USB Missile LauncherWhat do you get for the geek who has everything? Of course! Their very own USB Missile Launcher! But is it really worth it? Yes! Read on and find out why.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

Pros:

  • Roughly 12 foot range
  • Accurate within a foot or two even at range
  • 180 degree pan
  • Limited but reasonable tilt control (about 30 degrees above to five degrees below level)
  • Fires three darts one at a time
  • Soft foam darts are safe around the office
  • High quality molded plastic construction
  • Free Mac software better than included PC software

Cons:

  • Couple second delay between clicking “Fire” and actual launch
  • Batteries required (3xAA)
  • Included software does not allow for simultaneous pan and tilt (movign diagonally)

Details:

Launcher in boxThe USB Missile Launcher came to me from the folks at KlearGear.com who have quite a line of toys and gadgets appropriate for the office. They sell the USB Missile Launcher for $55 which I consider a fair price for a toy this cool.

It comes quite attractively packed… the type of thing that you wouldn’t be able to keep on shelves in the right locations. It would make the perfect trade-show giveaway for the same reasons. Have a stack of three or four of these at your booth and you’ll get some attention (hell, at the price just give away a dozen.)

The USB Missile Launcher was equally impressive out of the box. The unit quickly pans through 180 degrees and tilts about 35 degrees. The PC software that ships with the unit is limited to only moving in one direction at a time, while the free Mac software allows movement in two directions.

You can fire one missile at a time and the missiles shoot out with surprising speed, propelled by a small spring which is compressed when you load the missiles. Both software versions suffer from a second or two delay when firing. I have a feeling this is a limitation of the device, but it’s the only major flaw in what is otherwise a great piece of office artillery.

The launcher is solidly constructed and the darts have held up well for me. There is nothing with the unit or on the KlearGear site about replacement missiles, but I’m sure if there’s a demand they’ll become available.

Conclusions:

This is a great office toy and would be a great gift idea for anyone who regularly engages in cubicle warfare. At a cost of $55 from KlearGear.com the USB Missile Launcher is one of the most unique toys you could get someone this holiday season.

I had hoped to get a couple videos up of the launcher but haven’t been able to get any I’m happy with. Perhaps it’s time for a new digital camera.

Thanks to the folks at KlearGear.com for giving me the chance to evaluate the USB Missile Launcher.

cubicle, warfare, office, office toy, office humor, work, fun, usb, robot, robotic, computer, toy

CoffeeReview.comStan left an excellent comment on my review of the Toddy cold brew system and mentioned the site CoffeeReview.com.

They’ve got reviews of hundreds of different coffees and some great reference on coffee. Check it out.

Thanks Stan for a great comment!

coffee, review, food, cooking

Aerobie AeroPressAfter reading about the Aerobie AeroPress at Brotherhood of the Bean I was very curious about this new method of brewing coffee. Skeptical from my experience with the Toddy cold brew system I decided to see if Aerobie would send me one to review. Alex at Aerobie was quick to respond and a couple days later I got the AeroPress.

How it works

Part French press, part espresso the AeroPress is a new breed of coffee maker. First you insert one of the micro-filters into the filter holder and twist it onto the larger of the two tubes (seen in the picture to the left.) Set the tube on top of your coffee mug (not included, but I’m sure you don’t need another one anyway) and add one scoop of ground coffee for each shot of espresso or (small) cup of coffee you wish to make.

You then add hot water (165-175 degrees Fahrenheit) to the tube and stir for ten seconds with the included stirrer (the tube is graduated so you’ll know how much water to add.) Now the fun part… Take the plunger and press the coffee through the filter. This part takes about another 20 seconds.

If you want espresso, you’re done. If you want Americano-style coffee just top off your cup with a bit more hot water. Cleanup involves untwisting the filter holder, pushing the coffee and filter out of the tube and rinsing the plunger and filter holder. It’s just that easy.

I found the maker very easy to learn and I got fantastic coffee on my first try. The only tough part was getting the water at just the right temperature. An instant-read thermometer helped me figure out the timing and now I can nuke up the hot water with no guess work.

The results

Though skeptical at first, after using the Aerobie AeroPress for a couple weeks I have to say it makes great American coffee and some of the best espresso I’ve ever had! Now to back that statement up I feel I should mention that I used to work in a coffee shop with a Rancilio Z9 which served nothing but Lavazza espresso and this $30 home machine made equal or better espresso than the best we ever got out of our Z9! The AeroPress process even yields a nice crema on top of the espresso.

And yes, you read that right, $30 is the price. That includes the maker, funnel, scoop, stirrer, filter holder and 350 filters. The filters are proprietary, but hey, when you only have to order them once a year (or so) who cares…

After a couple weeks of use I can only see two drawbacks to it. First, you will use more coffee than in a typical drip coffee maker. This is typical to espresso makers. Second, the unit will only make four cups (about two typical mugs) of coffee at a time. Typically this won’t be a problem as the whole process is so quick you could still turn out a dozen mugs in less than 10 minutes.

Conclusions

The Aerobie AeroPress has earned a place on my counter. Fulfilling my need for an espresso machine, at a fraction of the cost of any other I would consider, and my occasional need for a single-cup maker my AeroPress isn’t going anywhere.

