Coffee Machine Perils

First, in case the title of this post has worried anyone, I should say that it has nothing to do with the hazardous combination of a newly mobile baby plus burning hot coffee (though it probably goes without saying not to let your baby near hot burny things in general). Instead, this post tells the tale of a coffee machine that we had for a little while, and the less than pleasant outcome for our kitchen.

Some background: Joe and I are “coffee people” who brew up a fresh pot every morning to drink with breakfast, so a good reliable coffee machine is a must. And in our modestly-sized kitchen, counter space is at a premium — you can see a floor plan here, but basically there are just two sections of countertop, one between the sink and the stove (which serves as the main food preparation area) and a smaller section between the sink and the refrigerator (which is where we cram various foodstuffs and appliances that need to be used on a daily basis, like the toaster and the sugar jar).

So when we received a Black & Decker Spacemaker coffee machine as a Christmas gift, it seemed like the perfect thing. It bolts to the bottom of your kitchen cabinets, freeing up the space beneath it and generally making things feel a bit more spacious. Here it is after we installed it in our kitchen:

The coffee machine mounted under our kitchen cabinet.

It did require some drilling through the bottom of the cabinet in order to install it, and included a handy template to show you how to space out the holes. The bolts were pretty unobtrusive, even if I did accidentally splinter the wood a little while drilling the holes. Here’s what the emptied-out cabinet looked like after installing the hanging coffee machine:

The bolts drilled through the bottom of the cabinet to hold up the coffee machine.

The mounted position worked really well for us, and it was a nice coffee machine — it had a timer and everything, so you could set it the night before and wake up to a hot pot of coffee with no groggy early-morning preparation required. For a few months, we enjoyed our lovely space-saving coffee machine.

But… little did we know that something sinister was happening with every pot we brewed. Hot coffee will naturally produce some steam, which resulted in a bit of condensation building up on the front of the cabinet. I noticed it in passing a few times, but figured it was no big deal… and by the time we realized that the steam was actually corroding the cabinet, the damage was already done:

Peeling finish on the cabinet.

The cabinet ended up with some discoloration and the finish completely peeling away to reveal bare wood. In case it’s hard to tell from the photo, the damaged spot is roughly aligned with the coffee pot handle in the first photo (and you can see how undamaged that section of cabinet was when we installed it).

I’m not sure if our particular machine had some kind of defect, or if we installed it slightly wrong, or if the finish on our cabinets was just so old and flaky that it was bound to happen… But in the end we went back to a traditional on-the-counter coffee machine since the mounted one didn’t seem to be working out.

Granted, our kitchen cabinets weren’t new or pristine by any stretch, and over the years they had developed some very obvious signs of wear in places. And while it would be nice to do a full kitchen remodel someday down the road, it’s hard to deny that the cabinets are still perfectly functional — though maybe this is a sign that we should start looking into repainting or refinishing the cabinets to spruce them up a little.

For anyone reading this, have you ever tried a mounted coffee machine? And if so, did it do anything weird to your cabinets?

8 Comments

  1. Wow! At first, I was thinking that the space saver coffee maker was a great idea but now, not so much! Sorry about what happened to your cabinet. I’m sure you can refinish it though, and it’ll look fine, at least until you can redo the cabinets. I’m wondering if it happened because the cabinets simply weren’t designed to have a coffee maker attached since such an invention had probably not been designed when the cabinets were new. What does everyone else think?

    • Yeah, I think it’ll patch up good as new, and I’m really looking forward to painting or refinishing the cabinets to spruce them up in general. I think you’re right that the age of the cabinets probably had a lot to do with it, since back in the day they probably didn’t plan for there to be a source of steam so close to the finish. And maybe with newer cabinets this kind of damage wouldn’t be as much as a concern if they’re designed to be more durable, etc.

  2. LOL! Well, until I read this post I’d never seen an under-cabinet coffee maker! So not much help there. I have seen some nice kitchen cabinet makeovers, though. One neat trick for just one cabinet was to paint it with chalkboard paint, add some plain frame around the edges, and voilá, a message board! Other options are to fill in any dings, and paint a solid color, or to replace just the cabinet doors if the cabinet body is good.

    • The chalkboard paint is an interesting idea! What a way to add some useful functionality while hiding the imperfections in the cabinet. We’ll have to put some serious thought into what colors and finishes would work best for our kitchen and make sure to consider non-traditional options as well. :)

  3. Never had an under counter coffee-maker, I just use instant. BUT, I had a “spare” cabinet door stored in the garage for years (I think they replaced it with that spinning corner drawer) that I was going to use on the hutches, as it was just the right size: only to discover that our humidity had crept into the bottom edge, and separated it into several layers! Looks like that may be the case with your cabinets too, not solid wood, but plywood with a nice veneer. Yours looks to be milder damage, so perhaps you can deliberately steam it a little, glue it back down with Weldwood gluewhile still damp (and pliable we hope), then put C-clamps on until it dries?

    • That’s a bummer about the cabinet door separating like that, especially when you were planning on putting it to good use. And that’s an interesting point about solid wood vs. veneered plywood — I’m not actually sure which we’re dealing with in our case. Unfortunately the chipped off piece seems to have disappeared, and the peeling part is so thin and flaky that we may not have any option but to sand it down and paint / varnish over the whole thing. Thanks for the suggestion though :)

  4. We just sold our weekend place. It had this coffee maker in it
    and it is the only thing we miss. Good coffee and loved the space saving mount. We did not have the damage mentioned. We have a small kitchen and decided we wanted this coffee pot in our main home. After seeing the damage in your picture I am concerned and will be checking other post to see if this is a common problem before we purchase. Thanks for your post.

  5. Yikes! We are planning on remodeling our kitchen, including new cabinets, and in hopes of getting things off of the counter I was searching for under-cabinet coffee makers. I was sold on the Black & Decker model, but now I don’t know! Thanks for sharing.

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