coffee Routine

My Zero Waste Coffee Routine

Earlier this year, my old coffee machine finally gave up the ghost. It’s a miracle she lasted as long as she did: given to me second-hand, a bottom-of-the-range model that made surprisingly good coffee and survived almost daily use for seven years.

She had a couple of repairs and fixes in her time…

…but finally the pump went, and she was officially declared life-expired.

What remains is a mix of plastic, metal and electronic parts that are hardly a recycler’s dream. The metal will be recycled, but I don’t hold any hope for the plastic parts (which is most of it).

I didn’t want a replacement machine that was going to go the same way as this one. I wanted one with less bells and whistles (or rather, bits that can break and plastic parts), something made to last, much more repairable, and recyclable (if it comes to that).

Sure, I’m familiar with the French Press, and the stove-top espresso maker (also known as the moka pot). But the old machine made a proper espresso. And I wanted the replacement to do so too.

My answer was a lever press espresso machine: these create pressure to make espresso not through electricity and pumps but through manual levers and muscle power!

Many lever press espresso machines do not require electricity (although you need hot water to make hot coffee).

This machine is called the ROK espresso GC, made by ROK. There are a few different versions of lever press espresso machines on the market (and some of the price tags will blow your mind) but this one was the clear winner for me, not because of aesthetics (although she is stunning, for sure) but because of the ethos of the company behind the product.

Lots of companies say they are committed to sustainability but ROK really demonstrate these values with everything they do.

  • The plastic parts are minimal. Nor do they ship in plastic. The main body is made of die-cast aluminium (completely recycable, hurrah);
  • They offer a 10 year warranty on all metal parts, and sell spares of the other parts;
  • ROK was originally called Presso, and the design was slightly different. When they switched to the current design (the GC), they launched a conversion kit meaning all current owners could upgrade their existing model without having to buy a whole new machine;
  • They won ‘Most Sustainable Product’ in the kitchenware category at the 2019 Buy Me Once Excellence Awards, who judge brands on their commitment to sustainability, durability, aftercare and eco-innovation.

When I emailed ROK to talk sustainability, they kindly offered to send me a ROK espresso machine to try, which was very generous and for which I’m immensely grateful. Six months later, the machine I was gifted is still as loved as ever, and I use it every day.

I didn’t just want to talk about machines though – I wanted to talk through my entire coffee routine, from start to finish. From beans to milk and all in-between.

Before anyone even thinks about bringing up the fact that it would be much more sustainable to not drink coffee at all and just sip rainwater, I get it. Yep. You’re right. But I like coffee. And I personally don’t think drinking a cup of coffee in the morning at home is that extravagant, in the scheme of things.

There are worse ways to have a footprint. If I’m going to drink coffee, the least I can do is make it as low impact as possible.

The Coffee Beans

I buy my coffee beans from a local roastery Antz. They source their beans in bulk from ethical co-operatives (such as this one in Colombia), roast the beans themselves and sell to customers without packaging.

They also have a grinder, so I get my beans ground freshly at the cafe.

It ticks a lot of boxes for me: supporting a small local business, supporting Fair Trade and cooperatives, and avoiding unnecessary packaging.

(It’s possible to find Australian grown coffee beans, but they grow on the other side of the country, in Queensland and northern NSW. I’ve never seen these beans in store, only online. And always in plastic.)

The Milk

My old coffee machine had a steam wand to foam milk. The lever espresso machine does not. I add homemade cashew milk to my coffee, and it needs to be warmed first. (Cashew milk has a tendency to sink when added cold, which isn’t a disaster; other plant milks will curdle if not heated before adding to coffee.)

I discovered that such a thing as a stovetop milk steamer exists, and invested in a Bellman stovetop steamer. It’s like a mini pressure cooker: fill with water, screw the lid down tightly and heat. The water builds up steam which is released down the steam wand to make steamed milk.

It’s a pretty nifty gadget, suitable for gas, electric or induction stovetops (or campfires!). Being made of solid stainless steel, it should last forever (there are a couple of silicone rings that no doubt will need replacing, but that’s it).

The Coffee Machine

I’ve already introduced you to the ROK espresso machine, but I thought I’d talk you through how it works.

The ground coffee is placed in the portafilter which locks into the machine. boiling water is poured into the black water tank at the top. Lifting the arms slowly releases the water into the coffee below.

