Crema is different than any other “ship to your door” coffee roaster out there that I know of. You choose any coffees that you want from their slew of roasters. Your bag is then roasted-to-order and shipped to you in the mail. I also love that you can set your delivery timeframe down to as short as 3 days. My two favorite roasters on Crema are Onyx and Ruby.

(If you use this link that I have as a Crema customer myself, you’ll save $5 each of your first 4 orders.)

The Netflix of Coffee

Everything Requires Maintenance

A few months ago I bought one of the best drip coffee makers in the world.

Truly, as I was walking out of the store with box in hand, four — (4!) — different people stopped me to say how excited or how jealous they were that I was taking this coffee machine home.

Long-time readers of this site will know that I am giant coffee nerd. Probably the worst thing you can buy me is anything related to coffee. Chances are good that I’ve already seen it, researched it, bought it, used it, and have since moved on to something else.

Over the years my coffee shelf has been home to a V-60, French Press, Espro Press, AeroPress, Kalita Wave, Kone Brewing system, Moka pot, Siphon, and Clever dripper (to name a few).

After well over a solid decade of manual coffee making at home I finally aged out. I have moved to an automatic drip coffee maker. Gasp!

I bought the infamous Moccamaster. (It’s more than famous.)

A Brief Aside on Why I Bought the Moccamaster and What I Think About It

So, after all those years of manual coffee brewing methods, why did I get a drip coffee maker? It all boils down to my time.

The time I have between when I get up and when my day starts is never enough. And I wanted to spend those precious minutes on activities other than pouring hot water over coffee grounds.

I wanted to get back just a little bit of my time in the mornings without sacrificing the quality of my coffee, of course.

It’s been at least four months now since I bought the Moccamaster, and I love it. It certainly wasn’t cheap. The model I bought probably cost more than nearly all of my manual coffee makers combined.

One thing that makes the Moccamaster special is that it’s built to last. I’ve heard from many people who have owned their Moccamaster for years and years and still love them.

As far as quality of coffee… I would say that the Moccamaster makes almost as delicious of coffee as I could make with one of my pour over methods. If the Kalita or V-60 can make a cup that is 9/10 delicious, the Moccamaster makes one that is 8/10.

While I think I could get the coffee quality to be a bit better — you’d be surprised to hear about ways you can still get nerdy and fussy with a Moccamaster — I have intentionally chosen not to go that route because it would be the opposite reason for why I bought the thing in the first place.

I just measure my beans and water and I’m happy with the results. In fact, I’m drinking a cup of my coffee as I type this very sentence. Yum.

The one thing I do not like about the Moccamaster is that the carafe and brew basket are not dishwasher safe. It’s not a huge deal, but it just means every few days I have to wash everything by hand. It still requires some bit of maintenance.

Actually, now that you mention it…

Everything Requires Maintenance

Sadly, there is no gadget or system or process that is completely absent of all work and maintenance.

To some degree or another, everything requires your time and attention; everything requires maintenance.

Alas, even my “automated” coffee maker still takes some work to keep clean and operational.

As someone who doesn’t always like to trust the process, it has been helpful for me to keep this truth in mind: everything requires maintenance.

And it stands for more than just the things I own, such as my clothes, cars, lawn, and tax-receipt filing system. My physical self and even the productivity workflows I live within every day require attention to keep operational. (Ugh, right?)

Spoiler: There is No “Easy” System for Focus and Productivity

Perhaps one area I see the most hangup in this is related to productivity systems.

Staying in control of your time and your attention is an activity that requires some time in an of itself.

Lots of folks bemoan this fact. They have, no doubt, tried many systems and none worked for them. They feel frustrated because they don’t want to waste time managing their to-do list.

Now, side note, there is a lot of legitimacy to these frustrations. I definitely understand how frustrating it is to spin your wheels with an overflowing to-do list. A lot of productivity systems out there are way more work than they’re worth.

However, if you care about how you spend your time and your attention — then you also ought to care about the keeping up with the system that keeps you on track. And I think most people do care, which is why it can feel frustrating at times.

For me, I set aside about half an hour on Sunday evenings in order to plan out my week. (I go into the nerdy details of this in the “Analog” section of my All the Things course.)

During my weekly planning time I will decide what it is that I will focus on and how I will primarily spend my time each day for the upcoming week.

This brief weekly planning session never feels convenient. I am rarely in the mood and I’d almost always rather do something else. But my task list and calendar must get the appropriate amount of my time and energy in order for them to be effective and helpful.

