The trials and tribulations of a coffee addict

Discussion in 'The VIP Lounge' started by CJ, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin War Zone Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    Some of you may remember I've been down several paths in the past as I've attempted different mechanisms to concoct my drug of choice. Years ago I had a simple drip maker. At some point my brother bought me the Toddy cold brew system for Christmas, which I still have, and have enjoyed for its convenience. After that I bought a Keurig which lasted a little over a year before the pump went out. Then I bought a Nespresso Citiz which I had for maybe a year but I drink long coffee, rarely an espresso so it wasn't an ideal machine. I bought a second Keurig which benefited from some redesigned internal elements from what I've read. My problems with the first unit where not at all rare. The second unit is still going strong but it produces pretty weak coffee in several regards. Namely that no matter how large of a size you select, you are using the same amount of grounds (which have been sitting in a warehouse for who knows how long).

    So over the past few weeks I've been doing some research and as with many hobbies, I've discovered that like most of the hobbies I get into, hobbyists take the position that 99% of the general population is doing it wrong. There are 4 elements to making coffee. There is a golden ratio of coffee to water and then you have to figure out how to grind the coffee and how long to steep, depending on the method. The funny thing is, I found some "brew-off" research and a lot of coffee makers aren't even made to hold enough grounds and nearly all of them don't heat the water hot enough. E.g. the average drip maker would probably overflow all over your counter if you used as much coffee as you'd want to to achieve this ratio. A few "zero bells and whistles" coffee makers actually heat the water to the right temperature, hold enough grounds, and the flow through the filter is precise enough that the steep time is correct. Two are from Bonavita and Technivorm. Bonavita is essentially a German designed, China manufactured Technivorm rip off. Technivorm was the gold standard since it was designed by an engineer in the 60s (I believe). While the machines look quite a bit different, the water delivery systems are nearly identical and that's the key part. The Technivorm is about $300 and the Bonavita is about $160. Both of these units are AFAIK, the only drip coffee makers certified by the specialty coffee trade groups of the US and Europe. Of course, they both have their flaws (besides the high prices for units that literally ONLY have a power switch), namely that the flow rate which produces the correct steep time doesn't really work if you aren't brewing a full pot.

    All this research turned me at some point, to researching several more advanced machines including several $800-$1200+ superautomatic espresso machines and the Breville Youbrew which is a grind-n-brew designed to operate well producing anything from a single cup to a full carafe. Considering I like a regular coffee, I think I'd be paying way too much for an espresso machine just to turn 90% of them into an Americano. The Breville, while intriguing has too many negative reviews on various sites citing early failures in the pump and also you cannot control the grind level (you can control how much coffee is used and the steep time to some degree but the institutions that ran the objective research said it still uses far too little coffee per serving).

    I'm still kind of hunting for a solution that is quick, consistent, fairly hands off, and requires little or no cleanup but mostly just having fun reading about how much effort others have put into this "problem". I'm not looking for advice per se (I guarantee I've tried EVERY one of your pet methods that you might propose). Below are my thoughts on what I've tried in the past.

    Drip maker - The good is, sometimes you find a diamond in the rough. Like with audio, I've seen many reports of some gem that is no longer produced that cost $15 and rivals what is now on the market at $300 but alas, it is no longer made. The bad is as noted above, most of them don't produce the right temperature water (or don't produce it throughout the entire brew cycle), don't work well when producing a partial carafe, and many don't accept the proper amount of grounds.

    Cold brew - The good is when it works, it is a winner. On a weekend I could do a batch and then have almost no time involved in making a cup each morning during the week (just dump some of the concentrate in a cup and add hot water from the kettle). The problem is I've never been able to product the strong, rich, near-syrup of the sample that came with the device as a sample. If I had to guess, I'd say I wasn't getting the grind fine enough and I may go back to trying this method again considering I have all the equipment. The cleanup is a bit of pain but only needed when you make the batch, not for every cup.

    French press - This method is great if you don't mind a little sludge in your coffee and if you clean up after yourself right away. If not, have fun cleaning dried coffee out of the mesh. I personally find it a pain to clean and don't really LOVE the cup it produces. Its also nice because you can add all the coffee and water at once and then do something else for a few minutes.

    Aeropress - I think Drew got one of these recently and liked it. I picked one up at Sur the Table and tried it but to be fair, I haven't really given it a fair shake as I used old, pre-ground canned coffe as that's what I have around the house. The main issue I have is similar to a couple other methods in that the mechansim is really designed to produce one size of coffee. With one pressing, you really can't get more than an 8oz coffee without over watering it down.

    Pour over - This comes in many forms including Bonavita, Hario, Clever Coffee Dripper etc. for single cup (I think David uses this method). There are also multi cup versions that brew into a carafe, like the Chemex system, which I own. I own a Chemex and have really not had great results with it and it takes too much active attention to brew. You can't fill the filter with coffee and water and walk away because by design, these methods drain the coffee slowly through the filter and so you can't fit all the water you're going to use into the filter at once.

