Daily Grind Creates Havoc

A year or two ago I banged on about coffee machines. They still feature in the daily routine, but there are a few side effects.

Starting with the positives, hell this is the New Year and we need to talk things up; the coffee machine is doing its job and the end product is a cup of coffee. The much clanging, grinding, squeezing and throbbing noises that emit during the process are all part of the dream. We are talking of bean to cup thingys here, none of your aluminium capsules costing lots of pennies and filing landfills. Nope, the beans to cup (BTC) boys reduce the choice from the bewildering arrays of coloured capsules with exotic names in Italian to what ever you can find in a bag on the supermarket shelves. OK here’s the first drawback of a BTC. The selection is pretty limited but the advantage is you therefore don’t have to ponder long. Do you want this one or that one, job done and it’s in the basket.

Like all modern pieces of equipment the average BTC machine is equipped with an array of options and twiddly bits you never need or understand. Once you have mastered the basic commands the machine is inevitably left stuck on the same programme. To use the correct vernacular as it is computer driven that should read “program”, but this spelling derivative always irks so we won’t bother.

Now the downside. The average BTC thingy is a tad lumpy and requires at least four reposioning trials beofre a location is reached that is primarily not in the bleeding way yet somethow accessible for all the little maintenance chores. The final destination in our abode lies adjacent to the TV in the kitchen. This meets all the domestic criteria for a blissful realtionship with fellow residents but with a sting. One of the little electric motors that goes whirr at apparently random moments to suit itself is electrically unsuppressed. Actually to be honest this motor drives the bean squeezing process that achieves the ideal compression of the grinds before the hot liquor is pumped through, according to the book of words. This process operates with surprising frequency and sends the TV into spasm. The picture freezes, pixelates or the sound distorts. Drawing attention to its presence in this manner creates unnessary domestic friction. Glowering looks, as headlines or critical parts of a drama are missed in a cocophony of whirs and buzzs.

There is always tea and instant coffee I hear you say, but ever since I descaled the bleeding kettle it boils like the Royal Marine band drums brigade. Thus for 2019 I am rather taken with exploring the delights of orange juice.

Coffee Making Such A Grind

The development of domestic appliances continues to astound. Having a feeble ability to resist new gadgets has proven expensive over the years, none more so than damn coffee machines. Somewhere there is a gang of evil designers that spend their working day dreaming up new contraptions to make a cup of coffee. Have progressed  through the small pumped single cup espresso machines that take as long to clean as they do in operation I have ended up with the ultimate bean to cup thing.

Starting with the small espresso machine where the coffee has long gone cold before the last of the coffee grounds has been persuaded to disappear down the sink. You may ask why not drink the coffee before the cleaning process. This reverse logic sequence has been enforced due to prior oversights whereby the cleaning process had been left far behind the brewing process. Domestic pressure came to bear. You make the coffee you clean up afterwards became the standing order, the evidence of spilt ground coffee, spilt coffee, spent coffee grounds and the little aluminum cup thingy packed with a black brick of grounds had ruined all chance of an appeal.

I moved on to the coffee pads in a new machine. Having filled the awkward water tank at the back on the thing you shove what looks like a round tea bag into a welcoming aperture, pull a locking lever and press a button. Bingo, coffee of reasonable quality dribbles into the waiting cup – which you may/may not have remembered to stick under the spout – just in time. This works well until the supermarkets de-list the coffee bags. And the machine decides to mark the event by abruptly dying with a loud electrical short circuit bang and a tad of acrid smoke, which I believe is programmed by the manufacturer via a radio link.

The next phase is the coffee pod. More expensive, less mess, OK quality, and with the water tank still slung at the back they are simple to operate – and thereby shove up the frequency of use. I see their cunning plan. But the little spent capsules pose a waste dilemma. ‘We will collect these when we deliver your next order, minimum value £60 and recycle the blighters thereby saving the world’. A quick calculation concerning the fuel used and carbon released by the white van involved and the pod collect system seems irrational.

We move on to an even better than that machine. Seduced by a huge  array of coffee menus offered and it’s all automatic. Beans are shovelled in a top tank, water filled into a front loading tank – at last, milk added to another side tank and off we go. The thing can produce coffee blends that would make a barista weep. All controlled by touching buttons on the front, but therein lies a dastardly catch.

The control panel has a multitude of buttons all with multi functions. Once called the man-machine interface (MMI) in the early days of computer control these things have been developed by a mad man or even women – but that would imply a different form of higher logic coming into play. Press once for this to happen, press twice and ’summat else happens. You can control the amount of coffee, how fine the coffee is ground, the size of froth bubbles in the milk and how much water is used. Once the commit button is pressed the machine grinds, squeezes, squirts and ejects all by its little self. This is good except for a small by none the less vital fact. The control buttons are like those in lifts. You don’t actually have to touch them, the proximity of a wayward finger is sufficient to trigger the machine. This can be disastrous if you happen to be moving across the panel to hit button D and trigger A,B and C en-route. Things “Gang aft agley” being an understatement.

Fear not, the digital readout gives advice in stern abrupt messages with a harsh sense of logic. “Don’t do that ever again” appears all too regularly along with ‘switch machine off and back on again to regain control” “Try using less coffee twat” “Is there something about filling the water tank you don’t grasp”. The and result can be quite delightful if only I can recall which buttons I pressed. The grinding noise, the hiss of steam, the odd loud ticking noise of the instant water heater all add to the drama. The fact the coffee machine, whilst in operation  sends the adjacent TV bananas is just something else I have become used to.

Slowly I have been running out of errors, coffee is emerging how and when I planned it, and the cleaning process is greatly reduced. I have to time the event so that no one is on the phone or at the front door, but then again it is a great conversation interruption piece when Indian rings to task for my credit card details or offer to fix my faulty PC that is working perfectly. The controls having being mastered have a hidden benefit. Apparently I am now fully qualified to fly an Airbus A380

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net