Despite what you may have read elsewhere, an “all stainless steel coffee maker” DOES exist. Like all drip coffee makers, the BUNN VP17-1SS does have plastic parts in various places. However, the only thing that counts is plastic that touches hot water during brewing. The BUNN VP17 has a stainless steel water reservoir, and the only non-metal parts to touch hot water on the way to the shower head are a few silicone grommets.
Down below is straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth proof of where I learned this (spoiler alert: I asked BUNN directly). If the BUNN name doesn’t stir your interest, then check out my list of 10 plastic free coffee makers. Otherwise, keep reading or just scroll down to find links to the specific things you need to buy for truly plastic-free drip coffee!
First, I need to throw a little caveat out there for the semantically picky. This article is about stainless steel coffee makers of the automatic drip variety.
Obviously, it’s quite easy to find non-automatic coffee-making contraptions that are stainless steel inside and out. Many pour over coffee filters, many French presses, and most percolators all fit the bill. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
In the world of automatic drip coffee makers, it is impossible to find a coffee maker that is completely free of plastic in some form. Plastic is used for buttons and trim, it’s in the electronics, it’s used for all kinds of parts. Most of that stuff is irrelevant.
What you care about is plastic that touches the water inside the coffee maker. Now, in this category, it’s still extremely hard to avoid plastic parts and rubber hoses. Even high-end SCAA certified coffee makers are susceptible to this trend.
For the sake of due diligence, however, I hopped on Twitter and reached out to the makers of some of those SCAA certified coffee makers. I asked them the following question:
“Are there any plastic or rubber parts that come into contact with the water as it moves from reservoir to the coffee grounds?”
Fair question, right? I asked the makers of the Technivorm Moccamaster and got no reply. I asked Cuisinart, maker of the highly touted Cuisinart CPO-850, and got no reply. I asked OXO, maker of the very innovative On Barista Brain 9 cup and 12 cup coffee makers … and, YES, they replied! Here’s what they said:
Okay, well, I was hoping for a different answer! But I like OXO’s willingness to answer the question openly and accurately.
In fairness to OXO, their On Barista Brain 9-cup coffee maker (Amazon link) does have a plastic reservoir, but there are very few complaints of plastic taste, and the Amazon reviews are mostly very positive. Just sayin’.
Another prominent manufacturer that I managed to get in touch with is Behmor, maker of the SCAA certified and super-sleek Behmor Brazen Plus (Amazon link) and the smartphone-enabled Behmor Connected Brewer (Amazon Link).
Here’s how they answered my question about plastic parts touching the water:
The reservoir and water pathway is stainless steel, and the dispersion screen is food grade BPA-free plastic. All other internal components are RoHS compliant.
— Behmor (@behmor) April 4, 2018
Alrighty, then! We already knew that Behmor’s water reservoir is stainless steel. I did NOT know that the “water pathway” is also stainless, and that is probably at least part of why nobody complains about plastic taste in Behmor’s coffee makers.
The dispersion screen is BPA-free plastic, so the Behmor isn’t a truly “all stainless steel coffee maker,” but it comes pretty gosh-darned close.
And that brings us to our Main Event! Drum roll, please …
THE ONLY TRUE ALL STAINLESS STEEL COFFEE MAKER IS THE BUNN VP17-1SS WITH THE OPTIONAL STAINLESS STEEL FUNNEL ASSEMBLY.
I have said this before, and I will most certainly say it again: The Bunn VP17-1SS is probably the best automatic drip coffee maker you can buy (read my review here).
Yes, there are a number of very worthy SCAA certified coffee makers that come very close, and those coffee makers also do some pretty cool stuff. But in terms of performance and build quality, the Bunn VP-17 is where it’s at.
I will concede that Bunn’s VP17-1SS is big and not exactly “sexy,” but it does have a certain retro charm to it. As far as coffee taste goes, everyone loves it. It brews hot and fast.
And a number of reviewers on Amazon have, indeed, commented that it is “built like a tank.” One reviewer specifically compared it to an M1 Abrams tank, which I guess is a really tough tank as far as armor-plated killing machines are concerned.
Anyway, getting back to the point, here is Bunn’s very own confirmation that this coffee maker is truly all stainless steel:
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
Ok now, you’re already thinking “well the grommets are silicone!” Silicone grommets are basically tiny little rubber rings. Every coffee maker has them.
They are used as sealers and are unavoidable in a machine that transports liquids for a living. Also, silicone is not the same thing as BPA-free plastic. Plastic leaches into water. Silicone does not!
Grommets aside, everything else on the inside, where water is concerned, is stainless steel! That’s what you were looking for, and you found it. The filter basket on the outside, however, is plastic. But this is easily remedied, so keep reading.