Next, pressing the arms slowly back down to their start position over about 30 seconds, the machine pours an espresso, which I then add steamed milk to.

There’s a bit of an art to it, which is actually the point – however, it can be a bit intimidating at first, especially when we’re used to pressing a button. Fortunately there’s a few YouTube videos out there, and it’s fun to practice and learn.

There’s something very mindful about making coffee this way. I really enjoy the way it makes me slow down, and I like the ‘unplugged’ process. It makes my ”coffee break’ an actual break! It’s also really easy to clean, which is always a win in my book.

Find out more about ROK coffee.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you a coffee drinker? What is your morning routine and what are you doing/have you done to make it a little bit more sustainable? (It doesn’t have to be coffee – it can be tea, it can be exercise, it can be a beauty or bathroom routine – whatever it is for you!) Anything else to add? Please share your thoughts below :)

My Zero Waste Coffee Routine from Treading My Own Path | Zero Waste + Plastic-Free Living | Less waste, less stuff, sustainable living. Zero waste coffee ritual, plastic-free coffee, zero waste kitchen, less waste kitchen, sustainable coffee, ROK espresso, Bellman steamer, eco choices, low impact living, green living, reduce trash in the kitchen, love food hate waste, eco-friendly living, sustainable(ish). More at https://treadingmyownpath.com

120 Responses to My Zero Waste Coffee Routine

  1. This is such a cool piece of equipment – I’ve never heard of one before! My morning routine is made less wasteful because I buy oats, nuts and seeds at the bulk store, and milk in a refillable bottle. Porridge never tasted so good ;)

  2. It will be amazing if I get to have this equipment! My husband and I love coffee but we have not yet found a sustainable tool here in Bangkok, Thailand that is affordable for us.
    At the moment we try to buy the biggest ground coffee bag as we can. Last year my husband successfully cut down sugar level in his diet so now he drinks it without sugar, just a little milk for him and a little nut milk for me. Yum!!!

  3. I adore the style of this machine, and would love to convert to it! I harvest my rainwater for coffee, (& everything else) and buy fair-trade when I drive to France for a visit, packaged in paper. (Not available in Ireland West as yet – hence bulk purchases annually). I am using local raw milk too.
    Thankyou for sharing this!
    Helen Rutter

  4. This is perfect timing as my parnter is wanting to change from our French press to an espresso machine. I’ve been reluctant due to the waste but this ROK seems like a great compromise!
    For years now our morning coffee ritual starts with beans bought in bulk from our local cafe or our bulk food store and ground. It’s stored in a repurposed tin with a Welsh love knot spoon that was my grandmothers. The kettle goes on, 2 heaped spoons go into our stainless steel plunger then the boiling water is added. Minutes later I’m sipping on a long black. It’s no espresso but it still helps to get my day started!

  5. I love the idea of the ROK. it sounds totally portable for travelling or camping off grid. :)
    My mornings are more sustainable as i take my own bread bags to the bakery, and use containers for all items in my kids (and my) lunches. If i’m running late for work, i just take my mug with me in the car for breakfast on the go.

  6. ROK would be perfect to make my coffee in the morning (afternoon … evening … always :) for a perfect breakfast. Love to make bread, spread jam on it, have orange juice ( using zest to make polenta biscuits) put coffee in my reusable cup and drink it on my way to work :)

  7. We have an old coffee machine that just died (it was a wedding present and lasted for 10 years of almost daily use!). The ROK espresso machine looks like an amazing machine, we would LOVE to try it please.
    Other things we do…. shampoo and soap bars, buy locally sourced produce, recycle our food scraps through the Sharewaste scheme and feed the goats / chickens on our way to school on our Dutch style cargo bike. Our weekend mornings are the best when we have family pancakes from bulk bought ingredients, lemons from our friends tree and share a big pot of loose leaf tea with our new zero waste discovery… goat milk!

  8. My morning routine starts with a tea but I do make hubby his own ice coffee so it’s ready to go. Minimal waste and additives. I use a glass jar that holds 3 large glasses of ice coffee. 3 shots plus milk. That’s it. When he was transitioning from sore bought I would put a little sugar in and even vanilla beans or cinnamon but now it’s just straight coffee.

