Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Confession over Coffee

I don't know where I was that day.  Maybe I was hanging out by the immaturity booth trying to get an extra dose.  Perhaps some fig-leaf-clad hottie was distracting me with her forbidden fruit.  Whatever it was, this much is certain:  I was nowhere to be found when they were handing out coffee-making ability.

I suck at it!

You've heard of the little engine that could?  I'm the little barista that couldn't.

Let's delve into a little of my history with the wakey juice.  It's probably important to start by mentioning that at one point I thought you poured the water directly into the filter.

And then I turned thirty-four.

Far too often, (read: almost always) me attempting to make coffee somehow winds up with grounds in the coffee.  And not like one or two grounds.  We're talking a multitude of grounds.  The best part of waking up is... well it's definitely not that.  Logically, I know the grounds are not supposed to drip into the pot, but I don't know how to stop it from happening.

At work, since I'm the first one to arrive every morning, the secretary used to get the coffee pot ready to go before she left in the evening.  Then all I had to do was plug it in when I got there in the morning.  Fortunately, even I couldn't screw that up.

Unfortunately, she quit in December.  So now we don't have coffee in the morning until someone besides me gets to work.

I even called the publishers of the "...for Dummies" series.  "I'm sorry, sir.  There is no 'Coffee for Dummies' book.  There's just no demand for one."

"Oh yeah?  Well there's no demand for your mother!" (I didn't really say that.  Curse my non-confrontational, Maxwell-House-challenged self!)

In my very frail defense, I haven't tried to make it that many times.  Only twice in the last two years.  Last year, I even texted a friend and asked for careful step-by-step instructions.  She texted back exactly how much water to add, how much coffee, and.... well that's pretty much it, I guess.


I'm not sure what happened. (This is a common theme with me and coffee.)  Coffee was leaking out of the top of the maker.  There were grounds running down the side of the pot and onto the counter.  I was pretty sure the whole thing might explode at any second.  I thought maybe the coffee maker was broken.

It wasn't.

Over the next months, I was careful to watch when others would make coffee.  Where did they put the water?  Where did they put the coffee?  How did they turn it on?  Were animal sacrifices to appease the coffee gods involved?

Fast forward to this past Sunday.  The urge struck me again.  I, foolishly, felt confident.  I'm a grown man, theoretically.  There is no way I can continue screwing this up.  Even the worst barista lucks into a perfect cup now and again, right?  So I hopped back up on that deceptively complicated horse.


After about ten minutes, there were only a couple of drops in the bottom of the pot.  Intuitively sensing something was wrong, I opened the top to find the water was in the filter -- which is not where I put it, by the way, this time -- and on the verge of overflowing!  What in the world is going on with my life!?!?!?

Eventually, I found that if I pushed down harder on the top of the coffee maker, the coffee would come out.  Albeit that meant grounds and all by this point.  Naturally.  

But something had clicked.  I mean, literally.  The top of the coffee maker had clicked when I pressed down on it.  That must be the key.  So I decided to give it one more chance.  Yes, I'm giving the coffee one more opportunity to behave as it should, because clearly it is the coffee that is underperforming and not me.  I cleaned out the pot -- I'm sorry, the "carafe."  Perhaps if I speak like a barista, I'll become one.

I pushed down.  I heard the click.  (These may be my two most phenomenal sentences ever.)

Wait....what's that?  Could it be?  Yes, yes, I believe it is!  I'm making coffee.  It's coming out!!!  (That's what she said.)  And the best part of all?  There didn't appear to be any grounds in it. My great-great-great-great-uncle Bone Valdez, if there is such a man, would be so proud.

I poured myself a cup, with just a bit of milk, and 3-4 heaping teaspoons of sugar, of course.  I felt accomplished.  So this is what making coffee is like for everyone else in the world.

And then, I tasted it.

The chemical formula for caffeine is C8H10N4O2.  This was more like... 10W30.

Ah well, at least my "pistons and valves" should be good to go for another three months or three thousand miles.

"I like my sugar with coffee and cream..."


  1. "the little barista that couldn't" you crack me up!

    1. Thank you. I may use that as the title of one of my fourteen future autobiographies.

  2. Make sure you tip the people who make your coffee the other 364 days of the year well :)

    Love this post.

    1. Actually, since the secretary quit, the work coffee these days is pretty rough. I usually steer clear and head for the citrusy caffeinated waters of my beloved Sun Drop.

    2. There have been some "issues" with the coffee at our office lately, too. Apparently, one of the girls likes to make it really strong and another hasn't been able to figure out why the coffee has gotten so strong recently. Of course, upon conversation, now strong girl won't make the coffee anymore. It's a bit dramatic :)

      I just try to get there early (not usually a problem) on days that I want flavored coffee so I can make it my way and not care what any of them say!

  3. This is funny, but just serve up coffee with grounds in it and tell folks you are serving cowboy coffee! I'd prefer 5W30 for my cup--and no sugar or milk.

    1. I like that idea. That would allow me to maintain a rugged image. And I could pretend I was sipping then slip out to the kitchen and pour mine down the sink.

  4. I thought people like you are who they made the k-cup systems for!

    Fortunately I have never liked coffee. It tastes like burnt sweaty socks to me.

  5. On second thought, perhaps I drank some of your coffee the first time I tried it!

  6. I started off learning how to make coffee at Arby's. Way back then you had to do it all "from scratch"...load filter, measure grounds, fill the water...etc. As I got older the coffee making got more and more dummy proof but sometimes I would work someplace where the boss wouldn't shuck out the money for the easy coffee and we had to do it the hard way.
    the most recent coffee fail I came upon (note: I did NOT make the coffee) was at a friend's house. Apparently they didn't use their coffee maker all that often. It was one of those that has a grinder so you load in whole beans and it grinds and then makes the coffee. They hadn't quite figured out the correct amount of beans to put in, so we went from way too strong to way too weak. :p I'll take strong any day as I used to work with a french gal who would take the dummy proof coffee packs and put in two if she could get away with it, but for the sanity of the office she agreed to just one and a half.
    It is a fine art Bone. Don't beat yourself up over it...head to Starbucks! ;)

  7. Gad, but we'd get along in real life. Except, well, it might be better if we complemented each other instead of sharing the same weaknesses. You'd think hotel-room coffee makers would be foolproof, but they didn't see this fool comin'!

    I've actually gotten so I can make a French press, and we have an espresso machine, so--bizarrely--I can make a good latte...but when it comes to a good, old-fashioned coffee maker? Challenged.

    You's my boy.

  8. I have just one word for you...Keurig...
    If you can't work a Keurig....well...that would make me worry.

  9. i'm right there with you- challenged when it comes to making coffee- It never works for me either!!!! I thought I was alone, but alas we are a small club of non coffee makers! I DO NOT even drink the poison, so at least I have that for why I can't make it...

  10. Haha! I love this.Our youngest just landed every everyone's dream job as a barista at the local coffee shop. 'Dream job' if you know how to make all the coffees on the list, that is. She's still learning and brings her own gallon of milk to practice on.