After reading the reviews, I bought an Aerobie AeroPress. Yes, the flying ring makers have made a coffee maker that looks like a chemist's set and ... makes great coffee.
My first cup was smooth and rich-tasting as promised. Based on the many user reviews, one may want to experiment with the grind and the amount of coffee and water (and water temperature) to get one's favorite cup, but it can make a crema-less espresso (or near espresso) to drink straight or in a latte or cappuccino, as well as (by adding more hot water) regular coffee.
$30. No electricity. (You'll need a source of hot water - a microwave or electric tea kettle - and you can put your water in the plunger tube per the measuring marks and heat it in the microwave, so it's great for travel and a hotel microwave, or just use hot water from a hotel coffeemaker.) No moving parts. A little labor, and even less time, and ... voila! A great cup of coffee.
If only all the world's problems could be solved this easily.
You can buy it locally and internationally, as well as via Amazon.com (from third parties).
Read some of the reviews at Amazon or at CoffeeGeek.com, and those at the links at the bottom of the Aerobie AeroPress Webpage (and the "Frequently Asked Questions" link on that same page).
This test review demonstrates why it doesn't make true espresso, but great coffee, equaling or besting machines costing many times as much.
If you're a French Press person, here is my earlier post about French Press coffee, as well as about good coffee in general.
And ... these guys just opened up a shop 2 miles down the road from our house. On-site fresh-roasted coffee for about $10 a pound. I'll never lack for fresh-roasted beans again. (Sorry, Starbucks.) Whoo-hoo!
Watch the video on the AeroPress Webpage. - - -
UPDATE October 3, 2007: After some minor experimentation, I find I like the coffee ground at espresso grind (the finest grind on my Starbucks Barista burr grinder) or maybe one step coarser. (Per the instructions, if you make more than 2 scoops at a time, you need to use a coarser grind, as it's difficult to compress the air in the tube with that much coffee at a superfine grind.)
I use 2 AeroPress scoops, which I press with water filled to the "(2)" level in the plunger, and pour a little hot water over the stirring paddle just before I press in order to wash the grounds from the paddle back into the coffee mixture. After pressing, I dilute it in the cup with hot water to about a 11-12 oz. cup of coffee.
The AeroPress scoop is about 36 cc (versus 30 cc for the standard 2-Tablespoon coffee measure) and doubles as an espresso server, holding the amount of a single espresso in case one wants to divide multiple servings among several cups. So I'm using about 20% more coffee per cup than with a French press (i.e., 72 cc for 12 oz. of coffee = 6 cc ground coffee per 1 oz. of water, versus 2 TB = 30 cc per 6 oz. water in a French Press = 5 cc ground coffee per 1 oz. of water), perhaps because the very short brew time requires a bit more coffee to achieve the desired strength, or maybe because I can make the coffee stronger since it has no bitterness.
UPDATE October 5, 2007: I notice that the coffee doesn't seem to have the aroma that coffee from my French Press had. At times it has tasted a bit "flat," too. This is a result of the paper filter absorbing some of the flavor oils (one reason I was a bit cautious about the AeroPress). Some have recommended letting it steep longer - i.e., for 1 minute or even a French-Press-comparable 3 minutes - by first inserting the plunger and then inverting it, and pouring the coffee and water in via the bottom of the tube (and covering it until ready to put on the cap and filter and turn it over and plunge it), or by pulling the plunger UP slightly after insertion to create a slight vacuum and prevent any flow-through until ready to plunge. (If you pull it up too much, though, it will suck the filter away from the cap, and the water will start pouring through!)
Even then, though, there are apparently limits that the AeroPress can't pass.
I discovered that I've been making it way too hot. I've been waiting a few seconds after my tea kettle boiled before pouring the water, but when I poured water into the plunger and first used a digital instant-read thermometer to see when it reached 175°, I was surprised that it took a lot longer than I expected. So I now pour out my water before the boil and use the thermometer to check the temperature before pouring it into the coffee, as the AeroPress instructions recommend 165-175° for optimum flavor.
UPDATE October 10, 2007: Despite the lack of some of the flavor oils, AeroPress coffee has its own flavor and quality that still makes it (to me) about the best cup of coffee I've had. While it may be worth the trouble to get a 5 micron polyester filter and use the inverted (i.e., upside-down) method to get the oils into the cup as the folks here suggest, I am currently pretty content with the regular AeroPress procedure with the AeroPress paper filters.
UPDATE October 20, 2007: I bought a second AeroPress today so I wouldn't have to bring mine home every weekend.
Shortly after I had gotten my $125 (retail) Starbucks Barista conical burr grinder, I did a blind comparison with my $20 blade grinder using my drip coffeemaker. The burr ground coffee had a noticeably fuller flavor.
Based on comments of other AeroPress users, I decided to see if there was any noticeable difference with the AeroPress between burr-ground coffee and blade-ground coffee. I ground 1.5 scoops of a fresh decaf Sumatra City Roast (roasted yesterday) in each of my grinders, and pressed/brewed them both at the same time with 175° water I had filled to the "(2)" mark in the plunger. As far as I could tell, there was not a noticeable difference in taste.
This means that I can take my quiet blade grinder to work and grind my beans there before making each cup. The coffee will taste fresher and I won't have to wake my wife up with the noise of the burr grinder (or even the blade grinder) each morning. On the other hand, it's quite a bit messier, esp. digging out the compacted fine coffee, so I may continue with my burr grinder, but grind it the night before or in another room.
UPDATE November 15, 2007: Though I initially used the Espresso grind setting (or one step coarser) on my Starbucks Barista Burr grinder, I found that the coffee was perhaps too fine, because it took a lot of pressure (and time) to push the water through. Grinding it three steps coarser than Espresso - i.e., about halfway between Espresso Grind and Drip Grind - seems to a better setting. While I found that the coffee tasted just as good if I used a blade grinder (and I even took mine to work for awhile in order to grind the beans right before brewing), the fineness of the grind made it very difficult to press, so I went back to using the burr grinder at home and taking ground coffee to work.