Tag Archives: Coffee

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.

April Fools Day

Happy April Fools Day everybody. I got up this morning kind of on the later side. But it wasn’t like I woke up and said, “Shit, it’s eleven and I just woke up.” No, this was more of a, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s eight o’clock and I’m already awake,” kind of day, so I celebrated, I rolled over and grabbed my phone and started surfing the Internet. And then the next thing I knew, it was actually eleven. So I don’t really know how I feel about that, like is it better to willfully waste the better part of a morning? Or would I have been more OK had I just naturally overslept?


And when I finally got out of bed, I was at once crushed with all of the little things I’d have to do in order to kick my day up to the next level. I’d have to drink coffee, eat breakfast, take my dog out, put on a pair of pants, brush my teeth … and not even in that order, it was like, OK, I know all of this stuff shouldn’t take me too long, but all of these competing commands from my brain to me, I can’t untangle them all, why can’t they just present themselves to me in a linear fashion? “OK Rob, first, put on pants. Great job! Now, brush your teeth …”

I didn’t untangle the order of operations flawlessly, but I did manage to get pants on and go downstairs. That was something. I wasn’t in my bed anymore, I wasn’t still wearing pajamas. My instincts next led me to the kitchen. My normal routine involves me getting the coffee ready, pressing the “brew” button, and then taking my dog for a walk while the hot water drips into the pot. If I time everything just perfectly, and this doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s like I know that my day is totally set up for success. If the walk is just right, I’ll come back inside the house after letting my dog take care of his business, and the “beep, beep, beep,” of the Mr. Coffee machine will signify to me that, it was perfect timing, that I’m exactly in the right spot to enjoy the freshest cup of coffee.

Only, and this is another kind of kink in my programming here, but sometime around two weeks ago, my coffee machine stopped working. It was kind of acting up a few months ago, like the machine would clearly be on, and you could hear it really trying to suck up water to then pump down over the grinds, but it wasn’t happening. There must have been some sort of hole somewhere in the little tube that sucks up all the water.

So I did what I always do when my appliances start to malfunction: I opened it up and started poking at things aggressively, flicking this part, jabbing that spot with a knife. It worked. My coffee machine was better than ever. Until two weeks ago, that is. It was the same problem as before, only this time, when I gave that tube over there a yank, it snapped out, that little piece of broken plastic almost looked like a face, like it was smiling at me.

Whatever, it was a stupid coffee machine anyway, only like thirty bucks at Costco. I’ll just get a new one. Eventually. I keep forgetting to do it. Every day I wake up and my muscle memory leads me to the now lifeless piece of machinery still sitting on the counter, maybe I’ll even fill up the pot before I remember, oh wait, I need a new coffee machine, I’ll go today. Or tomorrow.

Luckily, my mom gave me this French press for Christmas. I busted it out after my machine broke, and it works. I have to like boil water though, and then wait for it to steep, and then I have to press this handle down, and then I have to clean it out afterward. So it’s a lot of steps involved, and I hate to think that my body might be adapting, like sometimes I go downstairs in the morning and my hands start to automatically get everything ready for this ten-step manual coffee making process. I get scared, because once I get too comfortable, all chances of me buying a new Mr. Coffee maker are out the window, because I’m a creature of comfort, of routine. Once I’m set in my ways, it takes an outside act to make me adjust accordingly.

The worst part is, this French press only makes two cups. And it’s such a long process, that I’m not going through it twice in one day. No way. So my caffeine levels for the past couple of weeks have been at an all time low. I’m getting less done. I feel less energized. I’m going to sleep earlier, which you might think would be a good thing, but once I fall asleep, I’m in there, it’s a deep sleep, I’ll sleep all the way until eleven. Or even like today, I got up early, probably because I was so under-caffeinated, and I couldn’t muster the energy to get out of bed.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. It’s a little past lunch time, but I just ate three English muffins, so I’ll probably be OK until three, when I’ll get really hungry, and I’ll debate, should I eat something now? Or wait until dinner. I’ll decide to wait it out. Maybe I’ll go to the store and buy groceries, plan on making a big meal. But then like an hour before dinnertime I’ll cave, I’ll eat a whole bag of pretzels and half a block of cheese. And then I won’t really be super hungry for dinner, but I’ll eat it anyway, and I’ll just feel really, really full.

