Meandering Out Loud

Don Thorp’s Musing, Muttering, and Mischief Along a Random Path

Making Coffee in the Dark – Saved by Good Design

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I try and convert as many things to habits as possible so that I’m not continuously making small decisions. Conventions help make habits efficient. For example, in our house, coffee cups are stored upside down in the cupboard. Habits are also suppose to make pre-caffeine rituals safer, because, let’s face it, anything pre-caffeine for most of us is just outright dangerous.

We don’t brew pots of coffee in our house because Laura and I are the only coffee drinkers and we prefer slightly different coffee. For years now, we’ve used the Flavia beverage system which produces reasonable coffee by the cup. The designers of this system must have had to use their own product in a pre-caffeinated state because it does have a nifty feature, the overflow reservoir.

Good product design helps minimize the damage when habit and convention fail.

Making coffee in the morning is a habit with several simple steps:

  1. Open door of Flavia to inform it to heat the water.
  2. Select your coffee-pack from the carousel. My favorite, Intense Dark Roast.
  3. Insert coffee-pack into machine, close door.
  4. Select mug, invert, and place on brewing platform under dispenser.
  5. Push brew button
  6. Wait 15 seconds or so
  7. Open door, remove used coffee-pack, and dispose in trash
  8. Close door, take coffee in cup somewhere safe to drink

Product Safety Note: Performing any task without caffeine is not recommended.

Imagine you have house guests sleeping on the couch and you don’t want to wake them up by turning on the lights. Also consider that you might have ruined your night vision by checking email, twitter, or some other service before remembering coffee. Let’s see how this goes.

  • Step 1, check
  • Step 2, wait, can’t see, ah, use blue LEDs on top of coffee maker to read labels, check
  • Step 3, check, easily done by touch
  • Step 4, check, coffee cups are right above coffee maker, easily done by touch, with some help from blue LEDs
  • Step 5, check, button is illuminated, and we know it’s location by heart
  • Step 6, check, we know noise machine makes when coffee has finished brewing, it’s Pavlovian
  • Step 7, check, easily performed by touch
  • Step 8, check, WAIT, WTH, sound of coffee splashing on floor, instigate corrective action ASAP

So, at this point, I … oops, YOU, go into damage recovery mode grab paper towels and start cleaning up the floor and the counter, by touch of course. Your brain registers that you spilled coffee, but there is not enough to account for all of the liquid that’s suppose to be in the cup. Slowing down, you reach over to the coffee cup, and, by touch, conclude that you put the cup on the beverage platform upside down. Convention and habit FAIL. That’s also when you remember that there is a small reservoir on the beverage platform and thank the designers.

New habit, when making coffee in the dark, check cup orientation, by touch before Step 5.

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July 31st, 2008

Don Thorp


4 Responses to “Making Coffee in the Dark – Saved by Good Design”

  1. Bwahahaahaa~

    I always do everything the night before, or I put coffee in the water tank. ;)

  2. Hieronymus says:

    Same here. The only thing I need to remember to do pre-coffee is how to throw the switch. And on good mornings, we can even send the kids down to do it.

  3. Vicky H says:

    At least twice a week I tell myself I’m going to set it up the night before and never have. Maybe in my unconcious mind I like the morning routine. That must be it.

    Vicky H

  4. Frizzlefry says:

    I try to never be up so early that it’s still dark out. . .
    New blog addy:

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