The Case for Bad Coffee
October 31, 2015 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Cheap coffee is one of America's most unsung comfort foods. It's as warming and familiar as a homemade lasagna or a 6-hour stew. It tastes of midnight diners and Tom Waits songs; ice cream and cigarettes with a dash of Swiss Miss. It makes me remember the best cup of coffee I ever had. Even though there was never just one best cup: there were hundreds. [SLSeriousEats]
posted by papayaninja (188 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry for forgetting the quotation marks around the quotation, and the attribution: this is by Keith Pandolfi, current Serious Eats senior features editor and previous senior editor at Saveur.
posted by papayaninja at 2:33 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


The worst part of this new-found obsession is that it isn't even an affectation. I don't drink cheap coffee to be different. I don't boast of my love for Cafe Bustelo, which has become the PBR of the bearded Brooklyn set. I usually buy Maxwell House. There is nothing cool about Maxwell House.

Hey, look! It's that thing you say you're not doing!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:34 PM on October 31, 2015 [68 favorites]


Diner coffee is good if it's ultrastrong. That is its main function, to power endless chat after a night of carousing. To leave the diner 3 hours and 1 sunrise later and blearily wander home to crash.
posted by Ferreous at 2:38 PM on October 31, 2015 [19 favorites]


I have the same reaction to bad coffee as I do to cheap beer: No.
posted by tommasz at 2:39 PM on October 31, 2015 [17 favorites]


The opposite of "gourmet" isn't "bad", it's just "regular". Equating regular with bad is what makes people unpleasant to be around, or makes their writing insufferable.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:46 PM on October 31, 2015 [150 favorites]


Oy vey. I drink crappy coffee because I can't really taste the difference. And sometimes I am really glad to live in the hinterlands, where nobody gives a fuck what kind of coffee you drink.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Coffee comes in five descending stages: Coffee, Java, Jamoke, Joe, and Carbon Remover."
-Robert Heinlein-
posted by Marky at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't know about bad coffee but I do like plain black drip coffee.
posted by octothorpe at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Two things that I drink for purely for effect and not flavor are coffee and beer. This means that I will often drink miller light, or shitty k-cup or bodega coffee loaded with milk. Fuck the haters.
posted by windbox at 2:51 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hey, so, the second half of the article is pretty touching!

Also, regular coffee is drip coffee in my mind. Instant coffee is definitely bad.
posted by papayaninja at 2:52 PM on October 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


I was all set to dislike this, based on excerpt, but it redeemed itself nicely in the end. It's the cheap coffee that was there as we spawned some of our deepest connections with others or most thoughtful moments. The expensive stuff makes us focus on it, reducing the world to a background blur.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:53 PM on October 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


Instant coffee, like regular coffee, has varying qualities. It's not my favorite coffee, but it has easy preparation and a long shelf life, so I keep it on hand. Plus, you can make it in any situation you have hot water and no equipment beyond a cup and a stirrer.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:54 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I cheerfully drink bad coffee: it reminds me how much better good coffee is.

I feel way about coffee to what James Lileks once said of cheap beer: "I am a friend to the common can."
posted by wenestvedt at 2:56 PM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


It makes me remember the best cup of coffee I ever had. Even though there was never just one best cup: there were hundreds.


Waaaaaiiiit a minute, that sounds familiar.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the end is better than the beginning.

It is true that my formative coffee memories are about bad coffee, and one of them is even about instant coffee, made with milk instead of water. But maybe that's generational, and if I had grown up in the era of Starbucks, my adolescent memories would taste like frappacinos or mochalattes rather than about crappy coffee at diners and IHOPs. Anyway, I drink coffee to stay awake, not to relive my past.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I don't know about bad coffee but I do like plain black drip coffee.

A friend of mine made the mistake of asking for that at the wrong Toronto coffee shop and was nearly sneered out of the store: "We don't serve batch coffee."
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


"[T]he best coffee is one enjoyed with others[...]" - Cafe Bustelo can.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


My go-to is 1 cup (volume) of Chock-full-o-nuts original roast, and 50 ounces of water in literally the cheapest no-clock Mr. Coffee they had on the shelf... When it's done brewing, it goes in a thermal carafe for the rest of the day...

And it's what I really crave. Consistent. I know what I'm getting and no surprises...

I REALLY don't want surprises in this context...
posted by mikelieman at 3:01 PM on October 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the cheap coffee that was there as we spawned some of our deepest connections with others or most thoughtful moments.

Come clean: You used to write copy for General Foods International Coffees, didn't you?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:01 PM on October 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


I worked at a coffee roastery for years(a well known, high end one) and was a barista before that. I was a dingus about coffee for a long time.

My new rule is that it has to be really good, or intentionally bad. Failing at being "artisanal" coffee is worse than diner coffee. And i don't mean this from some ideological standpoint, i mean it's actually usually worse and gross to drink.

Some of my best coffee drinking memories are of the 7-11 flavored winter coffee. I'd mix the regular coffee and a bit of that, then go out in the snow. Or yea, diner coffee. Like a lot of people here, i have plenty of memories of sitting in a dennys or some local(or small town, off the highway) diner and drinking coffee at like 3am.

Jesus fuck have i had some terrible coffee at hipstery cafes while traveling though. Or at restaurants that are like "oh we have fancy coffee/espresso" and that's the only damn option and then it tastes like farts.

I like ridiculously strong crappy diner coffee, or gas station coffee. I like actually good fancy coffee. But fuck do i hate the weird often bitter stuff that fails at being fancy.
posted by emptythought at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2015 [21 favorites]


I've only been served one coffee that was so bad I wouldn't drink it, at an Indian restaurant. I should have known something was up when the waiter seemed alarmed that I was ordering one.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Often, BTW, "diner coffee" is your local commercial coffee roaster/service's vacuum bags in a Bunn VP17-3 or suchlike... Again, consistency FTW..
posted by mikelieman at 3:04 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


BAD coffee? The Mass-pike at 3am on the way back from Boston. So bad the THOUGHT of drinking it was enough to keep me awake...
posted by mikelieman at 3:05 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Denny's on El Cajon Blvd in North Park, 3 AM. 19 years old, after a long night of bowling at the lanes on 30th St. Can't remember the name, long gone now.

Shitty ass coffee doesn't matter when you're daring your stoner buddies to pour a bunch of maple syrup in it and chug it.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:05 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: that's the only damn option and then it tastes like farts.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:12 PM on October 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


I started reading this really wanting to get on board, but then this dude revealed that he's from Cincinnati and likes Maxwell House instant.

Sorry, folks, I don't mean to be regionist, but I'll never trust a Midwesterner's opinion about coffee. Especially if they're telling me they like Maxwell House. Ew.

Give me simple down to earth coffee any day of the week (lately I've been into moka pot espresso and drip coffee from cheap Trader Joe's beans), but Maxwell House -- or worse, instant -- is a bridge too far.
posted by Sara C. at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I refuse to accept Bustelo as some sort of hipster affectation. That shit is good. Brew it strong on a Sunday morning, add some cream, and I am very happy.
posted by lunasol at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2015 [20 favorites]


I was reflecting on the fact that I love cream in my coffee as I was pouring the cup I drank while reading this article. It's slightly better than Maxwell house stuff, but I always make sure to put cream and a bit of Splenda in, so I figure the really good coffees would just be wasted on me. And it makes me remember my grandfather, at an Olive Garden, asking me if I wanted any coffee with my milk.

Curiously, Maxwell House Coffee Singles - the ones you make like tea bags - are probably the only coffee I've ever really enjoyed black. It was probably that it brewed so damn weak, ironically.
posted by graymouser at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll never trust a Midwesterner's opinion about coffee.

Then don't watch this.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Agreed, Bustelo is the best macro-brew nationally available supermarket coffee.
posted by Sara C. at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Instant coffee is definitely bad.

I disagree. Instant is its own flavor and if you are in the mood for that, it is perfect.

I like ridiculously strong crappy diner coffee, or gas station coffee. I like actually good fancy coffee. But fuck do i hate the weird often bitter stuff that fails at being fancy.

This. So much this. Really good coffee is wonderful, but the burnt pseudo-good shit is just vile.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:21 PM on October 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


In Chinese culture (and possibly others that I'm not probably not aware about) there are teas for tasting and teas for drinking. They are distinct categories that never really intersect.

So, I don't see a big deal if you like a high quality, french pressed coffee that's served best without cream or milk and also like instant coffee with a bit of Irish Creme flavored creamer.

It's fine. Your snobbery is still intact. And you're not a hipster.
posted by FJT at 3:22 PM on October 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


I have a cup of instant coffee most mornings. My parents only used instant all the time except for after dinner at a dinner party. When I started having coffee in the morning it's what was there and it just became what morning coffee tastes like to me. It's most definitely a comfort thing. Good non instant coffee in the morning tastes weird to me. Good but just not morning right. Don't give me instant at other times of the day though. Bleh. I want better coffee.

