Minimalist Coffee Solutions" hspace="5" height="299" border="8" align="right" width="325" vspace="5" title="scanomat top coffee machine" alt="scanomat top coffee machine" />Yesterday morning, gadget and gizmo sites around the net were buzzing about this little machine -- the Top coffee brewer from Scanomat. The machine is designed withoffice and commercial environments in mind, can be controlled by an iPhone or pad and puts all the actual machinery out of site, tucked neatly away in an optional cabinet. The only visible part of the coffee machine -- which does espresso, brewed coffee, hot water and has an integrated frother -- is the gooseneck dispenser pipe that rises gracefully above the cabinet top.

Gizmodo headlined it as a "Minimalist coffee maker" -- but really, how minimalist can something be when you need a whole cabinet just to hide the bulk of its components? Now, I'm not talking the Scanomat down here. Honestly, my first reaction was "Oooh, pretty!" But the only thing minimalist about this whole setup is the design aesthetic it's meant to suit.

It got me thinking about real minimalist coffee solutions -- ways of making coffee that don't require specialized gear, the kind of thing my daughter refers to as "ghetto gourmet". I'm a long-time collector of low-tech coffee-making methods that produce quite decent coffee. Some of them are just the way that people like to make their coffee. Others demonstrate the lengths to which people will go to get their brew fix even under difficult circumstances.

A couple of weeks back, Cory Doctorow, who blogs over at BoingBoing, wrote about the plastic baggie cold brew method he uses on the road. Essentially, he adds ground coffee to water in a zip-close plastic storage bag and puts it in the mini-bar refrigerator  before he goes to bed at night. In the morning, he strains it through a fine mesh strainer fitted into his Aeropress tube and drinks it cold. Personally, I think the fine mesh strainer and Aeropress is a bit more gear than you actually need for cold brew but I give him kudos for getting drinkable coffee under difficult circumstances.

We had to deal with a bit of that ourselves last summer when a tropical storm left us without electricity for nearly a week. We turned the refrigerator into an icebox by packing the bottom shelf with purchased ice blocks and I did cold-brew coffee by the half-gallon -- literally. Each night, stirred a cup of finely ground Spanish coffee into 2 quarts of cold water in a plastic pitcher, covered it and put it in the icebox overnight. In the morning, I strained the coffee through a double thickness of cheesecloth into a second 2-quart pitcher, covered it and put it back in the fridge. It was concentrated and rich, excellent cold and decent heated up in a saucepan on the stove. The only one who had problems with it was the roomie, who could never seem to remember that the pitcher with the blue cover was brewing, and the one with the green cover was brewed. He drank muddy grounds for two days before complaining about it. But then, this is a man who'll reuse his K-cups -- and I do mean reuse the used grounds -- so  take from that what you will.

Over the years, I've seen people deal with the conundrum of brewing coffee without their usual gear in all sorts of creative ways, including the woman who, when she ran out of filters, opened tea bags and refilled them with coffee. What's the furthest you've ever gone to get your coffee fix when you couldn't make coffee your usual way? 

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