Grounds for Divorce: If Pressed, We'd Say Kiss Your Plug-In Coffeemaker Goodbye

Photographer: Jan Kornstaedt

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Photographer: Jan Kornstaedt

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of espresso machines to choose from. There are three drip coffeemakers: a basic countertop machine, a French press and a Chemex. Or you could strain the grounds through a paper towel, but that's about as much variation as you'll get.

If you care about your coffee, then, but are brutish enough to drink it out of a mug rather than a thimble, what's your best bet?

"So there's things with plugs and things without plugs," says James Freeman, founder and CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee and co-author of "The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, With Recipes." Basically, he says, "things with plugs don’t make as good coffee. There's a level of precision and care and diligence that a person with a kettle can provide, which a machine just isn't able to."

Instead of a countertop machine, Freeman says, there are two major, better ways to brew drip coffee.

"The first is your French press," he says, "and there's the subcategory, the Aero press." The second is "to pour coffee that's suspended, usually through paper or other metals like gold filters," he says, citing Chemex makers and Kone coffee filters from Able Brewing as popular examples.

Which is better? Depends on how light you like your coffee.

"Generally, if you pour water through coffee, you're going to have a clearer, brighter, hopefully more sparkling result," Freeman says. "If you mingle coffee in a French press, it's going to be thicker. ... For me, the soupier methods, the Aero press or the French press, are fantastic. There are still a lot of coffee particles suspended in the water, so as it cools it's going to keep brewing. I like to taste how good it is as it goes from hot to cold."

The real question is why regular drip coffee machines, the ones with plugs, are ubiquitous. Freeman says it's not a question of taste. "The difference isn't subtle," he says. "It's the difference between something really delicious and something not that great." And it's not a matter of price -- the plugless alternatives are often much cheaper.

Instead, the disconnect appears to lie in the perceived difficulty of non-plug-in coffeemakers. "People choose convenience over pleasure all the time. You just sometimes have to jolt them out of that mindset," Freeman says.

Certainly he has no patience for a lack of patience.

"I used to hear, 'Oh, I don't have time for a pourover.' It's like, man, what else don’t you have time for?" he wants to know. "You don't have time to kiss your wife? Or pet your dog?"

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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