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DIY Coffee by Brian Jepson

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Chapter 3. Toaster Tea Popper

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Photography by Johnathan Nightingale

Perfect brew by the clock. By Johnathan Nightingale

I didn’t used to care about tea timing. In general, I have found that I can prepare tea of adequate quality by simply leaving the teabag in for “a while.” Recently, though, I was persuaded to begin timing and have been convinced that doing so yields a better and more consistent brew. Conventional tea timers have a common failing though, be they hourglass, mechanical, or, in my case, Palm: they require user intervention. At work, I inevitably became distracted by a conversation or got called away to fix something only to return to a patiently beeping timer and some very overdone tea. What I needed was a timer that could remove the teabag on its own.

I found my salvation in a toaster. A toaster is, after all, an easily obtainable and very cheap device that has, at its core, a variable timer controlling a mechanical lifting arm. Most modern toasters use a simple electronic circuit: when the lever is depressed, current flows to the heating elements and to an electromagnet. The electromagnet holds the lever down against the tension of a spring in the handle. While the toast is toasting, a trickle of current flows into a capacitor at a rate controlled by the “darkness” dial, which is nothing more than a variable resistor or “rheostat.” When the capacitor is filled, the electromagnet ...

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