A Good Cuppa

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I started drinking coffee in the week I began grad school. I had my first cup in a coffeehouse, a memorable day because I learned I loved coffee and coffeehouse music. That first cup was espresso, dark as sin and quite strong.

That launched an odyssey as I searched for a way to make great coffee at home. As far as I’m concerned, the odyssey—which took 53 years to complete—came to a happy end about two months ago. The odyssey involved three things: my coffee mug, the brand of coffee and the coffee brewing technology.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my pursuit of the perfect coffee mug. The story ran under the title of Arabia Beehive. I described how I bought a mug that I later decided was perfect. It shattered when knocked to the floor in 1983. Since then I spent hundreds of hours looking for a replacement. And this year in October that 32-year search ended when I found a copy of my original beloved mug.

I spent about three decades looking for a great brand of coffee. It was a curious hunt. I knew how good coffee could be, for the coffee in good restaurants was wonderful. But I couldn’t find coffee like that in grocery stores. My erstwife and I went from brand to brand to brand, never finding one that tasted remotely like the best restaurant brew. We didn’t know the problem was that restaurants got to buy coffee that was roasted to perfection, coffee of a quality not sold in stores.

The search for great coffee beans took an unexpected turn when Starbucks became so popular in the early 1990s. Suddenly there were little coffeehouses all over serving and selling wonderful brews. And suddenly it was clear why we looked so long in vain for coffee like that in stores.

Everyone has a favorite. Mine is the Caribou blend from the Caribou Coffee folks. It is nothing terribly special, being a medium roast suitable for all-day drinking. I’ve dallied with French roast blends, which are stronger, but I keep coming back to the Caribou blend. I love it.

The odyssey also included a lot of experimentation with coffee makers. I’ve owned about fifteen different makers. For a while I liked a French press. I used to make Italian espresso. For about a year we made “camp coffee,” which is grounds thrown into cold water that is heated. Then you clarify the coffee with egg shells, maybe filtering it as a last step. It is pretty good, but messy and not easy to do when half-asleep.

While trying different coffee brewing technologies, I spent several years grinding my own beans each morning. According to experts, that was necessary, and for several years I believed them. But grinding beans makes an awful sound that I can’t abide shortly after waking up. I ultimately decided making coffee from freshly ground beans was more trouble than it was worth.

My search for the ideal coffee maker ended when my daughter (who rarely drinks coffee) served amazingly good coffee four years ago. I say “amazingly” because the coffee itself was just Folgers from a big red can, the stuff they sell in every grocery store in the country. I was astonished to learn that coffee from her Cuisinart coffee maker was truly better than I could make with my more expensive German brewing system.

And now the odyssey is truly over. Each day begins with perfect (to my palate) coffee brewed in my favorite coffeemaker and served in my favorite mug. I’m a happy, happy guy. It is embarrassing to be so easily pleased, but I really enjoy starting each day with something so reliably delightful.

What is your favorite beverage? Do you have it all worked out or are you still experimenting?


48 thoughts on “A Good Cuppa”

  1. I used to get Sulawesi beans from Starbucks, but they discontinued those. Now I generally get Caffe Verona and Decaf Caffe Verona and blend the two. I always measure out the coffee and water and set it up in the coffeemaker before I go to bed. The coffeemaker is on a timer that starts it up around 6 AM. When I come downstairs it’s all ready for me. This is especially important in the dark winter months.

    I once bought a programmable coffeemaker with a grinder incorporated into it. I didn’t like the design very well, though. The ground coffee didn’t transfer completely from the grinder to the filter basket, and then the grounds that were left behind became soggy from steam when the coffee brewed, so you always had to clean damp grounds from the grinder before filling it again. I began to bypass the grinder. Then the programming panel went dark and the machine never worked again.

    The automatic drip coffeemaker is one of the great inventions of our day. The one I have now is very simple. It has an on/off switch and it keeps the coffee hot. It doesn’t beep, which I regard as a plus for any appliance.

    I have lots of coffee mugs, which get changed out seasonally. I’ll get out the Christmas mugs soon.

