The Coffee Maker That Ate My Kitchen | Kanebridge News
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The Coffee Maker That Ate My Kitchen

Why do we design the most important room in the house around the gear that simply provides our morning cuppa? Because there’s nothing simple about coffee anymore.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Wed, Oct 5, 2022 7:32amGrey Clock 4 min

SOMETIMES I lie awake at night and wonder if the most important decisions I made in life were horrible mistakes. Well, one of them, anyway.

Like everyone else, I prefer to think I made choices for the right reasons—I was looking for security, reliability and trustworthiness—but things didn’t turn out the way I expected. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life locked in this relationship?

I am talking, of course, about my coffee maker.

Referring to it as simply a “coffee maker” is an example of my understating the scope of the problem: A gleaming, 30-pound stainless steel monster has taken over my kitchen. In the old days, I had a modest Mr. Coffee and plenty of space to chop onions. Now my Pasquini espresso maker—and its best friend, a giant Mazzer coffee grinder—occupy an entire 2-by-2-foot stretch of stove-side countertop. I am constantly mopping up coffee spills, milk splatters and stray grinds. And I lust for more workspace.

How did my coffee maker get so out of control?

“It’s not just you and your coffee maker—it goes without saying these appliances are taking over kitchens,” said Kevin Kaminski, a Philadelphia architect. “I think during Covid lockdown, when people weren’t going out to get coffee as much, they invested in higher-quality espresso systems of their own.”

People are buying all kinds of coffee contraptions: near-restaurant-grade espresso machines like mine; restaurant-grade machines like my friend Jennifer’s; hotel-room-grade capsule coffee makers; and even Rube Goldberg-machine-grade “bean-to-cup” systems with built-in grinders that do everything but drink the coffee themselves.

It does give me some solace that I am not the only one struggling with this domestic problem.

“We’re seeing two camps of people, some who choose to make their espresso machines the focal point in the kitchen and others who want to conceal them with millwork or in a pantry,” Mr. Kaminski said. “For people embracing coffee culture, it’s an important daily ritual.”

Coffee culture has long been a powerful influence. The caffeinated drink was banned in the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire on suspicion it caused impulsive behaviour such as gambling, wrote Mark Pendergrast in his book “Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.”

We’ve come a long way, both from the 16th century and from my childhood—when the most important morning chore my brothers and I were expected to perform was to spoon ground Folgers into the basket of a 12-cup Farberware percolator and plug it in so my parents could awaken to the aroma of freshly brewed—and, let’s be honest, very bitter—coffee. Really, there is no comparison to the deliciously full-bodied cup of cappuccino I brew every day.

But as for today’s outsize coffee machines? Mr. Pendergrast said, “My uninformed opinion is that people might consider opting for smaller espresso makers—or build a special coffee room with space for a grinder, Aeropress, vacuum brewer, Keurig and Kalita Wave pour-over. Oh, and a digital scale and thermometer and water-treatment station. Just kidding, but people do take their coffee seriously.” Designers say giant coffee makers are in fact changing kitchen design in ways we couldn’t have foreseen a few years ago.

“I’m in Seattle, where everyone loves coffee, and if there’s room for a separate room, like what used to be a walk-in pantry, that’s now become a good place for a coffee station,” said interior designer Michelle Dirkse. “You need storage to hide the things that are messy. And some clients want a sink. And electrical outlets exactly behind the machine so you don’t see the cords.”

Devin Shaffer, lead interior designer at online decorating service Decorilla, said, “Five or six years ago, people remodelling homes from the 1970s or ’80s ripped out dry bars. Now they’re overhauling the space for coffee.”

Mr. Shaffer, a former barista, said he understands the impulse. “People who go to coffee shops start noticing the machines, and they fall in love with them and want to do it themselves at home,” he said. “But they’re a lot of work—and you really have to design your kitchen around it. The machine has to fit under the upper cabinets, which can mean mounting cabinets higher than you normally would. You don’t want to get so crazy that you can’t reach the cabinet shelves.”

Another issue is water. “A big espresso machine needs to be near a sink or other water source. Otherwise you have to take water to it, which is a huge pain,” said Leah Atkins, an interior designer in Atlanta.

True. My Pasquini sits next to the stove so we can fill its water tank by using the swing-arm pot filler mounted on the wall nearby.

