Coffee Complex

The high-tech Clover coffee machine has gotten plenty of attention, mostly for its $11,000 price tag. But surely in all the reviews of the coffee it produces, none is more pantingly purple than this near-erotic account of one man’s tango with a Clover. Slate writer Paul Adams got a chance to play with a machine after hours at Manhattan’s hot coffee bar Café Grumpy. First Adams geeks out on the look of the machine in action:

When I press the ‘Brew’ button, a circular platform sinks down from the top of the machine into a steamy cylindrical operating chamber. I’m sure I’m not the first Clover user to experience a quick flashback to a vivid childhood memory—watching, horrified, as Darth Vader lowers Han Solo into his carbonite freezer.

(Want to see? We’ve got video.)

Adams then goes gaga for the flavors he’s extracting from the same bag o’ beans. One cup is “resonant with floral and citric aromas and round, up-front sweetness,” another has “a delicate wininess that reminds me of Kalamata olives.” As he says:

The world of winemaking is wracked by a tension between the old, individualistic ways, in which each wine tastes distinctively of its origin, and the new methods that produce best-selling wines in a uniform ‘global’ style divorced from regional characteristics. The story of coffee is the reverse—until recently, coffees were blended and branded to suit a homogenous popular taste, and only now is there a rising interest in the expression of varietal and regional differences.

No, the Clover isn’t worth it to the average consumer, Adams says. But it does seem clear that we’re reaching a “third wave” of coffee, when the terroir of beans will be as discussed as that of wine. In the future, Adams writes, “popular dark roasts, which obscure those subtleties, are scorned, and enlightened customers gladly pay exorbitantly for rare brews.” Certainly artisanal coffee roasting is on the rise.

By the way, the Clover isn’t even the priciest coffee gadget there is. Witness the $20,000 Japanese siphon bar. Can’t afford any such thing? Our gadget gal, Louisa Chu, offers up two coffee makers you can. We also hear good things about the AeroPress.

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