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Tuesday
Aug092011

Learning to Love Black Coffee Again

I'm drinking a cup of coffee right now, and it's really, really, really good.


It's black; I've added neither milk nor sugar. It barely tastes like coffee -- it's closer to a very intense black Darjeeling tea. This is coffee a coffee-hater might enjoy.

Ephemeral! and cool reflection.
This cup of coffee has nothing of the oily, dirt-like bitterness of a Starbucks coffee. (I say this as a person who will quite contentedly drink Starbucks coffee, though I tend to drown it in milk). Instead, this cup tastes light and floral, almost effervescent. There's even some citrus and lemongrass -- I'm not full of it; there really is so much more complexity here than I generally taste in any coffee except very good espresso. So much so, in fact, that I refrained from my normal splash of 2% milk. I like this cup of coffee.

How did this coffee come to be in my cup? Why is this morning unlike most mornings?

Well, for starters, I cleaned my coffee maker -- for the first time in the six months I've had it. Like, really cleaned it, by running a vinegar-water mixture through twice then rinsing. I have no idea whether or not cleaning the maker has a net positive impact, but it really can't hurt.

Oh, also, I stopped at Peregrine Espresso on 14th St. on the way home last night and purchased some SUPERB Ethiopian coffee. I asked the fellow working the counter for something light and interesting, and this is what he gave me. I should have photographed the beans, I suppose. Oops.

Now, I regularly buy decent coffee, but I'm often a little lazy and careless -- I'll keep extra beans in the freezer (a no-no), grind more than I'm using in a given pot (nope), and kinda eyeball measurements (like most of my cooking). But armed with very good, fresh beans and a clean coffee maker, I ground fresh this morning and carefully aimed for one level-ish tablespoon for every 5.5 ounce "cup" delineated on my machine. What a difference these tweaks made.

That's right, I've got a Magic Bullet As Seen On TV.

The questions remain: Will I change my ways? Will I clean the pot, grind fresh, and always buy in small quantities? Will I make that extra effort in the morning to elevate my coffee from pleasurable to phenomenal?

Stand by for a hostile takeover of Hungry Sam by Religion-Major Sam (Who is Also Hungry).

I think I will. My morning already possesses its ritual elements. I make the coffee, the omelet, and I prepare lunch, then I sit and watch TV or read or write. I relax into my day, rather than rush to meet it. Ritual imbues routine with a sense of intentionality and of transcendent reality; it can make my coffee into a hierophany (in Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane: the breakthrough of the sacred into the World) -- though that might be the caffeine speaking. Adding the morning coffee grind to my coffee-making procedure has already, in just one instance, improved not only the cup in my hands, but also grown my morning ritual in a new direction. And the best rituals seem to arrive from creative experimentation and combination -- just look at Christmas or Passover.


Anyways, it was a REALLY good cup of coffee. Washingtonians, definitely check out Peregrine. Those among you who brew in the morning, give a fresh grind of a new coffee a chance, and try it black. You may find, as I did, that a morning habit can become a morning treat.

Reader Comments (7)

Yes.

I love the ritual of coffee. I am the lab barista if you will; every morning I brew the coffee for everyone. It's totally evolved over time from just getting everyone a shot of caffeine to something that's actually really delicious and enjoyable. I don't have a caffeine addiction, but if I don't have a cup of coffee at my desk in the morning I feel like something's missing, or incomplete.

When I first took over brewing duties, we were using Folgers or whatever came in bulk jugs at Hannaford's for a decent price. Two Christmases ago the lab manager got me a coffee grinder, and the rest is history. Discovering how much better coffee is when it's freshly ground, and then discovering Coffee By Design and trying every single blend (I used to think all coffee tasted the same. WRONG)... it's totally an experience as you so awesomely tagged it.

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkellietris

CBD is amazing. My dad often brings me a bag when he comes down, which is fantastic. And "I don't have a caffeine addiction, but if I don't have a cup of coffee at my desk in the morning I feel like something's missing, or incomplete"?

(Sounds like an addiction ;)

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHungry Sam

I just found your blog recently....and I love it! Thanks for the coffee tips---I might just go home tonight and clean out my coffee maker...

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA single girl...

Thanks! And feel free to speak up -- I'm always interested when readers share their thoughts =)

And RE cleaning your maker, definitely give it a shot. I did about 2 T. of distilled white vinegar per 8 oz. of water, ran twice (fresh mixture each time), then ran straight water through twice.

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHungry Sam

Love the Yirgacheffe, bro.

You have to hit up Joe Bean next time you're in Rochester. Amazing stuff. They really bring out every bit of flavor in a bean. They also brew different beans with different methods to maximize their potential. Complete coffee nerds. Awesome.

I'm glad you got rid of that stupid milk idea. Black is the only way to go.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Brundige

Joe Bean, huh? I always enjoyed Finger Lakes Roasters, too.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHungry Sam

Tree Frog coffee ( shameless plug: http://www.treefrogcoffees.com/) Is also a great place to get sustainable and really tasty whole bean coffees. I went black years ago and just can't go back. I had to switch to tea at work because the MaxUNwell house stuff cannot be consumed black with functioning taste buds. Thanks for the clean-the-coffee-maker tip, mine has been years in the dirtying.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCubCurler

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