My first cup of coffee in the morning is a sacred ritual. Potency is paramount; hence my preference for hearty French and Italian roasts. I suppose the sad thing is that I brew it in a $20 Mr. Coffee CGX20 coffeemaker. As Matt Youney points out in our cover story, “it’s easy to (ruin our) way to a bad cup of coffee.”
When I first heard Joe Ogando pitch his Javabot story, I thought, “this is too light for engineers.” But the story deftly balances engineering and everyday industrial components with something that’s novel to say the least. After all, the Javabot has industrial Ethernet, meters, PLCs and pneumatic tubes. Who says a coffee machine can’t look like a pipe organ? And the story met our “how does it work” test. Engineers in a focus group told us they look to Design News to tell “how things work” from an engineering perspective.
Americans love their coffee, right? Well, there’s a lot of conflicting statistics and stale beans about that, according to my 90-min Web search to unearth some data. The Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA says average gallons consumed by Americans dropped almost by half from 38.8 gal in 1960 to 22 in 2000. I would have thought the opposite. Let’s hope coffee bean prices don’t track like a barrel of sweet crude. The National Coffee Assn. is parsimonious about giving out free coffee consumption stats, but what scant information its site had was consumption by age. What age group has the highest percentage of coffee drinkers? If you guessed 60+, you’d be right. And that’s where I’m headed in five years.
The U.S. ranks a lowly 12th in coffee consumption among the world’s nations with the top four positions going to Nordic countries where the weather tends to be rotten and caffeine is used to lift sagging spirits: Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, so says coffeeresearch.org, whose data is from the late ’80s. As far as I know, the weather is still generally rotten there so I suspect these stats still apply.
Suffice to say, Americans love their coffee. I know I do. Do I need my coffee roasted, ground and brewed in something as sophisticated as the Javabot? More to the point, do I want to pay the premium the Roasting Plant shops might charge? Well, the New York Times says its Manhattan shop at the corner of Broome and Orchard streets charges $1.74-$4 a cup so any premium over Starbucks would appear to range from non-existent to negligible. Its roasted beans, though, can be twice as expensive per pound than premium ground coffee in the supermarket. Would I treat myself? Absolutely. And maybe I will the next time I am on the Lower East Side.
In the new stuff department, check out our new . Here, we aggregate all types of engineering contests, results and forms. Best of all, savvy Web Editor Regina Lynch will blog about the burgeoning number of major engineering contests — from the upcoming First Robotics Competition to the Solar Decathlon. Count on this page to provide you with a single online place where you can access this type of coverage.
As always, ping me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (I almost always respond) or go to my Design Engineering at Large blog. And check out William Terra’s homemade battleship (technically, a heavy cruiser!)