Does a “plastic free coffee maker” even exist? Well…kind of.
If you’re looking for a plastic free coffee maker, chances are it’s because you’ve been grossed out by coffee that tastes like plastic. Coffee that tastes like plastic comes from coffee makers that are made with lots of plastic parts (more specifically, plastic reservoirs), and you’ve decided that a plastic free coffee maker will solve the problem. Well…you’re 100% right! Congratulations. You’re officially a genius.
Before getting into the various machines and gadgets that make plastic free coffee possible, let’s define what a “plastic free coffee maker” really is. First of all, we are NOT talking about coffee makers that are plastic on the inside but stainless steel on the outside. Sure, they look nice in your kitchen, but that’s not what you’re after. Pretty much every coffee maker manufacturer sells stainless steel models, but most are literally just trying to look good.
Also, we are not talking about coffee makers that come with a stainless steel carafe. The main purpose of a stainless steel, and preferably double-walled, carafe is for keeping your coffee hot. That’s why those shiny carafes are usually advertised as “thermal” or something like that.
Assuming we’re talking about drip coffee makers, the plastic free coffee maker you really want is one that has a stainless steel water reservoir. Let me say that again in italics and all caps:
YOU WANT A DRIP COFFEE MAKER WITH A STAINLESS STEEL RESERVOIR.
(update: or a GLASS reservoir! scroll down to the OXO below and you’ll see what I mean)
Yes, there might be plastic parts on the outside, and there might be plastic parts on the inside. This is literally unavoidable in modern drip coffee makers, but who cares! We’re only concerned about the parts that have prolonged contact with water, and that means the reservoir.
The reservoir is where the water sits while it heats up, and logic dictates that that’s where the plastic taste is coming from. In case you slept through high school chemistry … heat makes molecules go crazy. When water molecules and plastic molecules go crazy together, bad things happen because plastic molecules will sleep with just about anyone. I know, the coffee may flow through a plastic filter basket, but that basket is lined with a paper or Gold Tone coffee filter. Also, the coffee spends minimal time in direct contact with the filter basket’s plastic spout which seriously limits any molecular craziness that might taint your coffee. The water reservoir is definitely the culprit.
As of right now, there are only a small number of automatic drip coffee makers in the known universe that have stainless steel (or glass) reservoirs, and they range in price from a steakhouse dinner for two to an entire car payment. On the lower end of the price scale is the Bunn Velocity Brew line which will run you anywhere from about $100 to $200. According to Bunn, all of the Velocity Brew coffee makers have stainless steel water reservoirs (I asked them). The more expensive plastic free coffee makers I’ll be discussing here are the Bunn VP-17 (read full review here), the Behmor Brazen Plus (review), and the OXO On Barista Brain 12 Cup Coffee Maker. Honorable mention goes to the much-ballyhooed Technivorm Moccamaster. The $300+ Moccamaster has a plastic water reservoir, but it drains into a stainless steel heating unit. Hence, it doesn’t actually qualify as a “plastic free coffee maker” but, like the Bunns and the Brazen and the OXO, it’s plastic-free where it matters.
Wait, you’re broke? Don’t fret! If you’re short on Benjamins, there are other much cheaper options available as well.
Plastic Free Coffee Maker #1: The Bunn Velocity Brew line
If you read my review of the Bunn BXB Velocity Brew (read it here) you already know that it’s (a) fast, and (b) makes great coffee. Fast is what the Velocity Brew line of coffee makers is all about, hence the name. The way Bunn accomplishes this is by designing their coffee makers to keep water hot at all times, so all they have to do is pump the water through coffee grounds when duty calls. Some say this is a waste of electricity, but there’s no law preventing you from turning the coffee maker off while you’re at work. As for why so many people love the coffee that comes out of their Velocity Brew machines, there’s no doubt that stainless steel reservoirs play a big part in that.
I really feel like Bunn doesn’t get as much street cred as they deserve in the coffee making world. They’re old school and have been around since the dawn of drip coffee, but sexier brand names often eclipse their high quality products. The thing to know about Bunn is this: they’re all about coffee, which is why they build stainless steel reservoirs into most of their coffee makers. They do coffee and nothing else. This doesn’t mean all of their products are perfect, but when a company commits to one thing for 50+ years, they’re going to be really good at it.
Plastic Free Coffee Maker #2: The Bunn VP-17
I wrote a glowing review of the Bunn VP-17 a while back (read it here). I think I even dubbed it The Best Coffee Maker in the World. Really, it’s that good. More recently, I wrote a whole thing about my quest to find the most stainless, plastic-free coffee maker around.