Yes I realize it's weird.
posted by Jalliah at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


BTW just so we know where I'm coming from, this morning I put vegan egg nog in my (drip, Trader Joe's Bali Blue Moon) coffee and it was delicious.

I highly recommend this.
posted by Sara C. at 3:25 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Coffee is a steaming cup of fucking awesome.
posted by Sophie1 at 3:26 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I refuse to accept Bustelo as some sort of hipster affectation. That shit is good. Brew it strong on a Sunday morning, add some cream, and I am very happy.
I use it for cold-brewed iced coffee in the summer. I never knew it was a hipster thing. I don't even know what to do with that fact.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:27 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


it's cute how people pretend there is any demonstrable difference between which brand of battery acid they like to drink hot and with milk
posted by poffin boffin at 3:31 PM on October 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


We're living the dream here in Canada. Tim Hortons "coffee".
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:32 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like instant coffee because it's quite coffee-like and you can drink a milky cup of it every 45 minutes throughout your working day. Obviously if you do that with proper coffee you go mad.
posted by colie at 3:32 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


A&C, please enjoy this photo of the Cafe Bustelo booth at the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival.
posted by theodolite at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is Bustelo sold in Canada?
posted by reiichiroh at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow. I think I am such a loser that I do ironic hipster things totally unironically.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pour-over coffee bends my brain. I count my coffee consumption in pots, not cups. I'm sure it isn't healthy.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, folks, I don't mean to be regionist, but I'll never trust a Midwesterner's opinion about coffee.

I don't mean to be the thing I am about to be, but here I go being it: now watch this drive.

Also, it seems pretty dumb to paint an entire swathe of the country as being unable to have an opinion on a product that can't even be grown here (excluding Hawaii).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2015 [25 favorites]


believe it or not guys, sometimes "hipsters" like things because they're good, not because it's ironic.
posted by JimBennett at 3:39 PM on October 31, 2015 [28 favorites]


ti and likes Maxwell House instant.

I had this discussion with my brother some years back, a guy who can always be depended on to blow your mind with some new music, but whose taste in coffee is proudly generic (at best). I finally had to say to him, "If you took the same approach to music, you'd be listening to Bryan Adams, and bragging about it."
posted by philip-random at 3:43 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Seldom have I been so happy to age out of something as I was to age out of being a hipster.
posted by box at 3:44 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad has a little electric pot he uses to brew coffee first thing every morning. He's a very early riser so he'd nurse the pot over the course of his morning hours until he went to work, and sometimes make a new pot if he ran out.

Last year he had a funny EKG reading at the doctor. Doctor asked, "Do you drink coffee?" Dad said, yep. Doctor said "About how much?" Dad had a think about his coffee machine and how often he'd re-make it in the morning and realized, "About 12 cups before 9 AM."

Crappy coffee saves lives. If he'd been doing that with "real" stuff I'm pretty sure he'd be dead.
posted by olinerd at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sorry, folks, I don't mean to be regionist, but I'll never trust a Midwesterner's opinion about coffee.

Are you aiming at self-parody, or is it unintentional?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2015 [35 favorites]


Some of the newer instant coffees are actually pretty good. They use fine ground coffee beans as well as dried coffee.

Those of you disparaging instant coffee, remember that they have the entire might of the industrialised food production process behind them. There's countless millions of dollars going into the development of these products with the aim of making them taste as close to the real thing as possible.

Remember also that brewed coffee varies tremendously in quality. There's inconsistencies in the bean roast, the equipment, the operator, the milk steaming temperature - in fact, almost every part of the chain. I don't disagree that the best freshly made espresso with well roasted freshly ground beans tastes better than a high quality instant. Unfortunately it's rarely that good. I stopped using an aeropress and fresh coffee at work because I couldn't get anywhere near the consistency of instant. The good days were outweighed 10x by the bad. And boy they were bad.
posted by leo_r at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


after years of minmaxing flavor/price/convenience I've settled on making Maxwell House in an Aeropress every day
posted by theodolite at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


FJT: "So, I don't see a big deal if you like a high quality, french pressed coffee that's served best without cream or milk and also like instant coffee "

So, wait. Does this explain why European coffee has absolutely no middle-ground between incredible espresso, and undrinkable instant swill?
posted by schmod at 3:46 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't know Bustelo was a thing. I started buying it because it was so cheap. I like it and it reminds me of the smell of the espresso my grandmother used to make. There is also Pilon, which looks so similar, is always right next to it at my grocery store, and seems to be about the same price. I keep meaning to try it. Does anyone have any opinions about it?

(I got some of the Bustelo instant coffee for work and it's totally satisfactory).
posted by Salamandrous at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I find most grating is people saying what they like and how they only like it because its not pretentious and whats really pretentious is those other people who are called hipsters. I mean if you go out of your way to say you like something and while doing so necessarily shit on other people, how unpretentious are you really?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


My parents are cheap coffee addicts as well. Last Thanksgiving they split three 12 cup pots during dinner. I like the stuff, but jeez.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2015


When I weaned myself from the $15 a lb stuff I thought "Oh, now when I have it, I'll appreciate it so much more!" But nah, it just reminds me that I'm drinking cheap coffee. Nabob Costa Rica is alright. At least the medium roast is actually medium roasted. I'll take good coffee black but with the cheap stuff I like that Silk Almond vanilla creamer stuff. If I wanted to get nostalgic about the truly crappy coffee of my youth I'd have to start smoking again.
posted by Lorin at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2015


My mother taught me to make Folger's in a percolater as soon as I was tall enough to reach the stove, and that was my JOB. And that's the way I liked it, except I've used a french press for the last decade or so. Percolater's still in the basement, though. Just in case.
posted by cookie-k at 3:48 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I never knew Cafe Bustelo was a hipster thing either. And it makes me sad, because if it becomes a thing then the price will triple.

Medaglio d'Oro, Cafe la Llave, and Cafe Bustelo are all on the forgotten shelf of my local store, and I can buy them for 1/3 of the price for the neighboring beans. I love them, and I'm not being an anti-snob - I think they genuinely taste far better than the more expensive coffees. I still use my French press at home, though I'm eyeing one of the moka pots I saw in Italy.

For work it's Yuban. Yuban is cheap. It doesn't taste better than the above, though it's still better than 50% of the beans. I almost wonder if the quality of whole beans has gone down now that they're so ubiquitous.

It was Italy and France that actually opened my eyes about coffee, & helped counter the idea that whole beans are always better. I'd be served wonderful coffee in the morning, in every b&b that I stayed at, and was always amazed that it was made with powdered coffee from a can. Every time. At first I'd react as if I was discovering someone's shameful secret. And yet ... the coffee was so good. Maybe it wasn't either 'shameful' or a secret.

Though ... if cheap coffee does become a trendy thing then maybe it will also become a trendy thing to have coffee shops serving $1 cups of coffee again
posted by kanewai at 3:50 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


theodolite: "A&C, please enjoy this photo of the Cafe Bustelo booth at the 2015 Pitchfork Music Festival."

And here's the obligatory NYT Trend Piece
posted by schmod at 3:56 PM on October 31, 2015


Fuck! Cafe Bustelo is popular? I was into it before it was cool!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:58 PM on October 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I saw this the other day.

I'm glad to be at a point in my life where I can both appreciate good coffee when it's available, and appreciate diner coffee when that's available, and not give a fuck what either one supposedly says about me as a person.

Like, I'm glad this writer had this epiphany that it's okay to just drink coffee without getting all fussy and precious about it, but that seems fairly self-evident.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2015 [20 favorites]


I don't think I've ever seen Bustelo. Is it "bright"? I tend to dislike acidic coffees and go for dark roasts whenever possible.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:05 PM on October 31, 2015


I guess I thought that, in the end, the thing was less about coffee than about his stepfather, and maybe a little bit about learning to accept things as they are, whether it's coffee or people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:05 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I stopped drinking coffee a couple years back, but I can't take a road trip without stopping for some questionable 7-11 or gas station coffee. It's just pro forma to have a hot cup of brown stuff and drive a car that smelling of coffee.
posted by peeedro at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have fond memories of sipping steaming Starbucks instant coffee, replete with powdered creamer, warding the chill of coastal morning mists as they meandered through ageless redwoods and reflecting in silence as Roosevelt elk grazed with languidly inquisitive ears. Bundled warmly as I was before my tent, that humble cup felt like heaven in my hands.
posted by equestrian at 4:12 PM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I've clearly got to go read it all the way to the end. That's one of the things I value about MeFi: people who will let me know when to ignore the title/first four paragraphs/layout because "this one's worth getting past that".
posted by benito.strauss at 4:13 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, look! It's that thing you say you're not doing!

