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. I too enjoy a coffee, I am not as educated into ethics, I have been buying Moccona as I prefer the taste and I like the jar for reuse. I have just been adding cold milk (bought in a glass bottle from a local dairy) and boiling water, but I do enjoy a cappuccino when out. A girlfriend introduced me to her coffee routine – using an aeropress and a ceramic mechanical grinder she uses to grind her beans fresh, which seemed a minimal system compared to an actual coffee machine, but I think the ROC one might come off better in using less plastic parts and possibly more durable. Thanks for the post and comp :)

  2. My morning routine involves a hearty breakfast, and the biggest change I’ve made is buying fruits and veggies for my breakfasts (and lunches and dinners!) straight from the farm! This way the packaging is pure nature, no plastic. It’s delivered in paper grocery bags completely unpackaged. Hooray!

  3. I’ve never heard of these but would love one! My husband loves espresso. I recently found a source of local oats produced in a nearby town, and they are SO GOOD. Like they taste 100 times better than the Quaker Oats we’d been buying (cause let’s be honest, that’s what’s at the bulk store too).

  4. i love this!! i work at starbucks and i have to say everytime i use the espresso machine i think about how expensive it must be to make so much coffee in so little time, and i want an espresso machine soooo bad, this seems like a good price!

  5. I am the worst at mornings. Usualy I just rush to work without breakfast, but I am big on tea. I started buying loose tea directly to my container and I am loving it.

  6. Also to the person concerned about the aluminium, I found this on ROK’s website: What is the ROK EspressoGC made from?

    The body is made of hand-polished engineering grade die-cast aluminium. The brew chamber parts are made of an advanced food grade glass-composite polymer – as tough as metal.

  7. Love the post, Lindsay! I make a latte (with plant milk) every morning with a secondhand electric espresso maker – but definitely looking for an alternative for when it kicks the bucket like yours did!

  8. I love my morning coffee. For many years I used a drip coffee machine, but when my husband and I were in Australia for a year, we wanted to make our own coffee, rather than spend a fortune and we just couldn’t handle the instant available in hotels. So we bought a French press and we love it. So simple and we find that we are drinking better coffee, but not as much. Our French press went with us in our travels and now sits happily in our kitchen. Since my return, I am buying my milk from the local coop who sources the milk from a local farm and it comes in, yeah, glass bottles. I do love an espresso, though, but have held back because I want a machine that is simple like the French press. And here is the ROK!

  9. My morning routine is exercise. I have some old DVDs from when I had my last child (10 years ago!) and I use them to work out at home 1st thing in the morning before everyone wakes up. My husband installed a ceiling fan in our living room and we re-purposed an old space heater from when we had our 1st child (14 years ago!) by just using the fan option. We open up the house (doors and windows) and I use my sustainable yoga mat, block, and strap. We also found some old hand held weights given to us from various family members over the years. It sets the perfect tone for the morning. :)
    For coffee, I buy my coffee in bulk from local roasters. At work, we have a office coffee maker. I grind the beans with an electric grinder and use a single use filter. :( But everyone uses a personal mug to fill up. I bring my own milk from home in a reusable travel cup and I keep vanilla sugar (bought in bulk from a local spice shop) as a sweetener. For home, I make my own coffee creamer. I have a manual coffee grinder and a reusable ceramic drip and reusable coffee filters that I rinse and hang dry.
    Thank you for the opportunity to share my sustainable practices!

  10. I haven’t yet tried to change our coffee routine; however, we are still using the same ‘under-cabinet’ coffee maker that came with the house we bought 10 years ago now. Who knows how long it’s been going before it came to us? It’s an old one, probably from the 80’s. Our coffee maker has its quirks – it will make one – ONE – pot of coffee per day. No more. Relatives visiting? Sorry, still only one. Occasionally it makes none, and we are sad that day and start talking about whether it’s time to replace our machine. So far, though, it has always decided to keep going just a little longer for us. We finally dug out the camping percolator for those days we need it – but I love the espresso idea, and am going to look at investing in the stove top steamer for my almond milk. Thanks for a great blog!

  11. Like Lindsay I love my espresso. I have one or two a day, so does my hubby which we make with my great DeLonghi machine which has a portafilter andmwhich we have used for many years. I dread the day when it will pack up as for us making coffee midmorning has become a bit of a ritual. I buy my Fair Trade coffee at my local coffee shop. I have kept the original bag which I use time and time again to fill with lovely aromatic beans. I do like to grind my own coffee as like this it has the best aroma. Admittedly I use an electric plastic grinder but they tend to last for a long long time as I am only on my second one in 60 years!
    The handlevered ROK machine sounds absolutely great. Does it make a nice crema I wonder as with my machine i do not even need to froth milk as the coffee comes out quite frothy already. Then I just add hot milk to it and BLISS!
    Thanks for a great blog and very thought provoking ideas for a no plastic encumbered life.