    I like getting the occasional fancy hot beverage at a coffee shop, though most of their fancy drinks are too sweet for me – more like dessert than coffee. Starbucks did have one I liked, the holiday spice flat white, but I’m told it’s been discontinued. I’ll have do do without my HSFW this year.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. If I have leftover coffee that’s still around by evening, I sometimes make something I call coffee nog, which is egg nog with about a half a shot of brandy and enough coffee to think it out and cut the sweetness a little.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I like coffee but it doesn’t like me so much anymore, so I’ve cut back considerably. I do grind my beans fresh when I make a pot and the last couple of years we have zeroed in on the Columbia Supremo from Trader Joes as our beans of choice. Since I have to watch my coffee consumption and I still favor a robust cup, I have switched to the Irish Breakfast tea from Trader Joes. It’s very dark and I drink it black. Like Tim, I used to drink Lipton’s and found it satisfactory but I was reading an online post from some British ex-pats and they seemed to especially like this tea. I tried it and it’s become my tea of choice.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Drip coffeemakers of the Mr. Coffee variety never brewed the coffee hot enough for my taste. We have a French press for when we want to make a small amount of coffee, but when we want more we resort to the retro and yet entirely satisfactory Farberware percolator we picked up at an estate sale. Actually we have several in different sizes. With freshly ground beans, they make good (and hot) coffee.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Coffee in our house is brewed by Darling Husband, who is up (and often out of the house on weekedays) long before I have opened my eyes. We have a decidedly un-fancy automatic drip machine and he swaps out the coffee. He’s fond of several of the Caribou blends – some of which I like more than others. I wake up most every morning to coffee waiting for me. It’s a beautiful thing. I work with people who truly have made coffee brewing a science. In our work area we have a grinder (beans are weighed before grinding to get the perfect amount), an electric kettle for heating the coffee to the perfect temperature (to the exact degree), and then hot water is poured over the fresh grounds (again, weighed while pouring, because weight is the ultimate measure). I’m pretty sure they may also have an incantation and possibly a small sacrifice that is part of this ceremony. It does make an excellent cup of coffee, but it’s way more fuss than I am willing to take on. I have my thermal travel mug full of coffee from home – proof that my husband loves me and wants me to be happy.

    Now, a good gin and tonic…only half of that is finding a good gin (and Tanqueray ain’t it)…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Anna, One of the best gins I’ve tasted for G&Ts is Prairie gin made here in MN. A boutique distillery, I guess you call it. Organic, I believe. I like a good G&T too. I “think”, since I don’t drink them that much, that Bombay Sapphire and Beefeaters are tastier to me than Tanqueray.

      Chris in Owatonna

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep. Prairie makes a really good gin. There are a couple craft distillers in Mpls that also have tasty gins (Norseman has a good one, Copperwing is also good – Solveig gin is yummy). I also have discovered barrel-aged gins which has a slightly different flavor. For any of these a really good tonic (not your everyday Canada Dry) is required. For big brands, Bombay is my go-to, Boodles or Beefeater are next choices.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Prairie is made by Ed Phillips & Sons. I don’t know if you could call them a boutique, but their product is organic. Trader Joes sells their product under a different name but the identical bottle for a few bucks less.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nice to know, Bill. Thanks. I’m not a huge fan of Phillips & Sons ( I used to be a wine consultant at Surdyk’s and was rather disgusted by the monopoly good-old-distributor network that IS Minnesota liquor policy.) But it’s still tasty gin. 🙂


  6. When I first started drinking coffee, I was working in a bakery. If you didn’t learn to drink that coffee in all shapes and forms and temperatures than you didn’t drink the coffee. You set it down to work on a cake, get carried away or have a fierce deadline and the coffee would get cold. This was before microwaves so if you didn’t want to just toss the cold coffee and start over you might add a little more sugar or a little more cream. We all did it and to this day I can drink any kind of coffee. At home, left on my own I make one cup at a time in a single drip carafe in my kitchen. For myself I make it pretty strong and then add some sugar and half-and-half (or cream if I have it on hand). But out in the world I’ll drink anything. I’ll drink flavored coffees. I’ll drink weak coffee, strong coffee – I’ll drink it black and even at the office, because I hate using those K-Cups, I use instant.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I only like coffee if it’s quite milky (a little bit of coffee with my half-and-half). But coffee doesn’t like me, so I stick to decaf, and I’ve even cut that out now. I have a plastic cone-like thing where you place the coffee in a filter into it, place it on your mug, and pour hot water over the grounds. Good for an occasional coffee drinker.

