"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clowns In My Coffee

I'm always surprised when someone says they don't drink coffee. "I don't like the taste," "It's too bitter," "Caffeine makes me jumpy," and the worst excuse is, "I drink tea, it's better for you." The medicinal benefits of coffee are well-documented; primarily, it helps you stay awake late at night while you Google the symptoms of whatever is keeping you from getting to sleep.

We all know someone who is an indiscriminate coffee drinker; usually a guy (if only because this supposition makes subsequent pronoun selection easier) who will drink the most vile brew without any standards whatsoever: re-heated; sat around for hours and is now burned/cold; uses powdered creamer; drinks flavored coffee (coffee already comes in a flavor, it's "coffee-flavored"), and the most egregious offense -- he drinks coffee from Dunkin' Donuts.

I won't get into the whole Starbucks vs. DD debate. Both places have their supporters and detractors. I'll say only Dunkin' Donuts is aptly named because even a fresh cup tastes like someone already stuck a cruller in it.

My friend Bert introduced us to the joys of hyper-caffeination. For years we served him coffee that we thought was at least adequate, and he never complained. During one of his visits, I had to run an errand in the morning and when I got back, he and Carol were having breakfast. "BERT MADE ME A CUP OF COFFEE!!!" Carol explained. "HE USED FOUR SCOOPS FOR ONE CUP!!!" Ever since then, we brew it strong so Carol won't have to go through detox.

I've studied Bert's method and this is how he brews the "perfect cup":

Step 1: Grind whole beans just when you are ready to use them.
Step 2: For a pot of coffee, use an entire bag of beans.
Step 3: While waiting for the pot to finish, drive down to the coffee shop at the corner and order a double-espresso to tide you over.
Step 4: Repeat.

Once I was so amped up after drinking coffee with Bert I went to the driving range and hit a golf ball 148 yards. That may not sound impressive until I mention I was using a putter.

A few years ago Carol and I went camping for the first and thank God only time, meeting up with her brother's family and friends of theirs in an upstate New York park. Other than us, they were all experienced campers and carried a plethora of specialized equipment to provide most of the comforts of home while stuck in the woods. Foremost among them was a massive kitchen set-up that unfolded from a container the size of a briefcase into an area large enough to hold a full contingent of pots and pans, cooking utensils, an electrical outlet, a stovetop and maybe even a convection oven. Starting early in the morning, it took quite awhile to set up. It began raining in the midst of the task, so a covering was required to protect it. Brother-in-law and his friend wrestled with a massive tarp while the rest of us stood idle and watched. As the hours ticked by, I politely asked my sister-in-law if she was able to get some coffee going while the effort continued. She said that was possible and 15 minutes later Carol and I were enjoying our java. When we were finished, she asked how we liked it and we said "very much". She smiled and said, "Good! I bet you couldn't tell it was decaf, could you?" Without another word we excused ourselves, got in our car, left the campground and raced twenty minutes to the nearest McDonald's for a jolt of caffeine, pulling into the drive-thru just as the dreaded withdrawal headache began pounding at our temples. I love my sister-in-law but at that moment I wanted to drive back to the campground, dig a hole, throw her in it, and bury her underneath several cubic yards of freshly-ground decaffeinated coffee.

Since it's usually just the two of us most mornings, I make coffee for Carol and myself using the pour-over method favored by the most pretentious of the neighborhood gourmet coffee bars. Using freshly-ground beans, unbleached paper filters, a cone, and a Japanese water pot I splurged on so I can "control the pour", it's a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that is made worthwhile by the clear moral superiority of the outcome. It was particularly time-consuming once when I knocked over the cone, scattering the grounds all over the counter -- and then did exactly the same thing a second time after grinding more $15-a-pound beans. I finally got everything properly measured and aligned and poured, enabling me to fill my mug with the rich, aromatic, velvety brew. Then I knocked that one over as well, spilling steaming hot coffee all over the counter and most of my torso. Carol, surely feeling the effects of caffeine-deprivation, found this hilarious. I evened the score after cleaning up -- I made her a mug of coffee after surreptitiously changing the setting on the grinder, placing it on a fineness of "7" rather than the usual "6", which tipped it from "Auto-Drip" to "Espresso". Revenge is a drink best served bold. She sipped from her cup, completely unaware of my treachery. Sighing contentedly, she smiled at me and said, "THANKS FOR THE COFFEE, HONEY!!!"

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