This is harder to determine than with most appliances since energy star does not evaluate coffee machines. A coffee machine that uses less energy and is filter-less would obviously be a good option. This might mean a french press is the best since it uses no energy but the energy needed to heat the water for it must be taken into consideration. The new machines that brew one cup at a time are touted as “eco-friendly” since, they argue, you only make one cup at a time and therefore waste less. But the single use containers are wasteful and pile up especially if you make more than one cup. Any coffee maker is still going to either need energy or hot water so your best bet is trying to find a coffee maker that uses one or the other of those things to a lesser degree.
This question can be a particularly challenging one to answer because there are just so many factors to consider: energy used and waste created in making the coffee, waste produced in cleaning the machine, materials used to make the machine in the first place…and of course a lot of these factors vary based on other things, like how much coffee you make and what sort of energy you use to make it. It can be overwhelming, but as always, you just have to start somewhere. One of the easiest concerns to address is the issue of wasted filters. Frankly, there’s no need for them, and either a French press or a coffee maker with a reusable metal filter will suit you just fine. In fact, all things considered, these two are probably your best option. The French press is especially worthwhile if you have a low-energy way to heat water, if you typically only make as much coffee as you’re going to drink in one sitting, and if you’re okay with just giving it a quick rinse when you’re done with it, rather than using all that hot water and soap to wash it out properly. On the other hand, a thermos-style electric coffee pot retains heat, thus keeping the coffee warm longer if you don’t plan on drinking it all at once; plus it uses electricity to boil the water, so you don’t have to worry about turning on the stove or using an electric kettle (which are more efficient than stoves), and you only heat as much water as you use each time. Another advantage is that both of these devices are made with considerably less plastic than your standard coffee maker. Now you just have to figure out what kind of coffee beans to buy…
One last tip that I don’t think anyone mentioned is to make sure you unplug your coffee machine when it’s not in use. No matter how much energy the coffee machine uses, having it plugged in when not in use wastes energy. This goes for saying with all other small electronics in general.
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