Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For the Love of Coffee... and Tea, and Hot Cocoa, and....

Okay, this really has nothing at all to do with cancer, beyond the tenuous at best connection that it means less cleaning at a time when ANY cleaning is almost more than I can handle. Then again, less cleaning would be a major plus for me even if I wasn't getting chemo. :) Have I mentioned how much I HATE to clean?

Anyway, like everyone else in the civilized world, hubby and I drink coffee. Sometimes I go for days without it, and so does he, but then I might go for days where I will want a cup or maybe two. I'm not an addict like some I've known (read pretty much everyone else in my family, LOL). I sent my sister a Birthday card once with this cartoon woman on the front who is sitting at her kitchen table with a gun in her hand while her coffee maker runs in the background. She's just shot the telephone and it said something about not bothering her until she'd had her coffee. My sister Connie often commented that she did not function until she'd had her coffee. My other sister, Debi, is the same, I think. And my mother used to give ME coffee (cream and sugar, please) with an ice cube in it when I was a kid. To be fair, I'm pretty sure I nagged her until she gave in, but the point is, everyone in my family has always been a coffee drinker.

Okay, back to what I was saying. Being Southern, I love my tea just as much, or probably more, than my coffee. And like my coffee, I like my tea sweet. So, I own a coffee maker I really like and an iced tea brewer, too, though I realize I could just use the coffee maker for both. Hubby's addicted to kitchen gadgets, though - which undoubtedly played a major role in our most recent purchase. So, several years ago we started seeing those single cup coffee makers. Mark used one several years ago when he was in Europe and liked it. But for the longest time, there wasn't really much out there in the way of selection, either for the coffee makers themselves or for the coffees they brewed. Plus, I'm not a fan of owning a gadget that requires me to make some kind of special trip to a special store just to buy the things I need to use it. In the past couple of years, though, we've noticed that the different kinds of single cup coffee makers was multiplying. Last  year sometime we talked about buying one, but chickened out due to the fact that we just weren't sure we'd like it.

The oldest brand is the Keurig. It's been around for years and they make several versions of their machines. Mostly the difference between each of them is minimal, usually limited to the amount of water the reservoir holds and how many pretty lights it has on the front. It uses these little cups - called Kcups - to brew a single cup of coffee each time.

Then came something called the Senseo. I never really liked it. It used a little coffee pouch thing. Anyway, it was never really in the running with the others.

The most recent entry into the single brew market is something called the Tassimo. Like the Keurig, it uses a small cup, though the two are not interchangeable due to differences in design. It was the Tassimo Mark and I considered buying last year. It was on sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (one of our favorite stores just because we both love the kitchen gadget section). We talked about it, but decided to wait and do some research.

I looked it up on the internet and frankly, neither it, nor the Keurig got particularly good reviews. Keurig is a German company, so you'd expect them to make high quality stuff, but it seems like many of their machines fail much too quickly. At least, that was a real problem a year or so ago. So Mark and I stuck with our regular old coffee maker.

I should mention that part of the reason I don't drink coffee more often is that I hate cleaning the stupid coffeemaker. I cannot abide simply rinsing out the pot and reusing it, even if I dump out any leftover coffee quickly. So it meant using soap and water every time, plus cleaning the reusable filter (because I'm too cheap to buy the disposable ones.) Maybe this is a small thing, but it always annoyed me to no end. Especially because I frequently crave coffee at night. It makes no sense, I know, but I can't seem to help it. So if I wanted to satisfy my coffee cravings, I'd be making one half pot in the morning and another at night. I never finished off the coffee I made, so most of it went to waste. This is just annoying to me!

