GroovyBrew Coffee Maker Challenge!

To all coffee maker manufacturers out there, I put you on notice.

You are hereby officially challenged!

Prove to me that your coffee maker makes better coffee than my cheap little dollar store drip filter. Not “as good” but better.

The coffee must be made in my home, using my coffee and my bottled water. My contention is that you don’t have to pay high dollars to make excellent coffee, and that no drip maker at any price can make coffee that tastes better than this Zen little cup-top drip filter.

All challengers will be featured here on the site. Each will have its merits reviewed. The first manufacturer who proves me wrong will get free advertising for the life of this publication.

Those manufactures who turn down or ignore this challenge will also be listed.

Manufacturers Challenged So Far:

  • Black & Decker
  • Braun
  • Bunn
  • Cuisinart
  • DeLonghi
  • Farberware
  • Hamilton Beach
  • KitchenAid
  • Krups
  • Mr. Coffee
  • Sunbeam
  • West Bend

Best Coffee Maker

This is the very best drip coffee maker I’ve ever had, and I bought it for 49¢.
That’s it, the red thing you see sitting atop my coffee cup. I found it at a thrift store, and purchased it on a whim. I thought it would be perfect for making my own coffee at the office.
It’s nothing but a piece of plastic that holds a filter cone. It takes a size two filter but I use a size four, which works just fine. Swear to God, it makes the best tasting coffee.
I think I figured out why. It’s in the way I make and drink the coffee.
I grind the beans. I put them directly in the filter. I put the hot (but not boiling) purified water in. Three minutes or so later the cup of coffee is ready.
And… I drink it immediately.
It doesn’t sit in the pot, simmering. There’s no delay between when the coffee is brewed and when I drink it. I don’t set the coffee maker to go then walk away, forgetting about it. When I want a second cup, I’m forced to brew it up fresh — just like I did the last.
The secret is that coffee tastes the best within the first 20 minutes of brewing. After that, the coffee begins to break down, as does the flavor. This is why this little 49¢ wonder makes the best coffee.
Recently my old 12 cup maker went to the great coffee grinder in the sky, and I decided not to replace it. If I have friends over and want to make more than one cup at a time, I have a four-cup coffee press which, just like this, forces you to drink the coffee immediately. The only electric maker I have left is an espresso machine, and … well, I’ll not be giving that up anytime soon.
Funny, I now see these little coffee makers in stores for $10 and up. Outrageous! If you’re interested in getting one, check your local dollar store first.
UPDATE: I actually went out looking for more of these, but alas, the thrift store where I got mine has either moved or gone out of business. However, I did find that Melitta makes a whole line of little one cup coffee makers. I found these at various local grocery stores, all for under $10:

And I found them here online: Melitta USA

The Java Wand

You’re looking at the Java Wand.

It’s simple, clever, and definitely a groovy little gizmo.

Invented by Nancy Raimondo and marketed via Wisdom Wands, this is — literally — a tiny coffee maker at the end of a glass straw. And before you scoff, trust me, I had some doubts as well. The first thing I thought was that sucking hot coffee through a straw would lead directly to a seared tongue and a ruined day. So I want to state right up front that this is not the case.

How the Java Wand works is simple. It’s a straw with a French press type filter at the end. You put coffee in your mug, add hot water (and whatever else you’d like), put the straw in and stir for a bit, then let it set a few minutes.

Letting it set does two things. One, it lets the coffee steep, and two, it lets it cool a bit.

Here’s a good place to mention that, even when making coffee the normal way, you don’t want to use boiling water. You want it hot, and perhaps close to boiling, but not actually bubbling. With the Java Wand this is doubly true.

So you let the coffee steep a bit, and then you take a careful, experimental sip from the Java Wand. Keep in mind this is exactly how you’d approach a hot cup of coffee. Sip carefully until it cools. The Java Wand works the same way.

That’s all there is to it. You’re drinking coffee.

Take a moment to think about that. What does a coffee maker do, anyway? It mixes hot water with coffee then filters the grounds.

It’s not complicated. It’s not rocket science. The Java Wand is a wonderful reminder of this fact — a return to the basics. People spend hundreds of dollars for machines that do nothing more, really, than this little filtered straw does.

Like I said, even I was skeptical at first. I thought I’d burn my tongue right up front. But no, this is thick quality glass, and it has the same heat-handling properties as a coffee mug. I made my first cup using Dark Costa Rican (as pictured to the left — that’s the actual first cup I made) and was able to sip on it without any burning of lips or tongue at all. It was delicious, but I’d ground it too fine. So I had to try again.

Wisdom Wands recommends medium ground coffee, about two tablespoons per cup. For the second try that’s what I used.

The next cup turned out perfect. I was impressed and happy with it, and even though it seemed odd to be drinking hot coffee through a straw it didn’t take long to adjust. Especially after cooling a few minutes, you’ll be sucking coffee down without even thinking about it.

