Drip Coffee Makers — super simple, super cheap

Drip Coffee Makers — super simple, super cheap

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[sigh] So I guess we gotta talk about coffee makers now. Hi. You might have seen a video of mine on the mysterious lack of electric kettles in the United States. I made that video mainly because there’s this pervasive idea that electric kettles don’t make any sense here because our weedy little plugs are too little and weedy which makes them slow at the whole water boily business.

But the fact is, unless you’ve got an induction stove (which aren’t yet anywhere near what I would call “common” ‘round these parts) an electric kettle remains the fastest and certainly most convenient way to boil water, especially for beverages. So, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the electrical system on our ambivalence towards kettles. Instead, I said that’s it’s just because we don’t drink tea all that much.

Yes, there are other reasons you might want to use a kettle, as a matter of fact tea is pretty far down the list of reasons I use mine, but for the record I grew up calling this thing a tea kettle and I’m not alone! Just take a look at this poll - oh c’mon I was hoping for a better showing than that… Actually, I just realized something. The American children’s song “I’m a Little Teapot” is actually a song about a kettle! Teapots are for steeping the tea - they don’t get all steamed up and shout. That’s what a kettle does. See, we’re really confused by this whole "tea" business and it seems we have been since at least 1939. Oh, relatedly, I’ve heard from lots of Canadians who politely informed me that nearly everybody up there has an electric kettle and in case you didn’t know they have essentially the exact same electrical system we do so again - the plugs aren’t the answer. Anyway, in that video, I had originally planned to talk about coffee makers and explain that, since we’re addicted to *that* hot brown, a huge portion of us use some kind of coffee maker.

But I removed that bit before making the video for flow reasons, and thanks to that omission an interesting pattern emerged in the comments. Lots of you wondered how we make coffee without a kettle. And another, but different, lots of you thought we must all be using bougie espresso machines or something like that. Some of us are, yeah, but the humble and cheap drip brewer remains a countertop staple in many millions of American homes.

And that’s what this video is about. But first, let's get the obvious thing out of the way. Why don’t kettles make our coffee? Well a big part of that comes from the fact that most of us here... intensely dislike instant coffee. You can get it, sure, but the bulk of our instant options just… aren’t great. Your typical grocery store might have maybe four options to choose from, and Folgers is probably three of them.

That was hyperbole, for the record. Instant coffee is brewed coffee which has then been freeze-dried into crystals. Add that stuff to hot water and you’ve got “coffee”.

Trouble is that most of our instant options are brewed in industrial-sized percolators and probably don’t even use arabica beans, so with few exceptions it’s just not great. Plus, like, have you ever smelled it as it’s mixed with water? That is not a pleasant aroma, and the smell of coffee as it brews is one of the best parts! Thanks to this, the vast majority of the coffee sold here is, ya know, real! Yeah, I said it. You can either buy your beans as beans and grind ‘em yourself, or you can get pre-ground coffee.

And you can get it in big ol’ tubs because some families will absolutely get through it in a month. Now, there are some methods for brewing actual coffee which involve a kettle, most prominently the French press or a pour-over filter cone, and some people choose to go that route for taste or hipster reasons. But Mr. Coffee and his offspring have been the kings of the brew for something like half a century. At least until Keurigs came along. As it happens, I’ve already made a video about the drip brewer’s predecessor; coffee percolators. Those are old-fashioned devices for brewing ground coffee which you can still buy for some reason.

And they are how we would have been making coffee in 1939, and in fact long before then. Stovetop percolators went atop a stove, and they were invented in the 19th century (when exactly is disputed). Later you could get electric percolators which are percolators that are electric, giving them their own water-heating ability.