So, to make an already long story shorter, a couple of weeks ago Mark and I were at Costco. They had one of the Keurigs on sale and it came with a large assortment of various Kcups. These Kcups have come a very long way from the beginning when all you got was regular old coffee. These days you can get pretty much every flavored coffee you can imagine, if you're into that, which I'm not. You can get mild, medium, and BOLD (even extra bold!) coffees. You can also get teas. Herbal teas, green teas, but best of all, iced teas! They have regular sweetened or unsweetened iced tea, plus a decent assortment of flavored iced teas. And this was another factor in our making a purchase. Mark recently tried a drink called an "Arnold Palmer" at Bob Evan's and really liked it. It's a mixture of half tea, half lemonade. Well what do you know, but there's a Kcup for that, too!

So, like the good, careful shoppers we are, we did not buy the Keurig then and there. We had a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond (again) and headed over there. That's were we ran into a little issue. It seems that Keurig is no longer the only company manufacturing Kcup coffee brewers. Who knew? There were 2 other brands there as well. I forget, at the moment, what the first one was called, but the second one was a Cusinart. Now Mark and I like Cusinart. We own other Cusinart stuff and we trust that name. Plus, this Cusinart machine had some cool features we both liked. First, its water reservoir was bigger than anyone else's. Second, it has this "hot water" feature that makes it deliver near boiling water on demand. I love hot chocolate about as much as coffee and drink them interchangeably in the winter, and already have a bunch of those nifty little packets so the hot water feature seemed like it would be useful. There are hot cocoa Kcups, but why buy those when I already have a stash of the packets? Anyway, the Cusinart also had one of the largest selections of cup sizes as well. And for the money, it was no more expensive than the others. Cheaper, in fact, than the one I can't remember the name of.

Okay, so we both liked the Cusinart, but Mark and I often have commitment issues when it comes to buying something new. So we decided to wait, again, until we could go home and do a little research. This was the point that things got utterly absurd. That evening I looked all 3 of the brewers we were interested in up online. I love hitting consumer review sites before I buy stuff. It makes me feel more comfortable if the vast majority of people who own what I'm thinking of buying are happy with their purchase. So, I started reading reviews of the different machines and it was just plain hilarious what some people said.

I can't remember off hand why we chose not to go with the Keurig. I think I felt that too many people were still complaining that the machines just didn't hold up. Whatever the cause, I moved on to the second machine, the one I can't remember the name of. It had this entire series of reviews based on an issue some people seemed to have with the light on the front button. I wish I could remember what it was called so I could go find and repost some of the reviews I read. My brain is not that functional at the moment, though. Suffice it to say that more than a few people felt the light was WAY TOO BRIGHT! I don't mean they complained that it was like a nightlight or something. I mean they described it as BLINDING! One person actually suggested that they feared it might do damage to their child's eyes because it was directly on a child's eye level. I know this isn't nearly as funny now as it was that night, but you just have to understand... here I was, reading these reviews and I see a couple of mentions of this light being too bright. Then a couple more people brought it up, and with each subsequent review the descriptions became more and more emphatic. By the time I'd read several of them out loud to Mark we were both laughing so hard we couldn't stop. Maybe it was the fact that in between the reviews complaining of the blinding beacon of light emitted by the button were other reviews where people said stuff like, "I don't know what everyone's talking about with the light. Mine is fine."

It was just one of those moments when life became ridiculous. There were other issues with it that made it a less than ideal choice, price being one. I just didn't like it as well as the Cusinart. So that's the one we settled on. No blinding beacon for a button, but a cool machine that does exactly what it's supposed to do and is turning out to be way more convenient and useful that I ever dreamed it would be.

Mark and I went back down the Bed, Bath, and Beyond a few days later to get it. I'd hunted up my 20 percent off coupon just for it. The coupon that was expiring in another day. Talk about timing, LOL. Anyway, we also bought an assortment of Kcups, since we had no idea what we'd like, as well as a box of the plain, unsweetened tea for me (I was afraid to try the sweet tea for fear it would be too sweet) and a box of the half lemonade, half tea for Mark. We got home, opened it up and ran it through a quick setup process, then I made my first coffee. I chose a French Roast because that's the regular kind of coffee I buy. By the way, I should mention that I can use regular coffee in it. It comes with this tiny little insert and a permanent filter that lets you use your own ground coffee, if you want to. So, I had the French Roast and Mark had some kind of Vanilla flavored coffee.