  12. I purchased a whole army of bamboo toothbrushes for my family. I would love to make my own almond milk regularly, but so far I could only try it once. (btw it was delicious) We always buy coffee beans in the biggest available portion (in order to avoid more package), however just as I buy the tea in my own container, I’ll try to do the same with coffee. And I would really love to make our espressos with this gorgeous ROK espresso machine :)

  13. Hi, currently in the UK but live in Queensland and never leave home without our stove top coffee maker, if it is not at home it is in the caravan whilst travelling or in our suitcase. We just buy the ground coffee where ever we are and cook it usually on gas hot plate. Most of the time when travel we like to stop in a park or by the side of the road and have morning tea where ever takes our fancy. It is currently sitting on the stove where we are staying.
    It will have to be replaced shortly as a rubber (seal) is perishing and don’t seem to be able to locate a new seal. It is a 12 cup and it made up as a concentrate. If anyone knows where a new seal could be found it would be much appreciated. Located one business and they said they would get back to us but still waiting six months later
    Regards
    Melinda

  14. I love this, the simplicity and ease and so much less rubbish and risk of break down then going to landfill
    Hubby and I are going to be travelling in our caravan around Australia for a few years from January next year, this would be absolutely ideal to lessen our footprint while on our travels

  15. I too love a good coffee – I converted myself to a long black with a smidge of honey just recently and love the simplicity of it – I buy my beans in bulk and have the roaster grind them for me also to use in my plunger . My youngest daughter who is 8 recently was wiping the dishes for me and bless dropped my glass plunger and smashed the jug – I was left with the plunge but nothing else – so not to waste what I already had I did a hunt around for a secondhand plunger and am now using the jug from 1 plunger with the plunge from another (this part makes all the difference with straining)!!!! I love coffee so much that it all worked out in the end – the ROC looks amazing and something I would love to also try – the less moving parts the better for me – thanks for the opportunity to enter

  16. I open my used coffee pods and put the contents in my compost bin – saves some waste but the plastic bits still go into landfill. I had my machine for many years and when a seal went in it, I couldn’t replace it – none available so chuck it away

  17. I don’t usually have a coffee til a bit later in the morning (11ish and I use a stove top maker). But for breakfast I love muesli and have recently started making my own – oats, cashews, wheat flakes, seeds and raisins from our ‘Loose’ shop in town with glass bottle delivered to the door milk from the lovely Mike the Milk, topped off with raspberries from the garden.

  18. My hubby is wanting to get a fancy coffee machine. So far I’ve managed to convince him we don’t need it. We have a stove top espresso maker, which has had several parts replaced and while it looks rough. It still is making good coffee. We grind our own beans, which we buy in bulk to reduce the packaging. Recently we have opted for milk delivery from a local dairy. Our milk now comes in glass bottles which we return for reuse. We’ve even started making our own Greek style yoghurt from the milk we get. Stored in a glass jar, it lasts way longer than the supermarket brands and tastes way better too. My hubby has also had a go at making his own cheese, sealed with wax that can be reused once it’s matured. We still have a long way to go, but each step forward is helping.

  19. I have an aero press with a steel filter a porlex hand grinder a local bean supplier and a serious coffee addition… but the aeropress is basically all plastic and I don’t know how long it will last

  20. This is awesome! I could take it camping with me too!

    Right now my morning routine is very minimal as I am NOT a morning person, but I work a morning job. I wake up, get dressed, DO NOT look at my phone, love on my cat, and then put my pre-prepared lunch and coffee in my bag. Currently, I use the Ninja coffee maker for my coffee, and while I LOVE it, I absolutely do not love all the plastic it has. My plan is to use it and repair it as needed for as long as I can. My friend’s Ninja coffee maker lasted him 5 years, so here is to hoping it lasts at least 7 if not more. Once it’s gone, I’ll be investing one that is a lot more eco-friendly.

    (I also use a washable coffee filter, and my beans come from Peets coffee which helps African coffee bean farmers, and are eco-conscious as far as coffee shops go).

  21. I too love my morning coffee. I have a Saeco machine which cost me a bomb but I believe in the mantra “buy cheap, buy twice” so I feel it’s a good investment, I’m able to get it serviced or repaired when needed. I have found a local coffee bean roaster who sells zero waste beans and I get my glass milk bottles refilled. So why do I need a ROK? I would love this so I can take it on weekends away and road trips interstate. I always find that the coffee I buy when away just doesn’t compare to our home brewed or Melbourne Barista coffee.

