Of the numerous memorable experiences I had working at the once great Dick Smith Electronics chain (serving a pimp who paid with notes removed from a gold money clip shaped like a dragon being among them) there was one that really stuck with me. I remember a man coming into the store who was looking for spray to freeze components, something which we stocked back then. I’m not sure what started the conversation but I do remember at one point mentioning that you could use it to cool a CPU in a PC if you were so inclined although you wouldn’t have much time to run your benchmarks with just a single can. As it turns out he was an electronics engineer and me, being halfway through a computer engineering degree at the time, instantly hit it off with him.
Among the cooling talk it came up in conversation that I had just recently built myself a water cooled PC rig, mostly for the street cred I’d get from overclocking the bajeezus out of my AMD CPU. He laughed and remarked on how he no longer bothered to do that any more but he did say that back in his day he used to do the same thing. We then got on to talking about product quality and what he said after that, whilst not changing me immediately, stuck with me:
When I’m trying to figure out if a motherboard is good quality I’ll pick it up and look at the engineering went into it. You can tell if components are laid out logically, if there’s high quality components and heaps of stuff just by having a good look at it.
For someone who had fed himself a steady diet of reviews, forum posts and benchmarks to determine the quality of a product the idea of simply looking at something to determine the value seemed kinda strange, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Over the years that idea grew into something of an obsession and I started to look at all the products I wanted to buy with an engineering eye. From there it’s grown into a passion for well engineered things and should anything cross my path that I can see has had a certain level of engineering prowess put into it I can’t help but feel myself be drawn to it.
The coffee machine pictured above (the Breville BES900 if you’re wondering) is the latest product to tickle my engineering fancy just right. Now I’m sure that sounds a little strange, I mean I’m no coffee geek and traditionally coffee machines are the most technically thrilling pieces of technology, but I was in the market for one and my highly experienced Melbourne friend (I have friends with coffee cred, see) recommended this one. Breville isn’t exactly the name you’d first associate with high tech either so on the surface pretty much everything about this was lining up to be a mundane adventure into the work of kitchen appliances.
I could not have been more wrong.
I can wholeheartedly attribute my current geek lust for this particular appliance to the hands on preview from the people over at CoffeeGeek. Whilst things like the boiler system, temperature controls and all the other bits that go into the coffee making side of it are impressive in its own right there’s a whole bunch of things that just scream good engineering. Overfill the reservoir on the top? No worries it has a drain into the spill tray in the bottom. Got the machine butted up against the wall but want to get to the back? There’s a switch on the bottom that extends wheels out so you can just spin it without having to lift the whole thing up. I really could go on but the guys at CoffeeGeek did a much better job than I could showcasing just how much solid engineering went into it.
And it’s pretty much for that fact only that it’s my current obsession. I don’t drink a whole lot of coffee and up until now my $10 special plunger has sufficed but every time I use it I can’t help but think about the beautiful piece of engineering I could be using instead. Soon one of them will find its way into my home (via those credit card points which are useless for pretty much everything except things like this) and I’ll be able to revel in its well engineered beauty in person. Until then I’ll satiate my inner engineering with specifications and pictures of its various bits and pieces, something which I never seem to get tired of.