The Bunn VP-17 may be a monstrous coffee maker in terms of size, but it seems immune to most of the common coffee maker complaints. For starters, you will get no plastic taste from the Bunn VP-17. Let me say that again, and in all caps: YOU WILL GET NO PLASTIC TASTE from this coffee maker. Stainless steel, baby. That’s what you came here for. Also, see the tweet down below that confirms the VP-17’s plastic free coffee maker status. Not only is the VP-17 plastic free, it’s also a warhorse that many people report using for years and years. No more chucking old coffee makers into the local landfill. The Bunn VP17-1SS isn’t cheap when compared to most coffee makers, but it does coffee right. And let’s not forget the kitsch it adds to your kitchen.
Wanna get really hardcore? Bunn also offers a stainless steel funnel assembly, which is fancy-speak for a stainless steel filter basket. If you remain suspicious of any coffee maker that uses a plastic filter basket, this is the answer to all of your woes! People who use the stainless steel basket with their VP-17 praise it up and down. “It’s worth the money” is a sentiment that has been expressed by a number of reviewers. Apparently, you also need a “funnel tip kit” if you get the stainless steel funnel assembly, and one reviewer said that he simply called Bunn and they sent him a free one. Bunn’s cool like that, and I’ll bet he also asked very nicely! And P.S., the stainless steel funnel assembly will NOT work with a Velocity Brew. Just FYI.
Update (April 2018): I asked Bunn about what plastic or rubber parts come into contact with the water in the VP-17 and here’s what they had to say:
Thanks for the question! The only non-metal material from the tank to the sprayhead is a couple food grade silicone gromets.
— BUNN (@BUNN) April 3, 2018
So there you have it! The VP-17 is a plastic free coffee maker to the greatest extent possible. A grommet, in case you’re curious, is basically a small washer-like thing that is often used for sealing gaps between adjoining parts. In a machine where the transport of liquids occurs, grommets are a necessity. The good news on silicone is that it has high thermal stability and low chemical reactivity (according to Wikipedia). That means that Bunn’s silicone grommets won’t spoil your coffee! Oh, and if you’re on Twitter, Buy/Don’t Buy could use a few followers! (@buydontbuy)
A Bunn VP-17 with a stainless steel funnel assembly will not only beat your plastic coffee taste problem, it is also likely to outlast any non-Bunn coffee maker you’ve ever owned.
Plastic Free Coffee Maker #3: The Behmor Brazen Plus
Let’s be honest here. The Behmor Brazen Plus (read review) looks cool as hell. I have literally seen spaceships in movies that look just like this coffee maker. Cool factor aside, this coffee maker comes with more than just a stainless steel water reservoir. It also has some other rare features such as altitude adjustment and manual release. Altitude adjustment ensures that water heats up to the correct temperature even if you live at the top of Mount Everest, and the manual release gives you the flexibility to use a Chemex (read review) or some other kind of pour over coffee maker with this machine.
If you have an Amazon Echo and/or a smartphone, the Behmor Connected Brewer might be more to your liking. It’s basically the same coffee maker as the Brazen Plus, but it connects to WiFi and can tell Alexa to order you some more coffee.
This coffee maker isn’t universally hailed as perfect (numerous complaints about a crappy carafe and sputtering hot water), but most buyers love it like it’s their firstborn. More importantly, it makes a fine cup of plastic-free coffee. Oh, and did I mention that the Behmor Brazen Plus is an SCAA Certified coffee maker? That means that this coffee maker has passed some very rigorous performance testing by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. It’s kind of a big thing in the cut-throat world of coffee making!
Plastic Free Coffee Maker #4: The OXO On Barista Brain 12 Cup Coffee Maker
This is probably one of the most unique coffee makers out there. The OXO On Barista Brain 12 Cup Coffee Maker has lots of bells and whistles built into it, but the part that’s really hard to miss is its removable water kettle. The glass water kettle is where the water heats up, so that makes it the only plastic free coffee maker in this group (or any group, for that matter) that has a glass reservoir. The reason I’m calling it a kettle instead of a water reservoir is that it detaches so that you can pour hot water from it! Insane in the membrane, amiright? It’s a cool feature that makes the OXO On Barista Brain 12 Cup a very versatile kitchen appliance. Also, like the Behmor Brazen Plus, this is also an SCAA Certified coffee maker.
As of this writing, there are 260 total reviews on Amazon, and they’re a pretty mixed bag. Only ONE person has posted a complaint about this coffee maker producing plastic taste, and that may have something to do with other plastic components that make up this coffee maker’s innards. Meanwhile, 48% of reviewers have given it either 4 or 5 stars. Some of the negative reviewers originally gave it a very high rating, but decided to revise their ratings downward after a year or so of use. Given the mixed opinions on this coffee maker and the relatively high price tag, it’s hard to call this plastic free coffee maker a “slam dunk.” Lots of people love it. And more than a few think it is lacking in some key areas that affect its longevity. If you really like the removable water kettle, give this coffee maker a good look, but temper your expectations. It also comes with altitude adjustment, so think about that, as well, if you live high upon a mountaintop. The good news is that, if you do have a problem, OXO’s customer service is reportedly excellent. That’s always a nice fallback if you have concerns that need to be addressed later on down the road.