    Espresso - I've owned both a real espresso machine (Gaggia Classic if memory serves, with an expensive ~$250 grinder with a spout on it designed to grind into a portafilter) and the Nespresso pod machine. The Gaggia was an absolute mess to make coffee with. WAY too much prep and clean-up. When it was good, I enjoyed it and this experience is what led me to consider maybe getting a superautomatic. The Nespresso was just not the right machine for me. To make a decent sized Americano took two pods.

    Keurig - This is the king of convenient, mediocre coffee. It has a timer so the water warms up before I wake up and from there its one hand motion and one button push away from coffee in 60 seconds. Between owning two machines, this is THE way I've taken my coffee before work, on weekends and when working from home over the last 5 years probably by a factor of 99:1. Its not really expensive in the grand scheme though it does kind of grind my gears that when you calculate the actual cost it is $50 - $60 per pound. If I walked into a specialty coffee shop, I'd probably balk hard at $50 coffee. With this mechanism, obviously it sneaks up on you. If the coffee was amazing, this would be the end of the story. But its not.

    As I've mentioned a few times in this post, I'm just sharing, not really soliciting suggestions for different machines or techniques to try. In general I think I could refresh a few of these techniques with better coffee. What tends to happen is I get a new device and first try it with whatever coffee I have around the house from the last venture into trying something different. Then in between I go back to the Keurig. If I do settle on a technique that requires the use of real coffee (vs. pods) I've also been looking at coffee roasters as a fun diversion.

    Any way, if anyone is still reading, I'm sure you'll ignore the comment I made several times and recommend that I try XYZ. :)
  2. Dan Driscoll

    Dan Driscoll HTT Refugee Donor War Zone Member

    Aren't there 'fill your own' pods available for the Keurig? That would allow you more control of both the cost and flavor. If you really want to play with a roaster & grinder you could still do it with the Keurig.
  3. DYohn

    DYohn Well-Known Member Donor

    Thanks for sharing CJ. Time and time again I come back to good old drip coffee. It's just the easiest and overall best tasting process without having to create a huge mess (French press) or spend too much time in preparation (espresso) or compromise on taste (all the one-cup makers I've tried.) And yes, I use a Melita pour-over system when I want one cup, and that is a good cup of coffee with minimal mess. That's what gets used after each morning's drip pot is empty and I want one more cup. :) FYI, I'm currently using a Krups automatic drip system with a start timer and 12-cup thermal carafe, paper filter and fresh ground beans each morning. -edit- and I forgot to mention, my current favorite beans are a French Roast 100% arabica from El Salvador that a local roasting company sells. Dark, spicy, earthy and very robust without that burned taste and without being sweet. Yum.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2014
  4. Allen

    Allen New Member War Zone Member

    The good news is, CJ, when you're done researching and experiencing your quest for the perfect coffee, I think you'll have written a book on it. ;)
  5. Mike B

    Mike B Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    I like the french press at home where the back door is right outside the kitchen. I like having a cup or 2 of hot in the morning and then just let it sit on the dregs and have a cup of iced in the afternoon (summer time when it gets hot outside) The clean up is easy, I just rinse the press screen in the sink, fill and stir the cake and toss it into the yard.

    In the office we have Keurig. It's good.
  6. jasn

    jasn Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

    We just replaced our 2 YO Cuisinart, 12 cup drip coffee maker with...the newer model Cuisinart 12 cup drip coffee maker. We like DD pre-ground coffee in the large 2-1/2 lb bag from BJs. The machine has a 1-4 cup setting that works well for when we aren't making coffee for two. Paper filters because I don't favor cloudy coffee and the filters are easy to throw out.

    Our old Cuisinart had a bad on/off switch, otherwise we were happy with it. I spent way too much time on Amazon looking for an alternative. We have an automatic, throw the cup away Keurig machine at my office. Blech! I can never remember which of the five or so choices is the one I dislike the most 5 minutes after it cools off for 5 minutes. I always guess wrong, or they all suck.
  7. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin War Zone Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    You cannot POSSIBLY fit enough coffee in there to make a decent cup. I would estimate it would need to hold 2-2.5x what they hold.

