Tag Archives: caffeine

Coffee MacGyver

I’m staying at a hotel on vacation and the room here has a coffee machine. So I bought some coffee . And when morning came I woke up and opened my eyes content in the immediate knowledge that I wouldn’t have to wait to figure out what we’d all be doing for breakfast before I could get some coffee in my system.

And even when it happens, it’s always too little, too late. Because it’s never the same drinking coffee when you’re on the road. At home I like to, before taking care of any other morning tasks, make a huge pot of coffee and start drinking the whole thing. When you’re on vacation, by the time you get up and wait for everyone else to get ready, after you make plans and decide where you’ll eat for breakfast, you finally sit down and the waiter or waitress goes, “Would you like some coffee?”

Yes, I’d really like some coffee. So they bring me over a thimble-sized cup and fill it up. And I get it, you can’t serve coffee at a restaurant in twenty ounce glasses or cereal bowls. But come on, keep coming back, fill me up, I’m already done and I need more. Of course I’m not going to snap and beg for more coffee, so eventually I just have to accept the fact that my caffeine levels are going to be out of whack.

But this coffee machine, I thought, would solve all of these problems. Except for the fact that when I went to set everything up, I realized that I hadn’t thought to buy coffee filters. I’d figure out some way to make this work, though. I’ve boiled coffee in a pot over a stove and separated the grinds with a strainer. One time I cut open a tea bag and carefully replaced its contents with ground coffee.

I’d use toilet paper. And at first it worked. It was great. I had three cups of coffee, I felt kind of like a regular human being. But I was really just digging myself into a shallow grave of unwarranted confidence. Because I woke up the next day and thought, OK, well that half a pot I made turned out great yesterday, I might as well max this baby out today.

And yeah, I don’t know what happened, but the toilet paper today wasn’t letting any of the water through to the pot. I turned around ten minutes after I’d set the whole thing up and there was a huge messy, grindy puddle. They didn’t have coffee filters, so of course they didn’t have paper towels or anything to clean it up. It was a huge, giant mess which I still haven’t really figured out how to fully clean.

But I did manage to salvage a cup out of whatever was floating around before I dumped the machine into the sink. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t good either, but definitely not the worst I’ve ever had.

Not my cup of tea

It used to be that I wouldn’t drink coffee past five or so in the afternoon, because the caffeine would keep me up at night. Every once in a while I’d make the mistake of ordering an espresso or something like that after dinner, and come two or three in the morning, I’d lay in my bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering why it’s been taking so long for me to fall asleep, all while my heart felt like it was trying its hardest to escape the confines of my chest.

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But I’m at the point now where I can drink coffee whenever I want. Which, coincidentally or not, happens to be every waking minute of the day. My caffeine intake used to be something that I’d monitor pretty carefully. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of overdoing it, and the resulting caffeine-induced panic attack left me careful not to exceed three cups in a row.

I’m not worried about that anymore. I get up in the morning and make myself a pot. Sometimes my wife will pour herself a cup, and I although it would be nice to say that I’m thinking of her, that I’m making extra coffee in case she’d like some, really I’m just brewing as much as my machine will make at once.

Maybe she’ll have a cup, maybe not, it doesn’t matter. That whole pot is just a warm-up. I’ll down everything over the course of an hour, an hour and a half, and then I fill it up all over again. This I’ll just leave on the warmer for as long as the machine will run without automatically turning itself off, usually something like three hours.

I’ll be downstairs and I’ll have a cup. I’ll make a sandwich and I’ll have another. I used to be really picky, if not a little pretentious about my coffee. I’d buy whole beans from select markets, I bought a coffee grinder and insisted that cups be brewed individually, throwing out words like oxidation in regards to a recent grind, all nonsense I’d read about on the Internet and convinced myself was all necessary for not just a perfect cup of coffee, but for the whole experience. It was an experience.

Now I’ll come home from work and I’ll see that quarter pot of room temperature coffee left out from way earlier in the day. Whatever, I’ll turn the warmer on, maybe even microwave a cup if I need a super immediate fix. Coffee beans, I don’t really care where they’re from, a gourmet roaster, sure, Dunkin Donuts, sounds good. Really I’m just looking for convenience, pure bulk. This means giant bags of vacuum packed beans at Costco, or loose by-the-pound roast that I’ll shovel into a brown paper bag from a giant bin at the grocery store.

I just want to have a lot of it, whatever it is. Because every once in a while I’ll be in the unfortunate situation where I really want coffee, but I don’t have any. Like just right now. I don’t know how it slipped my mind, but I was out on Long Island visiting my in-laws, and I knew that I needed to get some more coffee on my way back. But I didn’t. And I needed some.

I weighed my options. It was late. Did I feel like walking around to the myriad Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts by my place? Which one might be open at this hour? Should I go to the grocery store and buy some beans? Or would that turn into a full-blown shopping trip? What were my options?

Maybe there was some emergency coffee lying around somewhere, some Folger’s Crystals, something. In the back of one of the kitchen cabinets, I found a sealed box of tea bags, earl grey. Would this help? Could I get what I get out of coffee by drinking a few cups of tea?

It was worth a shot. But everything about the tea making process took forever. The waiting for the water to boil. The waiting for the tea to steep. The waiting for the boiling tea to cool down somewhat. It’s so much easier to press a button on the coffee maker, like I don’t have to be conscious of each painfully long step.

And then I finally got to drinking my earl grey. What is that taste, bergamot? It’s like citrusy and floral. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s nothing like drinking a cup of coffee. I’d never tried tea with milk, but I figured it was worth a shot. It made the drink a little smoother, but I don’t know, it wasn’t like a cup of coffee with milk.

I finished that cup and poured another dose of hot water over a fresh tea bag. Nothing bothers me more than watching someone try to make a second cup of tea out of a used tea bag. Sure, it turns brown, but there’s no way that whatever’s in that cup is anything close to a full-strength cup of tea. It’s like, if I ran hot water over some used coffee grinds, I’m sure I’d get something, a cup of hot brown liquid, but nothing that I’d like to actually drink.

Toward the end of the second cup, I started to feel it, the buzz that started in the base of my neck, shooting subtle pulses of pleasure and relief as it spread upward around the top of my skull. I was seriously worried, because even though I know tea has caffeine, I didn’t really expect to feel anything. It’s like, I drink Coca-Cola, but I never detect even the slightest hint of caffeine.

But no, this was good. I was enjoying this. Everything was going to be OK. Would I change my daily routine and maybe add tea to the mix? Of course not. This was a desperate times, desperate measures emergency maneuver, nothing more. Still, I couldn’t deny that a part of me was enjoying it, just ever so slightly. I felt like Captain Picard, after a long day, I’d walk into my ready room and tell the replicator simply, “Tea. Earl grey. Hot.”

But yeah, tomorrow, definitely I’ve got to get more coffee. A lot more. No, even more than that.