All of the coffee I’ve made today has been weak. I’m not sure why. I’ve been using the expensive beans that I usually do when I’m home by myself, taking them from their sealed black bag with the plastic air valve on the side and the little foldy twisty bars at the top that hold it closed and grinding them in the little Japanese hand grinder my ex-boyfriend gave me two years ago.
I brewed it in the same way I’ve been doing for years, too—boil the kettle, put a number-two paper cone filter into the plastic drip cone, balance it over a mug, pour in the fresh grounds, wait for the sudden mad boiling sound and the satisfying click, pour the water, wait. My dad taught me to make it like that when I was a kid so that I could bring it to him, and he coached me kindly through the first time I overfilled the cone with water and the first time I forgot the mug altogether. In fact, I can still hear him saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not going to drip onto the floor,” when I poured too much water, panicking as it leaked, tarlike and hot, onto the white Kenmore stovetop.
Now when I make that same mistake I’m transported back into our old yellow kitchen, holding the white plastic kettle my mother was so suspicious of—even though I’ve since learned that sometimes the coffee will drip all the way to the floor, and even though Dad has since painted the kitchen a nice shade of real estate beige.
Anyway, it tastes terrible today and I’m not sure why. Maybe the beans are just stale. I guess it’s been a few weeks since I bought them, and I guess they don’t keep that long after they’ve been opened. I just never imagined they were actually that fragile. I thought it was more of a precaution, the same way that fancy coffee blogs tell you it’s imperative that you pour the hot water on the grounds in an extremely slow, circular motion, making sure the stream of hot water only hits coffee and never touches paper. They talk about it like every coffee I’ve ever had was undrinkable garbage, overwhelmed by this supposed “paper taste” I have never in my life detected.
I thought it was like that. But I guess not, since my first cup was so tasteless I had to pour it down the sink and try again. More grounds, and the water fresher off the boil this time around, and it’s still barely tolerable, so now I’m not sure what to think.
In general, I pride myself on class mobility as far as coffee goes. I hope to never get so uppity that I can’t chug a gas station coffee waiting for the bus or salvage something truly nasty with enough cream and sugar. But now here I am turning down stuff I’ve brewed with my own hands, in my own dumb apartment. I guess I never imagined I might be fragile either, and I guess that’s the heart of the problem.
I just expect everything to be hotblooded and harsh and galvanizing, and it’s a letdown to me every time anything is anything less than that. Burn my tongue, raise my blood pressure, spike my IQ, disrupt my circadian rhythms. I don’t have time for staleness, I don’t have patience for weakness, and I’m not going to stop feeling at war with the low points in this sine wave psychology of mine. If this is a little on the nose, I’m not worried.