Happy April Fools Day.

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.


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.

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.


Of course I’m a team player. I just don’t like being told what to do. So as long as we can establish some team rules, you know, a solid foundation upon which we can build this team, a platform if you will, well, I don’t know why I said platform, it’s the same as foundation, but you get the idea right? We’re a team, and we’re always mindful of the principles that bind us together, first and foremost, don’t tell me what to do. Not you.


Definitely not Susan. Seriously, if she tells me to do one more thing, well, we’re still all going to be on a team. All of us, except for Susan. She’s going to be on a different team. By herself. Go ahead Susan, see if anybody wants to join your team. Anybody feel like switching sides? Because I hear Susan’s recruiting. What’s that Susan? You brought donuts? Sorry Susan, but nobody wants your cheap store-bought donuts, OK?

If you want real donuts, please, go to Dunkin Donuts, OK? And Steve, while you’re there, can you grab me an extra large with milk? And a bowtie? See if anybody else wants one. Please. See if the rest of the team needs any coffee. Team. Listen up, Steve’s going out for coffee. Here, Steve, put it on the corporate card.

Or, if you like, you can always switch teams. I hear Susan has a new team, a bunch of real up-and-comers. Who did they get? I heard they stole someone away from our side not too long ago. It was right about the same time that that box of old store-bought powdered donuts disappeared from the office kitchen. You know, the ones that must have left there by mistake last week, because nobody ate them, I don’t even think anybody bothered to open the box.

Oh yeah, that was Susan, right, she’s the one that we lost. But who else? Did anybody else switch sides? Nobody? It’s just Susan? Well, that doesn’t really sound like enough people to make up a whole team. It’s more like she’s her own non-entity, a free-agent of sorts, although, considering how there aren’t too many other teams around this office, you know, besides our team, I can’t really see anybody picking her up. She’d have to make a pretty generous offer.

She’d have to go out and treat everybody to burritos. And not on the corporate card. That would have to be like a personal gift, from Susan, to the rest of the team. And even then, it’s not like we’d just let her back on the team automatically. The burritos would be a good first step, absolutely, but it would be an act of faith. Maybe we’d let her back on. Maybe not. Probably not.

But maybe. And even though I’m not guaranteeing anything, I do guarantee this, that if and when we decide to let Susan back on the team, she’s starting from the bottom. And Susan, I don’t know why you haven’t already started taking everybody’s burrito order, but you should pay attention here. If we start you from the bottom, temp, or assistant temp, it’s not a punishment, no, it’s for your own good. You’ve got to learn the fundamentals of being a team player. You need like a foundation.

There I go, saying foundation again, totally unnecessary. I need some coffee. Is Steve back? What, he didn’t leave yet? He’s on a call? Hey Susan, good news, it looks like there’s actually enough for a new team, now that we’ve had to let Steve go. You hear that Steve? Yeah, you’re on a new team, it’s just you and Susan. You like that? Do you?

Hello? Yes, this is Rob. No, boss, I was just doing some teambuilding exercises. She said what? No, that’s crazy, I don’t know what she’s talking about. Well, was she drinking? Like, did she go out for lunch? Well, I don’t know, maybe she had a couple of drinks. She wasn’t really receptive to any of the teambuilding.

No, I just thought we could have used some … OK fine I’ll stop it … well why do I have to go to HR and sign papers? I don’t want to sign any papers. Because I was just joking around, why does everybody take everything so seriously? You’re telling me I don’t have a choice? Listen, boss, I’m not trying to make any threats here, but I’m this close to switching teams, OK, and to think, I was just about to buy everybody lunch. Do you like burritos boss? You ever have flautas? They’re delicious. They’re like little mini taco burritos. I’ll get you beef. Just hang tight boss, I’ll be down in fifteen.

Hey Susan, put down some beef flautas for the boss. Come on, this will be just the lunch to bring the team back together. Come on, Susan, please. Susan put down the phone. I said sorry. Come on Susan. I’ll tell you what, put down the phone and I’ll buy you lunch. You like chimichangas?