Me and my coffee

I am a known coffee enthusiast. Also, I complain about coffee I don’t like.

For this reason, and because of a rash of Facebook status updates regarding coffee pot advice and/or disdain and/or elation, I’ve been asked about coffee pots quite often.

Honestly, though, I’m just the recipient of really good advice.

Well, here’s the story. I’d always been fine with a cheap coffee pot, as long as the coffee wasn’t Maxwell House or something. (Despite catchy jingles, Folgers has never done it for me!) I knew what I’d brewed wasn’t as good as what I could get at a coffee shop, but I considered that on par with my inability to cut my own hair or make proper french fries: I supposed I didn’t have the training nor the equipment to do it.

My first step into the world of “nicer” coffeemakers came when Charlie and I got married.

We had a Cuisinart coffee maker (with some fancy amenities, like a brew-timer and a button to say whether you wanted the coffee “strong” or “regular”) and a thermal carafe, which we purchased with wedding gift cards at Target. We loved it at first. It seemed to make good coffee and the coffee would stay really warm in the carafe.

* cue ominous music *

Slowly, our satisfaction with our coffee pot waned. More often than not, the coffee would come out bitter. We hadn’t been regularly cleaning it with vinegar solutions as a preventative measure, but we did begin to, trying to fix the problem. When this fix failed even after several tries, I suspected the machine had residue deep in its workings. The coffee only got worse, not better. We couldn’t stand it any more and threw out the coffee maker. I still wonder if we could have solved the problem if we’d been more proactive in cleansing the machine.

A French Press in use (Bodum is a good brand)

But I also wonder if the problem was both the machine’s and ours. You see, as we drank coffee more regularly and had nearby access to several good coffee shops, I think our taste in coffee became more and more refined. No longer could any old shop make a latte that I was pleased with. I started being able to distinguish between coffee beans and roasts in ways I hadn’t before. Maybe we had outgrown our pot while it was taking a downward turn into bitterness.

I thought at first we’d just turn to using a French Press. There’s not much to mess up there and I’d noted a lack of the bitterness when I used this method. I talked to my friend Lance, though, and he recounted how his cholesterol had gone up when he’d used the French Press on a daily basis. I looked online and, indeed, if you have any concerns about cholesterol, the French Press needs to only be for occasional usage. Who knows if this would have been a real problem for us, but we do drink coffee daily and I didn’t want to chance it.

This is the point at which I asked for recommendations on Facebook to help us find a new coffeemaker. I got a few happy reviews of an even more elaborate Cuisinart that included a grinder inside the coffee maker. We got a good deal on it at Costco, but I think it still cost around $70. We already had a coffee-grinding appliance, but relegated it to the top shelf of the cupboard. We were upgrading.

* cue thunder crash *

Yuck. Yuck in taste. Yuck in cleaning. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

The combination of coffee grounds and shooting hot water and steam in one close-topped appliance was messy. Wet grounds would get all over the inside of the coffee maker. There were so many crevaces to scrape grounds from with the little brush the machine came equipped with. It was to be cleaned after every use, but the process was tedious and seemingly unnecessary. We soon brought back the regular ol’ coffee grinder, bypassing the “bells” of our “bells and whistles” machine. But the whistle wasn’t that good either.

The coffee was weak. No matter how much or how little grounds you put in the coffee filter, the output was wimpy. And I like my coffee strong. And the wimpy coffee also had a tinge of bitterness.

We were absolutely dissatisfied: grossed out by the messy mechanics of the brewing machine; unimpressed by the weak coffee it put out; frustrated to have paid money for grinding and timing gadgets it turned out we didn’t even like. (We were able to return it for a full refund. We love Costco!)

* the music brightens *

But one day we discussed coffee-making contraptions with friends of ours, Ricky and Janette. They had done all the research. They were true coffee aficionados. They recommended the brewing system from Technivorm called the Moccamaster. We, of course, had never heard of it. But Ricky and Janette swore that it made the best coffee in the world. Better yet, they invited us over for breakfast to taste it.

