I used to get so much mail, it would arrive in long plastic trays. Some days I’d get more than 10 trays, each one holding hundreds of individual pieces of mail.

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Twenty years later, that kind of mail has dwindled to only a few pieces each day, but don’t assume that means my mail has slowed. It has changed from physical letters to email. You should see my inbox!

I can’t say that I miss all the trays, the trips back and forth to the post office and all of that paper. I still get just enough of your lovely handwritten letters each week, which I enjoy so much—letters like this one that just showed up on my desk:

Dear Mary: My homemade vanilla gifts for Christmas 2015 are all ready to go—they just need precious time to steep and age. Thank you for the recipe, instructions and links to the bottles and beans. Feels so good to be done this far in advance. Now I have another situation. Today our coffee maker went to the land of dead coffee makers, which means we’re in the market for a new one. What do you recommend? Carolyn

photo credit: lotzman

photo credit: lotzman

Dear Carolyn: When I saw your message I grabbed it and put it right at the top of the of the pile because I am nothing if not an evangelist for the joys of coffee. Some might call me a coffee snob—that’s how opinionated I am on the matter. And I love it when someone asks me for a recommendation having anything to do with coffee.

A good cup of coffee is dependent on a lot of things, not the least of which is proper brewing. For example, the water needs to be just the right temperature when it hits those coffee grinds. You can do this manually—but it’s tricky. However, most coffee lovers prefer to make a whole pot at a time (that would be me), which means you really do need a good coffee maker.

That being said, I have three recommendations for you.

The best way to make a cup of coffee manually is with the Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker. Working on the “French press” method of coffee making (but with a paper filter) the Aeropress can make up to 4 cups at a time. While you have to do all the work with the  Aeropress, you can’t beat the result: smooth, rich coffee that has no bitterness. It takes about 5 minutes start to finish. About $25.

My recommendation for the best inexpensive coffee maker is none other than this Mr. Coffee 4-Cup machine. For $20, you really can’t go wrong. It makes a decent cup of coffee. You won’t get a clock or timer or any other bells and whistles but you will get a gold-tone reusable filter, which means you will save money by not having to buy paper filters. About $20.

If you are looking for the best value in a high quality, well-made coffee maker, look no further than the Bonavita 8-Cup Coffee Maker. This is an amazing machine that heats the water quickly and to the  precise temperature needed to make the best quality coffee—205 F. Made of stainless steel, it looks nice on the counter, too. Comes with 2-year manufacturer’s warranty and excellent reviews.  About $115. 

There you go. My best advice for your immediate need. Hope that helps!