Spinn Coffee

Bono said it best: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

There seem to be a few things for which I am constantly searching for perfection:

  • The perfect work bag that holds all my essentials, has many organizational features, will hold up to spilled lunches and looks good in the process.
  • Luggage. Always luggage. Especially a lightweight carryon bag and weekenders.
  • A perfect white V-neck tee.
  • A homebrew coffee system that rivals anything I’d get at a coffee shop.

Looking back, I saw that I first posted about my search for a perfect cup of coffee at home over three years ago. 

Not much has changed since then, although I went so far as to attend a barista class last summer in Chicago. During the Q&A session at the end, I asked the instructor about which coffee machine(s) would be recommended for home use. His answer – and he was a competitor in barista competitions, which is a thing – was this: “I never make coffee at home.”

Not helpful.

When I pressed him, he said that if he had to buy something, he would invest in a commercial grade bean grinder. Estimated tab: $1500. Yikes.

So I stuck with my $40 Black and Decker machine that I purchased on sale at Target for $29.99.

Until Spinn came on the scene.

Ads for the not-yet-released Spinn coffee system started showing up on my Facebook feed last fall.

Spinn promises a lot: one machine to make everything from espresso to drip coffee, plus wi-fi integration and even an app that automatically orders beans from local roasters when your supply runs low.

Their website fueled the hype: Spinn machines were available for exclusive pre-order and for an introductory price that was 40% off future retail.

Well, the Spinn folks understand my psychology well, because one Friday night after a glass (or three) of wine, I placed my pre-order for a Spinn Plus machine.

To be fair, the Spinn team said that my order would not be shipped until mid-2017. I was in the first production wave, so I hoped that things would go ahead of schedule – or at least on time – and that I would be sipping my wi-fi espresso now as I type. My current Black and Decker machine could limp along until then.

Fast forward to this week: I received a long email that was signed as being from the head of Spinn, outlining a lot of gratuitous “wins” in their design and production process, essentially to provide window dressing to the fact that Spinn still doesn’t have any machines produced, and that “mid-2017” shipment is now going to be delayed at least 5-6 more months.


Now, I fall on the side of getting things right, but really? In the end – if a Spinn machine ever materializes – it’s going to be more than a year after I ordered it. Meanwhile, I’ve already paid for the machine (like all of the other pre-orders), so Spinn’s got $400 of my money while I’m left hanging.

I could get a Tesla faster than this.

Needless to say, I’ll be very, very excited once my Spinn finally arrives. It’s also going to have to go above and beyond the hype, given the hassle.

Until then, hopefully my Black and Decker keeps chugging away.





Intelligentsia Coffee

A few years ago, I was in Chicago and went to a comedy show (ok, a puppet comedy show – this one – and I know how dorky that sounds), and they never missed an opportunity to skewer Intelligentsia Coffee for being a pretentious hipster hangout.


And since there isn’t an Intelligentsia outpost near me, I still haven’t made it there.

Except: my local Target had a fire sale last week on Intelligentsia beans, and I picked up a bag of Frequency Blend and one of El Gallo Organic Breakfast Blend.

I cracked open the Frequency Blend a few days ago, and I have to say, I am impressed. Those beans made a damn fine cup of joe, even in the decidedly un-fancy Mister Coffee machine I’ve been using for the past year.

(Even worse, I am still using the same entry-level bean grinder I’ve had since college, which has zero settings and basically offers no control over the grind. Some day I will upgrade again to a nicer coffee maker, but I’ve been paralyzed by indecision).

I checked out Intelligentsia’s homepage and discovered that they offer monthly barista classes, which sound like something I would absolutely love to do.

In the meantime, though, I’ll settle for the Brew Guides in their iPhone app.

Made me laugh:


Coffee, Please

Somehow, somewhere MGM (6) obtained an old-school whistle and enthusiastically used it to wake up the entire household yesterday morning, shortly after the crack of dawn.


As you can imagine, I was less than thrilled by this event and when returning to sleep was deemed impossible, I turned to caffeine.

I started drinking coffee during my sophomore year in college, first just to stay up late to study for exams. I would mix two small cartons of skim milk with one cup of dorm cafeteria coffee and two sugars.

By senior year, I was where I am now: brewed coffee with a splash of skim.

I’ve used different coffee makers over the past two decades, and unfortunately I can’t say I’ve ever discovered the right formula for the perfect home cup.

Most days I make a mug in my Keurig Vue, drink less than half while I get ready for work, and then mid-morning – if I can can make a five minute dash – I’ll get my travel mug filled at the coffee place across the street, which is much, much better.

Nevertheless, the search for the perfect home cup continues. Here are some tips for making your own coffee:

  • Understand you beans. Dark roast beans actually have less caffeine than lighter roasts, since some caffeine is lost during the roasting process. When you buy a bag of dark roast beans, they are generally smaller than light roast beans, and so it takes more dark beans to make up the same volume. If you’re measuring out ground coffee by a tablespoon or other measure, you’ll end up with less caffeine cup for cup. If you just dump beans into a grinder, though, you’ll end up using more dark beans than you would light ones (since they’re smaller) and could end up with a more potent brew. Confusing? Read a full explanation here.
  • Get the freshest roast possible. Look for a date on the package, and ideally, get beans that are less than 2 weeks old. 
  • Invest in a grinder, preferably a burr grinder, and grind beans right before brewing.
  • Use hot water.
  • Lightly pre-rinse paper filters (if you use them) to get rid off any taste they may impart.
  • Enjoy immediately. Coffee tastes best within 20 minutes after it’s brewed. If I have extra coffee, many times I’ll put the carafe in the fridge and use it later in the day for iced coffee.

P.S. MGM’s whistle? As soon as I find its hiding spot, it’s going straight into the trash.