  9. I’ve been gradually making changes to my morning coffee.Love the idea of the ROC espresso lever – haven’t heard of it before! I’m using my keep cup for takeaway coffee, saving used coffee grounds for the garden from my homemade coffee, buying beans in my refillable glass jar, but still looking for a better option for milk than plastic bottles :(

  10. In the morning, I like to put raw honey on my face as a mask. I get honey from the local beekeeper, and when the glass jar is empty I take it back for them to reuse.

  11. What a great competition! I would love to get my a ROK I have changed my morning routine to include riding our bikes to drop off my daughter at school and have been making my own bread to avoid plastic bread bags… my journey is still very much a work in progress, but I am enjoying the challenge

  12. Coffee, coffee and coffee to kick start the morning. Instant coffee can be as good as ground coffee, especially for rushing mornings. Personally i opt out capsule coffee as capsule coffee creates trash after each use. Instant coffee is more sustainable as it comes in refill pack!

    I will use my collapsible coffee cup for the coffee and have the coffee while commuting to work.

  13. I need two mugs of coffee to get going in the morning:the first to wake up, the second to enjoy! I make a pot of coffee, grab a mugful, and put the rest in a thermos for hubby (and for my second mug). Cafe Direct does good Fairtrade coffee, and my morning toast involves a sourdough loaf from a local bakery and hummus bought in my own tub from the market. (One day I’ll get back to making my own again…)

  14. This looks amazing!! For my morning coffee, i use coffee in plastic free packaging in a french press. I also have a travel mug that has a french press in it which is great for work! I only drink black coffee as well!

  15. I must admit my morning isn’t as sustainable as it could be. Although I have switched from grabbing a plastic wrapped cereal bar to taking the time to toast bread. I top it with palm oil free (peanut only) peanut butter in a glass jar with a metal lid that I reuse. I skip the margarine as is isn’t needed with peanut butter which also serves to avoid using plastic packaged butter/marg.

  16. I make my own oat, almond, cashew or others “milk” for my coffee which is an essential part of my morning. I’v never seen a coffee machine like this and I truly love.
    Thanks for helping us make our world beautiful for others to come
    Kisses from Spain
    Teresa

  17. Hi. Thank you for indulging my curiosity in finding new ways in saving planet and being more responsible for my own actions. I would not though such thing exist like coffee maker and I am massive coffee drinker. I’ve just start my journey with plastic free life and I am forever grateful for people like you who is helping me a lot. Thank you

  18. My morning routine starts with locally roasted coffee. We have used the grounds in the past to aid mushroom growing and have also mixed expired meds in with them before disposal. When we plan to be out for a walk, I grab a reusable commuter cup with lid. Our local Goodwill is a great place to buy these cheap. Plastic, but at least being used well and often!

  19. Thank you for your thorough descriptions. My mouth is watering re the coffee! I only drink coffee out occasionally as I refuse to buy a wasteful Nespresso style machine. This would be the answer. Morning routine- a mindful dog walk and chat to husband, bulk bought oats for porridge, then gardening for veg.

  20. That is a very cool piece of coffee kit! We start our day with the indulgent luxury of a coffee in bed made from home ground beans from a local bulk store in a stainless French press and add honey for our hive as a sweetener but I love the idea of a little physical effort to make the coffee even more of a treat!

  21. For me, reducing my waste in my morning routine has been a very slow boil (so to speak!). First was replacing the *cough* pod machine with a second hand espresso machine, then cutting out sugar, finding the ‘best’ option for beans as I live in a small town then moving to nut milk. I’m slowly getting there!!! This blog has been an amazing source of information and gentle encouragement. Thanks so much to you for your time and effort, I do really appreciate it!

  22. I wake up at 4am so I can relax, have coffee and do my morning thoughts! I look for something to stir my mind and soul. I walk my Shitzhu by starlight and look forward to the new day! I would love to win a Rok and play with the way I brew my morning cup of Joe!

  23. i know this isnt to do with reducing waste or being plastic free but arent you concerned about the fact that the machine is made of aluminium? plenty of studies link aluminium cooking utensils with dementia

  24. Have seen these wonderful machines and would love to try one. We were gifted a secondhand drip coffee machine a few years ago and since we both drink black coffee it is perfect with freshly ground beans from our bulk store in Fremantle. Worried it also contains a lot of plastic that will be hard to recycle when it finally dies so I am very excited to see this metal alternative in ROK. We have homemade granola and homemade yogurt for breakfast too which is easy to do sustainably using seeds, nuts and milk powder from the bulk store.