When Inconvenience Becomes Opportunity

In the beginning, these inconvenient activities of maintenance often feel like speed bumps that are getting in the way and slowing things down. There is never a convenient and easy time to work out, or to eat well, or to plan my week or my day.

However, if you stick with it, then over time you will see how these activities of “inconvenient maintenance” are actually the foundational actions in our day in which we are choosing to live with intention.

The truth is, you won’t find anything that is free from all work and maintenance. This is as true for coffee makers as it is for productivity systems.

With that in mind, don’t try to find something that requires ZERO maintenance. Because it doesn’t exist. You’ll never find something that is devoid of all work and maintenance.

Rather, find a system that can work for you — one that you have the ability and the drive to to keep up with.

Everything Requires Maintenance

Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia

Unknown to both my wife and I, our coffee grinder was losing its edge.

Nearly four years ago, Anna bought me a Bodum Bistro Grinder for my birthday. It was an awesome little grinder for a great price.

I used it every single day. Until one day, it broke.

new grinder - baratza virtuoso

We replaced it with the king of the hill: a Baratza Virtuoso.

And wow. The first cup of coffee using our new grinder was a revelation.

Who knew a great coffee grinder was so important? I mean, I knew they were important, but seriously the difference was huge.

In addition to the new grinder, the other (somewhat recent) addition to my coffee arsenal is the Kalita Wave. We’ll get to it in a minute. But I have to say that the Wave has officially replaced the AeroPress as my daily brewer. What a time to be alive.

All that said, this week you get to peek into the four key components of my daily coffee. (Since I keep the list to just four things, one thing had to leave out was my kitchen scale.)



It all starts with beans. Freshly roasted coffee beans make all the difference.

Here in Kansas City, we have local coffee roasters coming out our ears. Such as PT’s, Broadway, Oddly Correct, Messenger Coffee, Roasterie, Thou Mayest, Parisi, Post, and Second Best. To name a few.

However, you may prefer to have freshly roasted beans delivered to your door. This is great for folks who don’t like going outside or for those who don’t have a great coffee roaster nearby where you can easily get access to freshly roasted coffee.

If you’re searching for a coffee delivery service, I highly recommend is like Netflix but for coffee. You add the coffees that you want to your list, and then you select how often you want a bag of coffee shipped to you.

This differs from coffee subscription services like Blue Bottle, because Crema lets you pick what you get. Where as with Blue Bottle, you get what they’re roasting.

I’ve gotten beans from Crema and I was very impressed. Great service, great pricing, great coffee.

2. Baratza Virtuoso Grinder

This is the grinder we went with, and it’s fantastic. Here at the Blanc household, we like to buy things for life. So we went with a grinder that is excellent at its job, but also should last us for quite a while.

3. Kalita Wave, Pour-over Coffee Maker

As I mentioned last week, this pour-over coffee maker has become my new favorite.

What I like about the Wave is that it can make a larger cup of coffee than my AeroPress (350g+ versus 250g), and I think the coffee it makes is much better than what you get from the v60.

I know everyone says that the AeroPress is super duper easy to clean. And it is, but I think a pour-over contraption like this is even easier to clean. You just dump the filter into the trash and rinse out the dripper itself. There are no moving parts, no lids, etc.


4. Double-Walled Glass Bottle

There are about 150 different variations of this glass bottle on Amazon. I’m pretty sure they’re all made at the same place, and everyone gets a turn putting their logo on the front.

What I like about my double-walled glass compared to my stainless-steel thermos is that the bottle is easier to clean in the dishwasher and it doesn’t fiddle with the flavor of my coffee.

Of course, the tradeoff is that the glass bottle doesn’t keep my coffee as hot for as long.

The glass bottle is also great for cold drinks, since the outside of it won’t sweat onto your desk.


* * *

What better to go with awesome coffee than something to read? I’ll be sharing some great quotes and articles in next week’s edition of Fantastic Friday.

Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia

What’s So Special About the AeroPress

In more ways than one, I grew up in a fussy coffee home. My parents didn’t want me drinking coffee until I was 16 because they were concerned the caffeine would stunt my growth. Who knows.

My home was also fussy about coffee because my dad only ever brewed with a french press. I grew up thinking that brewing and drinking coffee was a special thing. I still think that.

I’m now 33, and have more than made up for the cups of coffee I missed out on the first half of my life. In my kitchen we have a cupboard dedicated entirely to coffee contraptions: a Mokapot; a stovetop espresso maker; an Espro brand french press, a classic Bodum french press, and a single-serving french press; a vacuum siphon coffee maker; two different styles of V60; the Clever Dripper; a Kalita Wave; an Able Kone system; and, of course, the AeroPress.