    David, I think you're right on the beautiful simplicity of a drip maker. In the near term I think I'm gong to pull my current one out of the basement storage room and see what I can get out out of it. There's a surprisingly legit coffee store in Omaha who roast their own beans daily and can give you advice on what bean works well with what brew method and how to grind it. Does your brewer take a flat bottom filter or a "conical" filter?
  8. chad

    chad Well-Known Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    I'm glad I had some decaf. This thread made me thirsty.
  9. DYohn

    DYohn Well-Known Member Donor

    Conical, and you are right about it not holding enough to get to the "ideal" ratio. I tend to use less coffee than the ideal - and perhaps that's why I like dark roast as it brings a stronger flavor without having to strive for - what is it? - 10% suspension?
  10. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin War Zone Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    The not enough comment was related to the "use your own coffee" pods for the Keurig. The number I hear tossed around is 60 grams of coffee per liter of water or around 2 tablespoons per 6 oz cup (I'd guess most people use half this or even far less but this is the "golden cup ratio). My curse is that I like both strong coffee and large servings. So back to some of my original post comments, coffee pots are usually 40 oz. Depending on the origin of your coffee maker it might reference 8 5oz cups or 10 4oz cups but they're nearly all 40 oz. Typical coffee scoops you buy at a coffee seller are 2 tablespoons . So you'd need to put in about 7 scoops. That's a lot of coffee (or maybe someone needs to check my math). If you have a traditional flat bottom filter and you are using good, fresh ground coffee that's going to bloom a bit, I'd be surprised if most makers didn't overflow with 7 scoops of coffee in them. Conical filters tend to work a little better from my understanding.
  11. Mike B

    Mike B Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Hehe, I have 2 french presses, one for Saturday and one for Sunday.

    After "gross cleaning" they go in the dishwasher. If I don't fill up the dishwasher on Saturday nite, I still have a clean one for Sunday.

    I don't have "huge mess" problems as long as I have a short shot outside - :) I used to just dump the cake in the disposer, but I think that makes for more frequent clogged drains. So now I just toss it inna dirt. Supposed to be good for the soil too.

    I think the press beats the drip. And it's as simple as it gets, just water and coffee. Put in as much coffee as you want. Put in as much water as you want. No heat source means the coffee doesn't rank out. You can leave it there for hours.
  12. Denton

    Denton Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Do you have a friend to help? Try this:


    I am not a coffee snob. A good medium roast Arabica with ice cold purified water in my drip maker works pretty well.
  13. Mike B

    Mike B Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Bullshit, you're just like the rest of us.

    Otherwise you would be happy with tap water & Maxwell House.
  14. Rick C

    Rick C Active Member

    I have been on a bit of a different journey regarding coffee since December. My wife got me started with a roasting machine. It has been lots of fun trying different mail order green beans and getting more understanding of the roasting process. We use a Cuisinart grind brew for everyday coffee. I roast beans twice a week and let them rest/degasify a day before use.

    Recently I have been doing some expresso roasts and then making the coffee in a Moka Pot.

    So far I have been happy with Sweet Maria's green beans. I believe my wife bought the roaster there as well.

    Tomorrow is a roasting day. It takes me about 15 minutes.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2014
  15. JoeM

    JoeM Active Member

    Still have and use a Cuisinart Grind & Brew with the Thermal Carafe. We used to grind the beans each morning but once the grinder started to go we just started grinding them when we purchased the beans.

    Some day we'll want to replace the old unit as it is more of a pain to clean with all of the extra grinding hardware that no longer gets used. Haven't really looked too closely at possible replacements yet but I know we'll still want a thermal carafe. The Cuisinart one works pretty well.

    We switched to the fine mesh screen filters instead of paper. I guess I got used to the fine "sediment" you'd get when you get to the last cup or two from the carafe.
  16. Graeme

    Graeme Active Member War Zone Member

    Yep. I like strong, but I don't need volume. So a single Nespresso Pod with the long setting is just fine for me in the morning.

    They've recently updated their selection with one rated as 11/12 and one rated 12/12 on strength. Oh man they are good.
  17. Stefan

    Stefan Active Member War Zone Member

    I feel the kuerig coffee is weak and mediocre. I like convenient store coffee with vanilla creamer better. I've only been drinking coffee for 3 years or so.
  18. JeffC

    JeffC Well-Known Member War Zone Member

    I want to like coffee, but it just tastes so bad to me.

    How did you all develop a taste for it? I can't imagine anyone tried it for the first time and liked it immediately.
  19. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin War Zone Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    I started drinking it when I joined Jazz band freshman year of high school. Peer pressure is highly recommended for getting used to something you don't like (same way I'm learning to tolerate sushi) ;) I started with gas station crappuccino that is far more milk and sugar than coffee but it got me used to coffee flavor. I honestly think from there necessity drove me to black coffee. I couldn't make cappuccino at home and even when I could get it somewhere, it was more expensive than black coffee. I still take it with no creme and sugar. I drink coffee all day long but probably not as many cups as I used to. You'll still see me heading to the crummy Flavia machine at work at 4pm.
  20. chad

    chad Well-Known Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    I hate to admit it but my 9 year old already has a taste for it. I don't let her drink it but she had snuck it in the Keurig. I had gotten te kids some hot chocolate cups so I wasn't paying attune took.

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