Portland artist develops zero-waste design for brewing coffee

Pour over has become one of the easiest and most popular ways to make coffee. But it is based on a filter, which is usually made of paper. Yes, there are alternatives such as stainless steel filters and the use of a piece of cloth, made of cotton.

But that wasn’t enough for Portland-based Etai Rahmil. He is a glass artist and decided in 2018 that he could come up with something better: a reusable glass filter that did the job, but also looked beautiful.

“There are two things I do every day, without fail: drink coffee and make glass art,” he says. “One day we ran out of paper filters in the glassware and I came up with the idea of ​​combining those two things. I’m an engineer at heart, so the challenge of using glass to achieve something like making coffee in a non-traditional way was super exciting. Also, running out of paper filters in the middle of a work day is no fun, which happened way too many times.”

Rahmil started testing ideas. The first two iterations didn’t work. He not only had to be organic, but also produce coffee that he wanted to drink himself. After six months of experimenting, he settled on the “inverted design,” he says. “To produce a self-regulated pour of even saturation with minimal agitation, we incorporated a diffuser cap that rains down on the ground coffee, an important part of the brewing process. It reduces agitation, which allows the bottom cake to remain intact.”

Pure Over launched on Kickstarter with its new design in August 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, when many people were making coffee at home. While risky, Rahmil says the daily art of making a cup of coffee had become even more important in keeping the rituals alive. Turns out he was right. During the 35-day campaign, he achieved $3,517% of his Kickstarter goal (he had originally set out to raise around $10,000). Instead, 5,000 people supported the project and raised $351,745.

Rahmil had found a customer base for a new business and was inspired by the potential impact it could have on the environment. “We learned that it takes 1.5 million trees to make the 275 billion coffee filters produced each year, and that 25,000 filters are used and thrown away in the average lifetime of a coffee drinker. There is an opportunity for this industry to be kinder to the environment, and we believe Pure Over can help eliminate the 750 million paper filters that go to waste every day,” she says.

The product comes shipped without plastic. He has also discovered the art of shipping glass safely, using only cartons that are a perfect fit for his product, in an effort to minimize packaging waste. And in addition to the filter, he has designed a simple contemporary glass base that completes the look.

While it’s not a design that will make every coffee aficionado happy, it does offer a zero-waste way of making coffee that has its benefits: Just throw it in the dishwasher and repeat the process the next morning. Plus, it looks beautiful on display, something you don’t see with other sustainably-minded products; does not compromise its appearance to offer an ecological alternative. Also, the same design could be creatively used to brew loose leaf tea, if you’re short on counter space.

The small company, currently a team of four, has also found a way to give back. Rahmil teaches glassblowing and art classes through Crucible, an Oakland-based nonprofit art school that works to make the arts accessible to all by providing scholarships and free classes. Rahmil says he will teach more classes in 2023 and his company Pure Over will make annual donations to the program to support it.

With a coarser grind, Pure Over produces a clean, flavorful brew and less waste. Could this be a win for coffee lovers? Quite possibly.

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