My friend Jennifer’s monster espresso machine dwarfs ours (to the chagrin of my husband) and requires as much fine-tuning as a sports car. She’s thinking of having a plumber connect a dedicated line that would fill the tank with filtered water to prevent calcium buildup. That buildup can clog the machine unless you periodically run a solution through the system to “descale” it.

“For now, I get big jugs of purified water to fill my tank,” Jennifer said, as if that were normal.

“Where do you store the big jugs of water?” I asked.

She just rolled her eyes.

I was thinking about that the other morning, after a night of tossing, interspersed with feverish fantasies of cutting onions next to the stove and then being chased by a chrome monster with pipes and valves and gauges… And I thought, why do we do it? Why am I in this sordid relationship?

Then I cranked up the Mazzer and ground exactly 18 grams of just-roasted Verve 1950 blend medium roast beans, gently tamped them down in my double-basket portafilter, ran a stream of 193-degree water through it and watched the molasses-thick crema fill my demitasse. Then I took my first sip of the day. You can chop onions anywhere.

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The Lipstick Index Is Back

Sales of the cosmetic product are a bright spot in an otherwise bleak discretionary-goods environment

By JINJOO LEE
Fri, Nov 25, 2022 2 min

Masks off, lipstick index on.

In a gloomy economy, consumers might cut back on other discretionary purchases but will keep shelling out for small luxuries such as lipstick—or so goes the theory. “When lipstick sales go up, people don’t want to buy dresses,” Leonard Lauder, then-chairman of Estée Lauder who is widely credited for coming up with the so-called “lipstick index,” told The Wall Street Journal in 2001.

L’Oréal Chief Executive Nicolas Hieronimus called this out during the company’s earnings call in October, noting that a luxury lipstick or mascara is only €30, making it an “affordable treat.” Sales at L’Oréal rose 9.1% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier despite slower sales in China due to Covid-related lockdowns. Coty, maker of CoverGirl makeup, said organic sales grew 9% over the same period.

Beauty sales have also been a rare bright spot for retailers: Target said beauty category sales grew roughly 15% in its quarter ended Oct. 29 compared with a year earlier, with Ulta Beauty shops in Target tripling their total sales volume over that period.

While Macy’s namesake stores saw comparable-store sales decline last quarter, its beauty-focused Bluemercury chain saw same-store sales grow 14% last quarter compared with a year earlier. Kohl’s locations with Sephora are outperforming the rest of the department-store chain.

Of the 14 discretionary categories that market research firm NPD Group tracks, prestige beauty—products you might find at a department store or a Sephora—is the only category that is seeing unit sales growth year to date. And lipstick, which suffered during the masked-up pandemic, is making up for lost time.

Lipstick sales have grown 37% through October this year compared with a year earlier, according to Larissa Jensen, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group. That is an acceleration from the 31% growth seen during the same period last year. Lip product is the only major category within prestige beauty where sales are actually up compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to Ms. Jensen.

Cosmetic companies have also called out strong sales in fragrances, calling it the “fragrance index.” Demand has been so robust that there is an industrywide fragrance component shortage, Coty said in a press release announcing third-quarter earnings earlier this month. CEO Sue Nabi said during the call that Coty hasn’t seen any kind of trade-down or slowdown, also noting that consumers are shifting away from gifting perfume to buying it for themselves.

“A big piece of it is just a shift in what wellness means to consumers,” NPD Group’s Ms. Jensen said. “Beauty is one of the few industries that are positioned to meet [consumers’] emotional need. It makes them feel good.”

While the lipstick effect could be observed in the recession in the early 2000s, that wasn’t the case during the 2007-09 recession, during which lipstick sales declined alongside other discretionary purchases. Part of this might have had to do with category-specific dynamics.

There was a lot of newness in the cosmetic industry in 2001, including lip gloss, a relatively nascent category back then. That tailwind simply wasn’t there starting in 2008, though nail polish turned out to be consumers’ small indulgence of choice in that period. This time around, consumers may be eager to show off a part of their face that was hidden behind a mask for so long during the pandemic.

In an otherwise bleak environment for companies selling discretionary goods, those in the business of selling cosmetics look well poised to come out of the holiday season looking freshened up.

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