I don't know, I think I get the distinction he's drawing. To some extent I do think it's a bit of a straw man, of course. I don't think people really drink Cafe Bustelo just to look cool, independent of the taste: bigger factors are that Cafe Bustelo is cheap and readily available and it tastes fine. But at the same time, I do think Cafe Bustelo really does tend to be a bit more popular among the hipster set (e.g., from the NYT -- on preview, jinx, schmod) than Folgers, the same way that PBR or Gansett would be vs. Bud Light. In this case, I'd speculate that maybe this is because of an association with urban areas and working-class communities of color (Ctrl+F "bodega" in these articles, for example), as opposed to the whitebread suburbia you might see depicted in Folgers commercials.

Obviously there's a lot of gray area in the distinction he's drawing (hello normcore my old friend) and you could argue the fact that he's writing about it in those terms intrinsically makes his statement a little suspect. (And, while I'm a white guy speculating here, I can imagine that if you were, say, Cuban-American, Cafe Bustelo could certainly have a totally different valence, one that would have absolutely nothing to do with hipsterdom and would have a lot more in common with how he talks about, e.g., diner coffee with his stepdad here.) But I do think it's not unreasonable to say that Folgers and Bustelo have a somewhat different set of cultural connotations apart from both being types of affordable, mass-produced coffee.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:19 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


We're living the dream here in Canada. Tim Hortons "coffee".

Timmy's is very far from good coffee, but it's good coffee for swilling.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:20 PM on October 31, 2015


Both the partner and I used to be baristas, in
Seattle, of the holier-than-thou variety. I started drifting away from fiddly food and drink in general a while ago, and since we've lived together its been French Market chicory coffee, purchased ground in a can. I make it every day in a French press. It's cheaper coffee, and not remotely hip, but it tastes good, is hard to over or under brew, and goes well hot or cold. Sometimes simple is better.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dunkin' Donuts coffee in a box with cream and sugar.
posted by tzikeh at 4:32 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've only been served one coffee that was so bad I wouldn't drink it, at an Indian restaurant.

I once was at a now-closed diner in NJ with a friend. The interior was a vision of depression; I remember it as having acoustic ceiling tile, fluorescent lights, and cheap thin carpet -- like a former Marshall's that had been extremely minimally retrofitted with a kitchen. Bizarrely, it was in a very tony area, and the food wasn't particularly cheap, which made the contrast even more jarring. But they were open very early and were centrally located. Anyway, the coffee was so terrible, my friend actually stopped mid-sentence, looked at the mug and started laughing. Half of my friends still think that place had to have been some kind of front.

But I have fond memories of most of the diner coffee I had in NJ. My roommates and I would always go out to the same one on weekends, and sometimes our favorite waitress would just leave us the whole pot instead of making us wait for individual refills, because she was just the best.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:32 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Coffee is a lot like wine...ever notice the descriptions in a coffee house? "Hints of blueberry and chocolate, notes of blah blah blah...." And some of it is just as expensive (price a pound of Jamaica Blue Mountain...if you can even find it).

My taste runs to just about anything in a fresh roast (critical) and dark roast.

Most diner and fast food stuff is canoe coffee. Remember that old joke?

"This coffee is like making love in a canoe."

"How's that?"

"It's f****** near water!"
posted by CrowGoat at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've clearly got to go read it all the way to the end. That's one of the things I value about MeFi: people who will let me know when to ignore the title/first four paragraphs/layout because "this one's worth getting past that".

I regret my framing a bit, because I think this is one of those times. I was reading it because I was on Serious Eats trying to figure out what I want for dinner, and was like, "Yeah, pretty typical..." until I got to the part about Ted.

I think using something from the end as the quote might have been more effective, but also would have done... whatever the opposite of burying the lede is.
posted by papayaninja at 4:37 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have fond memories of sipping steaming Starbucks instant coffee, replete with powdered creamer, warding the chill of coastal morning mists as they meandered through ageless redwoods and reflecting in silence as Roosevelt elk grazed with languidly inquisitive ears. Bundled warmly as I was before my tent, that humble cup felt like heaven in my hands.

Last month I purchased a tent, sleeping bag and other supplies at REI before going on my first camping trip in umpteen years. The REI guy had some good coffee advice: He now takes packets of Starbucks Via instant coffee--which also has microground coffee in it--rather than fussing with ground coffee when he backpacks. Tastes pretty damn good he said. I took that advice and he was right. I did bring actual whole milk powder rather than creamer however.
posted by mono blanco at 4:37 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Instant coffee. There's some good ones out there. It's cheap, fast, and more than a suitable caffeine delivery device. Everything else (that's good) is just icing on the cake. Except Peet's. That is vile garbage.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 4:41 PM on October 31, 2015


Seems a shame to waste instant coffee on water. They're water-soluble crystals of coffee flavor, sprinkle it over ice cream or something.
posted by indubitable at 4:44 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


... that Loretta Lynn's voice was the stuff of heaven; that George H.W. Bush wasn't as bad as he seemed.

You don't like bad coffee, you have Stockholm Syndrome.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was drinking Cafe Bustelo for decades before it was cool. It has always been one of the great coffees, and the fact that it is dirt cheap is hard to believe!
posted by Yosemite Sam at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't eaten any of their "food" in well over 20 years, but when I'm on the road I've found McDonald's generally has consistently decent coffee any time of day.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:49 PM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Instant coffee. There's some good ones out there.

Maybe the technology has changed; when I was a kid my mom exclusively drank instant and it was horrible. I hated coffee until someone showed me how to make the real stuff when I was in my 20's.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:53 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pro Tip: Pilon is Cafe Bustelo put into a different bag at the factory in Miami - just buy whichever is cheaper and fresher - it's the same coffee made in the same plant by the same people, just in a different bag!

source: been drinking Bustelo and Pilon for 45 years
posted by Yosemite Sam at 4:59 PM on October 31, 2015 [22 favorites]


I rather like diner coffee, and to order eggs benny and a capuccino in my local place would seem odd. And it's filter, but none of the guys behind the counter have beards, many tattoos and piercings or t-shirts sporting Amusing Text, so they can't possibly make Proper Coffee.

And I too have had some truly awful artisanal coffee, but the glaçage sur le gateau was a cup of "Penang white coffee" that I had the other week on Canal Street.

I have since found that the beans are roasted in margarine before grinding, which may explain the taste and feel, but certainly doesn't excuse it. I still feel a little nauesous at the thought.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:59 PM on October 31, 2015


I finally had to say to him, "If you took the same approach to music, you'd be listening to Bryan Adams, and bragging about it."

Some people like Bryan Adams. That's good. They have a thing in the world they enjoy. Leave them alone. And their coffee.
posted by howfar at 5:15 PM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Seems a shame to waste instant coffee on water. They're water-soluble crystals of coffee flavor, sprinkle it over ice cream or something.
I don't know about instant coffee, but I have a couple of recipes that call for espresso powder. I have espresso powder in my cabinet solely to be used in random chocolate recipes. I assume you can make a beverage out of it, but I have no idea what it would taste like.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:18 PM on October 31, 2015


Instant coffee is of the devil. It's really just orders of magnitude worse than your most mediocre drip coffee. Only technically qualifies as coffee.

But cheap drip? Hell yes. I'd much rather get McDonald's coffee for a buck than the only marginally better drip at Starbucks for four times the price.
posted by zardoz at 5:18 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


re: Starbucks via for camping.

What you do is you bring the instant coffee packets, as well as some hot chocolate mix, and add a spoonfull of the hot chocolate mix to the coffee. Dissolves better than milk powder and tastes delicious to boot.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'll drink regular old "bad" coffee sometimes but I usually drink good stuff. I don't drink alcohol at all and so I mess out on the chance to try out the different craft beers or finer spirits. Coffee is what I can enjoy and try out different things with. But if someone's offering me a cup of their finest Costco cheap drip, I ain't turnin' it down.
posted by azpenguin at 5:30 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


re: Starbucks via for camping.

What you do is you bring the instant coffee packets, as well as some hot chocolate mix, and add a spoonfull of the hot chocolate mix to the coffee. Dissolves better than milk powder and tastes delicious to boot.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:21 PM on October 31 [+] [!]


I call that a ghetto mocha. I do that every morning when backpacking and everyone I've had try it becomes a convert.
posted by azpenguin at 5:32 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I was drinking two pots of coffee a day I drank the cheap stuff. I'll still drink cheap coffee. Indeed, it makes me appreciate the better coffee more.

Now I drink two pots of coffee a week; I buy middle-grade beans and grind them - and I appreciate the coffee even more. Sometimes I'll buy better coffee and appreciate it even more. But if I'm always drinking great coffee, I won't appreciate it at all.
posted by el io at 5:33 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade in plastic thermos cups, usually obligatory in railroad stations for purposes of genocide, whereas coffee made with an American percolator, such as you find in private houses or in humble luncheonettes, served with eggs and bacon, is delicious, fragrant, goes down like pure spring water, and afterwards causes severe palpitations, because one cup contains more caffeine than four espressos.
Umberto Eco
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:38 PM on October 31, 2015 [22 favorites]


I don't know about instant coffee, but I have a couple of recipes that call for espresso powder. I have espresso powder in my cabinet solely to be used in random chocolate recipes.

