At the moment, a two-burner Bunn Pour-Omatic chugs out coffee in my kitchen. It's a quirky old thing with a wood-paneled body that calls to mind a disco-era station wagon. It also has a personality all its own, the kind of coffee maker that needs to be coddled and coaxed into brewing. First, when you plug it in, it's usually a little cranky at having to get up and work, so it shoots off a few sparks from the socket. A few pats on the head and some soothing words usually lull it into a more submissive mood, though. It becomes at least calm enough to be switched on and heated up for about 15 minutes. At this point, it likes to have a few potfulls of water run through before it fully awakens, refreshed, warm and ready to brew. A big, flat-bottomed coffee filter then disappears into its seemingly bottomless basket, filled with 10 tablespoons of a favorite blend. A pot of already-warmed water redumped into the machine runs through quickly, and voila! Out comes some of the best strong coffee this side of a 1960's diner.
Anyway, my kitchen-table friend (he's too unwieldy to sit upon a mere countertop) isn't exactly the brewing device for people who lack the time or inclination to pamper their housewares. I submit that most people don't want to have to put so much effort into a cup of coffee. After all, if you've already spent time picking out beans, storing them properly and even grinding them at home, by the time you're ready to brew, you probably just want to drink the stuff. You probably don't want to have to sweet-talk your coffee maker just to have a cup of joe and get on with your day.
Actually, due to the fact that the ill-tempered brute has caused three fuses to blow recently at the moment of plug-in, I've decided to forego my lovely retro wonder and succumb to the world of easy-going coffee makers.
But this doesn't mean relegating to a sterile drip coffee maker with programmable brew timing and the personality of a wet noodle. You can effectively eliminate standard-fare brewers and still concoct a cup of coffee with a little style, flair and panache without too much trouble.
One of the best ways I've found to do so is a French press. These pots are made from many materials in myriad shapes, sizes and colors. My favorite is a simple glass pot. This is one of the most easy and elegant ways to prepare coffee. First, choose your beans. Then grind them rather coarsely. The idea here is that when you push the plunger through the pot, you want the grounds to be captured on the bottom, not floating around in the cups of coffee you pour. A coarse ground will not seep through the filter. However, I must admit that I've been known to, on occasion, use coffee ground into the consistency of caffeinated pollen in my French press. Basically, the grounds were so minute they became one with the water. So to start, I'd stick to a nice, thick ground -- a bit less refined than you'd use in a regular drip machine. Use the rule that applies to all coffee makers: put as many tablespoons of grounds into the pot as you will cups of water. For example, if you have a one-cup press, put in only one tablespoon of grounds. If you have a four-cup press, add four tablespoons, and so on. But still, it depends on how strong you like your cups and the type of coffee you're using. One-to-one is a good starting ratio; you can leap from there to suit your personal preferences.
Now, in another pot, begin to boil your water. I usually take the water off the stove right before it gets to the "rolling boil" point, or if I forget and let it boil, I let it relax a while before I add it to the pot with the coffee grounds. Just to the boiling point seems to be the ideal time for the water to be poured into the press. Once the coffee and water are together in the pot, I usually just place the plunger-filter contraption over it, but not touching the water, to keep much heat from escaping the water. Then, you need to wait at least three minutes before plunging the coffee. The longer you wait, the stronger your coffee may become, so it may take some experimentation here to find the steeping time that's right for you. Once you've plunged the filter through the pot, you can pour your coffee and consume.
The French press is also a lovely way to serve coffee to guests, as some attractively designed and artfully decorated models can be found in specialty coffee shops and gourmet housewares stores.
I'm not sure how old Pour-Omatic is going to take his ousting, especially by something as sissy as a "French" press. But making a pot of coffee should mean never having to say you're sorry. Especially not to your coffee maker.