Beyond regular use I think this maker has great potential for camping. The maker, scoop and stirrer weighs in at just over 9 ounces and is all made of durable polycarbonate (I believe) so it would pack small and light and would be much less fragile than a French press.

The AeroPress would also make perfect espresso for recipes. At the price it would be worth having around for this alone.

Read more about the AeroPress at Aerobie’s site. They also have a complete listing of both US and international vendors.

coffee, espresso, drinks

So if you’re a frequent reader you may have noticed that most of my reviews are positive. It’s not because I like everything I get, see, hear and read, just that I’m far more inspired to write about something I like than something I don’t. In the case of the Toddy Cold Brew system I am making an exception to this rule in order to review a truly disappointing brewing method.

The Toddy Cold Brew Coffee System website claims “The Toddy coffee maker extracts the coffee bean’s true delicious flavor and eliminates much of the acidity, producing a bold, super-smooth coffee that can be served one cup at a time.” The site also boasts a long list of positive reviews. The Washington Post has even called it “the ultimate coffee maker” but my experience with it was quite the opposite.

Toddy Coffee MakerThe theory is by brewing coffee with cold water you will extract less acidity and bitterness resulting in a superior cup of coffee. The system makes a concentrate from a full pound of coffee which can then be stored and prepared one cup at a time. With the convenience of working with the concentrate the system is also supposed to save coffee since you can make only as much as you need eliminating leftover coffee.

The allure of more convenient, better tasting coffee got the best of me and, after reading all the reviews I could find I decided to order a Toddy Cold Brew System directly from their website. A few days later it arrived.

The system consists of a large funnel, a carafe, and round, thick filters. To make the coffee concentrate you place a plug in the small hole in the funnel, place a filter in the inside holder and put a full pound of ground coffee in the funnel. You then add nine cups of cold water to the coffee grounds and let the mixture sit for twelve hours. After the brewing time you pull the plug and let the coffee drain into the carafe. To serve the directions recommend diluting the concentrate with three parts water to one part concentrate and heat.

I used the Toddy system for several weeks. I tried quite a few different coffees, a couple different grind sizes and varied the brew time according to the included instructions.

The results

After dozens of cups I was very disappointed with the results from the Toddy system. While the claim of low acidity held true the flavor was bland and the body absent. Hot or cold the only way I could make a nearly acceptable cup of coffee was to mix the concentrate closer to one to one. Mixing the concentrate this strong resulted in less than 10 mugs of coffee per pound of coffee, causing a huge waste compared to drip brewing. All other variables did little to improve the bland flavor.

Conclusions

If you’re hyper-sensitive to acid in your foods the Toddy Cold Brew System may enable you to drink coffee without discomfort. If you’re looking for a better cup of coffee, look elsewhere. Drip, press, espresso, vacuum, even percolator brewing all produce a much more satisfying coffee than the cold brew system.

What this system offers in convenience and simplicity it sacrifices in flavor. The $34.95 spent on this maker would be better put to a good quality drip coffee maker.

coffee, coffee maker, cooking, food, beverage

Armeno Kopi LuwakAfter trying the excellent luwak coffee from AnimalCoffee.com I decided I had to try Armeno Coffee Roasters offering of this rarest of coffees.

Armeno is my preferred coffee roaster from which I drink several pounds of coffee each month. Their Kopi Luwak has gone through the same unusual process as the Luwak Coffee from animalcoffee.com, and while their coffee left nothing to be desired it will still be nice to have something to compare it to.

The packaging (shown in the image above) is a stark contrast to AnimalCoffee.com’s gift box however is sufficient to protect its contents. One of the things Armeno offers over other roasters is freshness. They ship only coffee roasted the day of shipping, and since Armeno is located in western Massachusetts their coffee reaches me overnight. If you’re not convinced freshness makes a difference, give Armeno a try. I think you’ll be surprised.

Now for the tasting… Cup one is with cream and sugar. The coffee is medium bodied with excellent flavor and a pleasant bouquet. There is a slight nuttiness to the coffee and no hint of bitterness. The finish is clean, with no acid or bitterness. There is a bit of fruit to the aftertaste and perhaps a little smoke.

Even black the coffee holds its balance extraordinarily well. Those who feel they need cream or sugar to combat the bitterness of coffee will likely find they don’t need it in this coffee.

Final Thoughts

Overall the coffee is very well balanced, a little mild for my taste, but I like strong coffees. In comparison to the Luwak from animalcoffee.com I have to say the flavor of the Armeno offering is a bit more refined, however, this smoothness comes at the price of some of its uniqueness and complexity.

This definitely ranks in the best coffees I’ve ever had. Armeno fetches $120/lb for this treat, but thankfully they offer a 4 ounces portion for a mere $30. Not a bad price for bragging rites on trying the rarest coffee in the world, but if you’re looking for a nice presentation and the full experience, I’d recommend a gift box from AnimalCoffee.com.

coffee, kopi luak, kopi luwak, luak, luwak, luwak coffee, poop

« Previous PageNext Page »