As an autobiographical note, I love coffee. I enjoy drinking it, I like the culture behind it, and I love all the gadgets and the process behind making it. I have an accessory for every method of coffee brewing there is, and I've been accused of being a coffee snob from time to time. So when my wife asked if we could buy a Keurig, I was determined to accommodate her need for convenience, while maintaining my standard for craftsmanship in all things coffee, as well as my desire for a perfect marriage between form and function.
A few months prior, I saw a crowdfunding campaign for an alarm clock that automatically brewed a cup of pour-over coffee using induction heating and a little help from fluid dynamics, but it was just a concept and still hasn't been successfully produced. I thought I could replicate the design and make it a reality.
I sketched out the rough concept, and set out to find components that would combine to make my vision a reality.
I knew that I needed to use an induction system so that the heat would only be applied to the water inside the beaker, and not to the wooden case that contained the cooking element, so I found an inexpensive induction cooktop that I could use for parts. This included an induction coil as well as a fan for cooling and a display to control the level of power to the cooktop.
My initial concept was to use ball bearings inside an erlenmeyer flask to receive the induction current and heat the water, but I soon found that there wasn't enough surface area making contact with the cooktop to heat the ball bearings. So instead I switched to a regular beaker with a stainless steel strainer in the bottom, and and found that it heated well.
After I found a vessel and an element that would heat the water, it was time to embed the components into a case, so I built a box of red oak with hand-cut dovetail joints, and mounted the induction coil, cooling fan, and control panel in the box. I found that after a minute or so of having the heating element on, the inside of the box would overheat and shut down the whole system, so I added an additional vent to pull air over the heating element to cool it down. I also added magnets to the box and the underside of the lid to hold it secure, but also allow easy removal for access to the components.
Once the components were taken care of, the rest was fairly simple. I added a rubber stopper to the beaker to seal in the pressure, and then inserted a borosilicate tube to siphon the water over into the grounds. The water heats up in the beaker, and just before it boils, the pressure inside the beaker causes the water to travel up the glass tube and into the pour-over system suspended above the mug.
In the end, we got a Keurig so that my wife could make coffee at the push of a button, and I took the machine to the office to serve as decoration for my desk, but the project provided a variety of obstacles to overcome, as well as opportunities for craftsmanship and problem-solving. This is one of my favorite examples of an object that is both beautiful and useful, combining my love of well-crafted wood and coffee.