A New Single Cup Coffee Maker

Anyone who knows me knows that I drink a lot of coffee... a lot. I prefer good coffee, but I'm not a snob about it... I'll drink mediocre (or even bad) coffee if there's nothing else at hand.

Imagine then my surprise earlier this month when my (thus far) trusty Keurig wasn't working. For the past 3 years we've used a Keurig B60 at home and it has done quite a good job. However, on this particular morning it wouldn't power on. Oh no... don't freak out, don't freak out, don't freak out... I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Still nothing. I tried another AC outlet. Nada. Oh boy.  Fortunately, I also have a Keurig on my desk at work (did I mention I drink a lot of coffee?) so I went on about my day.

I got by for a couple weeks by using only the work Keurig, getting my evening fix from Starbucks. I searched the Net looking for a fix. I read forums. It seemed my plight was fairly typical of the model I had, in that after 2-3 years they just give up. It sounded possible to potentially fix with some effort and spart parts (neither of which I wanted to invest). Bummer. Though I was able to get by with the work-coffee alternative, the wife began making it increasingly clear that she was having none of this no-coffee-maker-house arrangement and was fomenting a revolt.

I turned my web searches from fixing a Keurig to finding a replacement. I read a lot of customer reviews along with a lot of review site write-ups from people who care a great deal more about coffee than I do. There wasn't a clear "winner" in what I read but it seemed I had narrowed it down to: (1) another Keurig B60, (2) a Keurig VUE, (3) a Bunn MCU. It seemed like the opportunity for a change so I ruled out a like-for-like replacement and considered the VUE. I liked that it had better temperature control than the standard Keurig. What I didn't like about it was the limited availability of the VUE Cups; they're not as ubiquitous as the K-Cups.

I decided on the Bunn MCU primarily because it seemed to be the best of all worlds. Not only does it make coffee from soft pods and grounds, it will also use the same K-Cups that I already buy and love. The final selling point was the brew temperature. I've never been fully satisfied with the Keurig on that matter and the Bunn MCU heats to 200F. Another feature like is the separate "drawers" used for each function (pods, grounds, Kcups, water). This means that when I quickly heat water for my oatmeal, it's not flowing through the same filter that was previously used for coffee.

There are a couple of minor negatives to point out. It's not quite as tall as the Keurig (which can also be a positive), so it will not easily accommodate tall cups, even with the drip tray removed.  Secondly, it has no external water reservoir. It holds and heats water for the next cup, but this means you must pour in the amount of water that you want into the top before each brew. Neither of these shortcomings were a big deal to me so I pounced.

I've now been using this beauty for about 3 weeks and I LOVE IT. From a feature standpoint, it's a huge win and surpasses the Keurig in almost every way. It's also slightly lower priced than the Keurig. My coffee is hotter and I've got more brewing options than before. I love the "Pulse" brew mode and the simplicity of operation (No on/off switch).

Pros:

  • Heats to 200F
  • Multi-Use (Pods, KCups, Grounds, Water)
  • Small Counter Footprint
  • Easy to Use
  • "Pulse" Brew Mode for better flavor extraction
  • Price

Cons: 

  • Won't accomodate tall cups
  • No external reservoir

I can't yet comment on the durability or longevity, but so far I'm quite pleased. Hopefully it will last for a long time to come.

Decaffeinated


I ticked a fairly minor accomplishment off the 101 in 1001 List last week; #93. Give up ALL soda for one week.  In fact, tomorrow makes two weeks with no soda at all, not even a diet.  It might not sound like much, but it's a start and I'm a pretty serious soda drinker so it hasn't been easy.  I'm determined to keep it up, though.

Free Beer

A few months ago the wife and I headed down to the city to take the FREE tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery.  And, in the process, scratch another "to do" off my 101 in 1001 list.  (#63 Tour the AB Brewery)

We had a great time.  I think Gina enjoyed it even more than I did.  We were both amazed by the scale and speed of the operation.  Though, I think the stop at the Clydesdale barn was her favorite part.  She especially loved seeing the Dalmatians.  One of them was active and walking all around the place while the other was just sleeping on the floor while 60 strangers bustled in, talking loudly and taking pictures.  That was one laid back dog.

