Hey, Stranger, Watch My Laptop

We've all been there. You're sitting in your favorite coffee shop. You've got your laptop in front of you working, studying... or watching hilarious videos. And suddenly you have an urge (probably unrelated to that iced coffee hitting your guts. probably). What do you do? You could just pack up all your stuff and head to the restroom. You could chance it. And, by that I mean leave your belongings unattended (Seriously, don't chance the other thing). You could rely on the kindness of a stranger to watch your laptop. Yeah, none of those sound particularly appealing. What would be great is if they had a cubby/locker for temporary use. There on the back wall, right next to the shelf of cups and beans are 6 - 14"x14"x18" lockers. Clear plexi glass doors mean you (and cafe staff) can see what's inside. And right next to the disclaimer of loss liability is a scanner that reads the barcode from the registered loyalty app on your phone. Scan your phone, open the door, pop in your stuff and, ahem, go. The app then pops up a reminder every few minutes until you retrieve your stuff. When you get back scan your app again and the door opens automatically.

You're welcome, Starbucks... and it doesn't have to be free... I could go for some iced coffee.

Ice Ice Coffee

I’ve made a shift to cold-brewed coffee. The benefit of cold brewing that most interested me was the lower acidity. It seems the older I get the more sensitive I’ve become and coffee is particularly problematic source for me mostly because I drink A LOT of it.

You don’t need anything special to cold brew your own coffee. You’ve probably got a jar and some cheesecloth in your kitchen. And, that’s all you need other than some coffee beans. However, I picked up a couple of items to get started with for the sake of convenience. 

A burr grinder. It’s a manual grinder that produces ground coffee of uniform size. I already have an electric blade grinder, but the grounds usually end up too fine or too coarse (or a combination of both) because there’s no control other than how long you keep the blade running. And, it does generate a very small amount of heat. Coffee hipsters purists point out that this heating of the beans can release some of the flavor and generate static that causes the grinds to stick everywhere. For me it was really about the consistency of the grounds.

My second purchase was a “Cold Brew Iced Coffee Travel Bottle” that includes a filter for brewing the coffee and makes a handy way to take it to work. Overall, I’m pleased with the bottle. It’s the perfect size for making two large cups of iced coffee; one for the morning and another after lunch when I need the caffeine boost. I’ve been using it for about 2 weeks now and the only issue I’ve had is that the screen of the filter ends pretty much exactly at the plastic “collar” of the top. Because of this, through normal handling the screen bent inward a bit allowing any ground coffee above it to pour freely into the bottle. It’s not a big deal, I pushed the screen back out and handle it a bit more carefully now, and if it was a bit less full of grounds it wouldn’t have spilled anyway. However, if the screen were just a fraction taller it wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

The process is simple. (1) Grind some whole beans, (2) Put the ground coffee into the filter and screw on the cap, (3) Fill the bottle about 3/4 with cold water, (4) Place the filter onto the cap, lower the filter into the bottle and screw on the cap, (5) Put the bottle in the fridge, (6) Wait 8+ hours. Enjoy!

Ground coffee

The Bottle Filter

Ready for the Fridge

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.