Since written word began the word has been a powerful catalyst in developing any culinary art. Just as Julia Child helped spawn a new era in home cooking, writers like wine’s Robert W Parker and coffee’s Kenneth Davids helped foster our quest for knowledge and appreciation of their respective beverages.
I’m interested in discovering who today is going to lead our next movement in coffee and Joseph is definitely one of those figures. His Coffee Lovers Magazine is bravely aimed at consumers. I say bravely because most of the press coffee gets is unapologetic in its pursuit of trade dollars, a by far easier chase but one with limited vision. I blame the industry more than the publishers, for this lack of collective vision, but it slows the growth of one of the most interesting of all culinary arts. My interview here is long. It is a true conversation so I won’t apologize for my talking as much as my guest. But, I hope you listen as Joseph is on a mission, and for this reason he’s a prophet.
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The Scoop: A true one-cup at a bargain price.
The single-cup coffeemaker is currently the marketplace Holy Grail. It makes sense. More people are drinking coffee for taste, not just energy and as they slow down to enjoy it their coffee, it makes sense to drink less at one sitting. Also, we who buy high-end coffee start noticing the extra cost of making a full pot, one that in my case would go to waste after a couple of cups. Pod machines are inherently inferior because the pre-packed pods cannot be fresh, not to mention their increased waste.
The ideal solution is a machine much like the Hamilton Beach’s The Scoop. The concept is perfect: A brewer that creates one or two perfect cups. One cup is 8 ounces, so its maximum yield is 16 ounces. It’s designed with this clever reverse cup stand which moves a smaller cup closer to the spigot. I actually like the hobo pour you get from a more distant relationship, but no matter.
This is a frustrating review. Why? Because Hamilton Beach’s new The Scoop coffeemaker is so close to perfect and yet so far.
Drip makers almost never work at two cup sizes. A major part of brewing cup of coffee is how long the grounds and hot water are in contact with each other. When a drip machine offers two sizes, one of them must be wrong because the contact time changes.
The Scoop gets the water to 200°F right off the bat. I tested it repeatedly because I have rarely found a brewer that starts with the right temperature water. This one does, and it maintains altitude throughout the brewing. The brewing contact time is a bit short, even for the larger cup cycle. It takes from 2 to 3 minutes depending upon the size cup you choose. This alone would not disqualify it, especially if you could either increase the grounds or lengthen the contact time by grinding more finely. But you can’t.
When you use regulation brewing recipes for your coffee, it causes a backup. The only way to get this brewer to behave is to lower the grounds-to-water ratio, or use coffee so stale it does not expand when the water hits it, which presents other taste problems.
More bad news. It cannot handle truly fresh coffee. Fresh out-of-the-roaster grounds foam up. The Scoop has a cute but undersized grounds holder. The coffee gets nice and wet, but it has nowhere to go but up and that makes a mess. It can even cause a backup so bad that if overflows over the sides, which is otherwise well sealed.
My sample brews included Passion House Rwanda Dukunde Kawa, Kaffeeklatch’s Mocha Java and Oren’s Daily Roast Nicaraguan La Ampliacion , all wonderful coffees. The Nicaraguan La Ampliacion is a Cup of Excellence winner that sells for $30 per pound, a perfect justification for a single cup brewer because I do now want to waste a drop of it, much less make unneeded cups. No doubt, the Hamilton Beach was able to extract the ample acidity from this and the other coffees. The Rwanda’s Pomegrante notes jumped out of the cup. But, clean-up was a mess, and in each case I know these coffees have more flavor than this brewer was getting due to waste. Why? Because they are all fresh coffees and when they expand, the grounds swell up and this causes an overflow, underextraction and a mess.
The only way it worked was to make the smaller 8 ounce cup size and then the contact time is too short. The best extraction I got was using pre-ground coffee past its freshness date, what John Martinez would call dead coffee. My guess is they built this coffee around supermarket pre-ground coffee and perhaps even used smaller grounds-to-water ratios.
Remember, the coffee brewing recipe is 10 grams or on 2 tablespoon scoop for each six ounce cup.
Look at the sides and you'll see fresh grounds that foamed up and never participated in the brewing process. Sad, because otherwise The Scoop showed such promise. Will Hamilton Beach issue a 2.0?
Then you’ll have the brewer for that perfect one cup that really works and I’ll be the first to say so.
The two things I will not do is use less-than-fresh or less-grounds than the recipe calls for. Sorry, Hamilton Beach, not in my house.
Since it’s so close, I have some friendly counsel for Hamilton Beach. Retool it using a larger filter holder and issue The Scoop 2.0.