You can check out that video if you want to learn more about our coffee making past, but they’re coming up here to illustrate that we’ve been brewing actual coffee here in the US for a very, VERY long time and we have been using dedicated coffee-making thingamajigs for over a century. Get used to a thing which makes coffee all by itself, don’t drink tea all that much, and an electric kettle becomes a niche item - wait I thought this video was about coffee makers. Anyway, in 1968, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel asked where Joe DiMaggio had gone, and although Joltin’ Joe had left and gone away, hey hey hey, he’d show up again in 1973 to hawk Mr. Coffee. Mr. Coffee promised restaurant-quality filter coffee at home. [Never knew coffee could taste SO great!] [or brew so FAST!] See, for over a decade, the foodservice industry had been moving away from percolators and towards basket-type brewers like the Bunn-O-Matic.

People really liked the taste of this new, smoother brew, but until North American Systems Inc. created Mr. Coffee, there wasn’t a convenient way to have it at home. I mean, if you were one of those weirdos who had a kettle you might be using a Melitta filter brewer, and there were also plenty of other coffee gadgets on the market because of course there were. But none of them would disrupt the dominance of the percolator until Mr. Coffee. Here we have a modern drip brewer, one of Mr. Coffee’s many great great great great grandchildren.

Although it’s much newer and refined in its design, it brews coffee in the same way as the original Mr. Coffee. To use it, ground coffee is placed in a paper filter which sits in a brew basket above a carafe. Water is placed in the reservoir at the back of the machine, and when switched on that water is automatically heated and slowly deposited on top of that coffee.

It will then seep through, absorb all that caffeine (and flavors, I guess), and finally make its way to the bottom of the basket where it will emerge a lovely shade of brown, while the filter leaves the grounds behind. No longer recirculating brewed and increasingly-hot coffee through the same grounds again and again, a much smoother, more consistent, and less burnt brew could be made with this java marvel. Cleanup was also a breeze; the slide-out (or later lift-out) brew basket was much less fiddly than dealing with the guts of a percolator, and after disposing of the grounds a simple rinse of carafe and basket was all that’s needed.

Mr. Coffee sold like hot cakes and before long companies were copying it right and left. The Mr. Coffee coffeemaker didn’t invent the concept of filter coffee, and it wasn’t even the first electric drip brewer.

That would be the Wagomat of Germany, patented in 1954. But Mr. Coffee popularized this brewing method in the US, and it more or less killed the percolator. However, a common feature of electric percolators would live on; the keep warm function. Drip machines almost as a rule have a hot plate below the carafe so that you can brew a full pot of coffee when you wake up and keep groggily coming back to it throughout the morning. This does not do good things for the flavor of your coffee, but we’ll get back to that later.

The original Mr. Coffee featured separate power switches for the brewer and the hot plate, but later versions (like this) would ditch that thanks to a very clever design refinement. And here, dear viewer, is where the script went off the rails. See, I was going to simply talk about those old Mr. Coffee machines because obviously they must work just like these new ones.

But a quick search for them revealed they operate at a significantly higher power level than modern designs. This intrigued me, so, uh, well… yeah. This Mr. Coffee machine is from 1979, and the joltin’ joe it’ll brew for you is still endorsed by Joltin’ Joe. As you can see it has two chonky and wonderfully illuminated power switches surrounded by a beautifully-executed faux woodgrain decal.

And in case you had any doubt this was a product of the seventies, one look at the carafe is all you need to know for sure. When I first took a look at this coffee maker it was immediately clear that it's nothing like a modern drip machine. The back of it is completely empty and the power cord runs up to the top, revealing that all of the brewy-bits are up there. There are of course two power leads going down to the hot plate, and they’re surprisingly thin. I mean, sure, the hot plate only consumes about 80 watts, so it’s not like these need to carry even an amp, but still. That's mains voltage going through here.

Anyway, the next clue that this was nothing like a modern machine came when I first tried to use it. I poured cold water in the top expecting nothing to happen until I switched it on, but almost immediately water started coming through the brew basket and falling onto the hot plate. It wasn’t much, though, and once I hurriedly put the carafe back and switched it on, the flow rate increased. Intrigued, the next order of business was obviously to get the guts out so we could get a good look at ‘em. That was all too easy - for being such a revolutionary product that commanded nearly $300 adjusted for inflation when it first came out, this is made incredibly cheaply. Two fasteners barely hold this flimsy cover on the back, and once removed we can see that the entire chassis is held in by these clips that are simply friction-fit to the plastic body.

