Those who know me well know that I never go anywhere without my single-serve personal coffee maker. I have two of the pretentious little things, actually. One at home and one at work. They take expensive little “kups” sold in designer-looking packages decorated with fancy logos or custom art. You just flip a lever, drop in a pod and press a button that matches your portion. No fuss, no muss. Despite coming in dozens of flavors I prefer my coffee black and bold – the stronger the better … and these machines make one excellent cup of coffee.
So it was during a recent visit with my glassware collecting Aunt Betty that she gifted her coffee-loving nephew a 1945 Kwik-Drip Coffee Maker, made by the West Bend Aluminum Co. When a friend of hers told her it was headed to the thrift shop, the oddity seemed like a novel gift for someone who carries an electronic coffee maker with him like other people carry a baby.
The Kwik-Drip is a double decker aluminum drip system equipped with a permanent strainer and a black Bakelite handle. Its bulbous design has a hint of Art Deco influence, most noticeably in its narrow pour spout, which resembles the peek hole on a tank. It is in several museum collections, such as the Museum of Design in Plastics housed at Arts University College at Bournemouth, England. Its 18-cup capacity is designed to brew an entire pound of coffee at once, making it ideal for church functions, farm tables and Kiwanis meetings. It fell out of favor when electric kettles boiled water inside the maker. A vintage Kwik-Drip can be found online for $10 to $25.
Early on a Tuesday morning, I decided to see how the Kwik-Drip would treat 12 tablespoons of your run-of-the-mill Folgers – the stuff I stopped drinking when I got my first single-serve machine. I laid out a dish towel and disassembled the Kwik-Drip. Seven cups of water boiled in a sauce pan on our gas range. I warmed the kettle under hot water and filed the reservoir, taking care not to spill the grounds. In went a distributor, which contains the grounds and evenly distributes boiling water. I poured the water into the reservoir and soon heard heavy drops landing in the kettle.
The coffee is strong, full flavored and wasn’t at all bitter. In fact, it’s the best tasting brew of Folgers I’ve ever had. Three cups later and I came to the realization that the Kwik-Drip coffee was just as good as what comes out of my fancy mechanized wonder. So once again, vintage and the “old way” of doing things surprises you sometimes.
My automatic machine is far too convinient to give up for good. However, making coffee with the vintage Kwik-Drip on the weekends makes me to slow down, have fun with the experience and relax.
So how many of you still use a vintage coffee maker? Share your stories below!
Eric Bradley is editor of Antique Trader magazine.
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