I have a friend who makes "buzz brownies" for parties, which include instant coffee and cannabis. They're pretty good.
posted by peeedro at 5:40 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can drink straight bourbon or super hoppy beer all night but when it comes to coffee, I need the weak, bland, wonder-bread, Bud/Miller/Coors version. The fancy stuff always tastes too bitter/burnt to me.

I've been know to add hot water to half a cup of artisanal/gourmet coffee just to tone it down a bit.

For some reason that seems to upset my coffee-loving relatives.
posted by freakazoid at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


zardoz: "But cheap drip? Hell yes. I'd much rather get McDonald's coffee for a buck than the only marginally better drip at Starbucks for four times the price."

My mother hated McDonald's food but would go there just for the coffee.
posted by octothorpe at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2015


>I like instant coffee because it's quite coffee-like and you can drink a milky cup of it every 45 minutes throughout your working day. Obviously if you do that with proper coffee you go mad.

Mad because you didn't get enough coffee??
posted by AGameOfMoans at 5:44 PM on October 31, 2015


I make a pot of coffee every few days. I turn it off when it's done and just let it sit in the pot. In the morning I nuke a cup of it before I go to work and it tastes fine to me. I'm too old to be a hipster, been buying Bustelo for decades, but will buy whatever is on sale if it's cheaper.

There's a Starbucks in the library where I work and their coffee is gross and overpriced. It burns.
posted by mareli at 5:45 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cheap coffee is one of America's most unsung comfort foods.

This Observation is brought to you by the Department of The Incredibly Obvious at Duhhh! University.
posted by jonmc at 6:35 PM on October 31, 2015


Fancy coffee is usually too acidic for me. I mean, I have no issue with getting fancy coffee, it's just that I don't usually like it. I'm kind of the same way with fancy beers - hoptastic beers are gross to me. So on the one hand everyone is like "look at that hipster getting his cheap coffee/beer," and on the other hand the snobs are all "it's not my fault if you have terrible taste in coffee/beer." You can't win!

Actually, what's the best not-fancy coffee? I feel like Starbucks is always really bitter. Everyone raves about Dunkin Donuts, but I'm on the West coast. I hear McDonald's is pretty decent. Where else?
posted by teponaztli at 6:42 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


hello normcore my old friend

why is this not my username
posted by escabeche at 6:47 PM on October 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


Also, you guys who say you drink a lot of bad coffee are straight fronting unless you've actually had math department coffee.
posted by escabeche at 6:50 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've had a lot of the coffee from the coffee shop in the basement of the university library. It cost 40 cents a cup if you brought your own mug. Does that count?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:52 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: it's okay to just drink coffee without getting all fussy and precious about it
posted by chasles at 6:55 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


The case against Bad Coffee: "Commercial grade coffee exploits workers, uses massive chemical inputs and, increasingly, propegates genetically modified organisms* with untold potential consequences. Nothing cool at all."

Basically, if you're drinking the bottom rung coffee, you're probably directly supporting child labor, indentured servitude and at least a little bit of straight slavery. There are coffee plantations still to this day, where people are born, raised and die on. That's fucked up, and there's no"case for bad coffee" that solves that problem, so I politely request that the author of that article, fuck off. Products that encourage slavery aren't defensible, and no case should be raised for them.

I'm a coffee roaster, and I can take some coffee that's quality grown, and roast it however anyone damn-well wants. Just because the grower made some coin and paid his pickers well doesn't mean that it inherently tastes acidic, or burnt, or anything. There's some immutable flavors in coffee, but the roaster has a tremendous input on how those flavors are highlighted. There are so many coffee roasters roasting in the US right now, that you can certainly get good coffee (however you define it) in a manner that isn't exploitative.

I'm actually cool with GMO's, especially for coffee, which only has a couple varietals of the species and subspecies in cultivation, its basically a monoculture. GMO is actually a really good idea for coffee…
posted by furnace.heart at 6:58 PM on October 31, 2015 [30 favorites]


All I know is: if you're one of those coffee places that's all, "oh, we don't have drip coffee, but I can make you an americano", I look forward to serving you in my bar where I say "oh, we don't have red wine, but here's some Welch's grape juice that I poured some beer into."
posted by Automocar at 6:59 PM on October 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


Existential Dread: that would be the Aztec Bowl, which alas is no longer. I know because I was over at Rudford's doing the same thing.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:00 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best Expresso: Lisbon
Worst expresso: Zurich bar, tasted like coffe machine dirty water, and payed 8 F for it!
Best American Diner coffe: Rockland, Maine. It tasted exactly like a coffe in a cool summer day after sailing needs to be, warm and not to strong, and free refills to go with the sea tails from the captain.
Best instant coffe: Virgin Train. It was actually terrible. Instant in a cardboard cup with sugar and those little things of milk to make it drinkable. But it's my madlenne coffe, it meant i was traveling the english countryside going to see my grandmother.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 7:08 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, it was a very nice anecdote about Ted at the end, but it seems to have been used in the service of justifying his no longer being a coffee snob, and that's still kind of sad. You can bond over good coffee, you don't need to geek out over it just because it's a little pricy. And all the justification I need for bad coffee is that it has caffeine in it. I recently went to a local gaming con (board/RPG/MtG), and I brought my own from home in a thermos, but when I ran out of that I went to the nearest convenience store, the one that lets you supplement your coffee with these SToK things, and laughed as I will at the warning to use only two per day, as if.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:17 PM on October 31, 2015


I've seen the phrase "a tony *placename* neighbourhood" popping up a bit lately- in this piece it was "a tony Cincinnati neighbourhood".. what does it mean? Tony seems to in lower case.. can anyone she'd some light on the meaning of it? I thought it might mean "mafia infested" (as in Tony Soprano)- but then surely it would be capital-T Tony.. Anyone?
posted by Philby at 7:18 PM on October 31, 2015


P.S. I get the impression that here in Australia we're spoiled by all the excellent coffee we get! Where I'm sitting I could get myself a fantastic cup from any of a couple dozen places- I suspect you would struggle to get a substandard one at all! But then, I'm in Newtown right now, one of Sydney's Cafe hubs.. still, even little suburban places do great coffee!
posted by Philby at 7:23 PM on October 31, 2015


High-toned. Swish. Knobby. (Tony.)
posted by Wolof at 7:23 PM on October 31, 2015


Here ya go, Philby
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:25 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Though I will admit, there's this weird coffee shop near me that's donation based and all volunteer labor and all their baristas take AGES to make a single drink and often do weird things like make americanos with milk instead of water, but the coffee they make when they do it right is uniformly excellent.

I have no idea how it works, but it does.
posted by Ferreous at 7:26 PM on October 31, 2015


I have the same reaction to bad coffee as I do to cheap beer: No.

So do I, but my reaction is: hell, yeah, bring it on.

I drink coffee to get hummin', I drink beer to get drunk. I'm happier by far if they are super-delicious, of course, but if not, well, I'll soldier on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:29 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


"a tony Cincinnati neighbourhood".. what does it mean?

LMGTFY
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:32 PM on October 31, 2015


Automocar: "All I know is: if you're one of those coffee places that's all, "oh, we don't have drip coffee, but I can make you an americano", I look forward to serving you in my bar where I say "oh, we don't have red wine, but here's some Welch's grape juice that I poured some beer into.""

Yeah, I'd walk out. Maybe it's just my age but to me "coffee" means drip coffee. I don't like milk or sugar in coffee so for espresso based drinks that leaves out anything but americanos and I've never had one that didn't taste thin and sort of metallic.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 PM on October 31, 2015


But at the same time, I do think Cafe Bustelo really does tend to be a bit more popular among the hipster set (e.g., from the NYT -- on preview, jinx, schmod) than Folgers, the same way that PBR or Gansett would be vs. Bud Light. In this case, I'd speculate that maybe this is because of an association with urban areas and working-class communities of color (Ctrl+F "bodega" in these articles, for example), as opposed to the whitebread suburbia you might see depicted in Folgers commercials.

But then there's also the fact that Bustelo is just a lot better than Folger's. I mean, yeah, taste is relative (as we can see in this thread), but Bustelo has an excellent rich, smooth flavor. Like ArbitraryandCapricious says, it's great for cold brew for this reason.
posted by lunasol at 7:52 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Via instant is not bad. I had the BEST instant coffee of my life in Sarajevo, some weird brand from Serbia. There the coffees of choice for me were Malabar Gold, or Vispak.
Now I pretty much drink what Mr. Roquette brews up. Cheap stuff, but it's ok. We have emergency stashes of fancy stuff. I want some Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. I can drink that without creamer! It's good!
Used to get an El Salvadorian instant which was awesome and very cheap too.
Instant doesn't HAVE to be bad. Drip can be good too.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:01 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bustelo is hipster now? I'm finally ahead of the curve on something! I've been brewing Bustelo in my Moka pot for years! Thanks to the Dominicans who turned me on to it, who are definitely anti-hipster. It's just what they drink there
posted by wierdo at 8:25 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Starbucks Via is especially good for making coffee ice creams...but Bustelo instant is a dollar for eight of those same tubes, which is awesome.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:27 PM on October 31, 2015


I started drinking coffee regularly before an 8AM organic chemistry class in college. There was a coffee vending machine just up the hall from the class. I'm sure it was quite terrible as coffee goes, but no actual coffee could equal my memories of how good it tasted to me then.

