My Fortune For a Single Cup of Coffee

I came late to the coffee party. In college, I went for coffee one evening with a guy I didn’t know well. I came home and sat, crosslegged, atop my dresser. My roommate freaked when she came in.

“What are you doing?” she shreiked.

“I’m wondering what it’s like to be a ceiling,” I said, looking up into space. I thought it was just the coffee; my roomie opined the long-forgotten date might have put LSD in it.  Anyway, I didn’t touch the stuff again until I was 27.

I started med school and realized hospitals run on coffee. It glued my brain together and I can still remember some gross anatomy. I know no biochemistry, but I knew which boxes to check on the lab slips, so it evened out.

My Aunt Em has always used a percolator and made great coffee. Not me. Being young and stupid (is that redundant?), I bought the “in” thing. The Melitta coffee filter. As time went by, I was seduced into every coffee brewing device on the planet, all for a single morning cup.

I did figure out that the cone filters use less coffee than the flat bottomed basket filters. It is the only time in my ENTIRE life that calculus has come in handy. I hate calculus. I dropped it three times and went to the only med school that didn’t require it. I never lost a patient for lack of calculus. But calculus explains why a cone shaped filter is superior to the flat basket filters.

I think.

Anyway, during my residency, I had a grudge against grungy coffee pots. Left on the warmer, the carafes put burnt-coffee-smell atop the sweaty-body-smell of eight residents trying to sleep in an airless call room designed for two (one climbed into bed with the smallest person).  I would actually forego two minutes of SLEEP to scrub the carafe with a surgical scrub brush before brewing a new pot. I also cleaned the lab counters and threw out leftovers from the refrigerators marked “Specimens Only.”

No one gets well in a dirty hospital.

I never drank coffee on overnight call. If fifty-five of the sickest kids int he county can’t keep you awake, nothing can. If I GOT to go to bed, I needed to be asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Then there is the issue of which coffee, from which continent and whether is it fair traded or conflict coffee. Or is that just diamonds? In any event, I will NOT drink the stuff Indonesian cats poop out. It’s called Kopi Luwak. Loosely translated, it means, “Crazy-Stupid Americans Pay Big Money to Drink Cat Poop.” Yeah, sure they rinse it all off.

I tried grinding my own coffee beans, but the noise was heinous so early in the morning.

Enter Starbucks. For a while, the center of my tongue was a burned wasteland. Then I wised up and bought a Starbucks Barista machine. Never mind that it has more dials and gauges than the Space Shuttle, I wanted one. Three HUNDRED dollars later, I had one. It had a friggin’ video on how to work the damn thing.

Rule #1. If you have to watch a video to use an item, don’t buy it.

Over time (two weeks), I was off to something simpler. I went to a French Press. Why? Why not? Once you’ve shelled out $300 for a contraption that requires an engineering degree to operate, what’s thirty bucks for a beaker with a plunger?

The French Press phase lasted about two cups. One was too weak; the other? Too strong. I could have used a timer, but it was too shrill for mornings.

Enter the Keurig. A gift from a friend, it sits, hulking on the counter. When working it emits a growl not unlike the throaty mating call of a female crocodile. One must have everyone’s favorite “pod” from decaf to pumpkin soy mocha spice. I don’t drink chai as I am suspicious of tea brewed in the same device as coffee.

Now the in thing is filtered coffee — yup, the Melitta is back. I figure I’ve spent the GDP of a small country on brewing coffee. I will NOT re-purchase the same gadget that I used mumbledy-something decades ago.

Meanwhile, my aunt, still perking along at 95, still swears by her percolator. Yes, it’s given out a couple of times. The last one cost her two bucks at a church sale.