Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Earl Grey, Hot

I've been having trouble with caffeine lately - my body just can't seem to process it as well as it used to - so I decided to switch from coffee to tea.  The trouble is, I hate making tea!  You have to wait for the water to boil and then wait five whole minutes for it to brew - all for just one measly cup of tea.  I don't have that kind of time or concentration in the morning.  The last time I tried it, I ended up putting salt in the tea, thinking it was the sugar.  With coffee, you can set it up the night before and have the liquid heaven in your hand as fast as you can drag yourself to the kitchen and pour it.

I started looking around for faster ways to make tea, but then came upon this little gizmo:

It's a single cup brewer.  It makes coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even iced tea or coffee.  And it makes one cup in about ten seconds.

This device has opened up new worlds of hot beverages to us.  If one of us wants a cup of decaf in the evening, we don't have to go through the whole brewing process for just the one cup.  Actually, we never did that - it was more trouble than it was worth.  But now Adam has coffee almost every night.  I can have coffee or tea, depending on my mood.  Adam and I don't have to use the same brand of coffee.  (We were both compromising before.)  And when we have guests, we can offer everybody exactly what they want.

This is how it works.  You fill the machine with water, and it holds quite a bit.  It keeps the water hot enough to start brewing on-demand.  (You can also use a timer to keep the water hot only at certain times to save energy, but I haven't tried that yet.)  When you are low on water, it flashes this pretty blue light at you and you just dump some water in the reservoir.  The things on the left side of the photo are "K-cups."  I'd seen them in the store but had no idea what they were until we bought this machine.  There are K-cups for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  You stick the K-cup of your choice in a slot, put a cup on the tray and push a button.  Ten seconds later you are done.

There are three downsides.  When Adam wants to have a thermos full of coffee to bring to work, he has to brew two cups and pour them into the thermos.  The brewer has five cup size settings, and one is almost large enough to fill a thermos, but since you're using the same K-cup no matter what size you pick, the coffee is just weaker.  Unacceptable!  Still, brewing two cups takes all of thirty seconds, including the time to change the K-cup and pour the coffee.

Next, the K-cups are expensive, they take up a lot of space, and you are limited to the brands available.  There are a lot of brands to choose from, but you can't get Starbucks coffee or Lipton tea, which are our favorites.  We hope that will change someday.  To deal with the space issue, we got the handy-dandy dispenser shown in the photo which makes the process even more fun.  Luckily we have enough kitchen counter space to accommodate this without any trouble.  As for the expense, I'm currently bargain-hunting.  We'll probably end up ordering them on-line, which is a bit of a hassle.

Finally, the K-cups don't allow for the art of brewing either coffee or tea. Adam has always enjoyed grinding the coffee beans to just the right consistency and using the perfect amount of coffee.  With this machine, you have no control over the strength of the beverage.  There is a way around this problem, too.  You can buy a filter which allows you to use your own coffee grounds.  It still doesn't make the coffee quite the same way as a regular brewer, but at least Adam is not limited to the brands available in K-cups.

Overall, we love this thing.  When I use it, I feel like Jean-Luc Picard, and that's priceless:

(link to video)


  1. Hi Amy,
    If you don't like long tea brewing time, try some green teas - anything longer than 60 seconds is overbrewed. If you want to turn yourself into a tea fanatic, try teas from Harney&Sons at www.harney.com. You can get samples of most of their tea for $2/ea. (They brew about three cups each). Don't ask me how much $ I spend on tea... and accessories, like the speedy water boiling contraption, and all the tea pots and filters...

  2. Hey Amy,

    I have the same model. I got it from my mom for Christmas last year. Though I've noticed the same drawbacks as you have, the convenience is unbelievable. I've gotten the best prices on k-cups at a wholesale club ($35 for 80 Paul Newman extra-bold--stronger flavor). Another option I use is an Amazon subscription which is $20 for 48 k-cups with free shipping and a monthly delivery I don't have to worry about. I use two regular strength brews as well for my morning mug. I really enjoy a cup of iced decaf in the afternoons when it's particularly hot.

    I had forgotten how much I liked picking my own coffee flavors occasionally (Aaron does not do flavored coffee ever) and being able to drink decaf in the evenings (which I never bothered doing if it meant having to make a whole pot).


  3. Kim, I remember you mentioning your machine. Which wholesale club do you use? Do you mean Costco or Sam's Club? I might try the amazon thing. We got a variety pack and some tea at good prices there, and we order stuff from amazon all the time so it would be pretty easy. I just don't want to pay for shipping for coffee! :)

  4. Good news about Amazon coffee subscription: free shipping when you subscribe +15% off. I use BJs (but only because going to my "local" Costco is like driving in downtown Manhatten during rush hour). Selection is very limited, but I like the Newman's extra-bold. I've calculated that Aaron and I go through more than 120 K-cups a month (at least 2 each, everyday) and then I get decaf delivered about once every three months.