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coffee: a love story

Every night before I go to bed I grind coffee beans, and ready our espresso maker for my morning cup of espresso-strength coffee. (A notable contrast to the brown coffee-scented water that one might pay real money for at gas stations.)

While fellow mothers wake each morning and think of their sweet little lambs slumbering nearby, my brain reaches for caffeine, with thoughts of how it’s going to be a fabulous day because I have great coffee to look forward to.

Except yesterday a very bad thing happened.

I turned on the espresso maker, and sparks flew out from the knob like a Fourth of July sparkler, followed by a terrible burnt-hair sort of smell.

The neurons in my brain don’t fire very fast before coffee, but once it registered that what was happening was Not Good, as opposed to say, an extra-special impromptu show in celebration of my morning cup, I turned the thing off.

Then I backed up, and walked around the house. Maybe it’s not so bad, I reasoned. Maybe some espresso makers continue working after sparks and god-awful smells? It wasn’t like I was an electrician, or one of those guys who hang out in their basements with broken toasters and VCRs and a homemade Repair Shop sign on the front lawn. So who was I to judge if it was really broken or not?

And why the hell is Shawn always gone whenever sparks fly?

I then approached the machine humbly, the way you might when you know your only shot to make things right is to admit that someone – or in this case something –  is in the power position and throw yourself at its mercy. I placed my hand gently on the side of the machine, smelling electrical death and decay setting in, and unplugged the cord. I lifted it off the counter, and swung it around gently, like one might a freshly-diapered baby to make them giggle. Certainly airing it out might help the overheated parts?

Then I gingerly plugged it back in, and turned the partially-melted-but-still-perfectly-usable knob…



Must. Have. Coffee.

Then in desperation I grabbed the tea kettle and began boiling water for the French press we use whenever we go camping.

Since then, I’ve been on a quest to figure out how to replace the perfect cup. How to make it so that I look forward to waking every morning again. While the French press might satisfy people in France, it’s not quite right for this coffee princess.

Our old espresso maker, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, was a Mr. Coffee. But it was a gift, so the price was right, and despite the fact that it wasn’t imported from Italy and didn’t require that its metal parts be polished like counter art, it set a surprisingly high bar for good, strong coffee.

Some years ago, my sister- and brother-in-law introduced us to the AeroPress (pictured above) while camping – a contraption that can only be described as coffee science meets an enema.

Still, faced with a real coffee crisis, I realized we don’t have money set aside to purchase the type of espresso maker I’d like to replace the late Mr. Coffee with. So we tried the AeroPress for $30.

I was skeptical.

The first cup that Shawn prepared and ceremoniously presented to me, I wasn’t sold.

Then he did a very unmanly thing, and consulted the coffee-making directions that came with the thing. This morning he set to coffee making with the AeroPress once again, muttering about grinding the beans to the perfect degree of fineness, and using a thermometer inside the kettle to determine optimal coffee-pressing temperature.

Anyway, second cup: I’m a fan.

Life is good again.


END NOTE: I've never done product reviews in this space, and I don't have any former-but-still-nice-looking boyfriends working for AeroPress. (At least I don't think I do.)

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Reader Comments (13)

Cool beans. I'm with you, coffee princess.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA-Hole

Ah, yes, the importance of good coffee. My Lovely Wife got me started drinking the stuff when I was 40. I'm a late bloomer. Our stay at Minor Catastrophes Manor was punctuated with good java, both from your now dead machine and from the coffee shop just around the corner.

We've seen the AeroPress discussed on-line and everything I've read says that the proper temp is key. Enjoy!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrotherJohn

Temperature is important? Great. This means that RRD is right (again) and not the OCD coffee-fussy I accuse him of being. I sling boiling water over canned grounds, crowing about how delicious modest offerings can be (and secretly consoling myself knowing how honey and whipping cream can make even my coffee a treat) and how unspoiled and free I am, unlike 'some people'. Meanwhile he carefully measures his beans (if somebody ever gives him a gram scale he will be in heaven and I will be in Warm Springs), then he grinds them tenderly while he chants the seconds, then he cools the boiling water until - I don't know how he establishes its perfection - anyway, I hardly know all the things he's doing because I'm mocking him while I sip my coffee that took me two minutes to make. But when he's done with the solemn ceremony fifteen minutes later, I grovel for a sip of his. Really, it is so good, it's worth groveling for.
So, Megan, know when you guys finally come out here, there will be good coffee for all. I promise to limit my annoying performance so everyone can actually enjoy the ceremony.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterniceladywithdog

you would not even like the stuff I drink. It is weak and really just an excuse to drink the flavored creamer. I have a machine that makes a cup at a time with a little pod that looks like a tea bag. I can only buy the pods at Walmart so I stock up the few times I get there a year. I too prepare my machine the night before so I have my coffee at the touch of a button in the morning. Glad you have a new way to make good coffee. Morning is saved.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSDA

We have an espresso maker that we don't use. It currently decorates the top of one of our cabinets. No guarantees on its quality, but you would be very welcome to it, if you'd like to give it a try.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYour Occasional Lunch Date

I feel that way about my boyfriend Earl Gray. If he and I don't hook up every morning I can hardly function. I love Earl the way other people love coffee.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelynda

Ahh Coffee.. I have spent the past 36 years of my life ha... not liking the stuff, joking to every one who offered me a cup that I just hadn't grown up yet. But last year I discovered.. drum roll please...Cold pressed Ice Coffee. Oh My Lord! Its as sweet as I need it, as Creamy as I want it and cold cold cold. So you can say my coffee love is in its infancy, but maybe now I will finally grow up in time to sit at the retirement home smacking my lips at bitter, boiled tar :-D

Oh and btw. I use a french press. Only means of making coffee in my house. It must be a European thing. :-D

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFarFarAwayReader

I'm a half snob about coffee (whatever that means). I would like to reach coffee nirvana with freshly ground beans and perfect water temperature and the best brew method (whatever that might be) but I'm too lazy. However I do try to find good beans and grind them at the store, I have a vague idea of the water temperature and I prefer the french press method.

FFAR: I've heard about cold-pressed ice coffee. Really good, eh? Interesting. Further research is now required.

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaveAuntie

FaveAuntie: Maybe I should append a disclaimer on the coffee, since you proclaim coffee-semi-snob(bedness?). I am a coffee infant, and I actually don't like bitter things. So my ice coffee is 1 part ice, 1 part coffee and a lot of milk. Add brown sugar, and lots of homemade vanilla extract and I am rocking a blender full of very sweet, very creamy and not a lot like coffee, ice coffee. Seriously though, I like the cold pressed coffee much better than regular hot-brewed coffee. It is more mellow and a lot less bitter. I use this recipe as my base guide: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/dining/276drex.html

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFarFarAwayReader

A-Hole: Speaking of coffee, are we due?

BrotherJohn: Yes, the temperature thing. We've joined the "off-the-charts coffee geekery" club, apparently.

NLwD: Well, thank goodness for RRD! Sounds like he's got us covered if we ever visit, which means we won't need to arrive with a separate trunk stocked with necessary coffee-making supplies.

SDA: Well now the pods are actually an impressive bit of showiness. Never would have guessed they're weaklings, those compressed little coffee pucks.

Lunch Date: Wow. What a sweet and generous offer. I think we're pretty good with the AeroPress for now, but I'm relieved I now have someone to call for emergency backup. Should last week's coffee mishap ever happen again, is 6:30 a.m. too early to arrive on your doorstep, empty mug in hand?

Melynda: I wish I loved Earl the way you do. Much less muss and fuss, you know? (And Earl is highly portable wherever you go.) My love/co-dependency on good coffee has been a pain in the ass more than once.

Far, Far Away Reader: My own addiction started with weak coffee doctored with flavored creamers, so I feel sure that you will "grow into" this love over time. You're in the club, in any case. Also, how do you make homemade vanilla extract?

FaveAuntie: I'm lazy too, but then I tasted the AeroPress coffee Shawn made himself, and compared it to the one I made, and, well...I'm trying to figure it out now.

January 31, 2012 | Registered CommenterMegan Ault Regnerus

Hee-hee! Hot Husband introduced sis- and bro-in-law to the AeroPress, and now you're hooked? Very cool. I use that and my electric kettle every morning for HH's coffee. I'm more of a tea girl myself. Yes, that's code for Caffeine Wimp.

Here's the recipe I use for cold-pressed, since someone mentioned it and I'm late to this party.

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBliss Chick

Bliss Chick: That's where I read about cold-pressed! Thanks for the link.

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFaveAuntie

I never knew about the aero needing a perfect temperature. (and I'm not telling my husband, ignorance is bliss on this one) My electric kettle must get it right because I love my aero and it is so ....untechy, there is nothing to break, no fuses or fixable parts. Just the alchemy of beans and hot water. MMMmmmm. Yes, and thanks to bliss chick introducing us to the mighty Aero.

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPooknelle

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