After the tour we stopped off for our free refreshments.  For me, it was hard to pass up free Stella on tap so that was a pretty easy choice.  Initially Gina said she'd just have soda but I "encouraged" her to not turn down free beer and she went with the Pumpkin seasonal... which I ended up drinking as well.

We had a great time and decided we'd come back again for the "Beer School" tour to learn more about food pairings with the AB beers.  Our first attempt was denied because we arrived too late and the tour was already full.  So, it's still on our list of things to do.

I can't believe I lived in St. Louis for 8 years before making it down there for the tour.  If you're in the area you should definitely check it out.  A word of caution, though, while the tour itself may be free it ends at the Gift Shop (as do all good tours).  The shop is full of AB schwag (hats, t-shirts, keychains, etc.) and, of course, beer.  You can build your own mix-&-match 6 packs of some of the AB "boutique" brands.  Be prepared to spend a few dollars after the free tour.

The Absinthe Ritual


Ever since moving into our house a little over a year ago, I've been in the process of stocking the bar.  I feel like I've pretty much got the staples covered; Bourbon, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Scotch and enough mixers to satisfy the froo-froo drinkers.

Recently I decided I needed a bottle of absinthe to add to the supply.  If you're not familiar, absinthe is a distilled, anise-flavored spirit.  Absinthe was once believed to cause madness and for that reason was banned in the United States in 1912.  Fast-forward to 2007 when absinthe was once again allowed to be distilled and distributed in the United States.  I figured it was about time for me to give it a try.

It's not something that's available at every liquor store... I checked a few.  But, I finally found it at one of our larger upscale grocery stores with a fairly impressive alcohol selection.  They had only one brand, Lucid, so that would have to be my first experiment.  The 750ml bottle of Lucid sold for $64.99.  Definitely a bit on the pricey side, but not outrageous.

After acquiring the absinthe itself, I learned that I needed a proper glass and spoon for the "ritual" of preparing the drink.  That part was a little bit trickier.  Finally after posting a few queries to Twitter, I received a response.  Someone suggested Randall's on Jefferson.  After a quick visit to the city, I acquired a couple of absinthe grilles, they didn't have spoons or glasses, but they did have a few different varieties of absinthe for my next adventures.

I found some suitable glasses (at least to me) at a place close to home from where I usually find all my bar glassware.

At last, properly equipped, it was time to sample the green fairy.  First I opened the bottle of Lucid and gave it the "sniff test".  Fantastic.  It's a complex mix of herbal smells, but the anise is particularly noticeable.  I poured a "dose" of absinthe into the glass (about 1.5 ounces).  It's a lovely light green color, different from some of the others I've seen that are almost luminescent in their green-intensity.

A cube of sugar is added to the grille that has been balanced atop the glass.  Using a sports bottle (classy, I know) I dripped the ice-cold water across the sugar cube and into the glass.  As the water drips into the absinthe, the components of the spirit that are not soluble in water cause a clouding of the drink called the "louche".  This results in an opaque white colored liquid.  From the various sources I've read, the ratio of water to absinthe is anywhere from 3:1 to 8:1.  I opted for a conservative 3:1 mix and will experiment more in the future to see how the taste changes.

And finally, the most important part... the taste.  The flavor was far more subtle than I anticipated given the strong aromas from the absinthe.  The taste was like a mild black licorice with some floral aromas.  Personally, I'm a fan of black licorice and black jelly beans, so I found it enjoyable.  The wife?  Not so much.  She sampled the drink and was definitely not a fan.  I'll convince her to try some other brands and ratios in the future to see if there's anything she might like, but it's possible that it's just not something she'll like.

If you want to know more about absinthe, wikipedia is a good place to start for some general background.  Also be sure to checkout my newest photo gallery for larger images of the photos in this post as well as some more.

If you have any recommendations for me to try next, please leave a comment.