  22. My morning routine is usually rushed on weekdays and I hurry to get dressed, throw on some makeup and get to work. I usually bring breakfast foods with me and eat at my desk because I’m usually short on time. My latest change to make my mornings more sustainable is that I bought a bike share membership and now cycle to work instead of taking the bus. I am loving it!

  23. This is so neat! I love the milk steamer and of course coffee press. Im always apprehensive about changing my morning routine, but this may be worth it.

  24. I switched to leaf tea in a teapot. Like your coffee preparation, I love how this forces me to slow down and savour the ritual. I have three small cups of tea in a special floral teacup every morning.
    And I feel great about not buying teabags!

  25. Thank you for the info. What an amazing piece of kit!
    I now use a little stainless steel pour over cup filter for my coffee and buy the beans from our local wasteless store. I stopped using tea bags too and buy the wasteless store and local market loose leaf teas. Used coffee and leaves go in the compost bin.

    I like the ‘ritual’ of making my tea and coffee now. Slowing down and the savouring the results.

    As I already have a coffee ‘kit’ I wouldn’t use the ROC, but have a family member who could as they are now working at a more sustainable life.

  26. I eat sourdough bread for breakfast almost every morning – it agrees with my digestion more than conventional bread. I have been making my own bread for almost 10 years now. The flour is stoneground organic wholegrain, purchased in paper sacks from my local deli. The salt is purchased in bulk, using recycled honey buckets, from my local bulk goods store.

    I always use my oven for baking something else to make the most of the high heat required for bread. I have solar panels ordered and look forward to baking using renewable energy!

  27. My husband and I both love coffee and try to amke it as zero waste ad possible. We use a moka pot, shop the coffee beans in glass jar to grind them at home. I make usually oat milk from flakes purchased in bulk and use stevia to sweeten (that is the ingredient I could not yet found in bulk). I would love to try the espresso press machine.

  28. My morning routine starts the night before with packing my lunch for work (including utensils and cloth napkin) so I don’t buy lunch and don’t waste leftovers. I take public transportation and my morning dose(s) of caffeine are either coffe made in a french press or loose-leaf tea (or one of each!) and consumed in a reusable hot drinks cup.

  29. I love this! I’ve been looking at how I can buy a coffee machine for my wife that is sustainable for a while now. Our mornings have changed a lot recently as we become a 1 car household. I now cycle to the train station and catch public transport to work, enjoying the scenery rather than getting frustrated in traffic!

  30. I switched to a moka pot for my coffee addiction and am still using my old electric milk frother, but have always been fascinated by the lever press espresso – do they make a decent sized espresso? As I like my coffee strong!

  31. The first thing in the morning for me is breakfast time, because my son and husband usually NEED FOOD NOW when they get up. :) It’s oats for me and my husband, but my son prefers bread.
    To make my morning routine more sustainable I bake my own bread and buy the ingredients at a bulk food shop, without any packaging. I feel so lucky to have moved to a place where there is a bulk shop at cycling distance last year! I usually bake four breads at a time to make the best use of my oven time. Whatever doesn’t get eaten the day of baking, gets frozen.
    I have never heard of a lever press espresso machine… we currently drink instant fair trade coffee but it’s not great. I love a good strong coffee!

  32. I love how you have obviously researched to get the ROK and I was surprised to learn that you could froth milk via a stove top! Def on my list if my lovely stove top mokka pot ever gives way (it’s 5 years and going on strong) cheers

  33. I too have just used up the life of a coffee machine – except mine was in my pre-I quit plastic days. I went from using pods (even for tea!) to realising how much waste I was causing. I then ditched the tea ones and then started breaking down the coffee pods myself. This involved cutting the plastic cover off the top with a serrated knife; taking the first plastic filter off the pod, tipping the used coffee into the compost; then rinsing the remaining plastic filter and pod cup. A pain if I’m in a hurry. I then invested in a stainless steel reusable pod and started experimenting with different blends, when not long after that the whole machine has gone kaput. Currently using an old plunger pot but it sure does make a mess with all those little coffee grains sticking to the dish cloth etc. Must admit, finding it a little overwhelming at the moment. Have go back to buying a coffee on the way to work (in a reusable cup of course!) Hoping to get a solution soon so I can get my Morning Coffee Routine back

  34. That stove top milk frother is amazing! I also had no idea that manual espresso makers existed. Increasing the sustainability of my morning routine has been all about reducing the stuff I buy – making my own breakfast and taking it to work, and eating it with some homemade coffee from beans bought from a NSW roaster.

  35. My morning routine in to grind Coffee with the OE Pharos 2.0 and pull espresso using my Breville machine. I really want to upgrade my machine to a manual like the Rok or the Flair. That matches with my manual grinder using less electricity and longer lasting parts.

