The 10 Best Coffee Makers
Keepin' It All Clean
At one point or another, we've all faced the same problem: our reliable coffee maker that sees us through the work day, everyday, suddenly doesn't produce the same taste as it did on day one. Sometimes, it can create sort of sour or metallic taste that creeps in uninvited. The maker can then start emitting a less than pleasant smell. First, a little less than fresh. Then the next day, downright funky. The worse case scenario, it starts to produce mold.
This doesn't mean the coffee maker has become defective: it's just letting us know it needs a little TLC. So, how exactly to you get your maker, and brew back on track? The quickest, cheapest solution is by using white vinegar. Not only is it safe and easy to work with, it's super affordable by the bulk, and it works to kill bacteria, shift the pH, and get rid of the mineral build-up. We like to refer to this as the superfecta.
Use equal parts vinegar and water — instead of coffee grinds — and run the solution through a regular brew cycle. After the brew is complete, follow the same produce using clean water, even filtered if readily available. Depending on the amount of cleaning needed, you may want to repeat the vinegar step before flushing it with plain ole water.
But let’s backtrack. If you really want to keep things legit, some daily cleaning is also in order. Use warm, soapy water in the carafe each day, and wipe down the machine's exterior for good measure. Maybe this is too much effort, after all, our lives are generally already full of other responsibilities. However, maintaining an investment is the responsible thing to do in the end.
French Drip And The French Balloon: A Parisian Coffee Story
If you guessed that coffee makers appeared sometime in the early 1900s, the story actually dates back a lot further than that, with a lot of thanks falling to women, no less.
Early on, folks tended toward infusing coffee. Which comes close to the way some make tea today. You'd put the coffee grounds in a bag -- typically made of linen. Then immerse the bag in the hottest water -- just below boiling point. After a few minutes, your brew was ready to drink. At this point, people mostly got excited about what they served the coffee in. Innovation around keeping the brew hot for prolonged periods of time followed.
The Archbishop of Paris -- of all people -- advocated against boiling coffee. As more and more folks came around to his view, the process known as French drip came along. You'd put hot water into a container and let it flow through a coffee-filled filter into a container below. Sometimes, though, by the time the water hit the second pot, it was akin to lukewarm. Once again, inventors put their energies toward trying to keep the brew warmer. This is how the insulated coffee dispenser was born.
But it was in the 1800s when folks got going with crafting a contraption to actually make the coffee. By this time, the vacuum concept was the subject of a lot of experimentation. In filtering percolators, "heat and vapor pressure forced water into the upper chamber of a metal drip pot."
A decade or so later, someone came up with the idea of putting the whole process on display. With the use of glass, guests and spectators could watch coffee being brewed. Of course, the glass in those days was nowhere near as what we use today. So sometimes it would shatter -- or even explode if left empty. One of the earliest patents of this vacuum pot belonged to a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Richard. It boasted one glass globe atop another and was decorated with a rather fetching metal crown. They called it the French balloon.
Inventors fell all over one another making improvements and additions to this 1838 patent. But just a decade later, Parisians had moved onto a maker that placed the two containers side-by-side. Water was forced from one side to the other, where the grounds were placed. Eventually, brewed coffee would be dispensed. A nifty spring mechanism put out the flame that kept the coffee warm at just the right moment. A bunch of incarnations followed the intro of this gadget. The English came up with a similar machine of their own in the 1840s.
Fast-forward about 50 years, and take a leap to the other side of the ocean. Where Americans revised a British machine that was basically a French balloon, called it new, and congratulated themselves on their innovation. In fact, even the Silex pot of 1915 strongly resembles the French balloon. The use of Pyrex glass made the machine much more durable. Alas, no more explosions.
There was really nothing new under the sun after that -- other than electrifying the whole process -- until Mr. Coffee came along in 1972. Plus ca change, right. Mr Coffee made a return to the French drip method, only this time the process was automated.
There are still enthusiasts who cleave to the infusion, French press and vacuum methods, ut the automatic version of the French drip predominates in the U.S.
Coffee Maker Features To Enhance The Brewing Experience
While some of us are content to stick with the coffee making basics, others might feel life is not complete without the most state-of-the-art bells and whistles. There are a few programmable innovations available to enhance your brewing experience, like the brew pause function.
Say you have holiday guests, but you want to sneak your first cup of coffee -- the better to deal with your mother-in-law, your rude aunt/uncle, etc. This handy feature lets you stop the brew process on a multiple-cup maker, and siphon off a cup or two for yourself. This keeps an entire batch from scorching before the rest of the crew even gets up.
Brew settings, allow you to choose the strength of coffee preferred. You might like coffee on the lighter side; your spouse might favor a dark, rich cup of Joe. The settings feature lets you select the brew that's just right for you. These settings might in addition to require a certain grind: i.e., medium as opposed to fine.
When it comes to coffee filters, charcoal varieties are the bread winners. These filters can eliminate as much as 70% or more of contaminants from water, which is not only healthier, but it helps produce a better tasting result.