I had my first cup of coffee when I was about 10. My grandmother served it to me with an absurd amount of cream and sugar against my mother's strong objections. Grandma Genius brewed coffee in a percolator for the majority of her life. The advent of Mr. Coffee was a welcome change for her, but she still insisted on filling up the whole filter basket as if it were the canister inside the perc. It was the dregs of that strong brew that splashed its caffeinated goodness into the otherwise age-appropriate beverage. Despite this being a repeated though infrequent occurrence, this was not from whence my love of or addiction to coffee began. That happened in the middle of the ocean eight years later.
10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. were the union-mandated half-hour coffee breaks for officers and crew aboard all American-flagged vessels. As the Engine Cadet (read: intern,) making the coffee was one of my primary duties. And I was good at it. Plus, I would get to begin my break 10 minutes early to wash up and put the pot on. Many ships take this ritual very seriously, having it form the backbone of the culture on board. I remember a particular Mate (long after my Cadet days) who would hold his lighter up behind the coffee pot to confirm its opacity. Needless to say, my Grandma Genius-inspired coffee always passed the test.
In office environments that strength is not generally met with as warm a reception. I was asked to provide warning for when I made the coffee, so those of more delicate palettes could allow room enough to cut it with their sweeteners and/or creamers of choice. I therefore made a little sign which I would place out when I brewed stating, "This coffee is Grandma Genius approved." It included one of my favorite pictures of her looking up from a scratch-off lottery ticket.
Back to age 18. Returning from sea, it was time to hit the books again. And what says "all-nighter" better than massive quantities of stale cafeteria coffee? Having one or two cups of coffee twice a day for three months and continued intake on large scales as a study aid has certain effects on one's physiology. I found that out the hard way on the next winter break. I got home and all of the sudden I started feeling ill. Headache, slight nausea, malaise, and complete lack of energy. My first withdrawal!
Let's skip ahead to 23 now. I am out on my own, well aware and proud of my addiction. Doing my own grocery shopping made me realize I was buying more half-and-half than milk. That was when I realized I needed to switch over full time to black. This is a choice I have never regretted. Sure, I may still doctor it up on rare occasion. If I have been driving all night and my only hope for a cup in the next X miles is a 7-11 offering weak, bitter, burnt brown liquid in a pot that makes the claim of being "coffee," sure I may still add a little cream and sugar then. Because while I am a connoisseur, I am also an addict.
And I have had some outstanding cups in my day. I have been to Italy, Brazil, Seattle, and while you may not think of it as a center for Java culture - Chicago. When you have realllly good coffee, I mean some primo fucking Joe, you damn well know it. The aroma itself is intoxicating. The taste is rich and full and smooth. And if it's roasted, ground, and brewed properly, then at the end of at least the first sip it should feel like someone just tugged on an invisible string attached to the back of your nut sack. They say you can't taste the difference between regular and decaf, but when the capillaries in my lips don't dilate upon contact even if my chemical senses aren't technically engaged, my brain will process that taste differently.
I love coffee so much, it has become part of my persona. I am the coffee guy. I am a little uncomfortable having something define me like that, but the chances of that changing approach zero. So I have made my peace with being the coffee guy. Just search my blog for the word "coffee" and see.
So why am I taking on #1 on the list now? Because my approximately 4-year-old Krups started having issues with the power switch. I was going to spring for some $300 Scandinavian deal, but then somehow I started waxing nostalgic and a little light shone down on me. My new machine is an American-made Bunn-O-Matic! Just like back on the ship, but without the hard-piped water line. It is a thing of beauty, and it makes a mean cup of coffee. Sure it has its pros and cons, but if you want an entire pot of coffee brewed at 200°F in under 3 minutes, you just can't get a better machine. It has started my love affair all over again! *sigh*