Coffee tribulations.

We have three different blends of coffee in the break room here at work. I am fine with drinking two of the three (dark roast is blech). So you’d think, given that I’m fine with two-thirds of the offerings, that more often than not I’d be able to waltz in and grab a cup without needing to start a new pot. You would be wrong. For the second day in a row I walk in to find that only the dark roast is made and the other two carafes are bone dry.

A photo of a cup of coffee.
A cup of coffee. Pic by Julius Schorzman.

If I were the superstitious type I’d consider this a bad portent for the year to come, but instead I just think I have shitty coworkers who NEVER MAKE A POT OF COFFEE AFTER TAKING THE LAST DAMN CUP.

I realize that with Donald Trump starting a war with Iran in the headlines that this is probably the epitome of First World Problems, but I am so fatigued by the Trump administration at this point that I find it hard to muster enough outrage to say much about it. Instead, I am complaining about having to make coffee at work because that’s about all the irritation I can manage this morning. Probably doesn’t help that I’m running on about four hours sleep (interrupted in the middle) so I could really use several cups of coffee this morning.

Am I the only person…

Pic of coffee with a creamer nebula.

Coffee and Cream Nebula by Flick'r user kchbrown.

… who often finds beauty in entropy? There’s a small bit of entropy that occurs for me every morning when I get my first cup of coffee. I’m one of those wussies who can’t drink it black so I keep a supply of flavored creamer handy in the fridge here at work. When I grab a mug full of java I head over to the fridge and put the cup down on a shelf inside to make sure it’s steady when I pour the creamer in.

The combination of a hot fluid in a cold environment and the addition of chilled cream results in some amazing patterns of light and dark in the coffee. Sometimes it’s full of swirls and eddies that look like a storm front or approaching hurricane. Other times it looks like explosions or smoke or even celestial bodies. It’s different every time and it’s always interesting to witness.

The chaos only lasts a short while and is easily erased when I stir up the coffee, but seeing those random patterns first thing in the morning always makes me pause to reflect at the incredible amount of action that takes place in a simple coffee cup.  There are whole books full of mathematical models that describe the processes that are playing out in front of me. Math that I’d never in a hundred years be able to wrap my head around, and yet the universe carries it out without hesitation hundreds of billions of times everywhere that hot and cold liquids interact. It’s like a small cosmic ballet that if you blink or aren’t paying attention can be easily missed.

On those days when I stop to watch the drama unfolding in the swirls and cascades I can’t help but smile. There’s something reassuring about the idea that the universe keeps on doing what it does regardless of whatever else is going on within it.

New adventures in coffee brewing.

Pic of a Proctor-Silex Coffee Grinder

The new coffee toy.

I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a teenager and over those 30 or so years I’ve kept my coffee preferences pretty simple. While I will occasionally dabble with the concoctions at Starbucks, at home I tend to use your traditional drip coffee maker with plain old Folgers medium blend coffee and a little cream and sugar. When I’m feeling fancy I’ll use one of the flavored creamers from Nestle or International Delight, but I can get by just fine with a touch of milk. I’ve never cared for taking it straight black.

And while I consider myself a fairly serious coffee drinker, it’s true that I don’t drink it every day of the week. I tend to drink it more during the fall/winter than I do in the spring/summer and with the coming autumn breezes my coffee intake has gone up considerably. I also don’t own any French Presses or my own home Espresso machine or any of the stuff the really hardcore coffee drinkers tend to swear by. This includes, until just the other day, a coffee grinder.

Now if you listen to the hardcore coffee fans they’ll tell you that grinding your own beans just prior to brewing is the only proper way to truly enjoy coffee — you may as well serve them a cup of arsenic than a cup of joe brewed from pre-ground beans — and I’ve heard this repeated enough times over the years that I’ve had the intent to buy a grinder rolling around in the back of my mind for some time now. Being ADHD, however, meant that I never remembered that intent until I was someplace other than a store where I might buy one. It was the perpetual next-time-I’m-buying-coffee-I-should-look-at-a-grinder thing.

So you can imagine my surprise when I went to my mailbox on Monday and found a couple of packages waiting for me. I hadn’t ordered anything recently and I didn’t recall anyone saying they were sending me something so I had no idea what it could be. Turns out one was a Proctor Silex Coffee Grinder (pictured on the left) and the other was a bag of Aloha Island Surf’s Up Breakfast Blend coffee beans. They were gifts from my parents, who had come down the weekend previously for a visit. My dad is something of a kitchen geek and has a lot of cool cooking related toys so when we got on the subject of coffee I brought up the fact that I’ve been meaning to buy a grinder but have never gotten around to it. I should have realized that would have been like waving a red cape in front of a bull, but I honestly hadn’t expected him to go out and buy us a coffee grinder and some starter beans.

And now that I have the damned thing it occurs to me that I haven’t the faintest clue how to use it. Wait, let me be more specific: I know how to use the grinder itself as it just has a single button to press. What I don’t know is how many beans to put in it to equal out to what I would normally scoop out of my plastic can of Folgers. I’m assuming that I don’t want to put in too much otherwise I’m storing unused coffee grounds which would defeat the purpose of freshly grinding before brewing a pot, but I also don’t want to use too little for fear of ending up with brown water.

So I’m going to have to sit down and do some research. I’m sure there’s plenty of coffee snob websites out there with reams of info on how to properly grind your beans so it shouldn’t be too difficult to learn what I need to know, but as long as I have your attention leave a comment with your suggestions and/or links to your favorite coffee snob blogs. I’m also up for suggestions on various gourmet beans I should try if you have any you’d like to share.