The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

April 2, 2008

And still one more coffee post…

Reading the comments from yesterday’s post about coffee, I realized there was a bunch of stuff I forgot to say. So this is Coffee, Part 2. Tomorrow, I’ll get to the white stuff that goes in the coffee.

1) French Press vs. Filtered Coffee: Some readers are advocating the French Press as a filter-free alternative. While this method certainly saves a lot of paper coffee filters, it might not be the best option for those of us with cholesterol issues, like Beth Terry aka Fake Plastic Fish.

High cholesterol seems to run in my family. And the oil in coffee contains a compound called cafestol which raises LDL (the bad cholesterol). Paper filters, and I’m assuming cloth filters, trap much of the oil and therefore reduce the cholesterol-raising properties of coffee. Recent studies have shown that even filtered coffee raises LDL some. But not as much as unfiltered. Here’s an MSNBC article that summarizes the research in terms that non-scientists can understand: And here’s an article that explains the mechanism by which cafestol raises cholesterol:

So, this explains my choice to buy a filtered coffee maker rather than a French Press. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a great choice for other people who have less cholesterol risk than I and who prefer stronger coffee.

2) Buying plastic-free coffee: I totally forgot this part yesterday! Most coffee bags, while they might be paper on the outside, are lined with plastic on the inside. This turns out to be the case at my local coffee shop, Peaberry’s. So, I take my own brown paper bag with me and have them fill it up with a pound of their Fairtrade Organic blend. This is my coffee-buying bag that I bring back with me each time.

At home, I empty the coffee into a metal tin that originally contained popcorn from the Popcorn Factory. It’s got a nice, tight lid. I keep it in the refrigerator. If you have better ideas of how to keep coffee fresh without plastic, let me know. This seems to work fine for me.

3) My travel mug: Cave-Woman asked what kind of mug I use. It’s a Timolino Vacuum Travel mug from Peaberry’s: stainless steel inside and out with a polypropylene plastic lid. Would I rather put my lips on something other than plastic? Yep. So when I’m sitting still, I drink right from the metal mug without putting the lid on. But while in transit, I do use the lid.

Cave-Woman also mentioned that she can detect a metal after-taste drinking from a stainless steel mug. Maybe her palate is more sensitive than mine. I don’t notice any metal taste. But I would be interested to know if any of you know of a travel mug that contains no plastic, is made relatively locally (Mine’s from China, natch. It would be local if I lived in China.), doesn’t leak, and works well for you.

I’m not about to buy a new one for myself. I’ll sticking with mine, imperfect as it is. But your suggestions could be useful to those who are in the market and can’t find a good one used. No Impact Man talks about drinking coffee from a glass jar. But how do you pick up a glass jar of hot coffee without burning yourself? Make a cloth cozy to go around it? Hmmm…

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Classic stainless steel bento boxes and cotton lunch bags.

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Pat Clancy
10 years ago

I have Mason jar mugs and use them at home, but I doubt they would fit in my car cup holder. We used to use paper filters but then decided to try the “gold” filter that came with our coffee maker and haven’t bought any paper ones since then. My cholesterol is borderline (201). Does the gold filter take care of the bad oil?

Thanks for the idea of buying coffeebeans in bulk. I’ll look around for a Fair Trade source, though hope it’s not Whole Foods. The Fair Trade coffee sold at my church as a fundraiser (to pay for FT coffee during our coffee hour) is several dollars higher priced at WF (some of my friends call it Whole Paycheck).

11 years ago

I know it’s an old post, but if people are looking for options for this, Hotjos are made of stoneware, and just come with plastic lids and some cushioning on the bottom. They’re wider at the bottom so they won’t spill – according to some reviews on Amazon, you can keep them on your dashboard while driving and they won’t spill.

That website also has replacement parts, which is awesome.

Beth D.
11 years ago

Both my husband and I can taste stainless steel in liquids we drink out of our Kleen Kanteens. Neither one of us has extensive dental work (which does not affect taste btw). Some people are just more sensitive to the taste that metal releases into liquid. The amount of residue released can be due to the type of metal and quality also. I have found that keeping the container as cold as possible helps reduce the taste. At room temperature, I might as well be licking a hand rail!

Millie Barnes
13 years ago

I use the Element Mug High Wave- from

It has a stainless steel base with a car coffee holder profile and a Fine crafted stoneware body. It holds thirteen ounces with a nice wide handle. The patented silicon top has no taste or odor and pops into a groove on the sidewall of the mug. This so you can Drink from stoneware, everyones first choice. The top prevents splash and keeps the heat in.

I've been using it about a year and love it, at 12.00, it's steal! I hand grind my coffee in a Zazzenhaus Mill from, where I also purchased my porcelain pour over coffee maker.

