AT THIS TIME of year, there is a lot of pressure to buy things, especially kitchen appliances. Being a cheapskate, I try to resist. Rather than acquire something new, I try to fix the old.
That is how recently I ended up making coffee with a spatula. I used it to push the trip lever on the bottom of my coffee maker's brewing compartment, diverting the flow of hot coffee into a nearby metal pan.
Normally, the coffeepot would take care of this duty, but the old pot is shattered. It was taken out of commission by a measuring cup that tumbled out of an overhead kitchen cabinet. The measuring cup was plastic but it got the better of the crash with the glass coffeepot.
Technically, it is not a coffeepot. Rather, it is a 12-cup glass carafe for a DeLonghi coffee maker, model number DCR902T. That is the kind of language you use when you go on the replacement-coffee-carafe search. I know because I have been there, bagged a fresh carafe and am waiting for it to arrive at my home. Meanwhile, I make do with the spatula.
Life is full of contradictions and one of them is my fancy coffee maker. When working smoothly, it delivered sunrise sustenance, cups of freshly brewed coffee. Like a faithful servant, it went to work early in the morning, huffing away in the dark kitchen, filtering water, heating it, transforming it into a brew, all while I was still abed.
This device was designed to make my life simpler. But when it stopped working, things got complicated and roles were reversed. I became its caretaker, rising early to tend it, coaxing it with the metal spatula.
My wife happened upon me in my pajamas, poking the coffee maker with a spatula, and had enough sense to say nothing other than "Good morning." She wanted a cup of hot coffee and was willing to put up with a little unpleasant scenery to get it.
Tempted though I was to trash this coffee maker - it did dribble when I poured coffee into cups - it was only about 2 years old. Throwing out something that was "almost new" didn't sit right with me.
So the quest for a replacement carafe began. It couldn't be any carafe. It had to be one that exactly fit the coffee maker, snugly sitting under the brewing basket, its top tripping the spring-loaded lever that controlled the flow of freshly brewed coffee.
Hoping to get lucky, I telephoned Hecht's in Towson, where I had purchased the coffee maker, but was told the store did not carry coffee-maker parts. I got the same story from Sears, where once, about 10 years ago, I had found a replacement carafe for another type of coffee maker.
Next, I drove to a restaurant supply store, DePalo & Sons on Belair Road. It had plenty of coffee carafes, but its restaurant-style carafes were too tall to fit in my short, domestic coffee maker.
Reluctantly, I turned to the Web, where I figured I could find a carafe but would have to wait several days for it to be shipped.
Quickly, I found out why department stores don't carry replacement carafes. There are dozens of them, with specifications configured for a myriad of shapes, sizes and brands.
The longest list of carafes, showing the products of 18 manufacturers, popped up on the Web site for Culinary Parts Unlimited (www.culinaryparts .com). This Web site specializes in finding replacement parts and accessories for kitchen appliances.
Unfortunately, the type of carafe that fit my coffee maker was back-ordered, meaning I could wait weeks to get it. When I called the toll-free number of Culinary Parts (866-727-8435) to see if I could hurry along the process, a very pleasant woman told me to call the manufacturer, DeLonghi, and gave me the toll-free number (800-322--3848).
I called and was put on hold. I waited and waited and waited. Eventually, I got through, and was assured that my replacement carafe would arrive at my home within five days. It cost about $25. I could probably buy a new coffee maker for that price, although not as fancy as my old one.
Besides, fixing the old machine was the principled thing to do. At least that is what I tell myself early in the morning as I shuffle into the kitchen and jab the coffee maker with a spatula.