Visiting a local coffee shop recently, I started to approach the barista for some cream and sugar. It's one of those places where they try to deter customers from polluting their coffee by stashing the gooods behind the counter. When I turned around I saw that the barista was wearing a t-shirt that read boldly: DRINK BLACK COFFEE
I sighed and sat back down. I obediently drank my coffee black but I was bitter about it. Just like my coffee.
How did coffee get so complicated?
Approximately 15 years ago I was gifted a french press for my birthday. I was delighted by the simple technology yet unsure how to approach using it. First of all, I had never bought coffee for the home before. I started off by visiting the coffee shop closest to my house. I had been there many times and I knew they had coffee beans for sale.
Now, I knew this was a serious coffee shop. This was before every coffee shop specialized in painfully slow brewing practices. Before baristas wore suspenders and mustaches. Before cupping, whatever the that is. It was a simpler time. This was not the kind of coffee shop where college sophomores sit around debating the finer points of Christian theology, talking themselves into atheism over sugary coffee concoctions. No, only grown ups patronized this coffee shop. The owner was known only somewhat affectionately as the coffee nazi. When Starbucks tried to sue him because the coffee shop shares a name with one of their products, he fought back and won. When Carrie Brownstein visited Tulsa with St. Vincent, they got coffee at this place and it inspired the Coffee Shop Manifesto sketch.
It is the OG coffee snob place, people.
On this fateful day, I browsed the selection of coffee beans displayed behind plexiglass, unsure of myself. Nervously, I approached the barista/owner/coffee nazi.
"So, I just got a french press. If I buy some coffee beans can you grind them for me?"
The owner scowled. The veins in his thick neck strained against his puka shell necklace.
"We can," he said, scowling. "But you should really grind your coffee beans fresh each time you brew."
"Oh, right. Okay. How do I do that?" I asked.
"You need a coffee grinder," he scoffed.
I got a coffee grinder and obediently woke my partner up at 7:15 every morning grinding my damn coffee.
Fast forward a decade or so. I'm still fresh grinding coffee for my french press every day. I meet Deke. She has just recently purchased a fancy stainless steel drip coffee maker for her new home. I delight in it when I'm at her house. She delights in the french press when she's at my house, I assume, because one day I find that she has purchased a french press for her home. Her fancy coffee maker gets dusty and when we move in together years later we put the coffee maker on a shelf. For years we are exclusively french press coffee drinkers.
IT MADE NO SENSE.
When I was single, sure, a french press produced just the right amount of coffee. But for two people, you are limited to one point five cups of coffee each morning and the second half-cup is basically silt. Not to mention the laborious process of making french pressed coffee. This process is especially taxing when you have children and you're trying to sneak downstairs to enjoy a moment of pre-dawn silence. If you lack foresight, which we nearly always do, you have to watch the kettle like a hawk, snatching it off the heat at the first whistle. Then you have to take the coffee grinder outside to the porch, unplug the string lights, and grind your coffee in your pajamas in the dark, freezing, winter morning. All this for one point five cups of coffee.
A few weeks ago, we were cleaning out our pantry-type-room in preparation for a remodel. We pulled Deke's old coffee maker down from the top shelf and I asked her:
"Are you ready to get rid of this or should we clean it off and use it?"
"I would love to use it since I spent $200 on this thing."
So we cleaned it up, plugged it in and started using it.
WHAT JOY! With minimal foresight the night before you can have coffee at the press of a button! Practically unlimited amounts of it!
We continued to buy the same whole bean coffee, however, and grind it, not fresh each morning but the night before. Then, just the other day, I had to run into the store for a few things. I knew we were dangerously low on coffee so went to the usual coffee/cereal aisle. I picked up our usual brand of coffee. I looked at it skeptically. I put it back on the shelf. And I picked up...a bag of ground coffee. It was the same snarky brand of Kicking Horse coffee that I prefer because of the funny name and the mid-range price point. But instead of the Kick Ass whole beans, I walked out with Smart Ass ground coffee.
And I felt like a smart ass.
I had, at last, liberated us from the bonds of coffee snobery! Who needs fresh ground french pressed coffee in their daily lives?
I thought that was the end of the story - a happy ending if you ask me. But on our last date night I decided to scrap my Whole30 plan after 6.5 days of starvation and nothing short of the fanciest steak place in town would do for my first non-compliant meal. We ordered coffee with our obscenely large seven layer chocolate mousse cake and it came in, you guessed it, a french press. Not a fancy one. Just a ten dollar Amazon one. Deke sipped her coffee and said.
"This coffee is so good. It's like the best coffee I've ever had."
I agreed that it was pretty good.
"It's the texture," she continued. "It has like a full bodied texture or something."
"Yeah, it's probably the silt from the french press," I said, warily.
"You're right. It's the french press. Maybe we need to get our french press back out."