R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


The art of coffee
15.September.2007, 12.20 pm
Filed under: coffee

Mr. Coffee. Have a nice trip, and don’t let the door hit you in the decanter on the way out.This is our coffeemaker. Or, I should say, it was our coffeemaker. Purchased for us by some fine person as a wedding gift, ol’ Mr. Coffee has served us well for the past four years. Hmm… maybe “well” isn’t the best adjective. But it has consistently brewed our coffee for us, save for those rare occasions when I break out the French press and make coffee the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

The truth is, ol’ Mr. Coffee isn’t that good at making coffee. He’s only 90 watts, which doesn’t get the water as hot as it should be. He uses the flat-style filter, which doesn’t do as good a job infusing the grounds as the sexier conical filter. He’s hard to clean, too. Worst of all, he’s got a hot crotch—meaning that, after the coffee is brewed, it’s constantly being rewarmed by a metal plate, making what should be a happy liquid more bitter by the minute.

King KrupsContrast that with this fine piece of beverage machinery: A Krups brewer with thermal carafe and “AromaControl.” You’ll first notice that it complements the burr grinder sitting beside it—buying whole beans and grinding them when you’re ready to brew is the most important thing a coffee drinker can do… the difference between newly ground beans and preground staleness can be tasted even by a coffee novice—which I got for Christmas 2005 and has provided me with more enjoyment than any other non-essential possession I have. But the major impact of the Krups coffeemaker is in the details.

First, once the coffee’s brewed, it falls into a pretty-well sealed thermal carafe. There’s no hot plate, which means no burnt, bitter coffee after you’ve had your first cup. Secondly, the conical filter system ensures better distribution of the water onto the coffee grounds. And the so-called “AromaControl”—which, in my opinion, has little to do with aroma—actually makes sure the first ounce or two of water stays in contact with the coffee for a minute or so, which makes sure the coffee’s infused properly and the early drops into the carafe taste as good as the last.

I guess everybody has “their thing,” something they’re a little too passionate about and that most of his friends think is sort of obsessive. But if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, right? I got the Krups today on clearance for about $50 (regular price is like $85), which probably means there’s a newer, better version. But this is a major step up for us, and should keep us happy until the day when we don’t own a coffee shop.

At which point we’ll have to buy someone like this guy—his name is Francis! Francis!—who’s currently on sale refurbished for a mere $649.99, with free shipping! He can make espressos, lattes, etc with the same quality as my massive Astoria, for about 15 percent of the price (but it takes him about three times as long… give the little guy a break!).

COMING SOON: “The morality of coffee,” my in-depth reflections on the ethics and economics of America’s java industry, from independent retailers (like myself) to massive corporations such as Starbucks, Kraft, Proctor and Gamble, etc.

ALSO NOTE: I have added a “Coffee” category to my links menu. For now, it’s mostly fair-trade stuff, but I’ll expand as I come across stuff I think i worthwhile reading.

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