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May 28, 2009
Originally published in Prefab's Promise

I love coffee. It’s coffee shops I have a problem with. Whenever someone suggests we “grab coffee and catch up,” I instinctively shudder and suggest instead a nice cocktail or root canal.

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Coffee glass and leather carafe

Coffee Talk

While some resign themselves to the coffee shop, the resourceful caffeine lover knows better. A cup of coffee sipped at home from your favorite mug is a much better way to launch into your day than a barrage of goateed baristas, surcharges for “hot,” and a tragic display case of objectionable croissants.

(Drip, machine, espresso, or even in the form of a table, we all love coffee. Read here for more great products.)

Once havens for intellectual inquiry and quiet perusal of newspapers, coffee shops are now basically retail outlets and free office space.

Nursing a cappuccino the other day, I observed a frantic businessman conducting a conference call on speakerphone, a woman toting a hysterically yapping Labradoodle, and two frosty socialites loudly debating the relative appeal of the spray-on tan. Kerouac would never have got anything done.

While some resign themselves to the coffee shop, the resourceful caffeine lover knows better. A cup of coffee sipped at home from your favorite mug is a much better way to launch into your day than a barrage of goateed baristas, surcharges for “hot,” and a tragic display case of objectionable croissants.

Undoubtedly there is something serene and blissfully private about a nice self-brewed cup. To this end, the Chemex coffeemaker is the home coffee brewer’s holy grail. Driven by the principles of functionality and simplicity, its hourglass design was developed by chemist Peter Schlumbohm in 1942, neatly mirroring the techniques used to ensure laboratory purity.

Drawing from the design principles of a laboratory glass funnel, Schlumbohm cannily added an air channel and a pouring spout, so the air displaced by liquid could escape through a filter. The result is a near-perfect cup of coffee: pure, flavorful, and free of bitterness, gritty sediment, or that brown crayon flavor that Mr. Coffee often delivers.

The carafe-like Chemex, made of heatproof borosilicate glass, has over the years received much acclaim for its merging of form, function, and sweet, sweet caffeine. It sits proudly in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Smithsonian, as well it should. A cup of home-brewed coffee is indeed a work of art—and, we hope, not a dying one.

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