I needed to undo the connection to the warmer and also unfasten its little support / wire chase / grounding strap before I could slide it out, though, but once that was done it’s a simple matter of pushing up the tabs and yanking gingerly. What I eventually got hold of surprised me. This is it, folks. These two hunks of metal, one of ‘em with a big ol’ heating element sitting in the bottom, are all there is to it. The water inlet at the top of the machine simply dumps water into this upper pan which is vaguely funnel-shaped down to this point here. That pan sits atop the main chassis.

Here, electrical connections are at a terminal block in the back, and power is sent up to the switches at the front. In the middle of the chassis is a second shallow pan with a hole in its middle and a big curly-q heating element spiraling inward towards that hole. When I saw this, I thought “this doesn’t make any sense.” See, one of the things that the father of the Mr. Coffee, Mr. Coffee Senior - I mean, Vincent Marotta was frightfully concerned with was the brewing temperature. He thought boiling water was much too hot for good coffee, and since stovetop percolators percolated as a result of boiling, well you couldn’t get decent coffee out of ‘em.

He was convinced the water reaching the coffee should be 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 93 Celsius; and no hotter, and no colder. He obsessed over this, devising handmade prototypes which would automatically heat water to that precise temperature, and with his business partner Samuel Glazer and the help of engineer Edmund Abel Jr, a functional, mass-producible Mr. Coffee was born. And I’m holding the patented mechanism right here.

How in the heck is this thing controlling the water temperature‽ I didn’t have a clue so I looked at the original patent and what I found was a stroke of genius that I honestly can’t believe works. Consider that this heating element has an output power of a hair over 1500 watts. We could control it with some sort of thermostat but that’s getting pretty involved for early 1970’s consumer goods. In operation this thing is just gonna run at full power, so how else could you control the water temperature? I suppose the size of this hole could be calibrated to let water through at precisely the right rate, but that would only work with a specified inlet water temp, and there’s too much variation in the real world for that to work. Well, the answer was staring me in the face this whole time but I just didn’t see it; see what that hole is punched in? Why, it’s a strip of metal. And what are strips of metal sometimes? Bi.

That’s right, this is a bimetallic strip. If I use a torch lighter and throw some heat at it, you can see it bend away from the pan. This dead simple arrangement of a bimetallic strip and hole in pan is forming a thermostatic valve. In operation, the heat from the heating element will cause this strip to bend away from the pan, which lets water through more quickly.

That water, though, is cold and cools the strip back down so it begins to close again. These two counteracting forces combine to keep the water leaving the brewer at whatever our desired temperature happens to be. You can actually see this valve opening and closing as coffee is brewed through the water inlet. Pretty neat. This set screw puts a bit of pressure on the bimetallic strip allowing it to be calibrated, which was presumably done at the factory before being boxed up.

Now, I did some testing to see just how close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit this thing was getting. Not surprisingly, it’s not that close. Actually towards the very end of the brew it was nearly spot on, but for the bulk of the brew it was wavering between about 170 and 190. The thermostatic valve works… OK, but it’s not able to achieve a steady equilibrium as evidenced by the fact that it repeatedly opens and closes throughout the brew rather than settling in at a somewhat fixed position. Each time the valve opened the output temperature would start to drop, and once it closed the temperature rose again.

But the world works in averages so I’m happy to call a 20 degree range “pretty good.” If you’re wondering why the valve has that little hole in it, well that’s simply there to keep water from pooling inside the machine and getting… nasty. A clever solution, but which requires some quick starting action since, as I learned the hard way, water will always flow through this. The instructions actually say that the coffee should be prepared in the basket and the machine switched on before you pour in the water. Then you need to pour it in quickly, and return the carafe to the base *at once.* Basically, the coffee buys you some time as it absorbs the little bit of water that comes out first, but you don’t have much before it’s saturated and the brewed coffee falls out the hole in the bottom of the brew basket.

