For someone who really isn't supposed to have caffeine I sure enjoy my coffee. And while I'm not yet a full blown coffeeophile I'm probably too far down that road not to end up there. Right now I'm enjoying a wonderful dark roast Ethiopian Yergacheffe (my current favourite) from Equator Coffee, along with some of my mother-in-law's delightful bannock.
Part of my greater appreciation of coffee, and the many incredible coffees available today, grew out of a growing awareness of the havoc that McLarge Brand coffees wreak on the environment, especially on the habitat of birds, especially neo-tropical migrants. When a simple switch to organic, fair trade coffees was made, I discovered that coffee can have a multitude of subtle flavours, and that fresh roast coffee, ground right before brewing, doesn't make my stomach churn after a couple of cups.
I could go on about fair trade, organic, shade grown coffees, but I encourage you to visit Coffee and Conservation, a wonderful blog about coffee and the environment by the inestimable Julie Craves, for more information. Not only do the large coffee brands pay paltry amounts to growers for their fare, but the farms are barren places for birds, and the coffee not even close to being as good - for a variety of reasons. It behooves you to switch, and really won't cost you that much more. Up here my costs are roughly equal, getting my coffee on line through Equator vs buying Maxwell House or Timmy's at the store.
But back to my cup of Yergacheffe... which unfortunately is empty so you'll have to excuse me for a couple of seconds... Ahh, that's better.
...My cup of coffee is tasting even better these days, thanks to a simple switch in brewing equipment. For we now own a brewer that makes coffee at the proper brewing temperature (around 90 - 100C), the Technivorm KBT 741. You see, most home coffee machines, brew coffee at a lower temperature than ideal, and the hotter temperatures extract more flavour (not make it "stronger" but more flavourful). I ordered this coffee maker specifically because of this reason, but I have to admit that I was somewhat sceptical that there would be any discernible difference in taste. Especially to my sugar and cream addled tastebuds (as coffee purists everywhere recoil in horror). We ordered our Technivorm from Transcend Coffee, it arrived quickly and with reasonable shipping rates.
It's easy to set up, there being only a few parts; the brewer with reservoir, a lid for the reservoir, a separate filter basket and lid, the carafe, and a plastic shelf for the carafe to sit on. There is an on/off switch, a switch on the filter basket to stop or restrict the flow, and a cut off switch in case the carafe is not in place. It operates like any other drip coffee maker, fill the resevoir, put a filter and coffee in the basket (there is the additional step of putting the filter basket in place), carafe goes in place and you turn it on.
It is probably about twice as fast in brewing a carafe of coffee as our old Krup, taking about 7 minutes to brew. The brewing arm has several holes so it disperses the hot water evenly over the grounds. There is no timer, so you can't set it ahead of time, but that doesn't seem that onerous. Seven minutes isn't very long to wait for a carafe of coffee, and while you wait you can watch the bubbles rising up the middle of the reservoir like a rather colourless lava lamp.
The first thing you notice is that the coffee is HOT. How hot? Hot enough to get sued if a McDonald's customer dropped some in their lap (and before the lawyers all start shouting at me I know that there was more to that lawsuit than meets the eye. It just boggles my mind that coffee cups at McDonald are labeled "Hot" for a beverage that everyone would be up in arms about if they had some served cold to them). But I digress. I don't have any thermometres that would allow me to see just how hot the water is, but other reviewers have noted that the temperature at the brewing arm fall within the 195-200F range.
But the main thing is the end product, how is the coffee? After letting it cool a bit (paradoxically while the hotter water extracts more flavour, really hot beverages dull our taste buds) a did a small taste test. Side by side with a cup brewed in the Krup, even I noticed that the Technivorm brewed coffee was more flavourful, and for the first time I noted a hint of blueberries in my Yergacheffe. And like I said, I take my coffee generally with cream and sugar, and to notice a difference through that must mean something.
But don't just take my word for it, drop by for a cup some day.