PS- better to not refrigerate coffee beans, an air-tight glass jar works great, I using a canning jar. Freeze what beans you will not use in a week…better still, buy locally only what you can use and hand grind in a week.

Millie Barnes
Chef, Nutrition Coach
Gluten and Lactose Free Cuisine

14 years ago

I am working on a lid for the Ball Mason Jars. Well keep you posted on my progress.

14 years ago

I was seriously contemplating the old “Ball Mason Jar” glasses. They have a handle, so not too much heat transfer…also, you could get the twist on lid typical of homemade jams and jellies, allowing you to travel with it.
FPF- YOu have given me a project this weekend- trying to come up with a mason jar sippy lid for those mason jar mugs!

14 years ago

Btw – have I mentioned how much I *adore* the picture of the black kitty?

14 years ago

I actually can food in mason jars (I know, weird, right? I’m only 33, too.) So we have a lot, lot, lot of mason jars around.

Jennconspiracy is right, they won’t break from heat…but they are more likely to break if they’re very cold. And if you fill them hot, put on a screw lid, and carry the thing to work, it will have vacuum-sealed itself when you get there and be difficult to open.

Also, my coworkers think it looks low-class and keep bugging me to use a Nalgene bottle.

christy b
14 years ago

cave-woman: you might want to check out Dr. Hansen at Comprehensive Dental Center

From what I understand the mercury is leaking constantly.

14 years ago

oh – Cave-woman – Mason jars won’t shatter from the heat of coffee! Not unless you’re drinking molten lava!

Think about what they’re used for (now I’m being the school teacher!) – they are filled with hot food and then put into a big pot of boiling water OR a big pot of boiling water in pressure cooker.

I think they can handle the coffee ok. They are great for hot leftovers because then you can pour food as hot as you want into the glass without worrying about the container melting.

On the subject – a glass pyrex measuring cup works pretty well. But… why not just use a ceramic or porcelain cup if the point is just to avoid using stainless steel?

I like “zarf” – is that a valid scrabble word?

14 years ago

A great source for coffee and an opportunity to help people and the planet is a nonprofit in Guatemala. Go to



14 years ago

I was having a Senior Moment when I recommended using a Bubbie’s pickle jar as a substitute for a French press glass carafe, I had forgotten that I no longer use the press mechanism. I tried for two years, but I was never able to make a decent pot of French press coffee, so it was a relief when the original carafe broke and I could use the metal holder and the Bubbie’s jar as a coffee/tea pot.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Cave-Woman. I’m going to play snarky school teacher with you. Go back and re-read the original post, and you will find out where the porcelain coffee maker came from.

Or maybe I wasn’t clear, and it’s my fault that you didn’t pick up on it. If that is the case, apologies!

And I think it’s so funny that Jennconspiracy figured out about your dental issues just from that one comment. Now I’m a little worried about what she can ascertain about me. There’s a whole blog of info to analyze.

14 years ago

lehman’s is always a good place to look for stuff that’s either plastic- or electricity-free. although i’m not sure how i feel about their corn coffee mug.

terrible person
14 years ago

As a lover of words and obscure vocabulary, I subscribe to a couple of “word a day” mailings, and one of the words last week was “zarf”, which is the metal frame that holds the glass from which hot tea is drunk in Russia and other countries. (“Zarf” is the Arabic word; the Russians say “podstakannik”, meaning “thing under the glass”.) Anyway, maybe someone has zarfs that fit jars.

A few weeks ago, someone here warned about the nasty chemicals used in some decaffeination processes, and I looked into whether the sources of the decaf coffee and tea I drink use them. Then, yesterday, Tazo Tea was conducting a promotion by my office, with a tent set up and free tastings. I asked what processes they used to decaffeinate, and one of the product demonstrators, in answering, also explained that you can decaffeinate pretty much any tea by steeping the bag in 180 degree water for about a minute, then tossing the result, and putting in new water and drinking that. He said that this gets rid of 99.6% of the cafeein, with almost no reduction in flavor. I might try that.

Wooden tops could be made pretty easily on a lathe..

14 years ago

You are so right about dental issues. I do have a LOT of dental work.

When I was a kid I had typhoid fever. The doctor gave me a medicine that saved my life but damaged my teeth. (Fair trade, in the end.) As a consequence I have little to no enamel. This has necessitated several fillings.

So, yes, anytime I drink out of metal it “sets my teeth on edge”.

I looked into removing the amalgam fillings and replacing them with “composite” because I had information that indicated amalgam could interfere with immune function. However, after delving deeply into naturopathic and allopathic dentistry the conclusion was to keep the fillings I had for as long as they were healthy. Once they are removed there is a good chance mercury will enter the bloodstream, which can cause more problems than I could list here.

So, based on the recommendations of three dentists, I am keeping my amalgam until they necessitate replacement.

This makes drinking out of metal difficult. I avoid it altogether.