* orchestration swells *

The coffee was so good. It was piping hot, deep brown, rich, and steaming. It wasn’t bitter. At all. I could drink it without cream and sugar. I wanted to drink it without cream and sugar!

* cymbal crash *

So, we had found our coffee pot. The only problem, as Janette and Ricky had warned us, was that it was expensive. This Dutch system was rare in the U.S. and costly.

(Side note: Janette told me recently that Williams Sonoma now carries Technivorm, but they were more expensive. When I looked back to the site, Boyd Coffee, the place from which we’d received ours, their prices have gone up too! Yikes. Boyd ships theirs very well and includes some coffee and the correct filters, which is very nice.)

* dramatic pause *

But we ended up asking for it for Christmas and my mother-in-law bought it for us and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened in our coffee lives.

Coffee in the foreground, Technivorm in the background

What we learned (from Ricky and Janette – see how dependent we are?) was that most coffee brewing machines have the same basic mechanism for heating the water and dripping it through the ground coffee. Even the fancy pots we bought had the same inner workings, just with more electrical workings around it and shinier exteriors.

The Technivorm, on the other hand, heats the water to a much higher temperature and, quickly, sends it through the filter full of grounds. (Here’s a review.) If you’ve ever had really good commercially brewed coffee, you might have had a similar experience of hot coffee without bitterness.

The machine looks way different than what most American coffee pots look like. I like it aesthetically. And, more importantly, it keeps giving us the best coffee of our lives.

The machine from a different angle

So, should you get a Technivorm Moccamaster?

Let me ask you:

1)   Are you satisfied with coffee from your old coffee pot?

2)   Would paying nearly $300 for a coffeemaker be totally impossible for you? (Even as a gift on a wishlist?)

3)   Are you entirely unconcerned with cholesterol? OR, do you only drink coffee 2-3 times per week?

– If you answer questions #1 with a “yes,” then no, please don’t waste your money.

– If you answer question #1 with a “no,” but #2 with a “yes,” then proceed to question(s) #3.

– If you are dissatisfied with coffee made in a typical coffeemaker, but don’t have the money to buy a Technivorm, you should consider a French Press. They’re way less expensive, but have the cholesterol concerns I mentioned above. If you don’t drink it daily, it could be less of a health concern.

– If you answer all “no”s, don’t despair. Maybe you need to remind yourself of the best ways to make coffee: For instance, if you use substandard coffee beans or if you use pre-ground beans, maybe you just need to upgrade your coffee quality and invest in a grinder. This will at least be a temporary solution for you, I bet. Fresh ground beans (ground by you at home) make better tasting coffee. Arabica beans, the more freshly roasted the better, make the best coffee. I personally dislike Columbian coffee. Ask if you can sample some of Starbucks’s or your local coffee shop’s brews, if you want to develop your coffee tastes and figure out what types of coffee blends you prefer. If you live near a Whole Foods, they roast their coffees onsite and often have beans that have been roasted that very day for sale. Also, the amount of coffee most machines/coffee companies advise you to use is often too little. (Like Pop Tarts thinking a serving size is really one tart. Yeah right. Why pack them together, then? Punks!) Likewise, you really should use nearly 2 Tbs. of ground coffee per “serving” of output (that is not a full cup! 6 oz. I believe). That is a lot of coffee. This site can help. Lastly, are you using filtered water in the coffee making process? That can improve the taste, too. Making these little adjustments may be all the fix your coffee taste buds need.

The name, the power

But if you’re just unhappy with anything you brew at home, drink coffee daily, and buy high quality whole coffee beans (preferably Fair Trade) … and just can’t figure out what’s wrong, think about saving up for the Technivorm Moccamaster. I can testify that it has saved me lots of money on Starbucks; I just don’t have to go out for excellent coffee anymore. If you get a Technivorm, I am guessing you’ll be really glad you did.

* Kara takes a bow and vows that she’s not paid to promote or bad mouth any of these companies. *