Jessie Raymond: Coffee’s key quality? Availability
I’ll never forget a couple of years ago when I was thrown out of a fancy indie coffee house for asking — at 3 p.m. — if they had decaf.
“What a privilege it must be,” I yelled over my shoulder as I left, “to be under 30 and not have to worry about sleeping at night!”
Now, I’m not entirely sure it happened like that, but I do remember the look of disbelief and disgust the barista gave me when I made the request.
Sorry, but I’m not a purist when it comes to coffee. If it’s after noon, I drink decaf. I use half-and-half. I don’t even own a French press.
And I’m not alone. For every coffee drinker out there who imbues the act of making coffee with the solemnity of a religious ritual, there’s someone like me who cares more about the coffee’s availability than its flavor.
To me, especially first thing in the morning, any coffee is better than no coffee. I appreciate a smooth, full-bodied cup as much as anyone else, but I’m more focused on getting coffee, good or bad, into my body as fast as possible.
But by what method?
It seems like everyone used to have drip coffee makers. Then Keurigs came on the scene, and suddenly single-serve coffee was all the rage.
Like tens of millions of other Americans, I received a Keurig for Christmas one year. I sent our Mr. Coffee to storage and embraced the new technology.
The Keurig slowed things down, however, when we had company, as I needed to repeatedly empty and rinse my reusable K-cup (you can fault my coffee priorities but not my commitment to reducing plastic waste).
Plus the whole idea of individually served coffees felt unfriendly. Instead of the communal “Let me brew us a pot,” I had to say, “Let me make you a cup, and then a few minutes later, I will make myself a cup, and hopefully no one else will come over or I’ll just be stuck making an unending succession of coffees while you all chitchat.”
Fortune intervened, however, in rodent form. One night a mouse chewed halfway through the cord of the Keurig. The next morning when I pressed “Brew,” a flame shot out from behind the machine with a loud pop, I screamed and the room went dark.
There I stood, in a dim, smoky kitchen, my nerves simultaneously dulled from a lack of caffeine and jangled by the flash and bang.
I needed coffee.
Desperate, I turned to a small vintage stovetop percolator I had bought for display.
I can just hear the coffee snobs: “A percolator? Don’t you know that boiling coffee ruins it?”
Yeah, yeah, whatever. To reiterate: I needed coffee.
I loaded up the percolator (with pre-ground beans, no less!) and put it on the stove. When the coffee started blurping in the glass bubble in the top, I cooed. Adorable.
I wouldn’t say the percolator made a great cup. But it was coffee, and the charm of the blurping made up for the burned aftertaste. I used that little pot for over a year.
The problem remained, however: When guests arrived, I could only produce a cup and a half at a time.
I had to find an alternative.
Necessity, once again, inspired me. One morning when I had a few friends coming over, I remembered that the old Mr. Coffee was kicking around in the barn with our camping gear. Tossing aside electric fans, party lights, margarita glasses — you know, the stuff you need for roughing it — I found it.
The kaffeeklatsch was saved.
I’m happy to say Mr. Coffee, complete with brand-new guilt-driven reusable filter, is once again brewing my morning coffee.
I don’t mean the coffee tastes fantastic. I mean this machine has — forgive me — a perk: I can program it to brew a pot just before I wake up. Now I don’t have to go through the daunting process of making my morning coffee before I’ve had my morning coffee.
I get that some people find brewing and drinking fine coffee a transcendent experience, but not all of us care. For me, coffee serves primarily as lighter fluid and match for the damp charcoal briquettes that are my half-awake brain.
And I’m OK with that.
In fact, it’s kind of a relief that I don’t have a thing for high-end coffee; ever since the decaf incident, I get nervous in coffee houses.
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