Nowadays I usually buy the cheapest store brand coffee to run through my Black & Decker coffee maker. Once in a while though I'll buy some Starbucks or some exotic coffee brand in hopes finding something better. But it all ends up tasting just about the same.
posted by DarkForest at 8:29 PM on October 31, 2015


I actually think Bustelo Instant Espresso is way better than the Bustelo coffee grounds.
posted by extramundane at 8:31 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bustelo is hipster now? I'm finally ahead of the curve on something!

I wore flannel WAY before the 90's grunge thing....
posted by mikelieman at 8:40 PM on October 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bustelo is hipster now? I'm finally ahead of the curve on something!

I am holding out for Nescafe Classico instant coffee to become hipster. When it does I promise I will grow my mustache to ironic proportions and wear tight pants for a day.

In the meantime, it is cheap, fast, and tastes good, though nothing like fresh roasted coffee, of course. You can also make it with hot milk (no water at all), which is a great drink on a cold morning.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:51 PM on October 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've had few truly *great* cups of coffee since I moved away from Berkeley in the early 90s. Coffee can be like wine or bourbon or single malt, there's the crap, there's a whole lot of drinkable stuff in the middle, and then there is the infinitely complex, rich, *sublime.* The latter is pretty difficult to find, even here in Seattle, and to my taste Stumptown and Starbucks and McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts are all kind of the same. A lot of diner coffee I've had is burnt or too weak and not to be a snob, but it just mostly tastes like it was made wrong, like no thought was put into how one might bring out the flavor well. But a bad cup of truck stop coffee is better than no coffee and I will happily drink it if there's nothing else available. Fortunately, when traveling, there is almost always a McDonalds around and that's a pretty damn good reliable and reasonably priced cup to start your day.

The way this writer feels about coffee is rather the way I feel about beer these days. I just cannot stomach another goddamn pint of hoppy, fruity IPA and will always order a PBR, or more likely a Rainier just to avoid a flavor that, while I appreciate the quality and complexity, I am just sick to death of it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:35 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, you guys who say you drink a lot of bad coffee are straight fronting unless you've actually had math department coffee.

For all its other charms, I'd say Cold Spring Harbor's gives it a run for its money. (Adding insult to injury, I ended up wearing a full cup of it when someone jostled past my friend when trying to get to the cookies.)
posted by en forme de poire at 10:07 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean like a full Dixie cup but still.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:08 PM on October 31, 2015


Saw coffee thread

Control F Sara C

Not disappoint

I thought the article was...okay but a bit condescending about Ted. It's an interesting point about the bad coffee though. I will have any kind of coffee if my father says "let's get coffee" and he usually means like, Burger King, which isn't that bad, but it's more about the ritual and the company than the coffee.

Why Starbucks is or ever was a thing though is a bit beyond me. Fancy and terrible.
posted by sweetkid at 10:33 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, you guys who say you drink a lot of bad coffee are straight fronting unless you've actually had math department coffee.

Hah, no, my FIL has all y'all beat. He's ex Army, served in Korea. His campfire coffe is so strong, you can stand a spoon up in it for a hot second, then the spoon dissolves. And when it's 45 below (as it got to the winter before last), that shit is NIRVANA. Also, will curl your hair at 50 paces.

My normal daily coffee is freshly ground whatever is in the hopper - we buy whatever whole beans are on sale, the coffee pot does the grinding - drip, with sugar and either heavy cream if I have it on hand, or almond milk if I don't. I drink 2 pots a day, on average, more when the weather is shitty. If I'm traveling, I get the biggest cup of whatever the brew of the day is, and if the barista sneers "Did you mean a venti?" when I ask for "the largest cup you have, please", she'll get the "STFU AND GIVE ME CAFFEINE" glare.

I do very much appreciate high end beans on leisurely days off, but during the workday, I just don't care enough to fuss. The bar at the corner makes amazing coffee, the best dive coffee ever, really.
posted by MissySedai at 10:35 PM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyone hail from the UK? Instant coffee is very good there - at least, Nescafe is.

If you're ever in San Francisco try Philz Coffee - I had the most incredible pour-over cup there, really fantastic - I thought it wouldn't live up to the hype but it does. The reason I mention it is because I was in Whole Foods today and saw Philz beans for sale in the coffee area - had no idea they sold it there, so I can have Philz at home, yay.

My usual is what's on special offer at Costco.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:45 PM on October 31, 2015


Best coffee ever was the coffee I drank while working in Sweden. You could stand a spoon in your cup it was so strong, and rich tasting. And it was consistent across town - my goodness Stockholm coffee was good. I had it with a sugar cube and some cream.

The Gevalia I brought home did not taste anything like the delicious mid afternoon caffeine fix at Gateau on Sturegatan... Must have been the water?

The worst, absolutely worst cup of coffee was at the airport in Buenos Aires. You'd think that Latin American restos catering to North American tourists would have the coffee thing dialed. But no. My coffee arrived looking a little light, and when I dropped my sugar cube into the eight-ounce cup I could see the clear outlines of the cube sitting at the bottom of the cup. It tasted as bad as it looked. I ordered tea instead.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:09 PM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, when I was coming off being unemployed, I stayed with some friends for a while, and most of my belongings were in storage.
In an effort to make my corner feel more like home, an effort I wasn't entirely aware of at the time, I bought some coffee accoutrements, and now that I'm employed and more stably located, I still bust them out on occasion.
I have a can of Bustelo on top of the fridge, which I use in the moka pot, and I grind up some Ethical Bean for the French press, but most days I use the drip machine at work.
For a while, I was without either a mug of my own at work (somebody dropped it) or a thermos (the latch finally cracked through, and a thermos that won't stay shut is no good), and I bought a coffee cup at 7-11, and occasionally availed myself of their coffee. Once armed with a plastic cup I could have a store throw some joe into, I started buying some here and there.
In my humble opinion,
Dunkin Donuts coffee is better than
McDonald's, which is surprisingly good, and better than
7-11 which is still a notch above work drip.
Eat'n Park coffee is the fucking pits. If you collected the filthy melted snow out of the treads of your winter boots, and heated that up and stirred in a little instant, and drank it the next day, it would taste like that.
But if you throw two half-and-halfs in a cup of E'n P boot water, it's still passable.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:21 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wore flannel WAY before the 90's grunge thing....

I'm wearing flannel right now. What's that make me? Probably someone in a Halloween costume. But seriously ...

I had the BEST

I don't believe anything is more relative than the coffee one chooses to love or hate. That said, I can offer something concrete. All coffee should be served STRONG. Because it's easy to make strong coffee less so. Just add water. But good luck making weak coffee strong.

Seriously. Take this to heart good people. There is no good argument for weak coffee. Ever.
posted by philip-random at 12:29 AM on November 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm sitting in a room with at least a dozen coffee makers: three Chemexes; two all glass percolators (that I've never made coffee in); five glass vacuum pots and one stainless; two ancient 8 cup Revere Ware drip pots; one stovetop espresso maker; a German-made Melitta; and an Italian flip pot. Oh, and two Nissan French press stainless thermoses.

In the pantry there are bags of nine different single origin whole bean coffees from five different roasters -- none of which I am entirely happy with.

I may have a coffee problem.
posted by jamjam at 12:35 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Norms in LA makes good diner coffee. Probably it is good because it turns over so frequently.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:24 AM on November 1, 2015


I have had a lot of instant coffee in my life, amazingly terrible instant coffee that resulted in 7 cavities in a single year but nonetheless evokes nostalgia. I lived in a country (Korea) that had a coffee vending machine practically on every block (the machine dispenses tiny paper cups of hot water + instant coffee that's more than half sugar & creamer) and an office culture that obliged one to serve tiny cups of instant coffee to your guests and your superiors. Artisanal coffee is definitely a thing in Seoul but:
While the streets of Seoul are lined with endless rows of cafes and coffee drinking establishments, the number of people who drink instant coffee in Korea is still roughly 76%, according to estimates from Dongsuh Food, the maker of Maxim coffee.

Instant coffee was all the rage in Korea for decades; instant coffee vending machines can still be found everywhere, on the streets, inside subway stations and most business offices; there are numerous Korean restaurants serving a small paper cup of instant coffee as a free treat after one’s meal.