Here’s an unexpected side effect, though. I’m one of those people who can drink two large strong cups of coffee and still go to sleep. I have over the years developed a high caffeine tolerance.

But two cups of coffee sucked through the Java Wand had me so wired I was bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny. It took me by surprise. What I figure is that since you’re drinking the whole cup of coffee through the grounds, you must end up with an extra dose of caffeine. In effect, the Java Wand becomes a coffee supercharger.

The next day I took the Java Wand down to the corporate offices to see if it could be used in the fight against horrible office coffee. It seemed perfect for this because you make your own coffee one cup at a time, and it’s so quick it’s like you’re making instant coffee. Also — and this is the key point — you’re free to make your coffee however you like. Stronger, bolder, with your own coffee or theirs. It puts you in control.

I gave it the ultimate test: could it, in fact, improve the taste of plain old Folgers pre-ground canned coffee?

It did! I can’t say it was good, but it was better than before. It was significantly better than the Folgers made in the old rusty Bunn office machine, especially considering most other office denizens think it only takes two tablespoons to produce 12 cups of coffee.

This morning I’m using it as I write this, having made a delicious cup of’s New York New York. This afternoon I plan on trying it with some loose tea leaves. (Yes, tea lovers can use this too.)

I’m thoroughly charmed with this little gizmo. It’s not going to replace my little one cup filter maker at home, but it will be something I use every day at the office. In its own little way, I can honestly say the Java Wand has improved the quality of my life.

Coffee Scoop and Clip

This is one of the smartest little ideas I’ve seen in quite a while.
Yes, I took this picture with my cell phone while at the local market. No, I didn’t buy it, because I already have way too many coffee scoops. But still I found myself impressed enough to want to share it with you.
What better place to keep a coffee scoop than with your coffee, right? How many of you keep it IN the coffee? And how many times have you had to dig for it?
And, how many times have you either lost track of, or didn’t have enough of, or didn’t have at all, a clip to keep your coffee bag shut?
This is a clever combination! Kudos out to who ever came up with it. I’m just guessing, but I bet the idea came from some marketing guru’s mom who was tired of not being able to find the scoop, and was always spilling coffee grinds everywhere because the bag was never properly closed.
I’m not sure where you can get it, other than perhaps hanging from a hook in the coffee isle at your local grocery store.
This one is from Albertsons in McKinney, Texas.

Says the coffee machine: “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t brew that for you now”

JL Hufford Coffee and Tea recently issued a press release stating they were designing coffee machines that use Artificial Intelligence to learn what people want and to make it for them before they even ask.
What will it be like to use such a machine? “For the first several weeks, the machine learns the drinking patterns of its users. Then it adapts. Every Sunday afternoon, it’s French vanilla cappuccino time. Each weekday morning, it starts brewing a triple espresso at 7:00 am. After dinner, it does up a creamy decaf café au lait.” How does it know where you are or at exactly which moment you’ll be ready for your drink? Product Manager James Pappas is tight-lipped about this aspect, but he hints at GPS tracking or existing RFID technology. What is certain is that some machines, like the Jura-Capresso Impressa F9 already have ports which could be connected to a computer. Once the computer is networked, the possibilities are many.”
Okay, the science fiction reader/writer in me loves this idea. But as fun as it sounds, sorry, it’s actually ludicrous.
I probably wouldn’t have said that 5 years ago. I used to be one of those people who went by the saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” A divorce, the liquidation of nearly all my worldly possessions, and a bit of philosophical and spiritual learning have taught me otherwise.
Hand brewing coffee with a little 49¢ maker is very Zen. Having a computer controlled machine make it for you … even decide what it is you want … is not.
The pleasure in life is in the things you do. I’m sorry if I’m coming off preachy here, but I believe this with all my heart. The more we relegate our thinking and decision making to machines, the less human we become ourselves. Sure, a coffee maker that decides what and when to make something for us is in itself harmless … and in fact, probably fun … but it’s another step down that path that will eventually lead to a dark place.
Or hasn’t anyone remembered lessons we’ve learned from John Conner?
I have nothing against a well designed tool that does a good job. However, I am critical of a tool — no matter how well designed and built — that over-complicates a simple job.
So you want to built a autonomous device? Build something that will disarm a bomb, or explore the oceans of Europa looking for extraterrestrial life. Don’t waste your time and talent designing a machine that does a simple job already done perfectly well by an ordinary person.
It doesn’t take a computer scientist to make a good cup of coffee. Nor does it take a very expensive piece of hardware controlled by an Artificial Intelligence. So if on Sunday afternoon you really do want a French vanilla cappuccino, go make yourself one. A little $30 machine available at your local big box store does a perfectly fine job.