So hurry up! Calling this automatic is quite a stretch if you ask me. If you’re thinking that the average consumer probably shouldn’t be trusted with a 1500W heating element sealed inside of a plastic shell, well so were the designers of this as there is in fact a thermostat for the heating element. But it’s simply there to cut power to it when it runs dry. And that was also implemented quite cleverly! The thermostat lives here, right below the hole in the water reservoir.

As the machine brews, cold water keeps landing on the thermostat, ensuring the switch stays closed. But once it’s out of water, well that cooling action no longer works and the heating element, through this bonding clip here, will quickly heat up the thermostat so it trips, cutting power and ensuring the coffee maker doesn’t melt. Putting the thermostat right below the water inlet also helps ensure the thermostat resets quickly if you want to brew another pot immediately after one just finished - pretty clever thinking. So now let’s move onto the design refinement that would lead us to coffee makers like this one.

At some point in the ‘80s, Mr. Coffee would ditch the thermostatic valve design in favor of a much simpler one. At first glance this modern brewer may look more complicated. Now the water is at the back of the machine and it needs to be pumped up to the top to reach the coffee grounds. Pump sounds expensive.

But as it turns out, one method of pumping water requires just two things: a one-way valve and a tube that gets hot. This arrangement is called a bubble pump and it’s almost devilishly simple, as longtime viewers of The Engineer Guy will know. That’s two mentions in as many videos! We miss you, Bill! At the bottom of the water reservoir, at the intake, is a check valve.

Water can flow downward through it, but the valve prevents flow in the opposite direction. After passing through the valve it ends up in this metal tube which contains the heating element. At the other end of that tube is some more tubing which leads up the back of the coffee maker and into the sprayer, where it will then fall onto the coffee. Passing electric current through the heating element, and thus making the tube containing the water frightfully hot, will quite quickly cause the small amount of water in there to boil. Once it does, well some of the water vaporizes and bubbles of water vapor form inside the tube.

That increase in volume also increases the pressure inside the tube. The tube isn’t sealed so it’s not like it’s gonna explode or anything, but the bubbles of water vapor need to go somewhere! And since they’re confined in a narrow tube, they can only move by pushing water out of their way. However, the check valve prevents the water from moving back into the reservoir.

That leaves the water with only one path to relieve the pressure, which is up this tube and out the sprayer. Each little burst of water that leaves the sprayer was pushed out by bubbles of water vapor, and once that slug of water is out, the pressure in the tube is relieved so cold water from the reservoir will now fall into the tube through the check valve and replace the water that just left. That water then gets hot enough to boil, bubbles form, pressure increases, the valve closes, and another slug of hot water comes out the sprayer. This process repeats over and over again, bubbles gurgling and the check-valve clicking with each ingestion and expulsion of water.

Since the heating element is in contact with such a small amount of water, the pumping action begins almost immediately. Even with ice-cold water in the tank, there’s only about a 20 second delay between switching the coffee maker on and hot water hitting the grounds. It’s only heating a few milliliters of water at a time, thus it nearly instantly starts to boil. And with a constant supply of new water entering the boiling tube, the coffee maker continuously moves water through itself as it heats it. The design just… works! It’s amazingly effective for how simple it is.

Since it moves water through itself by boiling it, that may make you wonder about the exit temperature. If Vince Marotta was so concerned with brewing temp, why would he accept this design? Truthfully I don’t know that he did, maybe he hated this cost-cutting measure, but in practice, the water that leaves isn’t quite boiling. A number of factors influence the exit temperature. You’ll notice that in this machine the tube leaving the boily bit down below travels through the cold water reservoir.

That cools the water that travels up through it before it reaches the sprayer. With my very definitely scientific testing equipment I found that the brew starts at about 170 Fahrenheit and slowly creeps up to about 190, probably as a result of the water level dropping and thus its cooling effect on the exit tube diminishing. There are probably other factors influencing this as well, such as the sprayer’s shape and tubing diameter, and I imagine these were at one point tinkered with to produce a more or less ideal brew - and you’ll see why I think that shortly. But regardless, the exit temperature never quite reaches boiling. Another interesting side-effect of pumping by boiling is that the speed at which it does so is a function of how powerful the heating element is. And since brewing coffee shouldn’t be done that fast anyway, we don’t actually want a very powerful heating element.