According to the Korean Association of Automatic Machine Operators, instant coffee vending machines were once a thriving business with nearly half a million machines scattered across the country in the 1990s. However, the rise of coffee chain behemoths Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and other major caf establishments in the country as well as the low cost and ready availability of mix coffee packets have resulted in the number of instant coffee vending machines plummeting, with only 51,782 machines left in the country as of 2011. (source: The Star, 2013)
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:24 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


seawallrunner: how was the coffee in Sweden you liked prepared? It's hard to beat a Swedish coffee and marzipan pastry at fika!
posted by persona au gratin at 1:26 AM on November 1, 2015


In graduate school I drank so much coffee that I'd need to drink it at bedtime or else I'd wake up from caffeine withdrawal during the night. I had a bit of a problem:

spamandkimchi: how did the coffee give you cavities? Was it that acidic?
posted by persona au gratin at 1:28 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


the machine dispenses tiny paper cups of hot water + instant coffee that's more than half sugar & creamer

Horrifying stuff. I'll still have a cup occasionally if I'm desperate for caffeine, because as you say the machines are ubiquitous, but I get shooting stomach pains every time I drink it.

Also, avoid being around when the maintenance guys are cracking one of the street machines to refill them. I had a look inside one in Busan once, and it was a cockroach festival.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:59 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


This did bring back teenage memories of night after night in Friendly's drinking coffee refills until we got thrown out. If possible, we'd get some whipits from the waitstaff, too.
posted by Gotanda at 1:43 AM on November 1, 2015


I was never a coffee drinker until I left America.

And like MissySedai, I refuse the learn the various vendors' made-up names for cup sizes. I get away with it by being visibly Not From Around These Parts (and probably also a healthy dose of Get Off My Lawn).
posted by oheso at 2:39 AM on November 1, 2015


Anyone hail from the UK? Instant coffee is very good there - at least, Nescafe is.

The more expensive instant coffee the big brands like Nescafé have started bringing out in the last couple of years (a mix of instant and some sort of very finely ground coffee) are much smoother than older instant coffees, taste pretty good, and are suitable for fairly pleasurable caffeine loading. The Nescafé one (Azera) does seem to be the best.
posted by howfar at 3:06 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Azera isn't bad at all. I always carry a small tin when we're travelling, to avoid the ghastly swill instant most hotels have in the room, although the machines with the litte single-shot tins are starting to show up more and more these days. When I moved here, 18 years ago, the big chains (Costa, Starbucks, etc.) had only just started showing up, and in general, the coffee was barely potable. My husband had cheerfully drunk Nescafe Gold Blend for most of his coffee-drinking life, and the very first week after I moved in, I went out and bought a drip coffee maker, and ground coffee, of which there was only a fairly small selection at our local Sainsbury's. (And this was in Camden Town, so I'm pretty sure that was about as good as it got in most places.)

He immediately converted to drinking brewed coffee, and I'm the one who ended up deciding I don't really care enough about coffee to be picky, although that got easier once the stuff like Via and Azera came out. Now, when I'm not indulging my laziness and just hitting the instant, we generally go with pre-ground Illy or Lavazza, if I can't find Illy, through a mid-range espresso machine, and that seems to work for us.
posted by skybluepink at 3:58 AM on November 1, 2015


I'm glad to be at a point in my life where I can both appreciate good coffee when it's available, and appreciate diner coffee when that's available, and not give a fuck what either one supposedly says about me as a person.

This.

At home I spring for the good stuff for my morning first cup - not out of snobbery, but because I want the first cup to be good. I'm like Tarantino's character in PULP FICTION - I want my coffee at home to have taste. (I struck out once with a particularly insipid bag of beans and even though I finished the bag out of penury, it was still unsatisfying.)

But then at work I get my second cup from the office-service keurig-clone gizmo thing in the kitchen, or at a diner I go with whatever the waitress pours from the pot direct into my cup, because it's mainly a caffeine delivery system and it's coffee I don't have to make so yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on November 1, 2015


All the Keurig coffee I've ever had tasted like santorum.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:23 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


All coffee tastes like boiled human hair, and the only difference in taste between so called good and bad coffees is the difference in whether the hair was cleaned before it was boiled and whether or not the donor smoked cigars.
posted by saladin at 4:47 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, folks, I don't mean to be regionist, but I'll never trust a Midwesterner's opinion about coffee.

*looks at folger's instant coffee with flavor crystals*

wait, you mean that mrs olson is LYING???
posted by pyramid termite at 6:03 AM on November 1, 2015


I recall reading some decades ago that coffee is the ultimate expression of optimism: drinking coffee is an expression of faith that the world will get better and that you want to be awake for it. From the highest hand-trimmed cup to the lowest truck-stop oil can, coffee is belief.
posted by introp at 6:25 AM on November 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Alternately, drinking coffee could be an expression of pessimistic certainty that we are on the brink of disaster, and you need to be alert so you can run away from any floods, asteroids, plagues of locusts or whatnot.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:37 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


wait, you mean that mrs olson is LYING???

*singing*

The best part of waking up
Is that you didn't die in your sleep
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 AM on November 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


Thank you, Dunkin Donuts, for the coffee always being fresh, medium-roast, medium strength, consistent, and prepped exactly as I request. At home, it's drip and a carafe; cooked coffee is awful.

My best cup of coffee is this morning with a grandbaby trying to get to my keyboard, my coffee, the dog, or some item left in reach that will prove to be lethal.
posted by theora55 at 7:07 AM on November 1, 2015


Bustelo has been "cool" since at least the 80s, when all the cool kids (such as myself) on the Lower East Side were buying it at their local bodega.

And I know that place in Fort Greene where you wait 15 minutes for your pour over coffee and it makes me want to punch people.

I used to love the coffee in an Italian bakery in Williamsburg, and I remember the staff's bewilderment and annoyance when millennials started coming in ordering coffee as though they were in Starbucks...
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:12 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


In fact, thinking about it now, my favorite coffee in NYC always comes from bakeries.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:14 AM on November 1, 2015


Agreed, Bustelo is the best macro-brew nationally available supermarket coffee

Yes, but, the true question is...can or vacuum brick? Answer wisely...your beardliness depends on it.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:14 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


$3.99 a pound Eight O'Clock Hazelnut beans ground the night before and brewed strong (12 cups in 8 cups of water). With Caranation Creme Brule creamer. This has been a staple in our house since before the kids were in high school. My wife travels a lot, and always complains that the coffee always sucks, no matter where she goes. I mean, I guess our coffee isn't gourmet, but it's what she's used too, and misses it when she can't have it.

We also have those little drip thingys to make Vietnamese coffee with the condensed milk. That's pretty good as well. And we keep the instant espresso for after dinner sometimes.

I was buying supplies for the boat at the dollar store and picked up a 1/2 pound of $1 coffee. THAT was some bad coffee. I ended up throwing it out; life is too short for bad coffee.
posted by valkane at 7:16 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I know that place in Fort Greene where you wait 15 minutes for your pour over coffee and it makes me want to punch people.

OH MY GOD I KNOW THAT PLACE AND I HATE IT TOO.

I've been in there only just once, I just wanted a cup of coffee to carry with me while I walked around one morning. But they were asking me did I want it drip or cold brewed or steam-brewed or massaged or whatever other random ways you could make it, and I was not prepared for those decisions, i just wanted a cup of coffee, you know, just coffee. The barista finally said that the 15 minute pourover thing was probably the best option, and I stood there feeling like a total doofus waiting for something that would have been just two minutes tops from any other place.

The place is actually called WTF, I should have known.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Bustelo/Pilon was purchased by JM Smucker (yup, the jelly company) in 2011. I suspect some of this sudden-hipster stuff is their marketing arm at work.

Smucker also makes the retail brand of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does starbucks ever actually give people shit for ordering large/medium/small instead of their weird sizes? I don't think I've ever been "corrected" by their staff, the most they do is call the drink out to someone else making using their terms.
posted by Ferreous at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


This thread is embarassing. So many people are worried about how they appear, how their tastes may or may not be judged favorably, and how they like things for the authenticity--all of this going on at the same time as everyone is deriding hipsters.

I mean:

And I know that place in Fort Greene where you wait 15 minutes for your pour over coffee and it makes me want to punch people.

Why all the hate?

and I was not prepared for those decisions, i just wanted a cup of coffee, you know, just coffee.

This is like going to a nice restaurant, asking for a burger, and scoffing when they ask you how you would like it cooked.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why all the hate?

I'm just guessing here, but I'll bet it's because pour over coffee is the exact same filter drip coffee that they've got in a pot on the Bunn machine, made one cup at a time for no goddamned reason whatsoever. Pour-over coffee is what you do when you want simple drip coffee at home and have no use for a whole pot-at-a-time dealy. There's no reason for a place to make it by the cup when there's a full pot of the same exact stuff right there, except to deliberately waste time and filters.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are advantages to pour over coffee-not letting it sit on the burner, making the cup as fresh as possible, and having exact control over the termpature of the water and the flow of the water over the grinds.

So, if people hate pour over coffee because they are ignorant, I'm sure then all then all that hate will dissipate once they actually have correct information?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:39 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Woke up hella hungover to find our house devoid of coffee and thought of this thread scouring the pantry for the emergency instant we usually have, again coming up dry. Ended up walking to the corner bakery for a travel mug of Stumptown ethical free trade organic free range hormone free bullshit which, again is better than no coffee, but tastes the same as any other coffee anywhere, but I guess I am supposed to feel good about the fact that these beans were really happy before they were picked. At least that's what the paragraph posted next to it said.

