Grinds in the coffee

I make my own coffee at home. It’s nothing fancy, just plain drip coffee. And while most of the time there’s nothing to say really, because it’s just a regular coffee machine making regular pots of coffee, every once in a while I’ll screw it up. My mistake won’t be noticeable right away, I’ll pour myself a cup and everything will look OK enough. But as soon as I add some milk, it’s like one of those trick pens that reveals a secret message, that it wasn’t just coffee that I poured out of the pot, but also dozens of chunky coffee grinds floating on the surface.

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It’s just such a bummer, like I don’t even know how or why it happens, but it does. Not always, and not often enough that I’d consider really trying to figure out what’s going on, but just every now and then, like oh yeah, coffee with grinds in it, I almost forgot I’ve got to deal with this on a semi-regular basis.

I’ve got a bunch of theories as to what causes the grinds to make their way into my coffee, but they’re all just kind of half-thoughts, nothing conclusive. At first I had the idea that I wasn’t grinding my coffee fine enough, that after the water gets sucked up through the base of the machine, it then sprays over the basket of grinds, and since it’s all so granular and loose, it causes everything to spill out of the filter, into the pot.

So I started grinding my coffee very finely, holding down the top of the grinder until upon examination of the results, you’d never be able to tell that this dust ever came from something remotely resembling a whole bean. And nothing changed. It was still pretty decent coffee, for the most part, except that every once in a while it would still be polluted with grinds.

I don’t know what to do, or what to think either. I looked toward my various restaurant jobs to see if maybe the professionals were doing something that I wasn’t in preparing and serving large quantities of coffee. A quick tour of our coffee prep station gave me a few insights. Like, espresso is ground very finely, and you need a big espresso machine that shoots highly pressured water capable of breaching the tightly packed grounds. Drip coffee was looser, so everything could kind of make its way through the maze of bigger sized coffee crumbs.

This didn’t help at all, because like I said, I’d already tried both methods, and neither of them prevented the inevitable dirty pot. I thought back further, to the restaurant I worked at in high school. We didn’t grind our own beans. Everything came pre-ground in these vacuum packed bags. And everything worked, for the most part. The thing about this particular machine was the glass pots. Every once in a while, you’d brew a batch and a thin layer of tan foam would accumulate at the top.

“It’s the fucking coffee grinds!” my foul-mouthed but insanely good-natured boss Marcello would scream at us from across the restaurant, “You put the fucking grinds in the wrong fucking way and now there’s grinds in the fucking coffee! Throw it away! You! What are you looking at? Do something, lazy motherfucker!”

I swear, despite Marcello’s liberal use of the f-bomb, both in private and directly in front of all of his clientele, he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked for in my life. But even his profanity driven work ethic was unable to prevent the occasional grindy pot of coffee.

And yeah, it’s not pleasant. But what are you going to do about it? Where I work now, you can’t see if there’s a layer of foam, and aside from sticking my fingers in each cup of boiling hot coffee, there’s no way to tell if what I’m serving is untainted liquid. Every once in a while, I’ll see a hand waving in the air from the other side of the dining room. I’ll walk over and a customer will be livid, “There’s grinds in this coffee!”

And trust me, I love my coffee, so I get it. But what are you really going to do? Because there’s no guaranteed solution. When it happens to me in my house, yeah, I used to sometimes wash out the filter and run the whole pot through the machine again. Or if I didn’t feel like going through that whole ordeal, I might skim a piece of paper towel over the surface, try to catch as much particulate without absorbing my entire cup.

But even that is so much more of a hassle than I want to endure. Now I’ll just suck up as much of the grinds as I can into the first sip, and swallow them as fast as I can, before I have to feel them on my tongue, or stuck in between my teeth. Because whatever, sometimes you get grinds in your coffee. Am I going to get pissed off about it? Or expend a bunch of unnecessary energy trying to fix a really minor inconvenience? No, it’s not a big deal. It’s a cup of coffee. Hopefully tomorrow it’ll turn out a little better.

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