A word of advice for newbies doing coffee appliance research.. well you might admit to being one if someone could explain to you why you should care what coffee maker you buy; they all look the same, only this one matches my microwave. -- Dave A.
Holy Electric Espresso, Batman!
So you’re shopping ... and researching.
You're checking out epinions and coffee sites, slurping back the cold leftovers from the joe that you made before you were sidetracked by Barbie’s home coffee bistro (replete with mini Iced-Cap cup and straw).
... looking for what espresso machine your neighbours are buying and what they think about them. Hell, Canadian Tire is pushing these things! Maybe it’s time that you get one. Perhaps you are looking for a grinder; a little stocking stuffer for your over-caffeinated better half.
While scanning through the field of competitors, some recognized and some not, ask yourself this: did they ever manage to design a working toaster? If your toaster actually still works, spare a moment for this second thought: this company makes *toasters!*
What’s so different about coffee? It’s not like there have been incredible advances in coffee engineering, right? Actually, there have, but that’s not my point. You already know that it’s not quite that simple, which is why you’re reading reviews in the first place. Here’s where I finally get around the bush.
Consumer reviews (such as the kind found on 'lowest price' and product review sites), while useful in seeing what’s at the local store and in sifting out similar models, can vary dramatically in their perspective and accuracy.
Please keep in mind that the product awareness, expectations, and intended uses for the product will vary with each customer that chooses to write a review. When someone says "this sucks and is completely useless," or even "this is the best product since sliced bagels; I've never had such good coffee," you have to read between the lines to gauge what their expectations were from the product and whether or not these are the same as your own.
Additionally, coffee equipment like many things is marketed within several venues. Just because you only see X,Y,Z on a website or in your neighbourhood department store does not mean that this is the lock, stock, and barrel of coffee paraphernalia. They all look the same, yes, and that’s because a lot of them do perform about as well as the other (that is to say, not very well..).
Even brands that you may only have heard of in relation to coffee (Krups, for example) aren’t actually the gold standard in coffee brewing that you might think they are from everyday life. There is a Secret Underground of coffee manufacturers for those who wish to tread daintily and slurp from itty-bitty cups. There is a lot to be learned from this site and others; I urge you to break more ground in your search.
I’m not plugging anything or even trying to tell you not to buy that new Hamilton Beach custom coffee station. Rather, I’m just repeating that age-old maxim: Buyer Beware.
There is a lot of good information out there and a little research will help you sift the bean from the chaff, to know what is gimmick and what is credible. So maybe you stay up too late and your wife looks at you funny; that’s ok! At least when you buy that new pod coffee brewer at Zellers or Target, you’ll know what you’re buying.
Now, when you’re done pondering that toaster, here’s another one: if they think that can of beef soup is good ‘til 2006, how much do you think they worry about your coffee beans?
[Dave would be known as the coffee nazi of Ottawa, but believe it or not he actually owns and - once upon a time - used a –gasp!- Krups ‘espresso’ maker of the steamboat variety. It doesn’t even have a brew switch! He bought it years ago when he absolutely refused to spend USD$30-50 on another lousy drip machine. Thankfully he only spent about $20, so he isn’t too upset, and he has fun eeking every little thing he can out of it. A decent grinder and fresh coffee are a must, even for imitation espresso machines. And, yes, he has a love affair with semi-colons.]