Brew and Go

I get a new coffee maker…again.

It’s disposable products all over again.

Brew and GoI’ve been using a Black and Decker coffee maker called “Brew and Go” (formerly, “Cup at a Time”) for about fifteen years now. I like fresh-brewed coffee every morning, but Mike doesn’t. It’s silly to make a whole pot — even if I do want a second cup, I won’t take it from a pot that’s been sitting on a burner for 30 minutes. So I make a single fresh cup every time I want one.

(And in case you’re wondering, I usually don’t drink brewed coffee in restaurants. Burner sludgification is one reason. The other is that most restaurants out here don’t know how to put enough coffee in the brew basket to make a strong enough cup. I think it’s because it’s pre-measured and it comes in bags. This is the same reason I’m avoiding those “pod” coffee makers. You can get decent restaurant coffee in New York and on the west coast, but in the midwest, southwest, southeast, and elsewhere, the only way I can get a cup of coffee that’s strong enough for me is to order a latte at a coffee shop.)

The other day, I bought my fourth or fifth one of these coffee makers. They work fine for about two years, then they start getting unreliable. The usual symptom is that they stop brewing before all the water in the reservoir has been heated and pumped up to the grinds. You wind up with a 2/3 full cup of coffee with leftover water. It isn’t a big deal to push the button again — usually that’s enough to get the rest heated and brewed. But experience has taught me that this is only the first of the pot’s symptoms. The next step is that button getting broken. And when that happens, the coffee maker won’t work at all.

So I consider the funky button a warning sign. I’ll need a replacement soon. So I went online and found a replacement for a good price on (Note to my critics: Sadly, you can’t buy anything like this in Wickenburg, so shopping locally was once again out of the question.)

Oddly enough, they showed two models and the only difference I could see between them was the size of the machine. Since both were under $20 with only a $4 price difference and I figured that I could use one in my hangar, too, I bought them both. I was curious to see how they differed.

They arrived yesterday. Their boxes are identical with two exceptions:

  • One box says “Deluxe” (that’s the $17.99 model) and the other doesn’t (the $12.99 model).
  • One box illustrates and identifies a stainless steel travel mug (the $17.99 model) and the other one illustrates and identifies a plastic travel mug.

I opened the deluxe model and got a good whiff of the plastic aroma that accompanies many new appliances made primarily of plastic. I pulled out all the packing material, plugged it in, and brewed through some plain water. Then I decided to read the instructions for some tip to get the smell out. The instruction book only had four pages in English — not much to instruct.

Of course, the unit is made in China. I’m not sure if the original “Cup at a Time” was made in China. It was a long time ago. It was probably Taiwan back then.

I brewed up a cup of coffee using the built-in filter basket. I usually don’t use that thing because grinds get through it into the coffee. I like my coffee very strong and usually grind the beans to the first “Fine” setting on the machine at the supermarket. The “gold” filters that come with many coffee makers simply aren’t fine enough to prevent the grinds from going through. But I figured I’d try it a few times. If I could make a good cup of coffee with the reusable filter, I’d save a few bucks on paper filters — not to mention the time it takes to cut the #2 cone filters down to size. I’ll experiment over the next few days and maybe even get some coffee ground a litte coarser.

The first cup of coffee tasted a bit like the plastic I smelled. Or at least I assume so — I don’t make a habit out of tasting plastic. There’s a puddle of finely ground coffee at the very bottom of my cup, like mud on the bottom of a pond. The first problem will be remedied with time, the second will probably require a grind or filter change.

But the coffee maker performed flawlessly, using up all its water and making a nice, hot cup of coffee.

The old coffee maker is now sitting in the trash like the three or four that came before it. As we all know, it’s usually more expensive to get these things fixed than to buy a new one. That’s how the disposable economy came into being.

A little side story here. Our original DVD player only lasted about 5 years. We tried to get it fixed and everyone we brought it to quoted us a price to look at it that was more than the thing was worth. Then we tried to give it away to a school or electronics repair training facility so the students could use it to learn about the machine and/or how to fix it. No one would take it. Mind you, this isn’t a machine that had been abused. All of its parts pretty much still worked. It just didn’t play DVDs anymore. The only option was to throw it out.

I recently sold two very old Macs (an 8500 and a beige G3) on eBay. I got 99¢ for one and $9.99 for the other. Plus shipping, of course. Although I’d spent a total of more than $5,000 for the machines years ago, I was willing to take the money. Not because I needed the $10.98 but because I didn’t want to take the two machines — which were still perfectly functioning — to the landfill.

I guess their new owner will do that one day.

It’s time for another cup of coffee.

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