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From water to paper filters, brewing a pot of coffee can create a lot of waste. However, there are some methods that you can use to make the process more environmentally friendly. 

Local coffee shops throughout the Black Hills shared tips on how to brew a cup, or pot or two, of coffee and also continue environmentally friendly practices.

There are a variety of ways to make coffee from a Keurig to a French press to the traditional coffee pot. However, not all methods of making coffee are good for the environment.

The most common waste when brewing coffee is the filters and the electricity used to run the machines, said Madelyn Ahrenstorff, manager at Essence of Coffee in Rapid City.

Unfortunately, any brewing method will require the use of a filter. Coffee drinkers just need to be aware of the best ways to use filters and coffee makers to be environmentally friendly, Ahrenstorff said.

The best green method for brewing coffee is a cold brew. A cold brew uses zero electricity and a reusable filter, and makes coffee by brewing coffee beans in a reusable filter, net or cloth. The coffee brews for about 14 to 24 hours, depending on a person’s preferred strength, and is served cold.

“You can add syrup or milk, whatever you want. You can even just drink it over ice,” said Aaron Neiman, owner of Blackbird Espresso in Spearfish.

Neiman uses a tea towel to cold brew coffee. The towel can then be washed and used for the next batch of coffee.

For hot coffee, the best method to prevent waste is the French press. A French press has a reusable filter and easily washable pot and can make a small to larger amount of coffee, so extra coffee doesn’t go to waste.

A French press brews coffee by putting select grounds into the press, pouring hot water over the grounds, and waiting for about five minutes. It does require electricity to heat the water, but natural gas or a campfire can be used to heat the water for a French press, as well, making the method even more environmentally friendly than it is.

“There’s more versatility with a French press, it’s more primitive brewing style than some coffee drop machines like a Keurig,” Neiman said.

Essence of Coffee uses an aeropress, which is similar to a French press, but more modern, Ahrenstorff said. The aeropress allows coffee to steep before using a light pressure to push the water out of the brewer. The machine uses a micro filter. Many customers use the same method at home, she added.

For the past several years, single cup coffee makers like the Keurig have made coffee consumption quick and efficient. However, using the plastic K-cups increase the carbon footprint significantly.

“You’re wasting a lot of product to get a simple little cup of coffee,” said Jazmyn Larson, manager at Alternative Fuel. “It’s much more of a waste.”

Coffee lovers can use a reusable filter for the Keurig, but they will still use more electricity and water to heat up the machine for a single cup of coffee.

A traditional or large drip coffee pot is one of the worst ways to brew coffee, Ahrenstorff added. Not only is the machine using extra water and electricity, there is a lot of coffee waste, she said, especially if coffee drinkers are only having a cup or two.

“There’s no freshness to that kind of coffee,” she added. “There’s also a lot of waste from the filters that you use only one time.”

Neiman agreed, adding that the large coffee pots in many coffee shops are the least environmentally friendly method of brewing a cup of coffee.

“Even an espresso machine is more environmentally friendly because it uses a reusable filter,” he said.

For those heavy coffee drinkers that need to brew their coffee in a larger pot, there are options for stainless steel, reusable filters. And Ahrenstorff suggests using bamboo filters as a more environmentally friendly alternative.

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Other environmentally conscious decisions coffee drinkers can take to ensure their morning caffeine is consumed in a green method is by taking their coffee to go in a reusable mug, Ahrenstorff said.

Essence of Coffee goes through approximately 375 disposable cups in a week, averaging 1,500 paper cups a month.

“We see way more paper cup use. It’d be cool to see people use their own tumblers more and more. But, it’s not the norm yet,” Neiman added.

Some coffee shops, like Alternative Fuel, offer discounts to customers who bring in a reusable mug. Customers also can use a reusable coffee sleeve instead of grabbing a new one each time they grab a latte or their drink of choice.

Used coffee grounds also can be used for compost, Ahrenstorff said. However, she said to monitor how much coffee grounds are used in compost, as they can be acidic.

And so which method of brewing tastes better?

Neiman prefers a French press when making coffee at home.

“It’s a really clean way to brew and results in a nice cup of coffee. The downside for some people is the wet grounds out of your French press each morning,” he said.

“It comes down to personal preference,” Ahrenstorff said. “Anytime you’re controlling the variables in brewing, like with a French press, you’re going to get a better taste.”

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