Better Living Through Networking

One Great Cup of Coffee

It’s great living in an area that’s considered the coffee capital of the world. A place where varieties and blends of coffees are seemingly endless, and where gourmet brews are being poured constantly on nearly every corner.

One might think I’m talking about the mountains of Guatemala or the foothills of Mt. Kenya. But that isn’t the case.

I’m talking about Seattle.

And although the rank and file here don’t grow coffee, they somehow seem to have convinced the rest of the world they’re at least experts on the subject. Certainly, everyone here seems to have an opinion on what makes a truly great cup of coffee. And it probably doesn’t hurt to have Starbucks and Seattle’s Best headquartered here. Tully’s also got its start in this area.

But I have a confession to make: Although I have lived in the shadow of Seattle all my life, I have always disliked the taste of coffee. It just seems bitter to me. And acidic enough to clean the radiator on my farm tractor. Besides, I can’t have caffeine.

When I was a teenager just coming-of-age (in the coffee sense), “coffee” meant “Folger’s”. Or maybe Maxwell House. Then came that technological breakthrough: Instant coffee, which allowed us all to make a bad cup of coffee faster.

I just wish coffee could taste as good as it smells.

So my coffee consumption eventually became limited to those times when I was in need of a case of heartburn, which were fairly infrequent. Based on my lifetime of experiences I had come to two conclusions:

1. The only time I would drink coffee was when I was dying of thirst, or when I needed to wash down some food and nothing else was available.

2. There is no cup of coffee so bad that it can’t be made at least drinkable with the addition of enough half-and-half.

Since 1970 Carol and I have owned approximately a dozen coffeemakers, ranging from hand-me-down coffee pots to carafes with filters on top, to single-cup presses, to two-cup electric brewers that came as a gift with a subscription. The one thing they had in common was they were all free. But last year Carol started campaigning for a really nice coffeemaker for her birthday.

So I wasn’t surprised when she dragged me down to Costco and pointed at a designer coffee maker sitting face-high on an industrial shelving rack. What took my breath away was the price.

“A hundred and forty bucks – for a coffeemaker?” I whined. “How many cups does it make – 40? 50?”

“One cup at a time,” she replied. “It uses these cute little coffee containers, called K-cups, that each make one cup of coffee.”

The shock eventually wore off and I finally caved. After all, it was her birthday, and she really does love a good cup of coffee. And it turned out to be a great decision, because the combination of individually sealed containers of ground coffee – each with its own built-in filter – and brewing a single cup at a time turns out some really good coffee.

Coffee that doesn’t require a whole lot of half-and-half. In fact, I’m finding myself drinking at least two cups a day.

So if you’ve been looking for a better cup of java, or even if you’re a coffee “unfanatic” like me, I suggest you take a look at the Keurig line of coffeemakers. We ended up with the Model B77 (shown above), which is the one Costco is still stocking as I write this. It can brew 3 different cup sizes, has a timer that turns itself on and off, and a fairly large water reservoir. You can find Keurigs all over the web, but the best deal we found was at Costco (because it includes 72 assorted variety K-cups and the little dealybop that lets you use your own coffee).

(Yes, you can even brew Folger’s or Maxwell House in this thing. But that would seem a bit like putting chainsaw fuel in a Ferrari.)

The K-cups cost about 55 cents apiece when purchased from retail outlets like Target, Kohl’s and WalMart. If you’re willing to accept the one or two varieties Costco stocks, you can get the price down below 40 cents. A little searching turned up a great place in Texas called Coffee Giant. They were very responsive, I got my order quickly, and it was pretty easy to get K-cups down to under 45 cents, with free shipping. Lots of brands and varieties, too. I’ve found I really like Gloria Jean’s Decaf and Emeril’s Dark Bold Decaf.

What’s that, you say? I’m beginning to sound a bit like a coffee snob?

Well after all, I live near Seattle. And here we brew the best coffees in the world.

One cup at a time.


Update: We’ve learned some things about the Keurig over the last couple of years. The first is that you must run the descaling process often – especially if you’re taking your water from a well that has high mineral content. Our first Keurig died after 18 months of use because we never saw the descaling notice come up on the display, and the company didn’t make a big deal about the need for it in the materials that came in the box.  Our second unit lasted about 14 months, having contracted an electrical version of Alzheimer’s.  It began to have “good days” and “bad days”, sometimes forgetting the current time, or the auto turn-on/off times, or even how to make a cup of coffee.  My best guess is that it took a hit from a power surge sometime last winter.

Recommendation #1: Do we still love our machine? You bet (we’re getting ready to buy #3).  But I also have a recommendation for you, if you’re thinking about buying one.  The standard Keurig warranty is 12 months, and both of our units have died just a few months outside of the warranty period.  My recommendation: Buy your Keurig with an American Express card with the feature that automatically doubles the warranty period on electronic items. With both of our failed units, we merely had to place a call to AE customer service; the total amount of the purchase was refunded to our account the next day.

Recommendation #2: When you open your Keurig box, take the gray plastic dealybop that allows you to make your own coffee and store it in a drawer.  It works, but there is a much better solution: A plastic cup made by SoloFill. It’s the same size as a K-cup, so you don’t have to fiddle with popping the plastic holder in and out of the Keurig.  It’s easier to clean, and it seems to make a more reliable cup of coffee than the original. The cost is around $15, and it’s available at many places on the web.

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5 Responses to One Great Cup of Coffee

  1. And not only does the Seattle area have great coffee, but it also has wonderful Italian cream sodas, the alternative to those of us who don’t drink coffee. We learned to drink them and then to make them while living in the Puget Sound area. We’ve never seen them anywhere else, unless we break out our seltzer bottle and flavors.

  2. I guess that puts my 22 cent microwave Kroger coffee single to shame. But then Texas is not known for its coffee. After a cup or two I switch to tea. Bigelow French Vanilla or Caramel Vanilla (Ohio didn’t have French Vanilla) and then Bigelow Earl Grey, hot (like Picard). Later I go for no-caffeine flavors like raspberry, peach, etc.

  3. I bought a Tassimo single cup coffee maker when I realized how much I was spending each month at Starbucks. I love my little Tassimo!

  4. Thank you for sharing, Don. This is a great write up. I never heard of Coffee Giant before. I will most likely start using them. Green Mountain did a wonderful job taking household consumption of coffee to a new level. Green Mountain as you may already know owns Keurig. They sell the machines at cost. And had a patent on the k-cup, which either recently expired or will expire soon. Once everyone had the Keurig machine in their house money from the k-cups starts rolling in…Great business model.
    Starbucks and Dunkin Dounuts could have been like Nestle and created their own version of the Keurig (once patent expired). Instead of reinventing the wheel they pay a fee to Green Mountain and sell their own coffee using the k-cup design. Not sure of the long term prospects for Starbucks or DD using their own machines.

    I love my coffee and Keurig even more.

    Great blog by the way. I am interested in learning more about your intentions for it. Check out my website from this form and contact me. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for you comment, Tim. Lots of good info there, and I wasn’t aware that Green Mountain owns Keurig, but it’s a great business model.

    As for the intentions, this blog is just a place for me to vent, inform and inspire, based on personal experiences. Hope you enjoy it.