    Favorite cold weather drink is hot cocoa, but of course I don’t care for store-bought mixes – too sweet and not chocolate-y enough. So I make it from scratch, cocoa with a bit of raw sugar (not too much, I like it slightly bitter), a bit of almond milk, or half-and-half if I’m feeling decadent, and boiling water.

    In hot weather, cold brew decaf coffee with lots of half-and-half over ice is good, but nothing beats limeade or lemonade made from real limes or lemons. Again, not too sweet, it’s best when it’s a little tart. Serve over ice and maybe a splash of rum in the limeade. I could drink gallons of that stuff during a hot spell.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. It is fun to read the explicit instructions on the tin of Droste’s cocoa. They Droste folks believe you need to bring the cocoa to a boil several times to get just the right taste.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I also have homemade cocoa mix. But mine is probably sweeter than yours as the base is Nestle’s Quik. Then I add a lot of powdered milk and some powdered sugar and some creamer.


        1. And then there’s what I mix into it after I’ve made it. Big fan of RumChata the last year or so. Also Bailey’s. Or Kahlua. Or Tia Maria. Sensing a theme here?

          Liked by 3 people

  8. In the early 1980s I worked at the University of MN Health Sciences complex. I had an interesting conversation with the dean of the School of Public Health. That’s the school that does all those epidemiological studies, discovering health tips with research on different diets, etc. This was right after the battle with tobacco had been won, with researchers triumphing over the lies of the tobacco manufacturers.

    Having proved tobacco to be unhealthy–even lethal–researchers turned their attention to the next big consumer habit that was probably unhealthy: drinking coffee. There was a race among researchers to decide who would make the breakthrough finding to show how dangerous coffee (and caffeine) actually are. Virtually everyone in the research community assumed coffee was dangerous, so the trick would be to show how.

    The point of the dean’s story was that the huge effort to unmask the evils of coffee was an embarrassing flop. Nobody found evidence that coffee was bad (although too much of anything is not good). In fact, studies that were expected to show the dangers of coffee kept showing that coffee drinkers were often healthier than those who abstained.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a kid. First with cream and sugar, then, in my teens, sans cream. The year I worked in Switzerland, coffee was inevitably half coffee and half hot milk. Finally, when I worked in the hotel kitchen in Greenland, I dropped the sugar. When the kitchen staff gathered n a tiny office for coffee breaks, I was the only one who used sugar, and I’d have to go find some. That seemed like more trouble than it was worth, so I started drinking straight black coffee.

    When I moved to the States, I was appalled at what American’s called coffee, and rarely drank it. I suspect it was either Maxwell House or more likely Folgers I was served at that time.

    During the time I worked at the law office, I drank coffee all day long. Not because I particularly liked it, but simply out of habit. Then one day it occurred to me that it probably wasn’t a good idea to drink so much coffee, and since I didn’t particularly like it, I quit – cold turkey. After a few days I developed a lingering, nasty, dull headache that lasted three whole weeks. It took me a while to put two and two together, my body was withdrawing from caffeine.

