Covid-19 in NYC,  Descent Into Madness

Not Cool Beans

As the lockdown here in NYC stretches on and provisions grow thin, I’ve been thinking a lot about what matters most to me. No, it’s not family, or my health, or the fact that I live in a city where people play trumpets every night at 7pm to thank our front-line workers during this pandemic. What matters to me during this time of global fear and widespread death is: COFFEE.

I love coffee. I’ve always loved coffee. My mother’s diet for my entire childhood consisted of black licorice, a pack of cigarettes, and 5+ coffees every day. Of course, my parents have an amazing little device called an Instahot, which makes drinking 5 cups of coffee a day even easier. It’s a little faucet adjacent to their main sink that releases only boiling hot water, one of those things I took for granted until I moved into my own apartment and realized I’d have to actually boil water if I wanted my caffeine fix here in the boonies of the UWS (joking. Well, half joking).

My mother’s preferred method of coffee preparation has always been the pour-over method, with a plastic Melitta cone and a #2 sized paper filter and a mug. Those and the coffee are the only supplies she needs to make a truly divine cup of joe. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but my coffee tastes like garbage despite using the same method. So I decided that since I love coffee, and since I don’t have hobbies or any meaningful knowledge (celebrity trivia about overdoses doesn’t count), I would teach myself to become a coffee connoisseur.

First came the Nespresso. That seemed like a nice little rich person thing to have in the house. However, despite its convenience, in my opinion, Nespresso coffee tastes like dirt and garbage. I barely used it. The volume of the drink was too little; it was like drinking a little baby cup of bitter soil. So I stopped using it for three years. Then, when we decided having an unused Nespresso was wasteful and stupid, we bought de-scaling tablets, and now anything that comes out of the machine tastes like poison. Honestly. It tastes like the kind of coffee someone would serve their abusive husband after his first three whiskeys of the night, full of mashed up narcotics, with the hope he wouldn’t be able to taste that she was trying to kill him with it.

So my lovely husband decided to buy me a Chemex for my birthday. For the uninitiated, a Chemex is an exquisitely designed, minimal-looking glass carafe with a leather belt (it even has its own leather belt! Talk about luxe!) that holds it together. I figured, hey, I’ll learn how to use the Chemex and make the kind of pour-over coffee that you’d normally have to pay $6 and have an underwhelming conversation with a slam poet barista for, and then I’ll be a real adult with skills.

The Chemex was SO. MUCH. MORE. WORK. Making a good cup of coffee properly with it was a lengthy and difficult process that I hated and failed at. First of all, I don’t want to have to watch 10 YouTube videos about how to make a goddamn cup of coffee, but I had to with the Chemex. Then, as per the directions, I had to measure out an EXACT amount of ground coffee (freshly-ground, I might add, in my little plug-in coffee grinder, and then measured on a food scale) and an EXACT amount of water that had to be heated to the EXACT right temperature so that it wouldn’t burn the coffee. Ok, that was crappy enough…but then the process of making the damn coffee…I only managed to make it through the process twice before I gave up on the whole thing and never used the Chemex again. It involved taking a precise number of exact seconds to pour the water over the grinds to let the coffee “bloom,” and having to do that multiple different times over the course of a number of minutes. Who the fuck has the time or desire to be doing metric math conversions and working through complicated processes at the ass crack of dawn with the crushing weight of pre-caffeine depression on your shoulders? Put it this way: if I couldn’t even do math when my grades, future and relationship with my parents depended on it, I’m sure as fuck not going to be able to do it voluntarily and with a smile just for a freakin’ cup of coffee. So if anyone wants a Chemex, I have one, and you can have it. It makes a nice bud vase in a pinch.

Now, I’m back to ye olde Melitta filter method, but I’ve started buying whole coffee beans instead of ground coffee. I thought this would make the bag last longer, and I got a lot of pleasure out of opening the bag of Peet’s French Roast Whole Beans and seeing how greasy they were, which I know from the early-2000s Starbucks displays means they’re fresh as hell. However, figuring out how many beans to grind requires yet another level of math and logic that I’m just incapable of this early in the morning.

What to do? Let me just drink the rest of this cup of coffee, and then maybe I’ll feel up to creating a new game plan.

I'm a comedy writer born and raised in NYC.

5 Comments

  • Kelly

    OMG. I remember I found a Chemex a few years ago FOR FREE and thought I hit the jackpot. I was so excited to use it to make the fanciest *best* *coffee* *ever* because Instagram. And then after 30 freaking minutes of trying to multitask by alternating between putting on makeup and running over to the chemex to see if the coffee had “bloomed” enough to add more water without “drowning” it, I gave up. FUCK. I hated that thing. They are only for morning people.

    I bought a Black & Decker One Cup and never looked back. Also, Trader Joe’s French roast is cheap and delicious.

    • Caroline Nierman

      HAHAHA this is why I love you and why we’re friends. And duly noted on Trader Joe’s. I have a coffee machine too and hate cleaning out old grinds. The whole thing is a pain in the ass.

  • Kate Bartow

    This is so funny and I really feel like I can relate! Try beans from Porto Rico — https://www.portorico.com/store/

    They are amazing and really make the difference. I personally like the iced coffee blend for both my hot and cold coffee. We used an old school regular coffee machine 🙂

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