too many words by laura lemay

The Ritual and Order of Daily Coffee

Given half an opportunity I will always talk about coffee.

Coffee, First

My first coffee of the day is a cappuccino sliding toward a latte. Double espresso, and steamed milk foam. It takes some time to heat up the espresso machine, to lovingly measure and grind and tamp the coffee, and to steam the milk, but I have a lot of energy in the mornings so I don’t mind the effort. As I make this coffee the sun comes up and warms the kitchen through the window. It’s a comfortable start to the day.

I buy a variety of espressos, usually something locally-roasted, and medium to dark roast. I like the Verve Streetlevel, the Sightglass Owl’s Howl, and the Barefoot Redcab, although right now I’m working through a pound of Counter Culture’s Hologram. It’s OK.

I drink my caps with whole milk, sometimes half whole milk and half half & half. (“two thirds”?) A little turbinado sugar. In the last year I gave up eating all artificial sweeteners, including finally breaking a truly tenacious awful chewing-gum habit, but I still like a little sweet in my coffee.

For a while I was teaching myself how to do latte art, hearts and leaves, but it’s harder to do with whole milk than with low or nonfat, so I give it a half-hearted try each time but I haven’t really improved in a long while.

Coffee, Second

The second coffee of the day is a big vat of iced coffee. I have less patience for careful ritual foodmaking as the morning goes on, so something I can put together quickly is the choice here. If I’m out running errands I’ll stop at a Starbucks and get an iced Americano (hence the big branded cup). At home I usually drink cold brew.

I experimented for a while with making my own cold brew coffee, a bunch of years back (with an official “cold brew system”), and more recently (with a bowl and some cheesecloth). I’ve had fairly bad luck with it. It uses a lot of ground coffee for not a lot of brew, but more importantly it seems to always has a sour undertone to the taste that I don’t like at all.

I’ve been trying store-bought cold brews, both sweetened and unsweetened, and a lot of them have that same sour taste. Maybe that’s what cold brew is supposed to taste like? (yuck face emoji)

Recently I bought a big carton of Califia cold brew. Califia makes expensive high-end almond milk. They have no hipster cred in coffee at all as best as I know. But their cold brew does not have that sour taste, so I’ve been buying a lot of it.

Coffee, Third

The third coffee of the day is optional. I try not to have caffeine after noon because it messes with my sleep, and I have a lot of trouble sleeping lately (another post for another day.) So third coffee of the day is decaf. And in the theme of my requirement for a rapidly descending workload for each cup of coffee of the day, this coffee is often instant.

The Starbucks instant coffees in the little foil packets are, shockingly, not horrible. They are completely acceptable as emergency afternoon coffee, especially with milk and sugar and ice. They do have problems dissolving in cold water, so I heat up a little water and the instant coffee in the microwave.

Coffee, Fourth

I never have a fourth cup of coffee. If I did it would probably mean standing in the kitchen and emptying an entire packet of dry instant coffee mix directly into my mouth.