    Nowadays, I like a good cup of strong black coffee, unsweetened, but will occasionally indulge in a cafe latte from the local Caribou, but I rarely make it myself. Hans is the coffee maker at our house, and he seems to be in a perpetual quest for the perfect coffee. I drink whatever he makes, using whatever coffee brewing method he fancies at the moment. We each have two cups of freshly ground and brewed coffee every morning. When he’s not here, I switch to tea.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. My dad owned a coffee shop/lunch place in Luverne, and loved strong coffee. He had a commercial Bunn coffee machine. When it became possible to purchase coffee beans in the grocery store, he would often buy espresso beans and grind them and use them in the Bunn. The guys accused him of trying to kill them with that strong coffee. When he lived with us he loved coffee from our French press. We have a very large one, and Dad, in all seriousness, thought we should get another and that I should make two pots of French press coffee every morning. I only have coffee at breakfast, and it has sugar and half and half. Son likes to describe his coffee as hot coffee ice cream.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m a coffee “un-purist,” I guess. Not too picky as long as it’s hot enough. I’ve found that Costco’s Columbian is darn excellent for the price, so that’s my morning coffee. Otherwise, I drink coffee at my regular coffee shops and will endure almost any flavor–except I’m not a fan of the flavor “Drunken Uncle.”

    I go straight black 80% of the time but will add milk or preferably something thicker on occasion. I enjoy a good latte or mocha now and then but I certainly don’t understand all the buzz about pumpkin spice lattes. I tried one once, I believe, and it didn’t turn my crank much. If I’m doing flavors, give me a dark chocolate mocha. Especially at Caribou, where they give you a chocolate covered coffee bean with it. 🙂

    Starbucks?? Yuck. Don’t care for their daily brews much at all. I can handle them in lattes or with lots of cream.

    But wine is probably my obsessive drink of choice. Thank God I’ll never run out of vintages, blends, or new vintners to explore. 🙂

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I am part of that minority that doesn’t drink coffee. Made it through college and years of the night shift without developing a taste for it. In fact, I don’t like the taste or smell of it in any way shape or form, including in candy, chocolate, hot chocolate, or ice cream. All I can say is Yuck! I have tried to like tea but without much success. And these days I rarely consume soft drinks or wine. My favorite beverages are plain old tap water (not bottled – bad for the environment) year round, and lemonade (especially pomegranate, raspberry, or prickly pear) in warm weather. Cold weather begs a good hot chocolate.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I come from a long line of black coffee drinkers, but I like mine as my Grandpa used to have it – with plenty of cream. I can still remember the color of his coffee in Grandma’s china cup, and that’s what I aim for.

    I’ve weaned myself from the daily grind, however, with black tea (alternate PG Tips, and the aforementioned TJ’s Irish Breakfast), but the first time I tried to quit Coffee, I got those headaches PJ mentioned.

    I’ll re-post this from Northern Sun Productions (East Lake St. Mpls), since not everyone will see it up under Anna’s comment:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have gotten caffeine withdrawal headaches over the years so now I am mostly a decaf person. I do caffeine every now and then but not enough that if I go without I get the headaches.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. earl gray is my drink

    bubble water with lemon is my favorite for non tea drinks
    i do bitters with a glass of club soda and now i am experimneting with the different bitters available but the cost on the specialty bitters is rich for my blood
    my old bottle from 30 years ago is still around with a price of 1.69 on it
    new ones of special formulas are 8 12 or 19 dollars depending how special you want tit to be.
    i burn a couple thousand litpton bags a year and 10 lbs of loose leaf earl gray from azazon. i like twinings tetly and bigeloware favorites but davidsons from amazon $15 a lb are the best black teag bags made of tin that will set in the land foills long after im dead. s ever
    i like english darjeeling ceylon and eral gray and a bunch of green teas but because i drink it non stop likely a gallon a day i mix and match black teas.
    my new thing is to try to convince the tea companies to stop the tin foil outer coverings. seems bad to create giant piles of bags that will sit in the land fill long after im dead.
    liptons i paper it works fine
    fancy schmancy stop it


  15. Coffee? Won’t that put hair on your chest or stunt your growth? I never touch the stuff.
    I remember a few years ago I had a big day coming up. I figured maybe that would be a good day to try a cup of coffee. Picked up something from the gas station, loaded it with sugar to make it tolerable to me and ventured into the day. Several hours later, the coffee wore off about the same time the project itself was crashing. Neither ended well.

    Tonight, it’s Wild Turkey Honey Whiskey with three ice cubes to melt slow and one big ice cube to keep it cold. Good stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

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