Unsolicited Review: Wacaco Minipresso GR

One of the questions I received recently was what my morning fuel of choice was. The answer is coffee, but the form it takes changes. We’ve got a massive Keurig machine at work, which does an able job of making coffee. It may not be the best quality, it may not have any cool factor whatsoever, but it’s included as a benefit.

That said, sometimes you want to step up your game a little. I recently saw the Wacaco Minipresso GR become available again, and decided to spring for one of the devices.

Disclosure: this is an entirely unsolicited review. I purchased this product out of pocket and the company has not reached out to me in any way.

The premise is pretty straightforward: a portable espresso machine. Of course, there’s absolutely no way a little handheld device is going to make the same quality of espresso as a countertop machine or the local coffee shop’s commercial machine. It’s delusional to even think it’ll come close.

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That said, it does pull a pretty solid cup of coffee that tastes like espresso. The device is simple. Add coffee grounds in one end, boiling water in the other end, seal, push the piston, and you get a single shot of espresso.

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When it says single shot, it means single shot. People expecting a full cup of coffee or a Starbucks-style massive cup are going to be sorely disappointed. If you compare the size of the output with an actual shot glass, it will make a full shot.

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A couple of notes worth pointing out. Start with boiling water. Not hot water, actual full rolling boil water. I take the hot water from the office water tap and stick it in the microwave to finish the job and get it to temperature. If you have the time, warm up the device by running hot tap water through it, because cold, it’s not going to pull as good a shot. (or give the first shot to a friend)

Second, pack and tamp. Loosely packed grounds are going to give you a weak shot. Pack it in. Obviously, that makes the piston harder to use – I have to use both hands – but it makes for a solid, strong shot.

If you want to add a little espresso to your day, give it some consideration. At $49, if it saves you from $4 espressos at Starbucks, it’ll only take a couple of weeks to pay for itself.


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The best things in life are difficult

How impressive would a 6 foot redwood tree be to a tourist in Sequoia National Park?

How marvelous would the skeleton of a chicken harvested last week be to an archaeologist?

How safe would you feel under the protection of someone who got a black belt in 3 months by mail order?

In the modern age, we lose sight of the fact that not everything in life is supposed to be bite-sized, convenient, easy, cheap, and immediate.

Giant sequoias live for thousands of years, assuming they survive things like drought and fire. Fossils take millions of years to form. Black belts can take as long as a decade to achieve, and in some dojo only 1 out of a thousand students will ever get one.

The best things in life can be difficult. You could even make the argument that the best things in life are supposed to be difficult by definition.

Here’s a recent example from the holiday weekend. I baked two sets of cookies. One was from a box kit, the hilariously named “Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookie Kit”.

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It was easy, just add water, wait a minute or two, roll out the dough, and start cranking out the cookies. Bake ’em, decorate ’em, and enjoy.

Everything went well except the last part, because the product tasted like cardboard.

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The second set of cookies was made from a dough that took half a day to make. It started with only raw ingredients, which required mixing, kneading, and sitting for several hours. The dough was a lot more tricky to work with, but the end result tasted like terrific, real cookies.

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There was significantly more effort involved. It was significantly more difficult than “just add water”. But the end result was incomparably better.

As you approach business, marketing, or just life in general, don’t turn away from a difficult path just because it’s difficult. Question whether it’s difficult for a good reason, and if the reason is legitimate, consider taking the harder path!


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The curious question of pumpkin spice lattes

I’ve been watching yet another meme pass around on Facebook, this time about the “hazardous chemicals” inside of a popular coffee brand’s pumpkin spice latte coffee drink. There have been opinions offered on all sides of the debate about whether X chemical is healthy or harmful, whether X ingredient is in the drink or not (and if it’s a retail product vs. an intended for home purchase or not).

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What astonishes me is this: very, very few people ever see either the article or commentary and say, “Well gosh, I can do better than that. I’ll make my own.” Pumpkin pie spice is as old as… well, pumpkin pie. Here, take a look at what constitutes pumpkin pie spices, based on about 5 minutes of Googling:

Dry Goods

  • 4 parts cinnamon
  • 3 parts ginger
  • 2 part nutmeg
  • 1 part allspice
  • 1 part cloves
  • 1/4 part salt

Wet Goods for something like a pumpkin spice latte

  • 4 parts honey

You’ll need high quality spices from the store or Amazon, especially if you have specific dietary needs. Mix the above ratios in as little or as much as you need. Because spices oxidize quickly, only make as much as you need at any given time, especially if you’re grinding your own spices. If you seal the dry goods in an airtight container, they’ll stay reasonably fresh for a couple of weeks. Your best bet is to mix the ratios of whole spices, bag those in little containers, and then grind on demand. Note that there is no pumpkin in it because it’s assumed you’d use pumpkin spice on pumpkins.

Now, bear in mind, I’m not a professional chef. I’m not even an amateur chef. I’m a marketer, a marketing technologist, a hacker (in the most ethical sense of the word). That means when I see something, the first question that leaps into my mind is, “How can I do that?” How can I reverse engineer it, figure out how it works, what makes it tick, and ideally, improve upon it?

If you find yourself saying, “How hard can that possibly be?” and wandering off to experiment with things, if you’re not afraid to fail frequently and spectacularly, then you have one of the most powerful traits of those who are successful in marketing:

You’re curious.

Curiosity is an incredible personality trait. It drives you to want to know more, to want to discover more, to seek out new ways of solving old problems and to understand as much as you can about what interests you. Curiosity is what transforms a marketer from average to awesome, because the more curious you are about your business and the industry you operate in, the more effective you will be at marketing what you do. Curiosity is what defines marketers and marketing technologists; we want to understand how something works so that we can make it better.

So whether it’s pumpkin spice memes, ice buckets, or whatever the issue of the day is, get curious! Explore, challenge, and expand your boundaries and knowledge. You, your career, and your company will be richer for it in so many ways.

Oh, and enjoy the pumpkin spice recipe.


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