Tools for Possibilities

Coffee Resources

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 81

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Coffee technical reviews


For an ancient drink, coffee is moving fast. Improvements for the drink come weekly. I can’t keep up with the best grinders, best roasters, best drips, best beans. So to get the latest coffee techniques and tools, by the most serious fans, I head to CoffeeGeek. Great equipment reviews, buyer guides, and tutorials for enthusiasts. They are fanatical about good coffee, but also eager to speak to beginners as well. — KK

Coffee roasting supplier

Sweet Maria’s

My particular enthusiasm is home-roasted coffee and Sweet Maria’s is my go-to supplier. Not only do they offer everything you need to roast your own coffee at home, but they also carry a great range of products from inexpensive entry-level roasters to top-of-the-line home roasters. (I’ve been using the Hottop roaster for many years now and am very satisfied).

The best thing about Sweet Maria’s is that it is also a great source of information about coffee, roasting, brewing, and drinking. I’ve been a coffee nut for quite a few years now and have learned a fair bit about the subject. As far as I can tell, everything on the Sweet Maria’s site is either correct or clearly marked as opinion. What more could you want? — Dudley Irish

For Canadians, a good analogue to Sweet Maria’s is Green Beanery in Toronto. They sell roasting, grinding, and coffee-making equipment, as well as beans from small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America. Everything’s available online. I’ve bought a few things from them and visited their shop once during a trip to Toronto. They do good work. — Brad

Luxurious, simple everyday brewer

Mono Filio Teapot

I’ve used numerous tea pots, ranging from traditional to modern, built with materials from clay to plastic. The stainless steel and glass Mono Filio is the best one for regular tea drinking. I’ve been using this teapot daily for about a year and a half, drinking mainly green, oolong and white tea. I’m not sure the suspended design has any benefit besides looks, but it will prevent condensation and heat from reaching wood counters or tables. The real design innovation is the very large strainer basket. Aside from having a metal handle that makes removal easy, the basket is almost the full size of the pot itself, allowing a lot of space for the leaves to float freely. When tea leaves can float freely they release flavors more evenly, making for better-tasting tea. The tea bag is a modern convenience. What you typically get inside is crushed dust rather than intact leaves (this is why it often tastes bitter, especially in the case of black tea). When you put a tablespoon of oolong leaves in this pot, after two infusions the leaves expand to fill perhaps a cup in size. Like the smaller plastic InegnuiTEA, the transparency of the glass provides something interesting to watch while the tea brews. While the IngenuiTEA looks to be more of a travel device or something you use at work, the Mono is something you want to use in your house on a daily basis. The 20 oz. size creates the perfect amount of tea for two people and cleans up nicely. $100-plus is incredibly expensive. The matching cups I bought are $70 — ridiculous. With this one, you have to already know you really like tea. But unlike a lot of modern revisions of traditional objects where radical originality in looks creates some level of annoyance in use, Mono Tabletop’s teapot is exactly the opposite. It’s much different from the traditional clay pot, yet, for me, easier to use and a better experience. After some 4,000 years of tea culture, that achievement is worth $110. — Wayne Bremser

Durable, insulated coffeemaker

Frieling French Press

After breaking two glass carafes while living in the middle of nowhere, I knew there had to be a better answer to the standard French press. The Frieling is; made of all stainless steel parts, it’s insulated and has no plastic anywhere. It is awesome.

Some people think that allowing the grounds to sit in the bottom of the Freieling for an extended period of time (because the water stays hot) will make the coffee bitter. My experience is that it doesn’t. Even if you choose not to let coffee sit in the press for the two hours that it’ll remain hot, the insulation still makes a difference in the initial four-minute brewing period. Though the temperature of the water in a typical glass French press will decrease immediately, the water in the Frieling retains its heat while my coffee is brewing.

The only downside of this outstanding pot is that I don’t get to watch the brewing process. I’ve found it well worth the trade-off. It’s beautifully designed and not easily broken – dishwasher safe, too. I’ve had my Freiling French press for almost two years now, and the mirror finish still looks great except for a dent or two. It doesn’t scratch easily, and it still looks and performs just like it did out of the box. It’s the best investment for my kitchen I’ve made in years. — Brechelle Ware


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