It’s been four months since my Italian coffee maker died, and today I have finally come to the hard decision that it is time to move on and buy a new one.
I’m not very particular about the coffee itself. While there are many coffee connoisseurs out there, I’m not one of them. I’ve never been able to tell the difference between freshly ground and out-of-a-bag, and both Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts are acceptable. Just put in some half-and-half, and I’ll happily drink it. I just need my one travel mug full a day to get myself into gear in the morning.
Nonetheless, I was very attached to my Italian coffee maker. I can’t claim that the coffee it made was any better than what I would get with the cheapest $25 Mr. Coffee, but it had something else that I really appreciated. A fun, innovative design:
It was an Alessi Geo drip coffee maker, designed by Alessandro Messini, and it is only available in Europe. I first discovered it on a trip to Rome in the summer of 2006, and I instantly fell in love with it. I use a coffee maker every day, and it is prominently visible in the kitchen. Coffee makers all look the same – a boxy, bulky object with a drip brewer on the top and a carafe on the bottom. But here, Alessi had turned a very mundane object into a fun, whimsical gadget.
I didn’t buy it, naively assuming that I would be able to find one in the US that would work with our electrical system. Alas, upon returning, I discovered that apparently we Americans are very happy with our boxy, plain looking coffee makers, and Alessi never saw the need to build one for the North American market. Each morning, I would make my coffee in my plain old coffee maker and think back to the Alessi model I saw in Europe. Eventually, I decided that if I cared about it that much, I should just figure out how to get a European appliance to work in the US. Mind you, this was back in the days before kids, and I had disposable income for a pointless project like this one. I did a little research and found that it was possible to get transformers for European appliances to run here in the US.
I tried to order the coffee maker from an online site in England, and they helpfully canceled my order for me, sending me a note to explain that it wouldn’t work in the US. I emailed back and forth to explain that I was aware of the limitations, and would they please send it anyways. When it finally arrived, I was able to read through the specifications in the manual to discover that I needed one heck of a transformer to handle the big power spike when the coffee maker boils the water – over 1000 watts! This ended up costing about as much as the coffee maker.
But it made me happy for many years. It wasn’t just about having a gadget that made coffee. It was about having a gadget that was delightful to use. Someone had put thought into every piece of it and made it something more than just a coffee maker.
It’s the same reason that I continue to be such a devotee of my iPhone. I don’t care how many features competing platforms like Android come out with. Apple understood that the phone was more than just a pile of features – it should be delightful. Sure, there are things about my iPhone that annoy me (why don’t my on-the-go playlists show up at the top? Why can’t I copy and paste an entire contact? Why do I have to tap so many times to delete a bad photo after I have taken it?), but I know that someone put thought into every single aspect of it. Sure, they may not have made the decision that I would have made, but they were focused on the total experience.
Sadly, a couple of months ago, my Alessi coffee maker died a sad death. I noticed that the coffee filter holder was getting hard to pull out, and when I looked more closely, I saw that the heating element on the top was starting to melt through the plastic. I’m not sure if this was product flaw or some side effect of running through a transformer for all of those years, but it didn’t seem safe. After a week of mourning it, I threw it away and brought back up the old coffee maker that had been sitting in the basement for the last several years. It would serve until I could find something better.
I could order a new one from Europe, but I think the time has past. With two kids in the house, there are better things to spend the money on, and more importantly, I don’t actually know if the melting plastic problem would happen again. Every time I find myself in a store that sells coffee makers, I find myself taking a look, but they are all so…boring.
My hand was just forced when the backup coffee maker broke as well (it was ten years old), so I to buy a new one on short notice this afternoon. I ended up with a $50 cuisinart model from Costco:
It just ain’t the same.