Posted by on 7 August 2005 at 10:07 am  Uncategorized
Aug 072005

Paul and I aren’t exactly serious coffee drinkers. Personally, I don’t much like the bitter taste of coffee, although the smell is fantastic. (I’m a committed and fussy tea drinker instead, usually Earl Grey with whole milk and sugar.) Paul only drinks coffee on occasion. So until recently, our only coffee brewing equipment was a three cup french press and grinder donated to us by friends desperate for coffee at our house.

A few weeks ago, I decided that we ought to get some better equipment, particularly since those coffee-loving friends of ours are now living in Denver and since we need to serve coffee when we host FROG meetings. For a regular coffee maker, I decided upon the Bodum Mini Electric Santos. It uses a vacuum brewing process, so it’s like its own little science experiment. I found out about it from my much-beloved and much-respected Cook’s Illustrated. Here’s what they wrote about vacuum brewing in their review:

Vacuum brewing is, in fact, not new at all; it dates from the mid-1800s. A vacuum brewer consists of two bowls, one sitting directly on top of the other. The bottom bowl–the carafe–contains water, the top bowl ground coffee. When the water boils, steam forces it into the top bowl, where it mixes with the grounds. When the air in the carafe cools and contracts, it forms a vacuum that draws the liquid, now coffee, through a filter that keeps the grounds aloft.

What’s new about these machines? Until recent years, vacuum brewers were rather fragile glass chambers that, if they didn’t come with their own weak spirit lamp, required a heat source such as a burner. They looked like (and often were) accidents waiting to happen. The Bodum and Black & Decker electric models improve matters considerably, with shock-resistant plastic chambers, strong seals between the top and bottom bowls, and built-in electric heating elements. How was the coffee? Tasters liked the coffee from these units but consistently described it as strong and robust. In short, vacuum brewers make a very distinct style of coffee that will appeal to many (but not all) coffee drinkers. That said, both vacuum brewers made exceptionally hot coffee and had brew cycles nearly within the ideal four- to six-minute range. Without thermal carafes, however, coffee from neither unit fared well as it aged. We felt the Black & Decker had a slight advantage over the Bodum because it was both less expensive and easier to clean.

Paul and I made a pot of coffee yesterday morning with the Bodum. It worked perfectly, it was fun to watch, and it made excellent coffee. Hooray!

When I ordered the Bodum, I also bought a surprisingly inexpensive small espresso and cappuccino maker, the Melitta MEX1B. Paul and I used it this morning to make fantastic cappuccinos in just a few minutes. Double Hooray!

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