Lileks: 3 ways to fix that piece of junk you’ll buy again
I had a Keurig coffee machine, and it broke. I replaced with a Hamilton Beach machine that used K-Cups, and it made coffee that tasted like liquefied Silly Putty. So I got another Keurig, and after two years of making one cup a day, it broke.
Naturally, I started shopping for another. Some of you are appalled:
“No, no! That is not how you make coffee. You must grind the beans yourself by rubbing them individually against a nail file until you have an ounce of powder, and then you carefully pour over distilled water boiled on an open flame, and press it down with one hand while stroking your freshly waxed beard with the other. All other coffee is garbage and the equivalent of squatting in the mud while shoving McDonald’s hamburgers into your face.”
Yeah, OK. Look, I love good coffee, especially since I grew up on bad coffee. The stuff in the church basement? One scoop of Butter-Nut for every gallon of water. It made a urine sample look like a glass of Guinness. Restaurant coffee was darker, but only because it had been on the burner so long you could scoop it up with a melon baller.
Most of the chain coffee shops aren’t to my liking — the coffee tastes burned, or peculiar. The shops brag: “These beans have winey notes of chocolate and dirt!” Yes, and that’s why you offer 16 kinds of sugary flavors and top them with whipped cream and ribbons of caramel.
Espresso’s fine, but it’s like relationships in your 20s: hot, bitter and over too soon. I can’t sit there taking little sips from a cup that looks like something a 4-year-old would give to her stuffed bear. This is America. We DRINK coffee, and lots of it.
But there are times when I just want one cup, and that’s where the Keurig comes in. Granted, much of the stuff for the machine tastes awful because it forces the coffee through a plastic container for that “finishing note of petrochemicals” taste. But there’s a local company that makes K-Cups from paper, which also means you can compost them, if that matters to you.
On the plus side, they offer foolproof operation. Pop in the pod, turn it on — the machine makes anxious boiling noises, then makes this strange, strangled whine like a small dog attempting to pass a double-A battery. The result is delicious. At least it was, until the machine broke.
It took four minutes to dribble out half a cup. Well, that’s not right. Googled the problem and got some possible solutions.
1. Could be a clog in your nozzle, which sounds like a 19th-century insult. A website devoted to curing small-appliance problems advised me to clean the nozzle with a pin, which I did. No good.
2. Could be that the line is clogged with deposits. OK, let me get this straight: I’m supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day for health, but if this device passes eight ounces of water through its tube once a day, it silts up? By this logic everyone’s kidneys should be as hard as a paperweight.
Solution: Pour in a solution of vinegar and water and run the unit several times. Result: Machine takes four minutes to make a cup of hot water that smells like someone torched a cat-litter tray.
3. Could be the pump, because that relentless use — you know, once a day — could have worn it out. Well, that seemed to be the case, so it was time to chuck the old unit and buy something else guaranteed to fail.
I looked first at the cheaper off-brand. Its web page was written in that not-quite-right English that suggests foreign origin. “The Scurk9000 for your finely Coffee Life! Health to the morning and also of all-day happy, with advantage: one-touch control for meaning, easy of the clean, style design to compliment any place of your now-looking kitchen!”
It had about a thousand four-star reviews.
“This is the best!!! I went through 3 Kurigs in 4 years and almost gave up. but I ordered the Scurk9000 and it is portable and cute and makes a grate cup of coffee!! I have bought six and given them to friends who now love me more and regret unfriending me on Facebook after the election.”
Or: “At first I was skeptical because of the price, because I am a relentlessly rational person who rejects ontological phenomenology as a deviation from logical positivism, but I have to say the blue Scurck9000 looks great in my kitchen.”
You imagine a warehouse in China with hundreds of people bent over keyboards, writing reviews while a fat, sweaty man stripped to the waist beats a drum to set the rhythm. Then you check out the one-star reviews:
“Literally blew up when I plugged it in. We were picking pieces out of the drywall. Vendor sent replacement unit; it made flames shoot six feet out of the fuse box.”
“Coffee tasted like chaw spit poured from rubber glove of a mortician.”
“Made one cup, laughed, cursed my ancestors, vanished.”
So I will end up buying something more expensive, because the alternative is that elaborate process of grinding and boiling, and while that may make great coffee, when I want bacon I don’t pick up an ax and shout Sooo-EEEE to the pigs in the yard.
If I did, I’d probably find that the ax I bought last year had broken.
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