Since I have only  two acknowledged vices, coffee and pointless essays, it follows that there ought to be an essay about coffee, and that it would be, well . . .



We could complain about the quantifications regarding the brewing of coffee.  What does a “cup” mean?  What is the size of a coffee measure supplied with the canned coffee?  Why does Starbuck’s recommend 2 tablespoons per cup, when I make coffee too strong for many at 1 tablespoon per cup?  But then again, what is a “cup“ and what is a “tablespoon“--well, really a tablespoon is a known quantity, so starting from there we can make some sense of this. 


my 10 cup pot holds 6 cups which is 8 cups and thus by the Starbuck’s recipe would require 16 tbs.  A teaspoon is 5 ml. (or 5 cc in volume) and a tablespoon is 3 teaspoons or 15 ml., which btw is about .5 fluid ounce.  16 of these tablespoons is 240 ml. or 1 cup (= 236.6 ml.)  Starbuck says you should put a cup of their gourmet coffee in the basket when brewing a full pot.  I use a half cup.  Starbuck’s adds that we should water it down, if too strong, which seems contrary  to the very spirit of gourmet coffee, though  I suppose it makes no difference at all, except that you want it hot.  The correct temperature for coffee, btw, is not 212 degrees at sea level, but more like 160, brand new, when you start trying to sip it, or 150 degrees when it is just right, with a little bite to it.


If I lost you on the first sentence of the paragraph above, it’s easy:  they call it a 10 cup carafe, and it measures 50 fluid ounces, thus close to 6 actual cups.  But coffee “cups” are “officially” 6 ounces.  180 ml.  My source is the Starbuck’s bag.  It occurs to me that the two tablespoon per cup recipe might be on my “extra bold” Sumatra coffee and not on the lighter varieties, which would mean that “bold” is not a quality of the blend but of the way we brew it, which would be deeply disillusioning.  It’s like shampoo, which in my theory is all the same except for how much water is in it.  Dry hair,  oily hair, cheap, expensive--all the same; only the dilution and packaging are different.  Sigh.  These false gods can be trusted to let you down.  


In case you think I am not doing research on this report, here are my notes:



0.5     cup

8        tbsp

118.29411825         ml

0.49998259317513  cup  (the point being that my phone-calculator lets me save the results of calculations as a file, OR that you should use a half cup of coffee for a ten-cupper.)


Then there is the problem of the coffee “measure,” which is not really a measure, since no one knows what size it is.  They do often have cubic centimeters marked on them. Since “cc” looks the same from either side (direct or mirror image) it is hard to read numbers on the translucent plastic.  5 looks like the backside of 2, if you don’t know which way is up.  With care one can read it.  The sizes of these measures are utterly random, as far as I can see, but they probably do have the correct numbers on them, like 39 cc or 54 cc or something else.  My current measure is a 35, which makes it slightly more than two tablespoons.  I use 3 of these for 6 cups, which is slightly more than a tablespoon per cup, which makes my Sumatran coffee a little bolder, but not as bold as Starbuck’s would have me make it. (However I just updated my research and saw that my current coffee maker has only 27 ounces in 6 “cups“, so 1 tbs. for each of these is 1 tbs. for each 3/4 cup or 1 and 1/3 tbs. per “official” cup, even a little more, due to the 35 cc. measure.  1 and 5/9, to be exact. 1.5555555555555555555555555555556 . Bolder yet.)


The  significance of the above is that weak coffee is among the worst of sins.  A true story: I left Taos two years ago hoping to stop at the “Coffee Bean” shop to gas up for the drive home, but I was too late, because it closed at 4 pm.  So I went to a gas-convenience store which looked sort of sharp until I got in there.  I stood by the coffee decanter, trying to decide if this stuff was potable or not, and I decided to chance it.  As I checked out the woman behind the counter said, “Yeah, the coffee is kind of weak in the morning, but by this time of day it’s pretty strong.”  Using less water is one way to make coffee stronger.  Evaporating away most of the water is another. 


No one will appreciate the significance of any of this if he or she puts sugar in coffee.  That is the worst of sins (within this particular and pointless moral universe centered around a good cup of coffee.)  It proves you don’t  like coffee.  For that reason, half the people who stand shoulder to shoulder with me in Starbuck’s don’t know the fine points of coffee at all, because they buy the frizzy-frothy stuff with sweeteners.  That’s ok, if you like that, but there is not an issue before you about good coffee and what makes it good.  Frizz and Froth and Sweeteners set aside all the real questions.  To pursue these I flew 8000 miles to Israel, two years in a row, and I ended up thinking, “Well, I love Israel, still, but when it comes to coffee they just  don’t understand.”


The first year I found Turkish coffee in the base mess hall and along the roadside.  It's not bad once you understand it. It's really cowboy coffee, finely ground.  You have to learn to leave the mud in the bottom of the cup.  They were amazed I asked for it without sugar, and restaurants in the States sell Turkish coffee highly sweetened.


There was also instant coffee and some varieties of frizzy coffees at the roadside places, no one knew what I meant by "brewed" coffee; I tried to learn to say "filtered" coffee.  My first cup of that was at the summit of the Golan Heights, where a coffee shop called Cafe Anon, or something like that, sounding very much like the head of the U.N. and meaning "coffee in the clouds," sold me this little cup with a throw-away drip collar and an enclosed disk of coffee in it.  They fill the top with water and in a while you have half a cup of coffee in the cup.  Refills?  That is a concept of another continent (and a light-year from the thoughts of Starbuck's employees, too). 


Between my first and second trip to Israel an Israeli in American told me that Starbuck's failed in Israel because it was too expensive and because Israelis' standards for coffee were higher than that.  So this time I went looking for the real coffee places. 


Tune in soon for more . . . .maybe someday . . .

(but only a little more)


“What’s worse than weak coffee?”