Friday, December 16, 2005

Coffee Confessions: or How I Became A Coffee Goddess

A confession: Until very recently, I'd never made a cup of coffee on my own.

Horrifying, I know. When my mother-out-law (the woman responsible for the existence of the Human Vacuum) comes to town, she cannot comprehend that our otherwise perfectly normal kitchen lacks that most fundamental of appliances: the automatic coffeemaker. I honestly think she might be less shocked if we didn't have a refrigerator.

I do own some coffee, but I keep it around only for the rare occasions when I need to incorporate it into a baked good. What can I say? I'm part of the Starbucks generation--I can see one from my apartment window, and I walk by four on the way to work.

My woeful ignorance emerged at a recent neighborhood brunch, and my longest suffering grade-school friend (we'll call her "Goose") marched me over to the Hostess's coffee maker for a lesson. Goose is a serious coffee drinker herself, and knows of what she speaks. She was the first of the gang to master the art of drinking coffee black, a practice endorsed by Flaubert, who advises us to "take it without sugar--very swank: gives the impression you have lived in the East."

What Goose taught me was astounding: Making coffee is insanely easy. All these years I've been intimidated by the countless references in literature and film about the difficulty of getting a "decent cuppa joe." I was scared off by the harsh language of the 1674 Women's Petition Against Coffee: "Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." Clearly they've never had the Starbucks Christmas Blend--or coffee made by yours truly.

If my prose is insufficiently inspiring on this subject, read Honore de Balzac on The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee. Sample quote: "Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring."

Image stolen from Lileks's Institute of Official Cheer.


Goose said...

I'm so proud.

Lest those uninitiated think it's *totally* a no-brainer though - it is quite possible to make a bad pot o coffee...I've done it. Put in too many scoops of coffee grounds, too little water, or attempt other forms of coffee machinery without thinking (french press, Turkish (oooh that can be awful), and the ever-popular Snob Machine, the espresso/capuccino machine. Those fools! All you need is a great drip, a good filter (the Hostess' gold non-disposable was lovely) and trust in yourself, grasshoppers.

Oh and for some adventure - try sprinkling a generous amount of cinnamon or nutmeg (or both!) in with the coffee grounds when brewing - if not more tasty than Starbucks' adding-it-post-brewing, it eliminates the film on top.

Umm...pardon my obsession!

FRQSTR=18786368|18786368|18786368|18786368|18786368 said...

i often put too many grounds or too little water in my totally basic coffee maker. before this year i was sure i could never get it right, but i'm learning. eventually i'd like to be able to do it with my eyes closed, for practical reasons.

Sweetnicks said...

I'm with you ... my own mother doesn't understand, to this day, why I don't drink coffee. Both she and The Husband HAVE to have it first thing in the morning before they can function. I just can't do the hot drink thing. I do, however, LOVE Mocha Frappuccinos. The cold, icy coffee thing, I can definitely do. You're in good company!

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