The pour over has become one of the easiest and most popular ways to brew coffee. But it relies 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’s Etai Rahmil. He is a glass artist and he decided in 2018 that he could come up with something better: a reusable glass filter that did the job, but also looked nice.
“There are two things I do every day without fail: drinking coffee and making glass art,” he says. “One day we ran out of paper filters in the glass shop and the idea of combining those two things came to our mind. I’m an engineer at heart, so the challenge of using glass to make coffee, for example, in a non-traditional way was super exciting. Moreover, it is no fun to run out of paper filters in the middle of a working day, which has happened far too often.”
Rahmil started testing ideas. The first few iterations didn’t work. It not only had to be environmentally friendly, but also produce coffee that he would want to drink himself. After six months of experimenting, he opted for the “inverted design,” he says. “To produce an evenly saturating, self-regulating pour with minimal agitation, we incorporated a diffuser lid that rains on the coffee grounds, an important part of the brewing process. It reduces agitation, leaving the bottom cake 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 it was risky, Rahmil says the daily art of brewing a cup of coffee has become even more important in keeping the rituals alive. He turned out to be right. During the 35-day campaign, he raised $3,517% of his Kickstarter goal (he initially planned to raise about $10,000). Instead, 5,000 people supported the project, raising $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 have 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 discarded in the life of an average 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 are thrown away every day,” he says.
The product comes in plastic-free shipping. He has also mastered the art of shipping glass safely, using only cardboard boxes shaped to fit his product perfectly, 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 delight all coffee aficionados, it does offer a waste-free way to brew coffee that has its advantages: just wash it in the dishwasher and repeat the process the next morning. Plus, it looks nice on display – something you don’t see with other sustainably minded products; it doesn’t compromise on its looks to provide an eco alternative. Plus, the same design can be used creatively to brew loose 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 the Crucible, an Oakland-based non-profit art school that aims to make art accessible to everyone through scholarships and free classes. Rahmil says he will teach more classes in 2023 and his company Pure Over will make annual donations to support the program.
With a coarser grind, Pure Over produces a clean, flavorful brew and less waste. Could this be a win for coffee lovers? Very likely.