23 January 2008

Not Your Average Joe

I was devastated when I read the NY Times headline At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee; I thought I'd pounced too soon with my Nespresso machine. The premium coffee machine being discussed does, indeed, as the journalist says, look like something out of a Jules Verne novel, or at the very least, like my year nine chemistry class. It turns out, though, that this wallet buster doesn't even do espresso! A $20,000 filter coffee? Erm, why?

Well, it's not technically filter coffee but "siphon coffee" which, according to the owner of a new, SF café in which this beast is housed, is "very delicate. [...] It’s sweeter and juicier, and the flavors change as the temperature changes. Sometimes it has a texture so light it’s almost moussey.”

The writer then goes on to explain how this magic, moussey coffee is produced, although the physics is somewhat lost on me ("[It] works something like an inverted French press: coffee grounds go into a brew chamber, hot water shoots in and a powerful piston slowly lifts and plunges a filter, forcing the coffee out through a nozzle in the front. The final step, when a cake of spent grounds rises majestically to the top, is so titillating to coffee fanatics that one of them posted a clip of it on YouTube.")

I remain unconvinced. I like coffee far more than most and yet I am sure that I am not really a conoisseuse. There is simply good coffee and bad coffee and given that I prefer my caffeine hits to be more intense in flavour, I'm not sure whether I'd even be able to tell the difference between super siphon coffee and your average joe. Of course, the café owner grinds out every superlative in the book to try to justify his purchase ("kaleidoscopic," "a whirlpool" with "delicate, pretty, sexy flavors") but I remain unconvinced. I like red wine but I wouldn't pay $20,000 for a supposedly really good wine because although I may well like it more than a mid-priced bottle, I am sure I wouldn't like it 1,000 times more.

Obviously, it's a moot point as I don't have $20k lying around behind the back of my sofa but it just goes to show that I am not as dedicated to coffee as I previously thought. Error.

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