I wasn't overly impressed with the French Roast because I thought it was too weak. I should mention here that no one I know - other than Mark - likes my coffee. My mom never actually got around to teaching me how to make coffee, so when I decided to try it a few years back, I just read the directions that came with the machine and measured the coffee according to the chart it included. Mark took one drink and said I needed more coffee in my coffee. Of course, by the time Mark was offering his opinion on how my coffee tasted, he'd been conditioned to actually like the swill served at work which was rarely, if ever, fresh. So I added more coffee to my filter and now I drink it strong enough to strip paint. My precious friend Carolyn will drink it, but only because she loves me and doesn't want to hurt my feelings. God bless her. Mary doesn't even pretend to like it. If she knows I've made the coffee she will pour herself half a cup and then go fill it up the rest of the way with water. No kidding! I don't care, though. I never claimed to be a barista. LOL

Back to the new toy... the next thing we used it for was to make our teas. And this is pretty much the moment I knew it was going to be a great purchase. It's just so incredibly simple. Fill a glass with tea, stick it under the little spout and push a button. It brews the tea right over the ice, which cools it down and adds just the right amount of extra water needed. I add sugar - or actually Splenda - to mine and Mark takes his straight out of the machine. With this thing the tea and/or coffee is always fresh because it brews on demand. It takes a few seconds to brew and a few more seconds to fill its internal tank and heat the water for the next cup. If you leave it on, hot water is always ready. If you turn it off, it takes 3 minutes (or less, I think) for it to heat the water for you. My other coffeemaker took longer than that to brew half a pot.

I have tried the hot cocoa that came with our assortment, but I don't really like it. It's too weak for me, even if I brew a smaller cup size. Our assortment included several versions of bold coffees and these are my favorites, though I did try a different kind of French Roast this morning that was surprisingly good.  The only drawback I've found is that all the Kcups we want are not readily available at local stores. While I was doing research on the coffeemakers, though, I read that it's actually significantly cheaper to buy them online. So I did a little checking and sure enough, there's a place that sells them in larger boxes at the same price we paid in the store. Best of all, they ship for free! Gotta love that. It didn't take Mark long to go through his box of tea. He ran out 3 days ago, right about the time I ordered more from our new coffee/tea supplier. Yesterday he resorted to making my tea and drinking it. He asks me every day when our tea is coming. He's be beside himself when I tell him I got the shipment notification today. It'll be here tomorrow! He loves the stuff so much I got him 3 boxes of it.

I have also tried brewing iced tea using regular tea bags. It did work, though like using your own coffee, you have to clean the little filter before storing it or reusing it. I will probably wind up going that route eventually because I know it would be cheaper in the long run. Still, I am just amazed by how cool this thing is. And no, the lights are not overly bright. There's a nice, soothing blue backlight to the control panel and another blue light that shines up inside the water reservoir so you can see the water level at all times. This light also blinks if your water level gets low, letting you know you need to add more.

Ultimately it's a totally frivolous purchase, but one I can at least say we use multiple times a day. In fact, all this talk about it has given me a hankering for some hot chocolate. I'm thinking I better get it now, before another hot flash hits. Man, are those things brutal! Anyway, I haven't actually used it to make hot chocolate from one of the pouches, yet. I keep telling myself that I need to use up the Kcups we have first, or I'll just let them sit around forever. There are a few I don't know what we're going to do with, though. Namely, a couple of English Breakfast Teas. What in the world do I do with those? LOL

I suppose I've touted the virtues of our new toy long enough. This is a mostly pointless post, but I was sitting here, wide awake after my couple of days of sleeping due to Neulasta aches, and I was thinking I might as well write something. My brain is still too foggy to write anything of a serious nature. Anyway, If anyone out there is thinking of getting one of these things, I'd say go for it. Mark and I both love it.

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