Zero Waste: Bulk Coffee

How do you take your coffee? With cream? Almond milk?

Drip machine? Coffee shop latte? Instant?

For me, I use a French press with black coffee that’s fair trade, organic, shade grown, etc. I make my coffee at home daily.

As I already compost, I was inspired recently to ditch the bag at my local supermarket and explore zero waste coffee consumption. But I had never used the bulk bins to their potential. I also live in West Ashley and have 3 supermarkets within walking distance; Harris Teeter, Earth Fare, and now Whole Foods! I am going to share some tips I learned for purchasing coffee in bulk in my own container.

1. Weigh your container.

I keep my coffee in a glass container on my counter with a scoop. I purchased mine at IKEA a couple years ago. These are so inexpensive and durable! You can also find them at thrift stores, although I would try to get a new rubber gasket as older, used ones yellow and sometimes have an odor.

I brought mine to customer service, as I wasn’t sure what the procedure would be like. They weighed it and labelled it with a sharpie for the cashier. My container weighs 1.57 lbs. If you don’t want someone marking on your container, I would suggest weighing it at home, and maybe writing it on a piece of tape. A piece of tape will definitely come in handy later!

2. Bring your container (and a bag!).

This only works if you have the foresight to grab these reusable items! To be fair, Wholefoods does provide compostable paper bags, but I am in the habit of eliminating bags that only get used for minutes before being discarded.

3. Pick your coffee bean.

Like I mentioned earlier, if I’m going to drink coffee, it’s going to be organic, Fair Trade, non-GMO, etc. I like the Allegro Coffee Dark Roast for all of these reasons, and also because it tastes rich and chocolatey.

4. Fill your container.

Place your container below and pull the lever.

5. Write down the PLU.

Remember that piece of tape you wrote the weight on? You can also use this to write the item number for the coffee you selected so the cashier will charge the correct amount at the register.

6. Grind the beans!

!FIRST! check to see if there are beans already in the grinder. This has happened to me a few times where I selected my wonderful fair trade beans, and then put them in, and there was already another random type of bean someone abandoned. That’s why is nice that there are two grinders. Once you have made sure the grinder is empty, lift the lid and pour your beans in. Then place your container underneath the dispenser. There is a little metal piece in the back that makes sure there is a container underneath.

Choose your grind – for french press, it is best to use a coarse grind. Espresso requires a super fine grind, so just think about how you’ll use your coffee.

Then press start! You may need to pause and tap your jar on the counter to make room for all the coffee.

7. Check out.

Your cashier will type in the PLU and then subtract the weight of the container. My beans came out to $7 for a full container. Success!


You can use these steps for beans, rice, flour, etc. (minus the grinding part). As a result, you’ll eliminate unneeded bags.

If you’re composting, getting caffeinated truly becomes a zero waste endeavor!

Thanks for reading!