If this 12 Cup OXO is too pricey for you, they also sell a 9-cup model. That one doesn’t have the fancy kettle feature, and the water reservoir is made of plastic, but it’s a quality unit. Not only is the 9-cup model also an SCAA Certified coffee maker, but there are zero complaints of plastic taste as of this writing.
UPDATE (August 20, 2018): A number of customers over the past year or so have revised their once-glowing reviews down to 1 or 2 star ratings. This is due to reliability issues that have cropped up, and OXO seems to be making an effort to remedy things, but they’re losing the war. In addition, OXO appears to have discontinued this model altogether, as evidenced by the fact that they no longer offer it on their own website.
Given the price of this coffee maker and its rapidly declining reputation, you might want to steer clear of this one for the time being. Even though the Bunn VP-17 isn’t “SCAA Certified,” it has always been my personal favorite for reliability and overall performance.
The Not Quite Plastic Free Coffee Maker: The Technivorm Moccamaster
The Technivorm Moccamaster is hailed by many as the greatest drip coffee maker in the history of the universe. It’s sleek and produces great coffee, and hardcore coffee nerds praise it up and down. One of the main reasons it’s so great is that, even though it has a plastic water reservoir, it comes equipped with a stainless steel heating tank. That’s undoubtedly a big part of this coffee maker’s success, and it’s why Moccamaster owners don’t complain about plastic taste. Ever.
For a coffee maker that gets as much hype as the Moccamaster, you’d think more people would be in love with it. True, MOST people love it and nobody complains that it produces plastic taste in their coffee. The big knock on the Technivorm Moccamaster is that it has more plastic parts than you’d expect for such an expensive machine. If this bothers you, stay away. However, if you only care about how your coffee tastes and don’t mind the price tag, the Moccamaster will make you very happy.
Cheap no plastic coffee makers!
Escaping the clutches of plastic coffee taste doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. If the Bunn VP-17 and Behmor Brazen Plus are out of your league, there are several other options that are way cheaper and arguably produce better tasting coffee depending on your preferences.
Ironically, the Aeropress is definitely not a plastic free coffee maker. In fact, it’s made entirely of plastic, but it doesn’t produce plastic taste in your coffee. Why? Because you don’t heat up water in it, stupid! You boil water separately, maybe in one of those fancy stainless steel kettles you see at local coffee shops, and you press the water through coffee grounds and a special paper filter. The result is an espresso-ish coffee concentrate that you can add water or milk to and it’s awesome. Read the full review of the Aeropress, or just go and buy one already!
Lots and lots of people swear that there is no better way to brew coffee than in a French press. The typical French press is made from glass or stainless steel, so plastic taste is not an issue. If you find a French press that’s made of plastic, ew, don’t buy it. That’s just tacky. There are tons of French presses available on the market, many of them for cheap, and you can read about the 7 Best French Press coffee makers here.
The Chemex coffee maker is a relic from a simpler time before coffee making went all electronic and wrapped in plastic. It’s a lovely glass thingy that uses special Chemex paper filters which produce a beautiful cup of coffee that you can’t get with ordinary paper filters. This simple and elegant pour over coffee maker is LEGEN…wait for it…DARY, and I wrote all about it just recently.
Pour over coffee filters
Not in the mood for special coffee filters? Does pressing things really tick you off? Coffee doesn’t get any simpler than a stainless steel coffee filter. Just set it on top of your coffee cup, drop in some coffee grounds, and pour hot water over it. See, this is why it’s called the “pour over” method of coffee making. Bonus: it’s also super portable (as is the Aeropress)! Pack it in your suitcase, take it camping, take it anywhere. It’s the most portable plastic free coffee maker in the world! Here’s a Pulitzer-worthy review of a great pour over coffee filter that you can get right now.
Stainless steel percolators
Percolators were big in the 1970s and seem to be making a comeback as of late. They’re different from other coffee makers in that they work by cycling, and then recycling, hot water through coffee grounds. Some say they result in over-extraction of the grounds, and others say they make coffee that’s more “robust.” I suppose it depends on how long you let the coffee percolate. The thing that matters here, though, is that it’s easy to find percolators that are made entirely of stainless steel or very close to it. Percolators are also pretty cheap, so your investment risk stays small if you can’t get the hang of percolating. Who knew they were making plastic free coffee makers 40 years ago?
Plastic taste in coffee is totally beatable. You may have struggled with it in so many coffee makers already that you feel completely defeated, but don’t despair. If you’ve already tried my 7 Ways to Get Rid of Plastic Taste and still feel the need to buy a new coffee maker, try one of the options above. My personal pick would be the Bunn VP-17 with the optional stainless steel funnel assembly. It’s a bit pricey, but it should also last you a long, long time. And don’t forget: plastic taste, gone! Poof. Now you can move on to more important things like shopping for the best burr grinder for your beans.