We Can Drink It, We Have the Technology

Yesterday's post has a few statements about what has come to be America's most favorite coffee invention; the Keurig machine. I have to admit it is pretty clever to be able to take a capsule, put it into the maker, add some water into the reservoir, press a button and PRESTO, a decent cup of coffee. A few of you even commented to me that you love your Keurig. Okay, I understand and I get it that you like the convenience and simplicity of easily making a cup of coffee. I won't begrudge you that option. But I'd like to talk with you about a better way. I'd like to share with you better technology for better coffee. I'd like to encourage you to not be a mindless-button-pushing-coffee-slurping drone of the Keurig machine but instead to become a craftsman and learn the art of crafting the perfect cup of coffee.

But let me first answer a few objections:

  1. Other methods, particularly the ones I will describe, take too long. Yes, maybe ten minutes more, at the most. But do you really not have ten more minutes? Making coffee and enjoying it is not about speeding up, it's about slowing down. Craft-brewed coffee is a ritual of slowing down and paying attention to details. It's about taking in the aromas, timing the grind, seeing the coffee bloom, understanding the complexity of a blend. Being patient. Keurigs (or other drip machines) skip all of that for immediate gratification. Did you even know that roasted coffee blooms? Its beautiful.
  2. Other methods, are expensive. Really? Let's fact check that. I'm running all my prices here by Amazon.com just for comparison sake. First there is the Keurig machine. Prices I found on Amazon range from about eighty dollars all the way up to $150. That's just for the machine. Then there are the adorable and assorted, flavored K-cups that you have to purchase as well. Again prices here vary by brand and how much blueberry sunrise they inject into these things but it seems a decent average is about a dollar a K-cup. Keep in mind these little dudes are intended to make one cup of coffee. You can't really reuse them and get a second good cup. Bottom line is your investment is about $100 dollars plus a dollar for every cup you drink. If you have a cup a day for a year you're in for $465. For one hundred cups of coffee you're paying two dollars a cup (this metric will come in handy later). 

One other thing about the Keurig machines before I move on to my technology. Remember yesterday's post and coffee beans? Keurig breaks every rule. Pre-ground? Yes they are. Freshly roasted? Probably six months ago. Flavored? Sometimes. My gut tells me that they probably inject the capsules with additional non-coffee stuff to enhance it's flavors. Do you really want that in your coffee?

Now my point isn't to shame you regarding your Keurig. I want to develop coffee craftsmen. People who enjoy the simplicity (yes!) and practicality of making a really good cup of coffee because it is simple and practical. It's also affordable.

So... on to the technology!

Low Tech Systems for High Tech Coffee

If you open the cabinet above our kitchen stove you will find an assortment of coffee contraptions that I've been collecting from all over the world. Stephanie is probably annoyed at the space they are taking up as the collection has grown, but each of these devices are simple, fun, and brew great coffee. Additionally they all cost under fifty bucks. Let me share with you my top three for brewing an exceptional cup of coffee.

  1. The French Press – Single men, if you want to wow the ladies and earn an extra notch on your man card, learn to use and appreciate the french press. It will be your best coffee friend. I like the french press so much that I give it as a gift to people I know who are without it. Good french presses cost about twenty to forty dollars. A new friend of ours from France once came over to spend some time with us and I brewed a pot of coffee in the press. I was told it was the best cup of coffee that person had enjoyed since moving to the United States. Ingredients? Water, good beans, about 10 minutes of time to bring your water to 200º and then brew for four minutes. I'll write about that perfect cup technique tomorrow.
  2. The Chemex – this is a new addition to my coffee brewing repertoire that is also simple, affordable and very very tasty. I can't wait to give some Storyville a ride in the Chemex. A six cup (that's right SIX cup) Chemex will set you back about 45 bucks, plus you will have to buy the filters (100 Chemex filters cost about 15 bucks) but that will be all on that end. Within 15 minutes you can have a great cup, and enjoy the bloom of that coffee.
  3. The Bialetti Moka Express – this guy probably belongs in a different category because it's an espresso maker (there is a difference), but it's a difference in concentration and flavors. Italians brew their daily coffee on one of these. The six-cup version costs thirty bucks. No filters needed. Just water, beans, time. It's amazing, strong, excellent coffee. When I want to change it up and make my own latte or macchiato I run for this device.

Obviously the Chemex is the luxury car of my simple tech but let's do a little math with it. Chemex, $45 plus filters which cost another 15 bucks. We're at sixty dollars. Missing a grinder? Fifteen bucks. Okay, up to seventy-five dollars. You probably can't get a Keurig for that. Now, we need beans. If we get three pounds of whole bean coffee from Starbucks (not my first pick but hey, we'll give it a shot) we've added another 40 bucks. So one hundred and fifteen dollars for beans, filters, Chemex, and a grinder. What this means is that one hundred cups of coffee on a Chemex will cost you just barely over one dollar a cup ($1.15 to be exact). The math on the french press method is even more impressive, for 100 cups of coffee (3 lbs., grinder, press) you're spending about seventy-five cents per cup.

Now I know you're giving up your time and you'll have to learn how to master the art of the press. You're not sure you have the discipline or fortitude or skill to do it. But I'm confident in you. Tomorrow I'll show you how to make a great cup of coffee using the technology I've shared above.

Above all, let me encourage you to learn to be a coffee craftsman. The extra five to ten minutes you spend in brewing the coffee well is worth it. Slow down, relax. Let coffee be something you savor and understand and enjoy. As my dad frequently says, "The machines don't get to win." So let's end our attraction with push-button-instant-gratification-one-off coffee machines and let's return to the old world, simple, slower, better forms of brewing great coffee