  36. A boring and efficient morning for me- enjoy a coffee with my husband, eat eggs on toast, make it out the door in time to do my animal chores and drive to work. Sustainified by supporting local small businesses for our bread, ethical milk, organic animal feeds and bulk buying fairtrade , organic coffee beans. Oh, dont forget to brush teeth with bamboo brush and toothpaste tablets! We arent quite yet zero-waste but we are close and always looking for better options.

  37. My morning routine has changed quite a bit the last year and a half. I am a single parent house mom so energy is something we all house parents prize. And coffee is the biggest thing we all covet. In the mornings, I have been juicing a beet mixture and that has been something that has helped with energy and just good for you anyways. I drink a cup of coffee mid day for part of my relax time and just to get a good jolt. I have been switching to more of a minimalist lifestyle or trying to and this article really helped for the coffee arena. I look forward to reading your future posts. Blessings

  38. I bring my coffee along in a travel mug rather than buying it. My routine is drinking my coffee and getting kids to school, then running errands.

  39. Wow that’s is awesome! Didn’t know handpress espresso machines existed but it’s a great concept and looks fairly unbreakable. Definitely supporting this concept and would love to have one when I move to my first apartment :)

  40. My coffee routine is predictable. I have a metal French press. I do have a metal milk frothed which is wonderful. I make a 3 cup pot of coffee and carry and old fashioned thermos to work. My office has switched to using our own cups which makes for a nice coffee ritual mid morning.

  41. I am so happy to see this! I have an espresso machine that I inherited from my brother and it just keeps going but I live half the week at another house. I bought a second hand espresso machine for there but it sadly died after about a year. I have been having plunger coffee with warmed milk which is passable but not espresso! I refused to buy another cheap machine as they just don’t seem to last and it is such a waste
    I get my milk in glass bottles and return them when I get more. I have tried the local bulk bin for coffee but it isn’t nice so my mission for next week is to visit some local roasters and see if I can buy in my own container.

  42. I’ve been trying for a few years to lower my footprint, and have done a bit of work on coffee. I was gifted a pod machine a few years ago, but found it expensive and inconvenient for my own purposes, as well as not being the type for which reusable pods were available. Since then I’ve been using a simple pour over funnel and compostable paper filters. It’s been pretty convenient and easy to use, but i miss espresso.

  43. Awesome idea, thanks for sharing! Been contemplating what to do when our own machine gives out it’s iast dreg if coffee ☺️

  44. What a clever design. I hadn’t come across something like this before. We use an stove espresso pot by Bialetti and it works very well. We make 4 coffee shots at a time and keep the extra shots in a glass jar will we need them. That way we’re put it on less regularly. The coffee we use is either non-organic in our own container from a local coffee or organic from a local store, which comes in non-recyclable packaging. We’re still on the hunt for organic in compostable packaging or package-free. We’re still using dairy milk because oat milk, which is the most sustainable milk to use in Ireland didn’t really work for us in coffee. We do use substantially less dairy milk than we used to and have also cut down on our overall intake of coffee, which in itself isn’t a very sustainable product.

  45. My morning routine is to have some basic core&arm workout at home before jumping on my bike to ride to the studio of ours.

    No new equipment/stuff needed. My fav blanket is my (yoga)mat and stainless steel bottles filled with water work as weights. And the best part: after using them i don’t have extrastuff that is needed only when working out.

    No gym needed, home is more than fine. Also so easy to begin straight out of bed and I can wear, well, whatever.

    Riding my bike gives me even more workout for the day and maybe I dont even need that another cup of coffee when I arrive to the studio…

    And have to say this: Thank You, Lindsey for Your great work!

  46. My morning routine is more mentally cluttered than stuff cluttered… but always includes coffee… I find that coffee makes my mind “wasteless” … My job is working with cancer patients in an oncology and radiation Cancer Center – I need to center myself on giving; not be burdened with complications of coffee gadgets, guilt that I am contributing to our planet’s harm by using one use coffee items that actually speed me up and out the door without the “pause”… I love this machine and it’s unexpected benefit… slow down! … wow – what a beautiful machine.

  47. I’ve always wanted to try this coffee maker/method! We use a Chemex with unbleached paper filters, sometimes an aeropress. We love both options, but it’d be great to go more zero waste. I think it’d be neat to try a stainless steel filter for the Chemex. Have you tried that/any thoughts on that? (That is, if I don’t win an ROK maker (; )

  48. I’ve switched from using disposable flossers to a plastic thingy that I wind floss onto daily (still have to use floss but less plastic) and I’ve started bringing iced chai in my water bottle rather than buying some (:

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