  25. Each morning I take the dog into the yard and try to convince him to go potty. It usually takes about 20 minutes (don’t ask). Since I’m stuck outside, I decided why not plant and tend a veggie garden! Just a month later and I’ve got tomatoes, carrots, herbs, potatoes, zucchini….
    Even a little dog poo worm composter too, because once I started going sustainable, I couldn’t stop.

  26. Hi Lindsay,
    Thanks for writing this – you’re very thoughtful about your decision-making, which is great because we can benefit from your research efforts.

    My morning routine just involves breakfast and a hot chocolate. It’s sustainable because I eat steel-cut oats from the local bulk place, fruit (often including plums I’ve stewed from our tree), milk and yoghurt bought in glass. The hot chocolate is just bulk cocoa powder and milk from glass bottles.

    I don’t drink coffee but my husband has been using a moka pot for years. It was black but all the black colour scraped off and it’s now kind of silver/black. Also the handle broke and he replaced it with a piece of wood. I think he’d love to try out the ROK espresso machine.

  27. i’m trialling toothpaste tablets to avoid buying paste in metal / plastic tubes – they work well and i think I’ll go with these fulltime. Also trying various unpackaged deodorants via anythingbutplastic (small on-line and very helpful business) and LUSH (high street outfit and most helpful) which work even better than the sensitive roll-on I’d been happy with up to now. hopefully there are others doing the smae now – wake up big brands, where are you?

  28. We use tea leaves rather than teabags. When we make coffee we use beans rather than pods. I travel to work using public transport and walking so it keeps me fit as well!

  29. I have a Italian stove top where the water starts at the bottom and rises through the coffee to the top. Its full stainless steal with a plastic ring seal.
    We source our coffee beans whole from a local roastery called ground control into our own container.
    We have a hand grinder which is glass but has a fee plastic parts like the screw on lid. But its pretty good and you can adjust the size of the grind.
    We do use organic cows milk but i buy in cartons now rather than plastic.
    Cant live without my morning coffee.

  30. WOW!
    This whole system is FANTASTIC! Products I’ve never heard of, here in Canada.
    I also like my one cup of coffee, and when my electric conked out I first went to an Aeoropress, then to french press, and most recently I am moka potting!
    All good, all produce coffee, all little waste! #winwinwin
    Love your posts—thanks so much for your zero waste routines!
    cheers
    su

  31. We’ve made a few switches to try and improve the sustainability of our morning routines: loose leaf tea, home made granola, buying homemade jam in reused jars that go around again. I do like slowing down and making me tea methodically, it does bring a sense of calm into my day, which is quite helpful amid small children and work routines and general chaos! The most sustainable thing is to change the things we can, and look after ourselves.

  32. My morning (breakfast) routine involves coffee, oats and fruit, and sometimes eggs on toast. I get my coffee from a local roaster who grind it for me and refill my reusable coffee tin. I now get my sourdough bread from a local market baker – so no packaging and no shop-front overheads. The oats and dried fruit come from The Source bulk foods (thanks for the recommendation Lindsay), and instead of using milk I just soak the oats in water in the bowl for 20 mins before eating them and they make their own oat-milk :-)

  33. I have a 4 cup electric coffeemaker, which I fill to halfway. So each morning, I have about 2 cups of coffee without any additions. This beautiful ROK espresso GC would be perfect for me, so I appreciate the opportunity to win it. Thank you.,

  34. Thank you for sharing your coffee routine – I loved checking out the 2019 Buy Me Once Awards and seeing items I own on the list! But having an alternative for genuine proper expresso coffee is amazing since I didn’t know this machine existed

  35. When our automatic coffee machine died we started using an old Corningware blue cornflower drip coffee pot. Grounds go in the lower metal compartment, boiling water in the upper glass container to drip through to the bottom ceramic pot. Works quite well.