If this were as powerful as one of those British kettles, it would push the 60 fluid ounces of a 12 cup coffee maker through in a little over three minutes - not enough time for a thorough brew. And yes, in coffee maker land, a cup is 5 fluid ounces, just to be extra confusing! Now, to attain a more thorough brew, a much more reasonable heating element in the neighborhood of 900 watts is used. This coffee maker runs at about 850 watts, which slows it down to just under an 11 minute brew when making a full pot. "Now wait," I hear you say. "Didn’t the original design pull 1,500 watts or so?" Yes, and that’s why I wanted to investigate it.

As we've discussed previously, energy is energy and water is water. More power means faster heating, so in theory the old design should make coffee faster than the new one. And indeed this does brew coffee significantly faster than its great great great great grandson.

It took the new machine 10 minutes and 10 seconds to power through 50 ounces of water, but Granpda Coffee only needed 5 minutes and 42 seconds to do the same. Could it be that the older Mr. Coffee models brewed better coffee? Or perhaps is the longer brew an improvement? Naturally I devised a taste test using otherwise identical setups - same water, same coffee, same amount - to the gram - same filters, and the same sweetening and creamening treatment between the same two mugs and… I hon… I can’t taste a difference.

These taste exactly the same to me. It’s like I’m drinking two cups of the same coffee. Now I don’t claim to have the most phosisticated taste, but I also don’t want to sell myself too short, either.

I start to notice a difference in my everyday coffee by about the third day after opening a new can, and it’s whole bean coffee. By the time I’m at the end of the can it’s VERY different coffee - in fact opening the next one is always a delightful experience. It's just so much better. So while, yeah, I’m not above a cup of Folgers now and again, I’m pretty sure I could at least notice some difference.

But between these two coffee makers, I couldn’t. Looking at some old Mr. Coffee models with the bubble pump design I can see that those were also slowed down to the neighborhood of 900 watts. This suggests to me that with the change to bubble pump technology it required a slower brew to get the same brewing characteristics as the thermostatic valve design. However, it may have also solved another problem. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed the “COFFEE SAVER” labeling on this brew basket.

This also intrigued me! The box claimed that this revolutionary new technology allowed you to save coffee when brewing smaller amounts as it helped maintain a uniform stack height no matter how many cups you were making. See, changing the setting moves these little wing things into the center of the brew basket to keep the coffee stacked more vertically. Pretty clever. Apparently this feature was introduced during a coffee shortage. So I did another comparison, making four cups in both machines with the same otherwise identical setup as before save for this thing set to four cups and… I feel like there is a difference but it’s very small. Like, it’s still, there’s… to me hardly a perceptible difference between these two coffees.

They both taste like Folgers. [laughs] If this pinching brew basket did anything I would have expected the older machine’s coffee to taste a little stronger but… nope. These were once again imperceptibly different to me, and as a matter of fact they seemed to taste exactly as they did when I brewed a larger quantity. However, it may still be the case that had I not pulled in the wing thingies here that this would have tasted weaker. Perhaps the speed of the brew in the original design required more coffee for smaller amounts - as a matter of fact the instructions seem to suggest that’s what the coffee saver feature was intending to fix. I’m still not ruling it out as nothing but a gimmick, but maybe there was something to it.

And maybe it would turn out that simply slowing the brew down had the same effect. Honestly I’m more than a little surprised I couldn’t make out a difference between these two coffee makers. I was starting to doubt my senses quite frankly but I decided to do a third test - this time with a small, four-cup coffee maker pitted against the large 12 cup machine.

This time there was a noticeable difference to me. This one might be a touch... stronger. Yeah this, I think this is very very slightly stronger. A little bit more bitter. Yeah I prefer this one, actually.

