Crossing the Rubicon

Back into hell with you!

I did it. I threw away a coffeemaker, just before the start of classes.

We had this Black & Decker coffeemaker, which ought to have been a warning sign — don’t get your kitchen appliances from a company that makes the kind of power tools you keep in the garage. It was needlessly complicated, with timers and a built-in grinder, and it had modes. I don’t need modes — I just want to push a button and have it make coffee. That’s it.

This one had a tortuous internal path to deliver coffee to the carafe, and it kept clogging up. The last straw this morning was when three quarters of the coffee ended up on the counter top, and I still have enough pride that I refused to lap it up. Instead, I swooped in, grabbed the infernal device, and threw it into the trash.

Now I’m committed. We’re going to Alexandria today to buy a new, simpler, more reliable coffeemaker. I also have to get some new shirts for the school year, and restock the refrigerator. Now I can’t put it off any longer, because waking up without coffee tomorrow morning would be intolerable.


  1. maggie says

    French press. No filters to forget to purchase. Just need a kettle to boil the water.

  2. cartomancer says

    I’ve never understood why people would require a fancy machine to make coffee for them. All it requires is a kettle and a spoon, just like tea. It would be like having a special machine to mix water and squash.

  3. Dunc says

    Simple and reliable? This is my weapon of choice. It’s not push-button though… Anything with push buttons is neither simple nor reliable.

  4. Dunc says

    cartomancer, @2: “Instant coffee” is not coffee. It’s a brown liquid almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee.

  5. mordred says

    On a previous job the company installed this industrial style monstrosity of a coffee maker. Of course with everyone in the office being in IT, there was no lack of technical skills – to flood the kitchen on the first try. The boss was not amused…

  6. Oggie: Mathom says

    I have not drunk coffee since I was in the Army. It never tastes right.

    My father, however, is really into coffee. He grinds his own beans in a burr grinder. Then uses a stove top percolator (one of the old ones with the clear glass handle on the lid that shows that the water is circulating up through the center and into the basket with the grounds.

    My son grinds his own coffee and either French presses it or runs it through an el-cheapo ‘dump-water-in-here, drop-in-a-filter-and-then-the-coffee, then-throw-the-switch’ coffee maker.

    Wife, on the rare occasions she wants coffee, goes to a really popular Scottish restaurant that has a drive through.

  7. cgm3 says

    My microwave is 20-30 years old and has just three mechanical controls: an intensity dial (Low/Defrost/Medium/High), a timer dial (1 to 5 minutes, then 10, 20, 30, 45, 1 hour), and an On switch (opening the door turns it off). It’s only “drawback” is being a 500-watt model, but doubling the recommended time usually works just fine.

    mordred: well, of course, a coffee maker is hardware, outside the purview of IT people.

  8. brightmoon says

    Instant and milk with sugar . Throw in microwave 🤷🏾‍♀️ I’ll tolerate bad coffee but not tea . That has to be perfect!

  9. birgerjohansson says

    There are unpteen different coffe plants.
    The blends used here in Scandinavia have little to do with those used in USA, likewise the blends used in the middle east are different. If you have been raised with a particular set of coffee blends, the gunk

  10. birgerjohansson says

    (Continued) … The gunk served in other parts of the world will probably taste horribly.
    Remember, tea plants and coffee plants use these substances to stop insects from eating them. They are an aquired taste.

  11. Bruce Fuentes says

    I order my coffee direct from Puerto Rico, whole bean. I bought a coffee maker with a grinder to eliminate some steps. My wife and I want to just be able to add water and push a button. We went with the Cusinart DGB-800. Very happy with it. You can set the amount of grounds based on the amount of coffee being brewed. We did find that it is not calibrated great. For a full 12-cup carafe we only use the settings for 4 cups. Other than that we love it. Add water, push the on button, then push brew. The only time I have had issues is when I did not put the carafe in all the way. Then the counter was a mess. Black and decker products all suck.

  12. bayesian says

    oddly enough, the burr grinder I’ve used since 2010 is a Black and Decker. It’s outlasted several fancier grinders.

