It's black, it's bitter, it's burnt. It's office coffee. Everyone loves to hate it. Until now. The Full Circle Coffee Ring is a thin, doughnut-shaped silicon rubber disk that sticks to the underside of any automatic drip coffeepot, supposedly preventing "hot spots" and thus dramatically extending the flavorful life of your coffee. Paul Roland Sr. and Paul Jr. went through six versions and $450,000, trying materials ranging from cardboard to pennies, until hitting upon the right substance, which traps hot air while eliminating contact between the glass carafe and the burner. Their company, Progress Unlimited, in Newington, Conn., expects to break even within the next two months, and to sell nearly 1 million rings by year-end. With 165 million home coffee makers in the United States alone, "the market is certainly there," says Paul Sr. The rings retail for $1.98, last up to six months, and are available nationwide and in Canada at supermarkets and gourmet outlets. Brew-a-Matic, a leading coffee-brewing-equipment manufacturer, is also shipping the product to Japan and Europe.
-- Allesandra Bianchi