People keep telling me that they can’t afford a Technivorm, Capresso, Bunn or any decent long-term automatic drip maker. Meanwhile, pod machine one-cups encourage you to buy
prepackaged brands, hardly a key to thrift in these times.

One-cup brewers like this are great for that quick cup in the afternoon or anytime when you want to indulge alone. At the prices I pay for beans, forgive me if I want to make the amount I want to consume at once. This brewer is simple. It takes a commonly available Melitta #2 filter. There’s a Melitta equivalent – in fact, you need to look carefully to note the differences, and there are differences, although not enough to disqualify either. I decided on focusing on the Randwyck because it’s the one I grab most often. These brewers are typically $5 in a grocery store. Melitta packages their model with a thermal cup and the set sells for $8, a bit high, and wasteful since I always brew into a decent china cup, which is part of its allure.

The Randwyck one-cup depends upon your owning a kettle. You simply boil, wait a moment since coffee brews best when the water is off the boil. Then pour the water slowly over the grounds. The best grind for the Randwyck is slightly finer than typically used for automatic drip. It has interior fins, fairly pronounced ones, and three exit holes on the bottom to keep things moving fairly quickly. The idea of grinding finer is to slow down the travel of the water through the grounds. I try to tune the grind fineness for a five-minute contact time. If I grind too coarse, I can brew faster, but the coffee will be too thin-bodied and weak. Any longer five minutes and the coffee gets more bitter than I like it. Keep in mind that as you grind finer or coarser, not only does the contact time expand or contract, but the amount of surface area exposed to hot water changes. A finer grind coffee will be spent in five minutes. This change of two variables at once is a big reason drip method is so touchy about grind.

The Randwyck solves the number one and two problems of most automatic drip makers. Number one automatic drip problem is that the water drip pattern does not focus the water ideally to ensure all the grounds get equally wet and thus contribute their flavor oils equally. Number two problem is most automatic drip makers prolong the water/grounds contact time beyond the ability of the coffee to control the right balance of bitterness. Notice I did not say to eliminate bitterness. Some bitterness is part of a full flavored cup of coffee. But, beyond 6 minutes (maybe up to 8 minutes for coarse grinds) coffee bitterness gets out of control. This is why the vast majority of automatic drip makers deliver such abysmal coffee flavor.

A little experimenting with the grind and portions with the Randwyck and you’ll be set. I use about 18 grams for a 12-ounce mug.

For final tests, I used Paradise Coffee Roasters Romance by Paradise blend. This is a delicate coffee that can easily lose its unique flavor profile and subtlety in a brute force automatic drip maker. Frankly, my best results with this coffee were with a Bunn machine. Say what you will about the Bunn’s short-stop contact time, but it is virtually impossible to make bitter coffee with a Bunn machine, and for this coffee, that counted. However, using the Randwyck one-cup, I was able to virtually duplicate the Bunn’s best results. It gave me an alternative when the Bunn’s eight cups would be overwhelming and, frankly, wasteful.

A second test with Innkeeper’s Colombian Bucaramanga Especial, a more robust bean that tastes less subtle, but at just as flavorful, was performed. I found this coffee benefited from brewing just a tad hotter, I pour the water at near boiling, but again, it turned out perfect.

You can toss these brewers in the dishwasher. Although I’m certain they recommend top rack only, I found by accident that the hold up to bottom rack heat just fine.

Much ado is made by web brewing aficionados about the Hario drip maker’s swirls formed onto its interior. I’ll comment on those in my upcoming review, but suffice it to say, if it’s interior find you’re seeking, nobody outdoes the Randwyck’s. Although they don’t swirl, they can arguably claim to direct the water and, probably more important to me, they add clear channels to add speed to the flow rate. I said earlier that in most ways the Melitta one-cup is a drop in replacement, but it does features neither these fins nor the three exit holes, sporting only one. Interestingly, it appears to flow only slightly less fast, although on principal, I’d give the design edge to the Randwyck. If you can’t find the Randwyck, expect to grind a tad coarser to compensate for the reduced flow rate.

Since I see coffee drinking as a social as well as culinary experience, I could never recommend one-cup brewers as primary appliances, but I think the Randwyck, and Melitta one-cups are both among the best one-cup brewers I’ve used.

Perfect brewing for $5?

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