  13. Bruce Fuentes says

    They don’t. Maybe to you, they do, but you may have noticed everyone else is not like you

  14. anat says

    The best coffee maker we had cost us $1 at a garage sale. But eventually we quit coffee altogether some 10 years ago.

  15. cartomancer says

    Bruce Fuentes, #14

    Or maybe they actually do taste the same, but there are weird cultural forces that make a lot of people think there is a diffeence. Like capitalist corporations trying to sell people useless expensive gadgets where they could get by perfectly well with a cheap kettle and a spoon. It’s not like coffee snobbery has been at the centre of capitalist exploitation for centuries, from the early colonial coffee houses of the 16th Century to Starbucks or anything.

    Funnily enough the only people I ever talk to who claim there is a difference are middle-class snobs who make this a part of their ridiculous pretensions to being better than others. Working class people seem perfectly happy with a jar of Mellow Birds or Nescafe. I think it’s high time we recognise the ridiculousness of this bourgeois nonsense.

    Mind you, I don’t like coffee very much in any permutation. As snobberies go it’s one of the more harmless ones I suppose.

  16. Bruce Fuentes says

    Nope. There is a vast difference in flavors in coffee. Almost like wine. There are multiple species of coffee with distinct flavors as there is with grapes. To be fair there are vast more amounts of different grapes than beans. But as every Pinot Noir tastes different, every coffee roast tastes different. You speak from ignorance while admitting your ignorance. Not a good look.
    Your working-class jab is a classist snobbery. I know working-class people that only drink good coffee. It is something they feel is important and do not want to be relegated to drinking crap. I also know “rich” people that drink instant coffee. They also like their filet mignon well done. There is no accounting for taste.
    If you want to die on the class war, corporate manipulation of the masses, hill, go for it. All that shows is your ignorance.

  17. whheydt says

    I don’t drink coffee…it’s smells rather nice, but it tastes awful. However, my father drank coffee (probably picked up the habit in the Navy). He died (1975) long before the trend to fancy coffee makers. He insisted on two things: 1. People who don’t drink coffee can’t make proper coffee, and 2. coffee should never be boiled. That last point eliminates percolators.

    He had a 3-piece coffee pot. The bottom held the brewed coffee. The middle section was where the ground coffee went. The top was where you poured in the boiling water. All done in one pass.

  18. hemidactylus says

    @9 birgerjohansson

    The only coffee to touch my lips is Gevalia from the motherland. Do Swedes like Gevalia or is it like Fosters and Yellow Tail to Aussies?

    I like Gevalia but it is big brand commercial stuff brewed in a Black and Decker I think. I can’t recall. I used to have a gourmet coffee provider just down the street.

  19. Ridana says

    Somehow this guy makes the most mundane shit insanely interesting.

    How drip coffee makers work:


    His sponsor, “Too Many Small Kitchen Appliances,” was perfect, as well as his PSA, “we would like to inform you that ‘fresh’ and ‘hot” are two different concepts.”

  20. grovergardner says

    I gave away that exact same coffee maker, for exactly the same reasons. I now have a big Keurig supplemented with reusable stainless steel pods. Works for coffee and tea. It also has a built-in milk frother that my wife likes for making London Fogs. ;-)

  21. AstroLad says

    I’m 75 and I’ve never been able to choke down an entire cup of coffee. About 30 years since I last bothered to try (at a COMDEX on expense account so it wasn’t my nickel). I do like some coffee ice creams, especially Kona when I can find it.

    The most fun I have with coffee is watching a friend and my wife to see how many bags of sugar and how many creamers they can fit in a cup without overflowing. They are both up around 10 of each. I think my wife has the edge –it’s close. But they’ve never been at the same table so I could stage a fair competition.

    So the coffee snobs won’t even notice me. As for the tea snobs…they will fall over laughing, or from apoplexy.

    I’m fond of jasmine tea, green or black. I’ve found several that are good enough for me. Also I get some herbals from Hawaii. The primary straight black tea I drink is Scottish Breakfast (English Breakfast is too wimpy). If I can’t use it for paint remover, it isn’t strong enough.