They’re all great — each one is unique in its own way and brew method. The vacuum siphon pot is a lot of fun to use on special occasions; the Espro makes a large pot of coffee for guests; Able’s Kone Brewing System looks cool; etc.

But the AeroPress is by far and away my favorite. And I know I’m not alone here.

The AeroPress has become this sort of cult classic, popular geeky way to brew coffee. Everyone with a Twitter account recommends it. There’s even an AeroPress world championship competition. And yet, while you can go to your local hipster coffee shop and buy a french press or a pourover, you’d be hard pressed to find a shop that sells (much less even uses) the AeroPress.

So for something that isn’t found in mainstream coffee shops (or even most “hipster” coffee shops), why all the hype? What makes the AeroPress so cool?

I’ve brewed over 1,000 cups of coffee with my AeroPress. Here’s what I think is the good (and the bad) of the the AeroPress.

  • It’s cheap to buy. If you’re getting in to fussy coffee (or if you lose or demolish your AeroPress), a brand new one is just $25.

  • It’s cheap to use. For one, filters are super cheap — a year’s supply of paper filters cost just $4. And secondly, most AeroPress brew methods call for just 16-18g of coffee to brew a cup. There is very little waste.

  • Clean-up is easy. The AeroPress basically cleans itself as you use it. When you’re done brewing a cup, you twist off the cap and pop the puck into the trash. Then rinse and let dry. (Though I will say that I don’t think clean AeroPress cleanup up is quite as easy as with the V60. With the V60 you just toss the filter with grounds into the trash and then rinse the thing out.)

  • The AeroPress is easy to use when you’re away from your nerdy home coffee tools. The markings on the side of the AeroPress are helpful for measuring out coffee and water. Obviously you won’t need the markings if you’re using a scale to measure. But I take my AeroPress camping and on vacation, so I’ll pre-grind some coffee to take with me, and I know just how much water to add to make a great cup of coffee without having to guess or eyeball it.

These are things you probably already know about. What really makes the AeroPress such a great coffee maker is just how versatile it is. There are a lot of ways you can use it.

For my cupboardfull of aforementioned coffee brewing contraptions, each one has only one best way to brew coffee. The AeroPress has at least three different ways to brew coffee: espresso-like, pourover-esque, and french press-ish. Each way is completely legitimate and delicious.

Now, the AeroPress does have some cons of its own. As I mentioned above, it’s not quite as easy to clean as the V60. Also, the AeroPress can’t brew a big pot of coffee — for that, I use my Espro Press (the Chemex is also a fine choice).

In short, the AeroPress hype is real. If you like variety then the AeroPress lets you mix it up. If you mostly prefer this or that type of coffee, you can find a great way to brew it with the AeroPress. Regardless of the coffee beans or the style of coffee you prefer, there’s a good way to brew it with the AeroPress.

What’s So Special About the AeroPress

Charlie Burt has a great interview with Gregory Kolsto, the owner of Oddly Correct, one of KC’s best local roasters and fussy coffee shops:

My mission in life, I think, is to make people feel something. I’m more interested in staff being kind and engaging with people coming through the door than being psyched about coffee. I mean, it has to be both, but because coffee has a tendency to be pretentious on the surface — like you almost expect it to be “hipsters” doing some weird thing with coffee — well, if you can engage people with kindness and information and art beyond that, I think its a beautiful thing. It’s totally disarming to both the weird art world and the weird coffee world. I feel like we have a fun opportunity to engage people where they’re at.

(Thanks, Jorge.)

Letterpress and Design With Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters

Zachary Crockett wrote a profile of Alan Adler and his story of inventing the Aerobie Pro disc and the AeroPress:

This is the story of how Adler and Aerobie dispelled the notion of industry-specific limitations and found immense success in two disparate industries: toys and coffee.

And you’ve gotta love this line, when comparing the marketing tactics of the Aerobie Pro in the ’80s compared to how the word got out about the AeroPress in the early 2000s:

Whereas Alder had previously relied on traditional media and television to market his flying discs, the internet brought the AeroPress great success…

Now I think I’ll go brew an afternoon cup of coffee. (Thanks, Mitch!)

The Invention of the AeroPress

Marines-turned-coffee-aficionados, Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, writing for The Atlantic:

We’ve hung up our uniforms, we’re in the kitchen, and we’re making coffee. Great coffee. The kind that reminds you first thing in the morning of everything else you appreciate in life.

