Nothing beats that first cup of coffee in the morning; especially if it’s at the perfect temperature. What that perfect temperature is varies for each person.
My Dad, for instance, prefers his coffee at a frightening, melt your top lip, scald the roof of your mouth, and parboil your esophagus 212°F. I have never actually measured the temperature of his coffee. This is an estimate based on observing the rolling boil in his coffee mug when he removes it from the microwave. Coffee is rarely hot enough for him, even if it’s freshly brewed. He will often transfer hot coffee into his mug and microwave it for an additional MINUTE to obtain his perfect temperature. He then has to remove his mug of molten lava from the microwave with an oven mitt, because you know, you don’t want to burn your hands. Mere seconds later he will gently ease his scorched treasure--still enveloped in oven mitts--to his eager lips, as I watch in horror.
My Mother, on the other hand, lives like most mothers: on a diet of tepid at best, but more often cold, entrees and elixirs. She is just happy to have some coffee available that was not made with her own hands. What a treat! Pour and go is usually fine with her. Occasionally, she’ll give a cold cup a cursory heat-up in the microwave for a bizarre amount of time. I’m talking 10 seconds or something. Nothing has ever been warmed in a single run of 10 seconds. But warming her drink probably isn’t even her goal. If hot food or beverages ever cross her path, they are set aside to cool. Her mouth has long adapted to living in the Mom-esque state of eating cold food by becoming overly sensitive to heat. Her mug is usually occupied by a cold, congealed, concoction from coffee pots long since past. She drinks from this throughout the day with hardly a flinch.
Then there’s my perfect cup. I’ve grown accustomed to my taste buds and I rather like them. I prefer to keep them in tact, so I do not like excruciatingly hot coffee like my Dad. I also can’t consume coffee in that temperature between lukewarm and iced like my Mom. My preference lies just on the edge of danger. I want to awaken my mouth so that when I take a breath after that first sip, I get that exhilarating cool-down sensation on the back of my tongue. I want to know the coffee, and challenge the coffee, and be challenged by the coffee, but also survive unscathed.
So what is my perfect temperature? I’d have to say my perfect temperature is 195°. Did I measure the temperature of my coffee to figure that out? Of course I did not! As I said before, this is the first cup of the day and if by chance, I am lucky enough to hit it at the exact right temperature, I’m not going to spoil that moment looking for a thermometer. I actually just looked up the minimum temperature for a perfectly brewed cup and I figured that must be about right. Why did I choose the minimum? Because I know that if I put that cup of perfect coffee down for even a minute, to go to the bathroom or get a muffin, the moment will pass and I will just have lukewarm coffee. My perfect cup of coffee has not a degree to spare in its deliciousness. So, I think 195° is it.
You may be wondering what quality of coffee is required for this perfect cup? To be honest, I don’t care. Well, within reason. I don’t drink off-brands of ground up colored sawdust or whatever is in those packages, but I often enjoy a cup or a dozen of the cheap commercial brands. Currently I have some Maxwell House, which is like an old friend. Folgers is more of an acquaintance…that I really don’t like. I’m working my way through a Starbucks gift box, but I’m doing this very cautiously. There’s nothing like brewing a pot of expensive coffee, only to find that you really don’t like it’s earthy flavor or it’s distinct citrus notes. And sometimes that extra special herbal spice flavor can really stink up your house. Most of the time, I just want plain old coffee.
What about my machine? What am I brewing this coffee in?
Many of my friends--all coffee lovers--have those 12 cup brewing station coffee makers, where the coffee is hidden somewhere and you press your mug against the button to get a cup. These are lovely machines in theory, but… I had to look inside. Once was while I was house sitting, and another time with someone I was dating. I didn’t tell either of them that I was doing it. It was more of a personal thing anyway. I was just sick and tired of looking at the mug of coffee they gave me and wondering, wondering, wondering what was living in there. So unfortunately, I have seen the worst of the brew stations and although I still think they’re pretty snazzy, I just don’t like all that discolored plastic.
I haven’t purchased a Keurig, although I do love the coffee I’ve gotten out of them. (I looked up the brewing temperature and it brews at a range of 192° to 197° so yes, perfect.)
So why not get a Keurig and assure a perfect cup every time? I have three reasons:
The first is those damn cups. I don’t buy plastic water bottles. I don’t like thinking about how large my carbon footprint is, and I think having my trash filled with plastic, single use coffee cups would make that difficult.
The second reason I don’t have one is that I took the wrong fork in the road. I took Beta instead of VHS, or if you’re not that old, I chose HD DVD over Blu Ray. Back in 2005 or 2006 when the single use pots hit the scene, there was a choice between k-cups and pods. I chose pods. Well, I didn’t/couldn’t choose because my big bro was kind enough to give me the gift of a pod brewer and the decision was made. Unfortunately, the type of pod machine that I have is not the size that maintains a large supply base today. Which is really a problem because…
The third reason, I drink lots and lots of coffee. When I was using my ‘single use’ machine, it would go like this:
Step 1-Fill machine with water. Place mug in assigned place
Step 2-Take 2 minutes too long choosing a flavor (I am not designed to be able to handle such complicated choices before my first cup)
Step 3-Press button wait 1 minute or whatever for hot coffee
Step 4-Add accompaniments
Step 5-Drink quickly
Step 6-Dump pod
Step 7-Take 1 minute choosing flavor (Improvement noted)
Step 8-Press button wait 1 minute or whatever for hot coffee
Step 9-Add accompaniments
Step 10-Drink quickly
Step 11-Dump pod
Step 12-Feel guilty as I choose another flavor
So you see, there is a problem here. Now multiply that problem by say 3 because it will repeat at lunch time, and probably dinner. The single use coffee maker quickly becomes cost and time prohibitive for me. Not to mention the personal guilt and public shame I feel with every loud brew.
I will continue to stick with the tried and true in the morning when I’m half awake. Ultimately, my perfect cup of coffee in the morning isn’t a cup at all. It is a pot. It is a pot of familiar, brown liquid, quietly brewed, to a perfect temperature of: as hot as it is right after I quickly add sugar-free creamer and sugar-free sugar and get it to my lips.