The VP17-1SS is a consumer version of Bunn’s VP17 commercial coffee maker. As such, Bunn sells this coffee maker in the same way that they sell their commercial units.
That means you need to buy the decanter separately. If you want to replace the plastic filter basket with their “stainless steel funnel assembly” (it’s a steel filter basket), you will need to buy that separately, as well.
So, if your goal is to be 100% stainless steel from start to finish, here’s what you need to buy:
- BUNN 13300.0001 VP17-1SS Pourover Coffee Brewer with 1 Warmer, Stainless Steel (Amazon link)
- BUNN 20216.0000 Funnel Assembly with Stainless Steel-Black Handle (Amazon link)
- BUNN 40163.0000 Thermal Coffee Carafe – Black* (Amazon link)
- BUNN 1M5002 Commercial Coffee Filters, 12-Cup Size (Case of 1000) (just in case you don’t have any at home) (Amazon link)
You’ll notice that I put a little asterisk by #3, the BUNN thermal carafe. You do not NEED to spend the extra money on this item! Amazon customers say it works perfectly with the BUNN VP17 and it keeps coffee hot for hours, but you can certainly survive without it if you’re already pushing the budget to the limit.
If thermal ain’t your style, you’ll do just fine with Bunn’s very inexpensive 12 cup glass decanter (Amazon link). I only listed that thermal carafe because “all stainless steel” is the theme of the day here.
Also, UPDATE (October 2018): If you have read in the past that you need a “funnel tip kit” with the Funnel Assembly, that is no longer true. BUNN has confirmed that for me via Twitter. Sweet! One less thing to worry about.
And there you have it! The Bunn VP17-1SS with the stainless steel funnel assembly is a truly all stainless steel coffee maker.
If the silicone grommets bother you (and they shouldn’t), then I recommend you get a French press and call it a day. Or maybe give Behmor or Technivorm a try. It is highly unlikely that either of those brands will taste like plastic (read below to find out why).
And bonus: their coffee makers are pretty! But seriously, the Bunn VP17 is as stainless as you will ever get.
This Bunn VP17 setup WILL solve your plastic taste woes. Not only will there be no plastic taste in your coffee, this coffee maker will last you a long, long time. It’s steel. It’s built to last.
This concludes the “all stainless steel” portion of this article.
If you’re interested in why I believe plastic filter baskets are NOT the cause of plastic taste in coffee, keep reading!
So, I still stand by my theory that plastic taste is caused by plastic water reservoirs, not plastic filter baskets. My contention has always been that plastic leaches into hot water during prolonged contact with plastic parts.
It’s true that I am not a chemist, as one fairly douchey commenter alluded to on my 10 Plastic Free Coffee Makers article. But you don’t have to be Bill Nye the Science Guy to figure out that a plastic water reservoir in a cheap coffee maker is a prime opportunity for hot water leaching to occur.
Based on the comments I’ve seen on this website, it seems that lots of people think that plastic filter baskets are the culprit. In light of this, I submit the following facts for your consideration:
- Water spends far more time in contact with the water reservoir than with any other part of the coffee maker.
- When hot water goes into the filter basket, most of it is dripping through the coffee grounds (hence, making coffee) rather than making constant contact with the filter basket walls.
- When coffee drips out of a plastic filter basket, the contact time with plastic is brief as the coffee falls directly into the carafe.
- The legendary Technivorm Moccamaster has a stainless steel heating tank AND a plastic filter basket, yet nobody complains about plastic taste coming out of that coffee maker. 492 Amazon reviews. None of them complain about plastic taste.
- Likewise, Behmor’s coffee makers also have stainless steel for the reservoir, but the coffee drips into a plastic filter basket. No plastic complaints there out of 483 reviews.
Come to think of it, Bunn’s funnel assembly is the only non-plastic filter basket I know of. Every other coffee maker on the market uses plastic.
I understand that it’s hard to get people to change what they believe. And sometimes, people just need to be reassured that some random piece of plastic isn’t ruining their coffee, especially if they have experienced the horrors of plastic taste in the past.
The reason I am recommending the stainless steel funnel assembly is not because I think you need it. It’s because I think it will give you peace of mind.
The stainless steel funnel assembly is your assurance that your coffee has not been tainted by a plastic filter basket, whether or not that ever really happens at all. If it makes you feel better, just buy the steel basket! I have my theories and you may have yours, so do whatever works best for you. 🙂
P.S. The Bunn “featured image” at the top of this page was shamelessly stolen from master photographer and Flickr guy The Caldor Rainbow. He really seems to enjoy photographing retail buildings and store signs.