I started drinking coffee when I was a junior in high school. It was my first year working at Six Flags Over Georgia, and I worked late on the weekends, sometimes till midnight or even 2 a.m. Neither of my parents was a coffee drinker. I did not grow up with a coffee pot in the house. Nor was I a night-owl as a teenager. I took after my dad and rose early, naturally wide awake about five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. So staying up until midnight or later was different, and difficult, for me. After the first couple of weekends, on a night when I was feeling particularly bleary, someone referred me to the break room and the coffee pot, that held a rather vile smelling black substance that was supposed to, if not put hair on my chest, at least keep me awake. Some people drank it black, but I had to mask the age and bitterness with sugar and a load of fake “creamer.” That was my first experience with coffee. I didn’t do much better in college. Where I went to school, you were required to live in the dorms unless you were married, and if you lived in the dorms, three meals a day in the dining hall were included in the tuition program. Of course there was coffee, in huge urns on the steam tables as you went through the line to get your breakfast, lunch and dinner. I learned to have coffee with my bacon and eggs in the morning, and there was also an urn of half and half to replace the powdered stuff. One step up, for sure. In the dorm, I had the requisite hot pot, and on the few nights I was there to study (most nights were taken up with rehearsal or set building in the theater), I opted for those International Delights instant “coffees” consisting of sugar, flavors and possibly a teaspoon or two of instant coffee. I didn’t know from drip, brew, percolate, press, whatever.
I don’t really know when coffee became a “thing” for me. I used to make my first husband coffee in the morning—hot water and a teaspoon full of instant whatever was on sale. He liked it and whatever he liked was what we had. I was never able to acquire a taste for instant coffee not mixed with other things.
Later, when I moved back in with my folks, and my mother was working regular business hours and had to get up early (a terrible chore for her), she discovered that having a cup of coffee at slump times helped her get through the day. A coffee maker appeared in the house and we learned how to use it. She preferred the thin “brown water” type of coffee and it smelled good when it brewed and I was always happy to have a cup of coffee with her when she wanted it, and later, after my dad passed, and she built a very large deck on to the back of her house, I loved having coffee with the birds and other critters on weekend mornings. It felt very adult.
A college friend of mine stayed in Atlanta for work after graduation and we often hung out at her house. Sometimes I would spend the night and wake to the aroma of the richest, darkest smelling coffee I had ever encountered. When she poured it in my cup, it looked like tar, but once we thinned it nearly one to one with heavy cream and a little sugar, it actually turned into jet fuel. I realized that THIS was the coffee I had been seeking my whole life. I have no idea now what brand or type it was, just that it was dark and rich and the grounds were oily looking when she put them in the coffee pot to brew. I tried to make the stuff at home, but whatever coffee we bought never lived up to the challenge. The grounds were dry, mealy looking, pale and anemic compared to my friend’s. I despaired of ever being able to make coffee like hers.
Over the years I have come closer. Different brands, different roasts, different methods. And of course, now working overnight shifts, coffee is nearly as much a part of me as breathing. The first new thing I bought when I moved in here was a coffee maker. I found one with a thermal carafe, with no heat source under the pot. I love this because the coffee doesn’t “stew” after it brews, but stays nice and hot for a good while…and if there’s any left, I can use it for iced coffee the next day. However, over the past few months, I have come to make my coffee another way. I got tired of tossing out coffee when I hadn’t used it all up, and there were times when I just wanted one cup and no mess left.
That was when I turned to my Melitta. Once upon a time, we had bought one-cup Melittas to take camping with us. It’s very simple: Set the Melitta on your coffee cup, fold up a filter to fit inside, put in your coffee grounds, boil water, pour over, and voila! One perfect cup of coffee. You can dump the grounds on the ground, shred or pack out the filter, no muss, no fuss. I’ve been making my coffee this way now for several months. A while back, I bought a small sauce pan with a lid and it holds just enough water for about two mugs (which hold more than a “cup”). Sometimes, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Sometimes, I want a cup before I go to bed. Sometimes, it’s that middle of the afternoon pick-me-up. But at all times, the ritual is the same. Run the water in the pan, cover, and turn the stove on high. Choose the mug. Pull out the filter. I use the same filters that fit in the 10-cup coffee maker, but I fold them into a triangular shape to fit into the Melitta, like coffee origami. Measure the coffee. I discovered Seattle’s Best Coffee a number of years ago after a long series of trials and errors with other brands. Seattle’s Best #5 dark roast is the only thing I buy for home use now. Other people swear by other things and that’s fine. But SB5 has that dark, rich oiliness that takes me back to the days of jet fuel and friendship and I love it. Then, wait for the water to boil. It doesn’t take long because at Pueblo’s altitude, water boils at 203 degrees F. Did you know that? Nine degrees is a significant difference, and in no time, the water is simmering, barely bubbling. I normally don’t let it get to a rolling boil; my coffee doesn’t have to be that hot. Then, carefully, so as not to get water into the folds of the filter and have it flop over the grounds, I pour the water into the pile of waiting coffee. Immediately, the aroma wafts up and the mug starts to fill. I lift the filter cone up and peek in to see how full the mug is. Add a little more water…just a touch more…and then done. Set the filter cone in the sink, to be handle when it’s cooler. Sometimes, I’ll even drink it black, but usually comes the stevia and a little half and half. Then, I’m ready to take my cup of go off to wherever I need to be right then…the computer to work, the breakfast table, or maybe out by the pool for a quiet moment under the sky. Care to join me?