  36. I currently use an old Cuisinart coffee maker every morning. Taste is “ok”. When camping I use a french press. Our beans are from Philz
    I love your posts! And, that they come up frequently, so it keeps me thinking of things I can do. I am far from zero waste, but as you mentioned once, just because you cannot do everything, does not mean you shouldn’t do some things. I cut where I can.
    Keep up the good work!

  37. Your coffee looks amazing! I’ve never heard of either gadget. I have a keep cup for my morning coffee routine, but I’ve been trying to find a good homemade alternative – mostly with cold press so far, for mixed results. I persevere :)

  38. Tea drinker here living in a coffee drinkers world! Switched from bagged tea to loose leaf bought in bulk for last couple of years and was gifted a glass FORLIFE tea pot with infuser basket 1.5 years ago that gets used daily. The ROK might be able to revolutionize the coffee drinking around here as well

  39. Ha I’ve been going in stages. Back in the dark ages I had a machine that took pads (looked like round tea bags). Then my sister gave me a stainless steel pad replacement that I put ground coffee in. When the machine finally dies, after many years and several repairs, I started using my little aluminium stovetop espresso maker that I keep for camping. I’ve been using that for years now. Not the best coffee ever, but certainly beats takeaway prices!

  40. This ROK coffee press would be a perfect & much appreciated addition to my transient life of house sitting.
    My first morning drink is lemon water using lemons from my borrowed garden; than tea brewed in my stainless infuser ‘cos I find ‘real’ tea so much more satisfying.
    Coffee in the afternoon is made in my stainless steel stove top espresso machine – great flavour & portable. I enjoy locally roasted beans from Bolt cafe (trillion trees nursery) in Perth, WA.
    Enjoy!! ☕

  41. I thought I’d seen all the coffee gadgets out there but this one is new to me! Awesome. We’ve made our mornings more sustainable by making our own trail mix and granola, and I’m testing homemade yogurt recipes to hopefully stop needing to buy it in plastic tubs.

  42. I always make my coffee at home and take it to work in an insulated thermos. I also compost the coffee filter and grounds. I also always bring breakfast from home in my reuseable glass containers. Very exciting to see an espresso machine that doesn’t require electricity! I use a moka pot on the weekends when I have more time but this would be fun to try too.

  43. that ROK thingy is brilliant. i’d not seen one until now…nor the stove-top milk steamer. very, cool, and i’m extremely impressed by the true sustainability work and design done by the company that makes the ROK. that is what we need so badly!

    our morning routine is shower for him (with low-flow shower head) and bath for me (2 inches of water max usually), the usual tooth brushing and shaving etc, both of us using mostly home-made and plastic-free and non-disposable items. we dress; he wears mostly new but high quality, sweatshop-free, and natural fibre clothing, while my clothes are mostly second-hand and ditto. we have either press-pot coffee (locally bought, roasted, & ground fair trade organic beans), or loose leaf tea (organic/fair trade when possible). breakfast, like other meals, is home-made and as local and plastic-free as we can manage where we live. i do our yoghurt, bread, etc myself. if we go to a cafe, we both take ceramic cups. if you don’t know my husband, you don’t know what a victory this is! i keep napkin and silverware in my bag as well, in case we get a pastry.

    you know, i was rather beating myself up the other day about our overall footprint, but this exercise has made me remember all the steps we HAVE taken so far, and there are many beyond what is described here. surely we can do more, but it’s helpful to recognise how far we have come, too.

  44. My weekday morning routine is more of an emergency evacuation: Snooze my alarm too many times, have a quick shower, pack my lunch and then its out the door and on on my bike, only arrive at work with a half-wet, half-dry, flat on top and seriously boofed out at the bottom hair style. But I use bicarbonate/ vinegar on my hair (bought at bulk store), use reusable containers for my lunch and leave the car at home. Weekends though are a whole other story, which definitely involve coffee at home in bed.

  45. I had no idea these existed! My morning routine used to be really stressful. I always made pots of coffee that ended up going to waste, spent time and energy blow drying my hair, hairspraying it, straightening it, putting on drug store makeup, driving my car, buying lunch/taking out coffee in to go cups. I’ve simplified my routine. I make smaller batches of coffee or bring a to go cup to get some along the way, I bike to work every day, broke up with hair spray and the straightening iron (difficult!!!) and only wearing leftover makeup until I go through it all to purchase some cosmetics from Elate!

Share your thoughts!