My Coffee Maker is Almost as Old as I Am, and I Love Its Vintage Charm

published Aug 24, 2020
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Laura Fenton's Kitchen
Credit: Weston Wells

I like coffee—a lot. I’ve been a daily coffee drinker since I was 14 years old, which is when I started working in a coffee shop in my hometown. I’m kind of a snob about the finished cup of coffee, but my coffee making rig itself is about as low-fi as it could possibly be. In fact, my vintage Braun coffee maker is almost as old as I am and was purchased at a yard sale for about $10.

The early part of my adult life was spent with a similarly bare-bones Krups Coffee maker that had been handed down to me. After it died, I bought a new one and hated every minute of that ownership. So when I got engaged and married in 2011, I was sure to put a fancy-schmancy, stainless steel coffee maker from Williams-Sonoma on my registry. Much to my dismay though, it was no better than my new machine. It made weak coffee, had bad functional designs, and took up more counter space than my hand-me-down.

So when I spotted a vintage Braun at a yard sale that looked an awful lot like my beloved old Krups, I snapped it up. I liked the look of the minimalist machine, and I knew from experience that the simple design with just an “on and off” button meant there was less to break or malfunction. It was a lucky score: The old Braun might just be the best coffee maker ever made. 

I have since learned that my machine is the KF40 (very similar to the model on eBay above), first introduced in 1984. Braun’s appliances, particularly those designed by Dieter Rams, are celebrated for their high design. I do appreciate the aesthetics of the Braun, especially in a nostalgic way. Something about it feels comforting because it reminds me of my youth, and the white finish fits in well with the light, bright, clean mid-century leaning look of my home. My love for the machine though has just as much to do with its function as its designer form. 

My overall gripe with many of the modern coffee machines I have tried is that they don’t make a strong, hot cup of coffee. In my experience, they don’t heat the water up enough to make a properly-brewed cup. But the Braun makes truly hot coffee—even after three decades of use. Plus, it has a swing-out filter basket that makes it easy to get grinds in without getting them into the water well. While many low-budget models also have this swinging design, they often have a flat-bottomed filter basket, which is a big no-no in my book: The cone-shaped filter is another feature that ensures that the Braun makes a strong cup.

Finally, this guy makes coffee quickly. When we had our fancy wedding present machine, I had to push the 2-4 cup button to get the machine to brew an even halfway decent cup, and it seemed to take forever for the pot to brew. The Braun produces a full pot in just a few minutes. For this coffee addict, every second counts first thing in the morning!

The last reason I love my Braun is that it takes up so little counter space. I live in a small-ish apartment with a tight galley kitchen (which you can see above) where every inch counts. The Braun’s slim footprint leaves me a little more counter space. Plus, there’s a little cable storage compartment in the back that allows you to tuck the cord inside. It’s all in the little details. If you’re intrigued by the design of the vintage Braun, SingYu Lam, a product designer and industrial design student in Toronto, took a deep dive into a similar model on his blog, and Core 77 has a history of Braun’s kitchen appliance design that chronicles the evolution of Braun’s coffee makers over the years. 

So whether you like the throwback design or you just want a great, simple cup of coffee, do yourself a favor and buy an old one like mine. A great place to find something similar is eBay, though you’ll pay a little bit of a premium here for the convenience and shipping. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if one of these pops up from time to time on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or at a local yard sale either.