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The Aesthetics of Coffee

November 20, 2011

I grew with a grandmother who bought green coffee beans at the A&P, roasted them in an open frying pan on the stove and ground them in an old-fashioned hand-cranked coffee grinder. When she made coffee for herself, she boiled it in a saucepan and strained it through a cafetera. When her friends visited during the day, she pulled out the chrome percolator and served it in delicate cups and saucers with a matching sugar bowl and creamer. After Sunday dinner, she'd pull out the machinetta -- what we all call a moka pot these days -- and make wonderfully rich, dark and fragrant espresso. At her elbow, I learned not just a deep appreciation for coffee, but of the beautiful things used to make coffee. In fact, the biggest reason I never thought much of the Mr. Coffee coffee maker had a lot less to do with it making lousy coffee as it did with the fact that it was an ugly, squat little machine. I love beautiful machines -- and the Mr. Coffee was not beautiful.





To this day, when I look for coffee equipment, I choose as much by aesthetics as I do by name or price.  My first coffee purchase was an antique Turkish ibrik and a matching grinder. I had no intention of actually using them -- though I did eventually. I was simply enchanted by the long, graceful handle of the ibrik and the delicate, intricate engraving on the grinder. I paid $20 for it at a little antique shop up the street -- and this was at a time when my monthly rent was a princely $110. That was about the time I started scouring yard sales and flea markets for "old-fashioned" coffee equipment. In short order, I had added a Bialetti machinetta and a Chemex coffee brewer to my collection. 





Over the years, my collection of coffee paraphenalia has grown to include French presses and coffee grinders, tampers and demitasse sets. I especially adore glass and copper, sleek lines, natural wood and anything with a steampunk kind of feel to it.  Lately, I've fallen in love with Yama and Hario glass coffee makers. The Yama tabletop siphon coffee makers have that steampunk look that I adore, and the ritual of making coffee in a siphon especially appeals to my sense of the dramatic. The aesthetics please me --it's a delight to preside over the dessert table, making coffee in such a beautiful contraption. I'm torn between a Yama siphon pot and the deliciously sexy Yama Glass cold drip coffee maker -- I have the spot for it picked out for the finely crafted wood and glass drip coffee maker already. Chances are the cold drip coffee maker will win out, if only because I don't yet own a cold drip coffee contraption. 





How about you? What coffee equipment do you find beautiful? Which would you buy purely for the aesthetics? Does a Francis!Francis! espresso machine make you drool or do you love the gleaming solidity of a chromed Gaggia? Or do you not even think about appearance at all when choosing coffeee equipment? Inquiring minds want to know!






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