Have I mentioned that I love coffee? Maybe too much. Last summer, at Taos Toolbox, Nancy Kress noticed what may have been my sixth cup in a row and asked (with a note of concern) “how much coffee do you drink in a day?” (I admit, that gave me pause. When someone from Seattle thinks you may be drinking too much coffee…well.) But, I digress.
Everything about coffee is debatable. From its health risks to its health benefits, to the best place to buy it, the best way to grind it, there’s a camp for every opinion. Last summer, my Cuisinart auto-drip machine, which had served me for a faithful, trouble-free stretch of seven years, suddenly quit. It had outlasted two ‘desk size’ drip makers (you know, those itty-bitty ones you see in motels), and had gone with me to no less than six different addresses (graduate school was part of what I call ‘the vagabond years’). But, one bright morning it just wouldn’t turn on. I spent a couple of weeks debating what to do. I currently live in a place with extremely hard water. I had been going through the hard-water-buildup-cleanup about every three weeks with the auto-drip, to little avail. (Hard water deposits, even with routine cleaning, would end up in the filter basket. The glass pot wouldn’t come clean of its minerally coating.)
For half a month I researched coffee-making options and made cowboy coffee on my stovetop. The novelty wore off about two days in (it tasted all right, but there’s only so many grounds I want in my mug). I gave serious consideration to a French press, but was too cheap to also buy a teakettle. Out of both frustration and curiosity, I bought a percolator. I know, I know, purists will tell you percolators are not the way to go. But, purists probably aren’t making coffee with water out of my well. (For the record, I like my well water. It’s just hard on the plastic inner workings of auto-drip machines.) The percolator is a durable, cleanable option and takes up refreshingly little counter space. It does, however, require careful attention to how the beans are ground. I think, the next time I feel like throwing money straight in the air, I might invest in a French press (the percolator doubles as an electric kettle, so that’s a problem solved). But I wanted to give the percolator a vote of confidence. I do think the auto-drip is the easier way to make a predictably good cup of coffee, but the percolator is a good choice for hard water and (so far) is an easy-to-clean workhorse.