This is a fun and informative read (it’s adapted from their $5 iBook, Perfect Coffee at Home). I think I’ll go make a fresh cup right now.

How to Make Great Coffee

The Kone Brewing System

The Kone Brewing System

In the far-right cupboard of our kitchen you’ll find more than a few coffee contraptions. The most recent addition being the Kone Brewing System.

The Kone Brewing System is a custom fabricated coffee pot, built specifically for the Kone coffee filter.

The Kone filter is a reusable stainless steel filter originally designed for the Chemex pour over pot. The newest and best incarnation of the Kone filter (I think this is the third version Able has made), as well as its accompanying custom fabricated brewing system, were Kickstarted thirty times over last June.

I backed at the $125 level, which got me the whole brewing system with filter as a reward. And it all arrived about two weeks ago. I’ve since brewed 4 pots of coffee with my Kone Brewing System and they’ve all been quite delicious.

The Brewing System

The first thing I noticed after opening the box is how big the Kone Brewing System is. I was expecting the Brewing System would hold around 500ml of coffee, but it actually can hold twice that amount.

The Brewing System is made up of four components: the pot, the filter, the filter casing, and the lid.

Kone Brewing System Components

When brewing, the filter rests inside the casing which rests on top of the pot. When done, you remove the top casing (using the rubber heat shield grip), and place the lid on top of the pot.

It’s an extremely handsome rig, and I’m very impressed with the design. It looks great on the breakfast or dinner table, and it looks great sitting on the shelf in our kitchen.

There is no doubt that the guys at Able put a lot of thought and attention into the entire Kone Brewing System. Everything — from the packaging to the included card of instructions to the filter and ceramic pot themselves — exudes attention to detail, care, and thoughtfulness.

Alas, the Kone Brewing System can only be used with the Kone filter. The ceramic top-piece which holds the filter is, as I mentioned, custom fabricated specifically for the Kone filter. There is no internal “V” shape which could accommodate a paper filter if you wanted — you must use the Kone metal filter.

The Kone Filter

They say the advantages of using a metal filter rather than paper are: (1) reusable; (2) you never have to pay for paper filters again; and (3) metal filters allow more oils from the coffee bean to pass through when brewing, thus making a fuller cup of coffee

You can’t argue with 1 and 2. And if you are making a big pot of pour over every single day, in the long run a metal filter will pay for itself.

As for the taste. Well, I personally haven’t been able to tell any significant difference between a cup of coffee brewed with a paper filter and one brewed with a metal filter. In fact, if I had to chose, I’d pick paper filters.

The AeroPress is certainly my favorite brewing contraption, and I use paper filters with it. I even have a metal disk filter that fits my AeroPress and I haven’t noticed any difference when using it rather than the paper filters.

One of the disadvantages to using a metal filter is that some of the “coffee dust” gets through the filter and into the bottom of your cup of coffee. Such as the grit you get when brewing with a normal french press.

Daily Brew?

When it comes to the day-to-day practicality of using the Kone Brewing System, it is not going to be my new daily driver.

For one: compared to the AeroPress or v60, cleanup of the Kone is more involved and tedious because I have to rinse and scrub the filter to get the coffee grinds out of it. Secondly, the Kone Brewing System is intended for making several servings of coffee — it’s a lot of coffee gear to use and clean for the 10-ounce cup I usually brew each morning.

I see the Kone Brewing System as being akin to my Siphon vacuum pot. The Siphon is quite impractical for day-to-day use, but it’s great for when company is over because it’s so fun to use. The Kone is in a similar category (making table-side pourover is always fun), and it can make almost 3 times as much coffee as my siphon.

If however, I was regularly brewing a larger pot of coffee instead of just my single cup, then a big pour over pot like this is just what I would use each day.

If you already own the Kone filter, the Brewing System is $120 by itself. Otherwise it’s $160 with the filter.

Being one of the Kickstarter backers I was privy to much of the behind-the-scenes of what goes in to the molding, firing, and packaging of the Kone Brewing System. And without significant economies of scale, $160 is probably as affordable as Able could get it. Which is unfortunate because as much as I like the Kone Brewing System, $160 is a hard price to swallow.

My verdict?

As cool and attractive as it is, it’s incredibly hard to justify the extra cost of the Kone Brewing System over a Chemex. The Chemex is just as capable of a coffee maker, but it’s one-third the price, holds 10-percent more liquid, works great with the Kone filter, and also works with paper filters.

The Kone Brewing System