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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 15, 2003

bean me up, scotty

I don't drink much coffee, about one cup a day usually, sometimes not even that. Caffeine puts your body under stress, so it can really put you in a foul mood to drink too much.

Then there is the coffee I won't drink. Given that it isn't very good for you, and yet not wanting to give it up entirely, I insist on replacing quantity with quality. I like a nice espresso, for example, but a cheap espresso machine will produce a weedy brew, not fit to be called coffee. If you don't produce a good crema or mousse on the top of the cup, it's not worth having.

For work, I use a one cup gold filter thing. By a strange coincidence of flukeish correct water temperature from the boiler in the kitchen, and the properties of the gold filter (which doesn't absorb the essential oils of the coffee, as a paper filter does), this makes a cracking cup of filter coffee.

I attempted to replicate this by getting a gold filter for my home filter machine, but it just doesn't taste the same. The water's not the right temperature, or something. Odd that a coffee machine designed to make coffee and nothing else should fail in the basic requirement of having the water at the right temperature.

So that sits unloved on the windowsill at home, and instead I use one of these. This is a remarkably simple system, using individual doses (in paper filter bags, natch), and forcing the water through to make a very good cup of coffee with an excellent crema. There's so much mousse, you can just add a dash of milk and sprinkle chocolate powder on, and fool yourself into thinking it's cappuccino. The coffee doesn't come out tremendously hot. Add cold milk and it's ready to drink straight down in one gulp.

You'd think the lack of availability of the little dosettes in the UK would be a problem, but it's just not. I only drink coffee at home and the weekend, Babette barely bothers with it, and the multiple packets I buy on trips to France last -- I haven't run out yet. When I first got it, there were only 4 varieties, including a decaff, but now 3rd parties are getting in on the act, so there's more variety.

Don't misunderstand me, this isn't the holy grail. But it makes a decent cup of coffee in about 30 seconds, so it's convenient, quick, and clean.

But my ultimate machine would be a Gaggia. They do models that grind the beans, make a cup of coffee, then throw the used grounds away in a bin at the back - all with the push of a button. Built in filters to prevent scaling, and some of them will even make a cup of tea. They do models that use the Nestlé dosette system (for convenience and cleanliness, but inevitably sacrificing choice). Costco have one of their models for £199, but I'm not buying anything for that kind of money without a demo. There's a slightly fey looking geezer runs a Gaggia stand in the House of Fraser dept store. I like the idea of button pushing. Not for me, the fiddly acoutrements and faffing around with bits that you have to wash out between brews. Push button machines and dosettes are the future landfill I hope to pass on to my children.

It would be a selfish act, though, to buy one, a 3rd coffee machine in a house where only one person really cares. Babette sometimes prefers a cup of decaff instant. But you can't trust these high street places; there's little chance of a decent cup of coffee when you go to Starbuck's, and a touch of luxury is always nice. The only thing that really really puts me off a cappuccino/espresso machine is the mess that the milk frothing bit makes (dried milk that stays forever if you don't wipe it off straight away). Still, she will be mine...


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