The Curious Case of the Broken Coffee Maker: What’s the Real Cost (and Value) of Convenience?

Hand holding French press and pouring coffee ; What's the real cost of convenience?

It’s my favorite time of day. The house is quiet after a morning rush to get the rest of my family out the door. Ahead of me is a fresh new day to be seized. But first, coffee.

I push the “brew now” button on my coffeemaker, anticipating the delightful “beep! Beep! Beep!” that means it’s done.

But when I remove the carafe, it feels suspiciously light. When tipped over, it pours out a measly ounce.

Oh, hell no.

I reset it to brew and it kicks up again, only to shut off after just 90 seconds. I repeat the cycle a few times of pushing the button and circling back to find just a bit of coffee in the carafe. After a few failed attempts, the realization — and the dread — sinks in: my coffee maker is broken.

How I almost spent $200 on a new coffee machine

No problem, no problem. My coffee maker might be broken but broken things can be repaired. And I lived without coffee for the first 25 years of my life (I used to be Mormon, after all), I can deal for one day, right?

That evening I enlist my husband’s help troubleshooting the issue and trying to repair it. We Google, turn the thing upside down, screw off the bottom panel and poke around with some wires. Eventually, we admit that the coffeemaker has succumbed to a common electrical failure that seems to be fatal.

But mama’s gotta have her hot bean juice! So the next day I head to a department store, which is conveniently home to a Starbucks location where I can grab a latte to tide me over. I naively assume I can find a replacement machine for a reasonable price, say, around $50.

But oh ho ho, not so fast. Coffee machines cost so much! (Did you know this? I did not know this.) I blink in disbelief at three-digit price tags before deciding to price compare from the comfort of my home.

Fast forward to me, scrolling through model after model on my screen, poring over features and settings I didn’t even know existed but now suddenly need. Do I want a coffee maker that can make drip and cold brew coffee? Well, I am a cultured individual so, clearly, I do. Plus I obviously need a timer, so I can be propelled out of bed by the smell of fresh coffee. And it must be a solid, sturdy machine and not a cheapo model that will break again in two weeks. I become convinced of all the features I need in my next coffee maker and wind up narrowing it down a model that costs a whopping $200.

But I can’t quite bring myself the checkout after putting it in my shopping cart. I decide to check back in case it goes on sale (ideally for 75% off so I can stick to my original $50 budget).

The answer was in front of me all along

Then one morning, something magical happened: I woke up to the smell of fresh coffee. I dragged myself out of my warm bed and into the kitchen and spotted a shiny, stainless steel French press sitting on the counter — and a cup of fresh coffee next to it.

Suddenly I recalled (duh!) that our coffee making appliance isn’t the only method brewing coffee available to me. My beautiful husband recovered our French press and brewed this cup, bless him.

After using our old French press a few times, I thought about how quick I’d been to throw money at the problem of my lack of coffee. The decision to go out and buy something new was so automatic.

But knowing how to make do or do without, especially when it’s inconvenient, is a valuable and all-too-rare skill.

I realized (yet again) how comfortable I’d gotten buying for convenience, even when it cost me four times more what I had anticipated or budgeted for. I saw how easily I was convinced that I needed something more, better, shinier, more expensive.

Had I only taken time for some creative problem solving, I would have seen that the solution was right in front of me (well, in a cupboard out of my line of sight, but you get the idea).

It made me consider that maybe the next time I’m finding myself “needing” to go shopping or buy something new, I should start first with rediscovering the gems among what I already own. That I can challenge the knee-jerk reaction to consume, shop, buy. Or, at the very least, I can be more honest with myself that what I’m classifying as a need is actually just a desire for convenience.

And while convenience is important, it’s not always the most important thing.

Indeed, pulling out my French press didn’t just give me a cost-free method to brew coffee — I got back a beautiful part of my day.

To make a truly great cup of coffee requires a sound methodology, mindfulness, and patience. I love the ritual of the French press, from filtering the water to grinding the beans, waiting while it brews and finally pushing the plunger down. It’s my (renewed) favorite excuse to slow down and take a moment to do something intentionally, and do it well, and do it only for myself.

And it really does make a damn good cup of coffee.

Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Abigail @ipickuppennies
    March 20, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Glad you were able to find a free solution to your dilemma! I’ve definitely gotten used to replacing things rather than trying to repair or do without them, which is a habit I’m trying to break myself of. Which is how I almost took apart the ceiling fan to fix a light pull. (Turns out we just needed to yank harder from higher up, problem solved! But at least I was willing to try.)

  • Reply
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