  22. hemidactylus says

    I used to drink instant coffee. Yuck. I mostly stick to the brewed brand I like unless I’m in a Cuban restaurant and want a go at the hard stuff. I usually brew a pot of Gevalia house blend and then let it cool in the refrigerator. I drink it cold and black though if it’s still hot I pour in some vanilla soy milk.

    I started drinking tea over the last year. I have some preferences. I can add honey but most of the time vanilla soy again. The effect of tea seems different due to the theophylline. Tea is for when I am low on cold coffee in the morning.

  23. rorschach says

    I’m extremely happy with my Nespresso machine. Easy to clean, tastes great, a gazillion taste and strength varieties, bought for under 100 bucks. Thought about the more complex machines because my wife is a barista, but some of them are the price of a small car, hard to maintain and clean, and I don’t know if the taste would be any better.

  24. lotharloo says

    Once I had a look inside one of those “press one button” coffee makers and I will never buy one of those disgusting things. I appreciate good coffee and good tea (including white, green, and black) and I love learning how to make them. Recently, I bought a semi-automatic espresso machine with portafilter and a grinder and all that shit and I am learning how to make good coffee. I am quite amazed how even the smallest changes in the process changes the taste a lot. So far it has been really fun and at the moment one of the highlights of the morning is turning the machine on and experimenting and learning how to make an espresso.

  25. chigau (違う) says

    If all tea tastes the same, it’s probably because your tastes buds have been destroyed by all that coffee drinking.

  26. mordred says

    AstroLad@27 & rsmith@32
    Never understood why some people call it black tea and then serve you a pale yellow drink.

  27. Scott Petrovits says

    I go with a French press, and I grind my own to maximize freshness. I’m no connoisseur, and I don’t require my coffee to be perfect (happy with cheaper beans and darker roast, and only have a blade grinder). It’s a bit more trouble to clean, but not much. Coffee in, water in, plunge, enjoy. No robots spilling coffee all over your counter.

    It’s funny that someone on this thread added to the list of people I’ve seen recently saying things like “the very concept of acquired taste is BS, it’s all social pressure” and insisting that all the people who like things like coffee, beer, and licorice, don’t like those things at all, actually, and are all succumbing to peer pressure. Or…something something bourgeois? WTF? Whatever – all I know is that I’ve been rolling my eyes so hard, I almost gave myself a concussion.

  28. vereverum says

    Compare the molecular structure of coffee (caffeine) and chocolate (theobromine).
    There’s a store down the street that sells frozen yogurt. I get Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate;
    high in cholesterol, high in sugar, high in fat. Three of the four basic food groups in one product.

  29. hemidactylus says

    One thing I don’t like about tea is that it builds a patina inside my cup over time, more so than coffee. I figured out that boiling a vinegar-water mixture in the microwave and stirring some dish soap into that when I take it out and letting it sit overnight makes removing the patina easy with the scouring side of a sponge.

    Vinegar works well when you accidentally leave wet laundry too long and it gets musty.

    Vinegar also works to confuse the hell out of pesky ants that love dog kibble.

    Vinegar also works on fries and restaurant made potato chips.

    Vinegar is nature’s wonder liquid.

  30. Louis says

    @Rorschach #38,

    Very true. The food groups are:

    Not Fried
    Burnt crispy bits

    Not necessarily in that order.

    On the topic of taste, I appreciate that other peoples’ mileage may differ, but I can definitely taste the difference between different teas and different coffees.

    Admittedly, if it’s a PG Tips/Yorkshire tea/Typhoo cup of “builder’s” tea (strong, black tea with milk and at least 12 spoons of sugar) or pretty standard dark roast coffee from a drip/French press/high street coffee place, then sure, they’re all much of a muchness.

    But without any wanky, snobby, froo-froo, class pretensions, a light roast coffee prepared carefully is night and day different. And you can tell the difference between bean varieties etc, Just like with tea or wine varieties. Now, I couldn’t tell you a £100 Margaux from a £10000 one, or a £100 Darjeeling from a £10000 one, but I can tell Margaux from Riesling and Darjeeling from Sencha (okay, perhaps a little finer than those enormous differences). I am amazed that so many people exist who can’t, or say they can’t (in the absence of injury, disability etc). It’s like the difference between the colour red and the colour blue.