This is a little bit better. The smaller machine had a slightly harsher brew with a stronger bite to it, perhaps extracting more acids. What caused that difference? I dunno, it could be that the water in this one hits the coffee at a different temperature from that one. It could be that the filter basket is smaller in this one. It could be that the small machine is slightly slower, or it may have been that its markings on the pot weren’t as accurate and the total water used was different.

Yes I know I should have used a beaker or something but the important thing is I detected a difference! It was slight, but I detected it! So I think I can safely say these two large machines make practically identical coffee. Anyway, we got way off track, uh, let’s talk about the hot plate again. As we saw in the early Mr. Coffee machines,

the hot plate was added-on separately from the core brewing function. But as competition heated up and costs demanded getting cut, a very elegant refinement was made. Modern designs use the same heating element for both the brewing part and the keeping warm part.

The tube which heats the water for brewing just so happens to be bonded to the bottom of the hot plate. Since metal’s generally quite good at conducting heat through itself, a single heating element can perform both the brewing and the keeping warm functions. Now you might think this is a problem. 850 watts is a lot of power for such a small surface, especially one surrounded by plastic. However, while brewing, the heat produced by that element gets absorbed into the water.

If you’ve seen, oh I dunno, any of my videos you may remember that it takes a lot of energy to boil a liquid which we call the, say it with me now! Latent heat of vaporization. So long as there’s water in this tube, the tube can’t get any hotter than the boiling point of water. It’s not physically possible. Once it’s done brewing and there’s no more water in that tube, though, well now we have a problem. After boiling off what little water remains in a nice loud steamfest, the hot plate will quickly become a way-too-hot plate unless we cut the power to it. So that’s what we do.

A thermostat set just a wee bit higher than the boiling point of water is bonded to the hot plate right here and wired in with the heating element. Once it’s out of water and the hot plate eeks too far beyond the boiling point the thermostat will open with a click, breaking the connection and keeping the hot plate from melting the coffee maker. This thermostat has essentially the same job as the safety thermostat in the old design, but by incorporating it in this way, it can do double duty as a temperature regulator for the hot plate. Once it cools off, the circuit will close again for a brief while, bringing the hot plate back into the territory of hot.

That clicking and heating and heating and clicking will repeat again and again and again and again. That is until you shut off the coffee maker, or its auto-off feature kicks in if it has one. Now you may have already noticed something about this design.

It’s absurdly simple. And that means it’s absurdly cheap to manufacture. The original Mr. Coffee, without all these cost refinements, retailed for $39.99 in 1972, which is equivalent to nearly three hundred bucks today. But people were gladly willing to pay that much because percolators were slow and made terrible coffee. It's the fastest coffee maker you can buy.

With a patented system that gives you perfectly brewed coffee in seconds. Coffee that tastes better than percolated. This was at one point very fancy. Once you taste this....

You'll know why Mr. Coffee is the #1 selling drip coffee maker. However, as the design was refined over the years and manufacturing got cheaper for… reasons, well drip machines got cheap pretty fast. These days, a basic one like this will set you back a whole, like $20. And if you’re willing to stoop to Walmart store brand, you can get one for slightly less than $10. Well, OK, $13 if you want a full-size 12 cup machine.

But this one is still under ten bucks. This is an older Rival-branded model but it's clearly the same machine and I actually use this here at the studio and wouldn’t ya know it, it makes pretty good coffee! Is it an excellent cup of coffee? No! Far from it. But there are only so many things I’m willing to become an enthusiast for, and coffee ain’t one of ‘em. There are hacks and techniques some people will go through to make these machines better, and there are plenty of people who would never ever stoop to this level. But taste is among the most subjective things. I have gone through the rigmarole and spent many hours experimenting with different gadgets, among them the Aeropress, a French press, manual pour-over cones, two different percolators (yuck) a few K-cup and other single-serve machines, and several other drip machines across as wide a cost spectrum as a Midwesterner will tolerate, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion.