The very best cup of coffee is a handful of grounds the size of pebbles thrown into a steel pot and placed directly on the coals of a campfire a hundred miles from the nearest paved road. Barring that, the perfect morning cup is so simple I don't understand why the whole world doesn't do it this way: Trader Joes French Roast (2 pounds for $10) ground coarse at the store, throw into a French press, on demand boiling water. 8 cups of perfection in 4 minutes at minimal cost and effort.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:53 AM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, but, the true question is...can or vacuum brick? Answer wisely...your beardliness depends on it.

I'm not a hipster, only a mere Suburban Dad(tm), so I don't know much about beardliness.

But I do know that the price between the can and brick at my local supermarket is about $0.75-$0.90 for some reason - so the correct answer is "use the brick to refill the steel can".
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess I am supposed to feel good about the fact that these beans were really happy before they were picked.

Actually, you're supposed to give a shit that the farmers and labourers who grew and picked them got paid to do so.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


"but I guess I am supposed to feel good about the fact that these beans were really happy before they were picked"

No, you're supposed to feel good about the fact that the farmers who grow the beans receive a fair price for them.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah, and the laborers. h/t Sys Rq
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:13 AM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are advantages to pour over coffee-not letting it sit on the burner, making the cup as fresh as possible, and having exact control over the termpature of the water and the flow of the water over the grinds.

"not letting it sit on the burner" - If you sell it, it won't be on the burner long. If you're competing with yourself by offering pourover too, you won't sell the drip, so it will sit.

"making the cup as fresh as possible" - Non-issue. See above.

"having exact control over the termpature of the water and the flow of the water over the grinds" - Coffee machines are specifically designed to regulate the temperature of the water at around 200°F and put it in contact with the grounds as effectively as possible for the proper amount of time. With a kettle in hand, that's all guesswork.

All of which is pretty insignificant next to "I AM A SELF-IMPORTANT DOUCHE; ALL BEHIND ME MUST BE INCONVENIENCED SO THAT I MAY HAVE DRIP BREWED COFFEE THAT HAS NOT TOUCHED THEIRS."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2015


There are advantages to pour over coffee-not letting it sit on the burner, making the cup as fresh as possible, and having exact control over the termpature of the water and the flow of the water over the grinds.

Any normal coffee shop that sells drip brews it into a large thermos/cambro. The only places that have burners are diners, where the waiter needs to carry the pot around, and it's not just dispensed at a counter. They also have schedules to dump and brew new coffee pretty often because coffee is super cheap(especially if they're roasting it, SO cheap, the markup is hilarious) and they don't care.

I've worked at both snooty places and corporate-but-not-starbucks places. The last point is sort of true, but more truthy. The brewers aren't just dumb-heater-boxes now, there's a CPU in there set up to dispense X amount of water at Y rate and Z temperature, and it seemed to stay pretty on target.

This is DEFINITELY a pistol at dawn subject, but i'm on team "pourover is pretty performative". It's about making it look handcrafted, not about it actually being better. The only things that will improve it are if the place offering it doesn't offer drip, and has a particularly good bean-roast combo going.

The snarkiest and snootiest i'll get is, what is to me the best coffee shop in seattle doesn't do pourover. They actually only do espresso. They have a sheet giving recommendations for home brewing, but it doesn't mention it either. Just french press.
posted by emptythought at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, when you do pour over properly you do it slowly, let the water mix with the grinds,bloom, then slowly add more water. That is decidedly not how regular drip machines work.

But, go ahead a judge people as self important fake ironic hispter trust fund douches based on how they like their coffee. Insufferable.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:21 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


At Philz at least, pour-over makes some sense to me, because the idea is that you choose from a menu of like 50 different beans/roasts (my palate is not really sophisticated enough to distinguish between most them beyond dark/medium/light, though), and it would be a little nuts to try to anticipate demand for that many varieties of coffee by pre-brewing a carafe. Also they can at least do them in parallel because they have lots of those little stands and the pour-over doesn't demand constant unbroken attention -- unlike espresso drinks, where there's an inevitable bottleneck at the machine.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:26 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


For some reason, this article deeply upset me. Not directly; I think the author's previously-mentioned lack-of-affectation-as-affectation is grating, and the fire sale of deeply personal memories as cost-per-impression leverage feels as vaguely dirty to read as it always does, but welcome to 2015, James. And I think the author is being earnest about the emotional push-offs that led him to this point of view.

It did get me thinking about my father, however. Who's pushing 70 but otherwise alive and well and still working his butt off every day. When I was in middle school in the late 90's, I self-published a magazine (a now-embarrassing melange of music, video game, and pro wrestling news). I was the work horse, writing the articles and laying out everything in a pirated copy of Adobe Pagemaker, but dad was really the guy who made it happen. He'd wake me up at 4:00 every morning before school to work on it, and he'd always have a cup of 8 o' Clock Columbian Roast coffee waiting for me, with plenty of creamer and sugar, and it always assuaged any of my protestations about it being too early/cold/whatever. His father, a poor bayou Cajun shrimper/fisher, had instilled a love for that brand in him when he was a kid.

Years later (10 years ago), during Hurricane Katrina (which hit my neck of the woods pretty badly), we evacuated to an area of north Texas that was slightly less in the line of fire than my native Beaumont, TX. The day I stopped drinking coffee with creamer and sugar was the day I saw my dad brave the really awful storming to make it out to a generator outside of the wood cabin we were staying in to brew a pot of 8 o' Clock Columbian Roast. We didn't have creamer or sugar, but I drank it earnestly. It was the first drink of anything other than bottled water I'd had in days.

Before reading this article, I was finishing off a cup of 8 o' Clock Columbian Roast in a glass drip pot setup my parents picked up for me a week or so ago to replace my ailing Keurig (which I gleefully plan to never use again). The coffee is way too strong, and intensely fragrant. Tastes vaguely like dark chocolate and my favorite brand of cigarettes. Rich and complex, without a trace of bitterness.

I'll buy a cup of "nice coffee" if the occasion calls for it and the option is available to me. I'm not tying these thoughts together into a coherent post very well. Jesus, just like what you like and accept the humble pleasures that this world occasionally puts before you and don't overthink it. It's just dried burnt beans.
posted by kryptondog at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Why all the hate?

I'm just guessing here, but I'll bet it's because pour over coffee is the exact same filter drip coffee that they've got in a pot on the Bunn machine, made one cup at a time for no goddamned reason whatsoever.


It's actually not. There's two different species of coffee beans: robusta and arabica. Robusta is much cheaper than arabica, so that's what's used in Folgers, Maxwell House, etc. and in diners and other places where you get cheap coffee. Arabica is what they use at Starbucks and other expensive coffee places. Robusta has much more caffeine compared with arabica, and the two taste different, with robusta being more bitter and less acidic than arabica, which is milder.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:47 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, when you do pour over properly you do it slowly, let the water mix with the grinds,bloom, then slowly add more water. That is decidedly not how regular drip machines work.

Um, most (non-shitty) drip machines do dribble in the water over time, accomplishing essentially the same thing you're talking about with pourover style. The whole point of letting the grounds "bloom" then adding water slowly is so the water doesn't just zip through into the carafe without extracting anything from the grounds. Whether that's accomplished manually or automatically is irrelevant.

I also learned years ago (ironically, on a radio interview of the guys who started Starbucks) not to run the whole pot of water through the grounds, which amounts to over-extracting. I usually put about 1/2 the pot of water in the reservoir, and let the carafe hot plate warm up the rest while the machine does its job - I drink it black so I don't need it to be piping hot to compensate from adding milk/cream; it's still plenty warm and ready to drink right away. Alternatively I suppose one could just use double the amount of coffee....

I've noticed a far more pronounced taste difference between conical and basket filter drip machines than between my conical-filter drip machine and pourover; I find typical home basket-filter drip coffee to turn out noticeably blander than conical-filter drip.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2015


I will be bringing back supplies of instant coffee from my next trip to the motherland, just as I always do, because I have very specific demands for slightly shitty but functional coffee that US grocery stores cannot supply, but which cover half an aisle at Morrisons.

On the other hand, diner coffee is great in a diner. Regular coffee is social coffee; fancy coffee may lead to connoisseur-talk, but it's about projecting individual (and introspective) experience.

(That piece is Bourdieu-black-belt level affectation for the first three quarters, though.)
posted by holgate at 2:34 PM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


But, go ahead a judge people as self important fake ironic hispter trust fund douches based on how they like their coffee. Insufferable.

It's not the drink that makes it douchey; it's the time. A barista pouring water for several minutes translates to several other customers not being served for several minutes.