    @Hemidactylus, #40,

    Filtered water. Slightly softened if possible. Gets rid of the salts that form films with teas (usually). Brita filters work for me. One problem: they cost more than vinegar! :-)


  31. Louis says

    Hmmm my separators were erased.

    After the word “…order”, I have finished my direct comment to you Rorschach, what follows is General Shit.

    After the word “…blue.” I think it is clear I am speaking to Hemidactylus.

    Damn blog, ruins my excellent plan for replying efficiently. ;-)


  32. Ada Christine Fontaine says

    gonna have to throw my vote in for the french press. been using one for years. love it

  33. Ada Christine Fontaine says

    gonna have to throw my vote in for the french press. been using one for years. love it

  34. silvrhalide says

    @4 the phrase you’re looking for is “brown crayon water” regarding instant coffee. Instant coffee is fine for cooking with coffee though. I make a killer tiramisu with it. Actually drinking it? Brown crayon water.

    @11 they don’t? Also, it might depend on what else you are eating/drinking with coffee. If you are putting amaretto or whiskey in coffee, then the actual coffee doesn’t matter all that much because the stronger flavors overwhelm the more subtle flavors of coffee. Also, if you are drinking coffee that’s been on the warmer all day, then yes, it will taste awful because you’ve essentially been fractionating the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that give coffee it’s flavor profile off all day so sure, the coffee tastes awful.

  35. silvrhalide says

    @8 agreed. Good tea and good chocolate are much more important than good coffee. That said, I’ve had actual real Kona (not the blends, the real deal) exactly 3 times in my life and it was sublime.

    @22 & 24 There is a world of difference between the black tea that you grind off of a pressed brick of tea and two leaves and a bud. There is no way in the world that those two taste the same, even though they come from the same plant. Fermentation and tea preparation and the water used for the tea (I have a Brita filter for a reason) makes a big difference.
    If, however, your assertion is that Tetley and Red Rose taste the same, I’m not going to argue. The tea in the tea bags is quite literally the sweepings off the floor in tea processing barns. Watched a PBS doc about two women who were trying to bring the concept of commodities exchange/stock market to India, for Indian staples like rice and tea. At the end of the trading session, some tiny elderly woman came out and started sweeping the trading floor to gather up the fallen tea leaves and the doc voiceover explained that the sweepings would wind up in supermarket/mass market teabags like Tetley, Red Rose, Lipton, etc. So if you drink that stuff, and think “boy, this tastes like dirt”, well, that’s because there’s a fair amount of dirt in it.

    As for coffee makers, I just have a cheap pour over stainless steel filter, because you can wash it clean. Mostly the biggest flavor profile in a lot of coffee is the rancid plastic taste from a coffee maker that hasn’t been descaled in decades. Never liked the plastic pods either because to me, the plastic funkiness overwhelmed the coffee flavor.

    I actually like Earl Grey over Lady Grey, although sometimes the lighter flavor is nice. Mostly I like the stronger more leathery notes in Earl Grey.

  36. irene says

    I used to use a French press because of hating to use filters. (I’ve never found a reusable filter that seemed to me to work very well.) Now that we have commercial composting in my area and I can just compost the filters along with the coffee (and recycle the box), plus I read about cafestol potentially raising cholesterol, I use a filter cone and just pour water through it. It’s much less work than cleaning out the French press used to be, though a tiny bit more than a coffee machine. I still make French press once in a while for a treat.

  37. hemidactylus says

    Now home. Yeah a simple Black and Decker. Though taste is a factor given I drink it cold without milk or sugar from a largish container through the morning I don’t know if I could get all that worked up to get a fancy machine and do my own grinding. I believe in K.I.S.S. I have a coworker who went all in with whole leaf tea. He had some serious accessories. I imagine it was worth the effort, but I just boil my water in the microwave then take the cup out and plop in a tea bag with a spoon to hold it under. Less effort.

    My choices of coffee and tea are limited to the local supermarket. I should be more adventurous, but I’m about as ignorant on tea and coffee as I am wine. I do go for stouts and porters with beer when I can.