I’ve found a coffee I really like, I grind it the same every day, and it goes in this cheap bit of plastic without any fiddling or mental anguish and the result is to me a fine cup of joe. However, the one piece of advice I will give regarding these coffee makers, and I’ve said this before, is that if you’re leaving it on to keep the coffee warm you are ruining the coffee in the carafe! Don’t do that. I know it’s tempting and after all that’s what it’s designed to do, but you really oughta shut it off when it’s done brewing. If you’re late to your second (or third) (or fourth) cup, I promise it’s gonna taste so much better if you just throw it in the microwave for a bit to warm it back up. I’m of the belief that a lot of the bad feelings towards these coffee makers come from the terribly burnt flavor the coffee will develop within just a few minutes of being left on. Again. Don't do it!

I also value how easy these are to use. It’s just get a filter, put it in the brew basket (or cone, some drip machines use cone-style filters), then add your coffee, put water in the thing, and turn it on. Just wait a few minutes and coffee happens! I do care enough to measure the amount of coffee I use with a scale, and even then it only takes about 90 seconds, including grinding beans, to get the coffee started. I could probably do it in less than a minute if I weren’t, ya know, waiting for coffee. You might not think this is the best way to make coffee, but these sure are consistent at least.

Because this process is so simple it’s hard to screw it up. There might be subtle differences from machine to machine, particularly with how hot the water reaching the grounds actually is. Depending on the shape and size of the heating tube, and of course the rest of the tubing, the exit temperature could be different between models and that will affect taste. I can’t say I’ve noticed too much variation myself, quite honestly, but again I don’t claim to have very phosisticated taste. Another benefit of the simplicity here is that these machines tend to be quite reliable, typically only needing a descaling every now and then. I just run vinegar through it as needed.

However I have noticed an increasingly common problem as these age. The thermostats controlling the hot plate seemingly drift with time and start getting too sensitive, tripping in the middle of a brew. This doesn’t mean it won’t make coffee but it can slow it down tremendously.

When working properly, the thermostat should keep the heating element switched on until it’s completely out of water, but if it becomes a little too sensitive it’ll start clicking off during the brew, periodically pausing the process. That can easily double the time it takes to make the pot, which is annoying. It might also result in an over-extracted brew but frankly I’ve never noticed that. I have solved this by descaling the machine, suggesting a layer of calcium deposits within the tube insulated the water a bit from the heating element’s heat so the thermostat got too hot. But getting rid of that layer of scale hasn't always worked, and I’ve gotten rid of a couple of slow coffee makers in the past. So far though, they've always been four cup machines.

It's never happened to a big one. Anyway, I think I’ve gone on long enough. I am a vociferous defender of the humble drip brewer because it’s simple, it’s effective, it’s cheap, it’s reliable, and it’s fairly good at what it does.

As with most things, yeah you can optimize your experience to your heart’s content. And if you have fun doing that - by all means! Have some fun! That’s important. But, uh, well what I’m optimizing for is the effort to flavor ratio, and there’s a strong bias towards keeping the effort part *low*.

I really liked the coffee I got from my Aeropress and I will happily admit it was better than what these can make, but that thing was just way too fiddly. I found my sweet spot with these things and I’m stickin’ to 'em. I do eventually need to try a Moka pot, though. I wonder where I can find one of those… ♫ drip-brewedly smooth jazz ♫ ...available at a typical grocery store... just Woah. I completely - What? Your typical grocery store might have maybe four options to choose [phone makes noise] from I thought I put you on silent! Thanks to… heh! Are all there is to it.

The water inlet at the top of ovv ov the machine Which is vaguely funnel shaped down to the th the the bleugh That.. is that still in there? Oh shoot. That may be why it was making noises. OK, well we’re gonna hide you there.

Are probably other factors influing this as well. Influing? Influing? Apparently this feature was introduced during a coffee shortage. This is really wet. Why don’t we just get all the water out of here.

Look, I just want repeatable, reliable coffee which isn't too hard to make. I know, I know, lots of y'all are gonna be like "I don't understand how you can use such a terrible method for making coffee" but like, we've been over this. I'm a Midwesterner. Our standards are low and we're proud of it!

2022-08-13 03:04

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