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Coffee Musings

June 24, 2011
~blessed juice of the bean~

Image by MaryTClark via Flickr

I’m in grave danger of outing myself as a coffee snob with this post, but hey, its not a label I’m particularly ashamed to have so here goes.

My wife and I have just bought ourselves a new filter coffee machine. Its nothing special, it wasn’t particularly expensive, but the process of searching for and buying it revealed that the home coffee machine market appears to be geared more to convenience than quality. This is a poor reflection of modern society as a whole, but not really something I intend to get into in this post.

Out with the Nespresso

The reason for getting a new coffee machine was because we decided to switch back to using ground coffee, having used the Nespresso capsules for several years. The Nespresso machine and associated capsules were small and convenient. Each capsule makes a single cup of coffee and it means that if several people want coffee, each can have their own choice of coffee, from the variety of capsules you have. It’s a system that is tied utterly to the convenience of having a single cup of coffee with little mess. Place mug or cup in machine, select coffee capsule of choice and place in machine, press button and your coffee is poured there and then. The water is heated as it is driven through the machine.

It’s a simple and convenient system that sells itself on also producing a quality coffee flavour. Its not perfect though, making coffee for several people is time consuming as someone needs to man the machine because it can’t self load and it only does one cup at a time. So while its great for single and couples, it not so great for dinner parties and visiting in-laws. In those situations, its almost easier to deal out the instant and boil a kettle. Except instant coffee is a much poorer quality.

Ahh, quality, that’s the other reason for replacing the machine. My wife and I disagree a bit on how good the Nespresso coffee is. We both agree that it falls between instant and filter, but exactly where along that scale is where we disagree. I put it about midway between, while my wife is more generous. I find the Nespresso coffee has a bit of a bitter after taste, which good coffee should not have, and sometimes there is a wateriness to the coffee as though the coffee has not fully infused into the water. Both of these aspect I find frustrating and both are solved by having a coffee filter machine and ground coffee.

Bean to cup be gone!

Having agreed that we would go back to having filter coffee again, it was the all important trawl of various web sites to find the right machine to buy. We were both very disappointed with the choice available.

We wanted a filter machine that had an integrated grinder. This we were very specific about. Years ago we had a large filter machine and a separate grinder, both of which served us very well until they were replaced with the aforementioned Nespresso machine.

Our searches revealed that the market for home coffee machines is saturated with bean to cup machines. These machines grind and brew your coffee directly into a cup, in a similar style to the Nespresso machines. The water is heated and forced under pressure through the coffee and allowed to dribble into a cup below. In other words, you get an espresso, except bigger and weaker.

We specifically wanted a filter coffee machine not a bean to cup machine. It seems the obsession with press a button and get a cup of coffee convenience is everywhere.

Unless we were prepared to spend silly amounts of money, our choice of coffee machines was basically two. One of which filtered its coffee into a flask, rather than a glass jug on a hotplate. Reviews of it said the coffee was on the cool side of hot, which was exactly what I feared, so this effectively ruled that out.

So our choice was down to one, reviews said it made good coffee, very important, but its design was fiddly and plasticky. A consensus we agree with, but when its your only choice, its not much choice at all. It looks to me like there is a gaping hole in the UK market for a decent filter coffee machine at a reasonable price that’s aimed at the home market.

The welcome flavour of filter coffee

I am very happy to be back to having the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in my kitchen again. Maybe this time I’ll even kick the jars of instant out of the cupboard.

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