Friday, April 08, 2005

James Bond's Coffeemaker

In the Ian Fleming novel From Russia With Love, we learn that superspy James Bond likes his breakfast coffee brewed in "an American Chemex." The novel was written in 1957; imagine my surprise upon learning that Chemex is still around.

For those not in the know, a Chemex is a manual-drip coffeemaker. It's a pretty shape, but it's still a manual-drip coffeemaker. However, for Bond aficionados, it's an affordable manual-drip coffeemaker. We may not be able to own Aston Martins or Minton china (let alone all those impossible gadgets from Q Branch) but at $35, a Bond fan can own a Chemex.

There are two basic types: the Classic series (machine-blown glass) and the Handblown series (which is thicker and therefore sturdier). I ordered, and got, the 6-Cup Classic, which is ideal for making 2 big mugs of coffee. The Classic, though made of thinner glass, is still reasonably sturdy compared with most other glassware.

Let's say, first off, that this is not a coffeemaker for the last minute dash commuter. (Of course, they'd stop at a d├ępanneur en route to work for coffee anyway.) It's more for the type of people who liked to play with their food when they were little, pretending to be mad scientists. (The thing was invented by a chemist, after all.) Because of this, it's a fun way to make coffee: fun to fold the special filter, fun to pour in the water and gauge the coffee strength. Certainly a lot more fun than an auto-drip coffeemaker or percolator.

Much of the fun comes from the fact that the whole thing is glass, except for the wood collar which you use as a handle. This means you see the coffeemaking process as you pour the hot water in. (There are detailed instructions on how to brew Chemex coffee here, which are a little different from the manufacturer's directions.) Cleanup is also pretty simple; rinse the Chemex out with hot water from your kettle and let it air-dry, and you're good to go for the next day.

I like this Chemex, and recommend it for Bond fans. There are far less expensive manual drip coffeemakers around, but I bet they aren't as fun.

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