Friday, January 2, 2009

Coffee - One Cup at a Time

When I'm on the road, I make frequent stops at Starbucks. Typically just for a cup of black coffee, though occasionally I treat myself to a hot Chai. Mostly just the coffee. And sometimes it's Caribou. For Christmas, I was fortunate to receive a gift card to both places. I like the coffee shop atmosphere, and I do like my

When I'm at home, I have been brewing a 4 cup carafe and sipping it all morning from my travel mug. And I'm much less discriminating about what I'm drinking. I collect packet coffee from my hotel stays. Sometimes it's gourmet...sometimes it's just plain awful. But at home, it's just so easy to grab a packet and not have to mess with coffee and filters. I often don't even care if I grab a regular or a decaf packet. I also have purchased coffee beans, so sometimes I grind and brew, but it is an extra effort that I don't always make.

I'm not grabbing hotel coffee packets these days. For Christmas I treated myself (with gift money) to a Keurig Elite One Cup Coffee System. These are the one-cup-at-a-time brewers that use the little K-cups. The coffee comes pre-packaged in small vacuum sealed plastic cups, which you simply pop into the provided slot on the machine. Close the lever, push a button to indicate what size cup you want (mine has 2 choices), and in a minute or less, you have a steaming hot cup of coffee. You simply keep the water reservoir filled with water, and it's good for about 6 or 7 cups. It really couldn't be easier, and it puts out a pretty good tasting cup of coffee.

The downside is that the little K-cups can be pretty expensive. Not compared to a trip to Starbucks, mind you, but pricey compared to scooping your own coffee into a coffee maker (or using free hotel coffee packets). There is quite a variety of coffee and tea available in K-cups, both by type and by brand. However, depending on where and in what quantity you purchase them, K-cups range in price from 40 to 50 cents each. That's too much for my at home morning cup of joe. Not to mention that it limits me to the choices available, when I would rather be able to use my favorite grind.

Fortunately, there are a couple of nice solutions to these problems. First, you can buy a little pseudo K-cup that can be filled with your own coffee. I haven't tried one, but I have heard that some of the "Keurig one-cup convenience" is lost on having to clean the used grinds out of this permanent K-cup replacement after each cup is brewed. The second solution solves that problem.

There are certain coffee makers that use little round "pods" of coffee Essentially a little round enclosed filter with coffee inside. Someone came up with a way to use these with the Keurig machines. You can purchase a "pod-holster", which looks like a little K-cup, and you can stuff a coffee pod into the holster, pop the holster into the K-cup slot on the Keurig machine, and in no time you're drinking your morning brew. This is only part of the solution, though, because just like K-cups, the little coffee pods can be expensive as well, and the variety is limited. Unless you make the pods yourself.

Enter the electric "pod-maker"! You purchase pod filters, and you put one in the pod maker, fill it with your favorite coffee, and flip the filter lid over the coffee. Close the lid of the pod-maker for 3-4 seconds, and voila! You now have a sealed tight coffee pod, filled with your own favorite coffee, ready to be stuffed into the holster. Into the Keurig it goes...and out comes your coffee. I know it sounds complicated, until you realize that you simply make a bunch of pods at a time and store them. I made 20 of them today in less than 15 minutes, and I was just learning. My speed will increase with experience. Now when I want a single cup of coffee, I grab a pod, stuff it into the holster (5 seconds), and I'm ready to go.

With the new Keurig sitting right on my desk, a piping hot cup of coffee is only 60 seconds away. I think I better make some decaf pods.