How to Make a Good Mug of Coffee

I’m stressed. Where normally I would be browsing the websites of major Canadian newspapers, lately, I find myself shunning them. My usual morning ritual of listening to CBC on the way to work in the morning has been usurped by a half-hour of soothing, mind-numbing music. As well, part of me is thankful that, as a teacher, I can shut out the outside world for hours at a time. And while I’m not writing, I’ve been giving the warrantee on my PS3 a run for its money. For the lack of a real word, I’m feeling kind of ‘escapy’ lately.

Of course, one large source of my worries is the political landscape of my fair country, its obnoxious players and ominous trends of late. A June 5th article in The Globe and Mail predicted a Conservative majority in 2011. Who needs to read that on a Wednesday? It’s midway through the workweek, for crying out loud; it’s cause for mild celebration. But nooooo, Andrew Steele has to rub his educated opinions in my face at 6:30 in the morning. Perhaps John Ralston Saul was right in stating that although we can remember singular events, the average person on the street has no linear memory, which would be very useful in remembering that our $13 billion national surplus occurred before our country’s current administration came into power, and the $56 billion deficit came after. But hey, I’ve got to live with my capitalist-no-free-handouts-except-for-me! friends, so I will digress, and in the spirit of Christopher Hitchens’ article How to Make a Decent up of Tea, I will lend some of my own advice on how to make a decent mug of coffee.

Yes, the irony of writing an article about being stressed while glorifying coffee isn’t lost on me. But as a Cappuccino-drinking, limp-wristed Toronto elitist, I would like to remind you of the deeper irony that people like me are often mocked for drinking espresso – coffee in its most concentrated form – by those who manfully pride themselves as fans of Tim Horton’s, a brew which couldn’t be more insipid if it came with training wheels and a set of water-wings by comparison. Or, as I say, coffee for bed-wetters.

First of all, forget everyday brands like Maxwell House, Folgers, and Van Houtte. Why? Because these are regular coffee. This is not an elitist thing, it’s a strength thing. What you need is something POTENT. I always go for Medaglia D’oro Caffe myself. You can find tins of it in most supermarkets; it has the colours of the Italian flag. If not, you can try some Lavazza. What? The names sound to uppity-European for you? Well, remember Rocky Marciano? He had a European last name as well, are you going to call him limp-wristed? Turkish coffee is also pretty good but, it’s a little too light for my taste.

Next, get yourself a French Press or one of these guys. I just bought one of the latter and WOW, I tasted the infinite. There is nothing like pressure brewed coffee. The first time tried it, it was too strong, even for me. And whatever you do, do not pack the filter. I learned the hard way, and my stove top suffered the consequences.

If you are, however, committed to your percolator, just take whatever you normally put in the strainer, and double it. If you can see sun through a freshly-brewed pot, than it is too weak. In fact, the coffee should be black enough that it absorbs any light from the immediate area. Oh, and I almost forgot, be sure to add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the grinds BEFORE you brew it. I know, I know, cinnamon. But it takes the edge off what is an extremely potent mug of coffee. I’ve also tried egg shells, and they work for the taste as well, but this is where cleanliness comes into play. If you’re the kind of person who tends to leave the old grinds in the filter while you go away on a trip, then I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re the kind of person who has the dust-buster on standby while you’re eating cookies, then by all means, knock yourself out.

Lastly, if you like to sweeten your coffee, then I recommend a tablespoon of honey, or even better, genuine maple syrup. Don’t knock it till you try it. You’ve got to fight fire with fire, and what you have just brewed is something thick and bitter, what you need to counter the bitterness is something sweet and just as thick. Table sugar just won’t cut it. You’ll find it cowering at the bottom of the mug, dazed and blinking into the light. After that, it’s just a matter if you like your coffee creamed or not. But for me, dairy is just window dressing for the amateurs.

I hope this helps, and that I’ve managed to convert some of you ardent Tim Horton fans into trying out some REAL coffee.

Finally, I just like to mention to all the tea drinkers: quit fooling yourself. Warm tap water is cheaper, and just as tasty.