Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Credible Coffee

(Photo: My mornings - black coffee and a hardcopy of the New York Times.
Every day I'm one step closer to turning into my father.)

It feels like a betrayal, somehow, but I just don't have refined taste for coffee. I know when it sucks and when it's good, but it's become so institutionalized that it isn't about the actual coffee anymore, it's about the company selling it to you and about their method. It's like arguments surrounding fast food - you know, instinctively, that McDonald's must go through some ungodly quantity of potatoes every day, but if you start critiquing their fries, at some point you hit a wall and end up talking about McDonald's itself. You can't get past it because there's no real conception among normal people of what an industrial farm looks like, or how the potatoes make it into your hands. I keep trying to picture it, but all I keep coming back to is an image out of Faulkner, hardscrabble and backbreaking labor and bad luck, not machines that can harvest, shuck, and mulch acres at a time.

It's the same thing with coffee; it's always been a means moreso than an end to me, which probably explains why it's taken me til now to figure out how to brew a decent cup of the stuff. It was about time - I was sitting at my desk glowering at whatever just got spit out of the office Keurig and realized, if I was going to be drinking that much of something, I should realistically have more of a hand in preparing it than pushing a button and accepting whatever came out of it.

It turns out it wasn't as hard as I had built it up to be in my head and is more about the water/coffee balance that your beans need to achieve maximum awesomeness than anything else. It's also about being able to articulate and refine what, precisely, it is about coffee you like to help bring that out while de-emphasizing the things you care less about. I learned, though I knew this at some level, that I like lightish roasts and drip coffee, black, in obscene quantities, hot enough to warm my gut but not so hot as to keep me from drinking it fast. Essentially, I like diner coffee that's been cooling in a cup that never seems to empty.

I didn't realize that until I just typed that out, but...huh. Neat.

It's probably all very mundane and individual - talking about coffee is a bit like listening to somebody prattle on about their previous night's dreams - but I'll leave you with this one, tiny thing: apart from the coffee being fresher, more potent, and infused with the tiny bits of ownership and pride that come with being involved with the process of making something yourself, the warm, bubbling, swirling sound my coffee makes being poured from Thermos to cup at my desk at work is so transcendently pleasurable that I actually look forward to it when I'm making it in the morning.

It makes me never want to be near my office Keurig's spitting, kvetching machinations ever again.

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