Like pourover? Hey, that's great. Drink it at home where it doesn't inconvenience everyone else.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:38 PM on November 1, 2015


persona au gratin, the cavities came from the sugar content I assume. I was knocking back a tiny cup every hour or so for 6 hours.

stavrosthewonderchicken, I am horrified. But not horrified enough to stop drinking them when I'm back in Korea. It was like a ritual, to huddle around one of those machines in the freezing cold building lobby and scrounge up enough 100won coins to get everyone a cup.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:51 PM on November 1, 2015


This is like going to a nice restaurant, asking for a burger, and scoffing when they ask you how you would like it cooked.

Conversely, your scoffing at me is now making me feel like I'm a doofus for not knowing that there IS more than one way to make coffee.

I know there is, for the record, I had just never encountered a place where there was more than one such option, and there was nothing about the place that at first blush distinguished it from other indie coffee shops I'd seen. So - to use your same analogy - this was like going to a local bog-standard diner and ordering a cheeseburger, only to discover that Tyler Florence was in disguise behind the counter and somehow expected me to know that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2015


I don't have a problem with other people wanting to pay $7 and wait for 30 minutes for an exquisite cup of coffee. I just am not going to do that, because I don't have a refined enough palate to taste the difference, and I basically use coffee as a hand-warmer slash caffeine-delivery-system.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then there's really bad coffee, the kind made with bulk institutional Folger's and allowed to sit all day on a heating plate. It evaporates, scorches, and smells/tastes like piss.

I started drinking tea (made with bags brought from home) at work to avoid this stuff and to avoid making more work for co-workers with the job of making the coffee.

There is no Starbucks in walking distance of where I work (low-rent edge city, for one location; corporate edge city, for the other).
posted by bad grammar at 4:57 PM on November 1, 2015


I do think Cafe Bustelo really does tend to be a bit more popular among the hipster set (e.g., from the NYT -- on preview, jinx, schmod) than Folgers, the same way that PBR or Gansett would be vs. Bud Light.

In both cases it's because Thing A (Bustelo, PBR) is the real deal, whereas Thing B (Folger's "crystals", Bud Lite) is a factory simulacrum. Cafe Bustelo is actual ground coffee, just like you could make if you had a really high quality coffee grinder. You can tell that it is a thing that used to be beans. Folgers is freeze dried factory processed garbage that only bears resemblance to coffee if you have never tasted real coffee. Similarly, Pabst is many things, but light beer it is not.

Within "hipster" culture (such as it is), you typically have a core group of young broke creative types who can't actually afford $20 artisanally roasted coffee beans, $8 pints of local craft ales, $50 a plate restaurants, $500 designer accessories, etc. So those people seek out regular stuff that is both high quality and reasonably priced. That's your Bustelo, your PBR, your Converse Chuck Taylors, and your inventive ethnic street foods.

As late capitalist NYC is finding out, once you price out the hipsters, what you're left with are yuppies.
posted by Sara C. at 5:53 PM on November 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm probably considered a yuppie but the $5 pour over near my work makes me want to scream and throw things, but the only other option is the cafeteria Starbucks.
posted by sweetkid at 6:45 PM on November 1, 2015


It was like a ritual, to huddle around one of those machines in the freezing cold building lobby and scrounge up enough 100won coins to get everyone a cup.

They're probably mostly vermin-free in the wintertime, so all good!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:40 PM on November 1, 2015


Like pourover? Hey, that's great. Drink it at home where it doesn't inconvenience everyone else.

Not everybody is required to make choices that optimize your personal convenience. Realizing this is very good for your blood pressure.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:52 PM on November 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a terrible confession to make, which is that I actually like instant coffee. My mom has always associated it with the time she spent in Mexico when she was younger; she used to keep some around both because of that, and (mainly) because it could be convenient in a pinch. It's not fancy coffee, but it makes me think of my mom, and going hiking, and little things that are more important than whether or not it's true to the spirit of coffee. It's the same reason I absolutely love those hot cider packets, and I really love them. It's a horrible replacement for actual pressed apples, but it makes me think of chilly fall days at campfires and ranger stations.

And I think it goes both ways - some people might like pour-over coffee that steeps for several minutes because they associate that with the whole ritual of going for a nice cup of coffee, made just for you. The smell of the coffee shop, the decisions ("do I go with Javanese or Chilean today?") and all the other little things, even the wait, are totally a part of the experience. It's not something I can personally relate to, but I can see how it must be really nice for some people.
posted by teponaztli at 11:41 PM on November 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I actually have a sort of fond memory of Nescafé instant coffee because it reminds me of moving to Jersey City as a broke grad student -- but, as impossible to believe as that sounds typing it out, in a fun way and not a depressing way!
posted by en forme de poire at 12:41 AM on November 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not the drink that makes it douchey; it's the time. A barista pouring water for several minutes translates to several other customers not being served for several minutes.

By all this logic then, all the ire for pour over and the douches that drink it in public will go away if there is more than one barista working, since then the pour over wait time will not inconvience everyone else--one barista handles the pour over, the other the regular ol' true authentic blue collar coffee-to-go customers.

I suspect its deeper than that, though.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:12 AM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pabst is many things, but light beer it is not.

The 'light beer it is not' is significant here. There are no pure taste choices: they are oppositional and competitive and function like a language. Draw 'this is not' boundaries in enough places and you'll define a cultural space .

What diner coffee and (sometimes) instant coffee often denote is situations where you don't have a specific choice beyond regular or decaf (maybe not even that) which in turn reach back to times where you didn't have to choose. There's some slight-of-hand required when you relive that experience, because you choose to do so, but it's often perceived as an unburdening from the tyranny of choice.
posted by holgate at 8:29 AM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not the drink that makes it douchey; it's the time. A barista pouring water for several minutes translates to several other customers not being served for several minutes.

Like pourover? Hey, that's great. Drink it at home where it doesn't inconvenience everyone else.


Why don't you just go patronize places that don't offer a service you find inconvenient? It's not anyone's fault that the product is there to be chosen other than the shopkeeps. If they don't staff adequately for it that's not my fault when I order something.
posted by phearlez at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Re pourover, time, number of baristas, etc.

When I was a barista, our "drip" coffee was pourover, because as has been mentioned, we were able to offer more different styles of beans and didn't have to worry about turnover or freshness or any of that.

However, we never had fewer than two people behind the bar, minimally one person on register and one person doing coffees. During the morning rush, we had three, one person on register, one person doing pourovers, and one person doing the espresso machine. (The cashier would do cold brews, tea, and other things that take zero time.)

I am super good at pourovers, it is my barista superpower, and I can speak to what makes an efficient pourover station in a coffee shop. Firstly, the perfect pourover coffee is a three-minute extraction. It should never ever take more than three minutes to do a pourover, and if it does, your coffee is going to be garbage anyway so don't pay $4 for that shit. Secondly, a decent barista should be able to do two or three pourovers at a time, so it shouldn't take more than three minutes to do three orders. The only way some shitty asshole is holding up your morning caffeine delivery by ordering a pourover is if they ordered a dozen of them for the whole office. Thirdly, the key to speed is to have a mise en place, like in a restaurant. I spent a lot of time doing the side work of pre-grinding and measuring single-shots of grinds in little plastic condiment containers, so that the person on pourovers would be able to do infinite pours without having to stop and grind coffee. Similarly having your station clean, kettles next to the water boiler thingy ready to go, and getting into a flow where you can set up the pourover in seconds. This results in, again, a three-minute cup of coffee that shouldn't take any more time than ordering a latte and shouldn't hold up the line at all.

All of the above said, I HAATTTTTEEEEE a slow barista, and especially a shop where they're not willing to staff enough people to keep things moving. When I lived in Brooklyn I spent many an angry 10 minutes waiting in line for coffee behind some prick who ordered four vanilla lattes. Jerks. (I also wouldn't ever order a pourover if I was in a rush, because, yeah, three minutes.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


The True Story of Good Coffee
There was a time not so long ago when all of the coffee in the entire United States of America was bad. It only came in giant cans and it was roasted and ground until it tasted like dirt and no one who drank it knew where any of it came from or even cared because it was very cheap and all of the coffee farmers were very sad. But then in 1966 there was a man, because of course it was a man, and he realized that if he made the coffee a little bit better by roasting it darker he could charge more for it, and his name was Alfred Peet. And then in 1971 there were some other men, and they talked to Alfred, and one of those men went by the name of Howard Schultz, and he made sure that everybody in America was awakened by the ancient Italian coffee known as the Frappuccino.
The Cool Way To Brew Good Coffee
This exchange was a series of dog whistles between two obnoxious people: I wanted the coffee most appealing to a coffee jerk; the barista told me that this shop was aggressively Good. If you are not a beanboi, but are vaguely aware that a certain kind of highly conspicuous consumer likely enjoys “pourover” coffee which is made agonizingly slowly, one cup at a time, then you might be wondering how an automatic machine that brews like a gallon of coffee at once became a Cool Brewing Method in this age of All Things Craft. (Or not! RUN AWAY FROM THIS POST NOW, SAVE YOURSELF.)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:43 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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