Monday, November 22, 2004


back to consumer reports again

last week when the new consumer reports annual coffee "review" came out, i of course congratulated our pro scaa member coffee friends at caribou (hiya chad!). and long-time readers know i have been pulling for 8-o'clock to step up and improve quality since i met them at the rainforest alliance gala last spring.

but of course i always have reservations about these things. that aside, what's interesting to note is that the results of this year seem to indicate the very dark roast craze in coffee may be ebbing.

top prize-winner caribou's colombian is a light-medium-type roast. 8-o'clock and dunkin are also lighter roasts, esp. by west coast standards.

but one thing i've learned about coffee is that regional taste differences do exist and they die hard, despite the mermaid's seeming global dominance.

i'm frankly glad the consumer reports survey echoes the call of scaa chief ted lingle to buy only whole beans and grind them yourself at home. not only does this ensure the better tasting brew from freshly-ground coffee, but also that you the consumer are getting beans of some quality and not the junk "coffee-by-products" so often found in the ground supermarket coffees in the cans and jars.

however, my greatest reservation is in the recommended coffeemaker, the braun. many inexpensive coffeemakers brew too cold, probably in an effort to avoid ridiculous lawsuits.

this braun model doesn't appear to suffer from this problem; it and other braun models are said to have a more proper temperature, delivering hot water in the correct 195 to 205 range.

however, i do strongly suggest coffee lovers avoid all coffeemakers with bottom warming plates. it's better to buy a slightly more expensive machine that brews into a thermal carafe.

this holds the coffee at a proper temperature without the dread tar-tasting effects so often caused by heating coffee at the bottom.

when buying an auto drip coffeemaker, i always recommend that consumers look for:

  1. proper brewing temperature;
  2. a thermal carafe;
  3. correct water usage (some kinds of coffeemakers "hold back" a few ounces of the water you add for brewing, thus making coffee in improper proportions);
  4. a nice wide dispersion pattern in the top where the water comes out (the "showerhead") to ensure even wetting of the coffee;
  5. easy access to the water compartment;
  6. easy cleaning (this includes being able to run cleancaf (hiya josh!) or some kind of solution through it to prevent coffee oil & limescale buildup, etc.);
  7. and a strong history of reliability.

further, since i hate paper filters, i also personally recommend coffeemakers that let you use gold-mesh ones, but not everyone agrees with me on this. finally, i think most autodrips are really ugly -- i'd be willing to pay more for something that doesn't make mr. right cry every time he sees it on the counter. . .

p.s. thanks for all the kind email about the letter.

p.p.s. and thanks too for all the kind email about owen egan's terrfic pix from the espresso workshop at scaa 2004.

that was such a privilege; and it really reminds me how great it is to be an scaa consumer member.

posted by fortune | 7:10 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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