A bit slow out of the gate (by a year), Slate magazine filed this article on the Clover brewer, naturally focusing on the device’s expense in the article’s title (“Could a Coffee Maker Be Worth $11,000?”): How the Clover could change the way we think about coffee. – By Paul Adams – Slate Magazine. It’s a timely follow-up to our post yesterday.

When it comes to “bragging rights” over who has the bigger price tag (?!?), it’s interesting to compare the Clover brewer to James Freeman’s siphon bar. While the Clover brewer allows a lot of variables to be tweaked and tuned, as cited in the Slate article, it is largely the Northwest American digital engineer’s approach to better brewed coffee. Meanwhile the siphon bar is more like the artist’s approach to the same problem — with at least as many variables and nuances to adjust, but it’s more like the violinist who prefers to ignore the constraints of precision frets on their instrument to produce something they can more fully control in an analog world.

However, the author of the Slate article, Paul Adams, seems to miss the forest for the trees. A new brewer doesn’t change how we think about coffee. In fact, the only reason the Clover brewer exists is because the coffee itself is getting better; the nuanced flavors and aromas these higher-grade coffees produce won’t otherwise be lost on a precision machine like the Clover. But considering the origins of the beans and the roasting styles applied to them, not every coffee makes sense in a Clover — just as not every coffee makes sense as an espresso. A good microscope and a good telescope may both require precision optics to effectively refract light, but I wouldn’t use the same device to examine both the heavens and the structure of cells.

Advances in brewing equipment and technology are an important element to appreciating better coffee. But to focus exclusively on gadgetry and price tags as the only measure of good coffee is akin to purchasing a $4,000 Viking open burner range top to reheat canned soup. Or, in some cases, to roast a turkey.