In the “unclear on the concept” department, this weekend’s Toronto Star published an article that, in its opening paragraph, mentioned “coffee’s elevated status as the new wine.” However, it then proceeded to discuss coffee-pod-based home espresso machines in the same context: TheStar.com | living | Specialty coffees become the new wine.

This is as incongruous as all the luxury cars that now tout their mp3-compliant sound systems — given that the audio quality of mp3s is more like the vintage 78 rpm record when compared with their audio CD predecessor. Just because a technology is new and trendy doesn’t necessarily mean it has made the quality any better (orange-flavored Tang, anyone?).

Even if we buy this silly notion that coffee is the new wine, these pod-based espresso machines are the equivalent of distributing and consuming wine from single-serving juice boxes with straws. Between the pre-ground, stale beans; the inability to alter the time, temperature, pressure, coffee tamp, and other variables of the espresso shot; and the environmental waste of excess packaging — these systems are more akin to a step backwards towards our instant coffee/percolator dark ages.

And if coffee is really going to be the new wine, is there any chance we can please drink it out of something other than a paper cup?

UPDATE: Dec. 18., 2007
Curiously enough, today I discovered a very thoughtful post from a wine blogger who discussed some of his frustrations with espresso: cluelessaboutwine – wine blog: A Bad Workman Blames His Gaggia. As much as the blogger might think he knows little about making a good espresso, I wish more espresso “professionals” had just half his knowledge, awareness, and instincts about quality espresso.