I like the idea of the Mason Jar with handle.

I wonder if the glass would shatter though, due to heat.


What’s a green girl to do?

Thanks for your comments everyone!
This is very helpful.

14 years ago

I visited China a few years ago and ALL the locals carried their green tea in old jam jars with a shoelace tied around the top, to act as a handle.

14 years ago

Ah-HAH! You know – you could use a French Press which (brews better flavor and uses less coffee than drip) and then just run the coffee through a paper filter after it has been brewed to trap the oils in the paper.

I had a coworker who would use glass laboratory pyrex for drinking coffee — wide base and narrow neck, that way he could just hold the neck (not hot). Yes. He was a coder.

If you use a glass mason jar, there are some mason jars that have handles on them — keep an eye out in stores. I might actually have one in one of my many boxes of mason jars on the storage shed.

The disadvantage, however, is that glass breaks upon impact and stainless steel travel mugs do not.

The story of your friend who says she can taste the stainless steel in her coffee cracks me up — it reminds me of a friend who used to say that the wooden stirring sticks made the coffee taste like wood. I told him, “Well, don’t suck on the sticks after you stir the sugar into your coffee and that will solve the problem.” He looked at me, astonished and said “How did you know I did that??”

Your friend with the stainless steel sensitivity might actually have something else going on — perhaps with her dental work. The times when I have had sensitivity to stainless steel (ouch – fork touches filling) were when I had issues with fillings in my teeth. Could be a conductivity issue…

Does she pick up radio stations, too? ;)

14 years ago

Beth, for the cholesterol – I take a generic statin called Pravastatin…only $4 for a 30 day supply at Sam’s Club/WalMart and it took my cholesterol down from 311 to 200 with no bad side effects on blood chemistry. The only catch is you must go to WalMart in person each month to get it (they want you wandering the aisles looking at their merchandise) but for the price, I’m happy to do it!

14 years ago

About storing coffee – I say do what you are doing, but skip the refrigerator. According to the ‘experts’ that is one of the worst places to keep coffee. I keep mine in an airtight ceramic container on a shelf (true confession: it came from S’bucks. But now I get my beans from a local roaster, I swear!).

Juli in NYC

14 years ago

I guess this is the kind of thing that brings to mind something I read over at No Impact Man.

‘The most enviornmently friendly item is something you already own.’

I have two or three metal and plastic insulated cups that I’ve had for years. If I were to purchase a travel mug now I would not buy any of them. But they already live in my kitchen so I plan to use them until they can no longer hold liquid.

And a few years ago I began saving the paper bags you buy bulk coffee in at the grocery. I reuse them when buying coffee. They are also great for storing cookies, bulk nuts, rice, pasta. Travel containers for dog food or treats.
Well…you get the idea.

14 years ago

Thanks for your post. This has been a concern of mine, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. When not at home I’ve been drinking out of a stainless cup, but it does have a plastic lip and lid. The mention of using a glass jar reminded me that on a visit to Russia I purchased two ornate, handled silver glass holders for drinking hot beverages. Because of a recent move, I have them packed away someplace. I’ve been using my travel mug at work instead of styrofoam. This would be ideal. I think it would make my work day a bit more pleasant to drink my coffee from something elegant.

14 years ago

I’m an occasional coffee drinker, and I store my coffee in a tin in the freezer. It works great.

14 years ago

Not much of a whittler. (:

Interesting that glass jars were mentioned by No Impact Man.

I was seriously contemplating the old “Ball Mason Jar” glasses. They have a handle, so not too much heat transfer…also, you could get the twist on lid typical of homemade jams and jellies, allowing you to travel with it.
It would just be inconvenient if driving or biking to stop, untwist the lid, take a sip of coffee and go.
Still…it might be worth some experimentation.

Once upon a time I frequented a little coffeeshop in my hometown before it was drive out of business. There was a regular there…a naturalist…who always had a mason jar with him. He would have the barrista fill his jar with a beverage…and when he was done, we would wash the glass and put it back in his backback. I was impressed by this. Maybe I’ll try something similar.

However, I will be on the lookout for the perfect ceramic travel mug. Who knows? I may take a pottery class and try to make one.

On the upside… I can sew…so I could make my coffee filters. I think a fine muslin would do the trick, maybe even a cheesecloth.

Thanks for the extra info!

Oh—BTW—where did you get the six cup coffee brewer?

I like the “Joe on the Go” for small mugs—but when I have guests I’d like to load them up on bean squeezins. (:

Thanks again!

14 years ago has ceramic travel mugs. (I too am not fond of the steel taste.) They do have the typical plastic sippy lid. I’m not sure if they would make one without a plastic lid because of the risk of burning your lips. Can you whittle?

14 years ago

Funny you should mention the cloth cozies. My sister discovered some yesterday on etsy. Amazing what people will buy, isn’t it?