    I have drunk Café Bustelo in the past. Not sure if that qualifies as full on Cuban style. I like a good Cuban coffee with a kick, but doubt I could match the way it’s made at a restaurant. For me that’s the pinnacle of fine coffee.

  38. Tethys says

    I like French press coffee, but I also like my electric coffee pot ability to brew two cups worth of coffee and keep it warm while I consume the first one. Cold French press is good for baking chocolate cake, or freezing into cubes for iced coffee.

    I also like many types of teas, though finding good tea in America is much harder than finding good coffee. I generally go to the local ethnic market for tea that actually tastes like proper tea. Ethiopian tea and Japanese tea are completely different delicious beverages.
    Aldi carry’s a surprisingly good black tea. It’s far more flavorful and less than half the price of the Lipton/Tetleys/Neumanns Own brand garbage stocked by most grocery chains.

    The tannin coat left on mugs by tea are easily removed with a bit of toothpaste. I prefer a pint glass, so I get a big cup o tea.

  39. llyris says

    I also use a french press. I consider it a better environmental choice. Not much can go wrong, and it doesn’t use any disposable parts.
    The trick is using a coffee that hasn’t been burnt. Of course, being from Melbourne I’m a coffee snob.

  40. birgerjohansson says

    Hemidactylus @ 21
    Gevalia is fine!
    But these days I have acquired a liking to whatever brand they use in the coffee machines – they automatically grind up whole beans and filter hot water through it in a few seconds , resulting in a fresh taste significantly better than most stuff you get in a work place. I assume not boiling the water also plays a role, preserving a lot of fragile molecules.

  41. JimB says

    hemidactylus @40
    Every once in a while someone at work will ask if I ever wash my coffee cup. I just say “No”.

    If they inquire further, I tell them never washing it serves 2 purposes.

    First if I am somehow out of coffee (this has never happened so far) some day I figure I can just fill it with hot water and let it steep for a bit. That should do it.

    And second, wherever I put my coffee cup down is where it will stay. Somebody might use a pen or a ruler to push it further away from themselves, but it will basically stay where I put it…

  42. Rich Woods says

    I can’t stand coffee. It’s like Lipton’s tea, but worse.

    I’ll stick to my five cups per day of Earl Grey (eight in winter). If I get distracted and leave the teabag in for 20 minutes, like I did just now with my second breakfast cup, it’s still drinkable even if the teaspoon looks like it has started to dissolve. Last resort if I leave it too long is to reheat the cup in the microwave, though sometimes that doesn’t taste so good — I reckon the microwaves must flip their polarisation or something.

  43. cnocspeireag says

    I’m with simplicity, filter cone, paper filters and a basic grinder (with a spare so I’m not coffeeless when it eventually breaks). Yes, I’m that sort of addict. A French press really needs a more expensive and cumbersome burr grinder for best results IMHP.

  44. Kevin Karplus says

    I’m not a coffee drinker, but my wife swears by a simple plastic filter holder and a fancy burr grinder by Capresso. She also keeps the bags of beans in the freezer, so that they don’t lose flavor, and they don’t overheat in the grinder.

    We do have an old hand-crank grinder also, for the rare days when we have a power outage in the morning.

  45. silvrhalide says

    @55 Coffee is an acquired taste. One that I acquired when my start time at work was 6am. More caffeine than tea. The trick is to get good beans (ie., not burnt) and then add enough sugar and cream until it’s dessert.
    If the teaspoon wasn’t starting to dissolve, how would you know it was ready? :D
    “I’ll stick to my five cups per day of Earl Grey (eight in winter).”
    Sounds about right. Or at least, that’s what my daily intake is, give or take.
    As far as microwaving the tea, the bergamot fractionates out really quickly. A quick zap in the microwave shouldn’t do a whole lot of harm but an extended zap for boiling hot tea is probably responsible for the off taste that you mention.

    @54 “Somebody might use a pen or a ruler to push it further away from themselves, but it will basically stay where I put it…”
    [shudders] Are you certain your cup hasn’t taken to moving around of its own volition? If not, why not? What are you doing wrong? Surely it should have achieved sentience by now…