“I don’t get people who don’t like coffee, and I distrust writers who don’t drink it. How can anyone be a writer without coffee? … Coffee has been an essential tool of almost all the greatest modern writers, and certainly of the most prolific ones. Voltaire reportedly drank 50 cups a day (and I’ve seen estimates as high as 72 cups a day). Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote what amounted to a love letter about freshly roasted coffee. Arthur Conan Doyle and his fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, loved coffee almost as much as they loved cocaine (Holmes: ‘A cup of coffee would clear my brain’). Anthony Trollope, admirably disciplined, rose every morning at exactly 5:00 and drank his coffee before writing for three hours, after which he went to work at the post office. Edgar Allan Poe drank coffee by the gallon (the tell-tale heart’s pounding: conscience or caffeine overdose?). Maigret’s creator, Georges Simenon, could write a detective novel in three days on the power of his bottomless coffee cup. Beethoven loved his coffee strong, and Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated a sonata (BMV 211) to the glories of coffee.”
“One should not underestimate the role of coffee in the bourgeois social imaginary. The specific rituals and behaviours of commensality that have emerged around coffee drinking do seem to occupy a special place in bourgeois life: coffee does not intoxicate, it is even conducive to labour, but one must still take a short break to consume it; the conversation that accompanies coffee consumption can range from the banal to the serious, but it never takes place among irreconcilable enemies and tends to present itself as an opportunity to neutralize noxious conflicts; it is pleasant to have coffee with others, and yet the act of drinking it is not an essentially collective enterprise, and hence does not violate the idea of a society of neatly separable atoms. The coffeehouse or the café is thus the site where the bourgeoisie has, throughout its history, shown that it can conceive of a kind of human interaction that, in a minimal fashion, transcends the contacts necessary for purely economic transactions. One can say that bourgeois society allows for at least one place where community appears as something other than the secondary and somewhat mysterious effect of the pursuit of individual self-interest. We can converse, for a while, over a cup of coffee.”
For seven years I ate at Bob’s Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee – with lots of sugar. And there’s lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It’s a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. It was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob’s.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee.”
—F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper
In an interview with Salon, Michaele Weissman, author of the new book God in a Cup, explains how to make coffee at home:
Percolator — never.
Mr. Coffee — throw it out immediately. Most standard automated coffee pots don’t heat the water hot enough or consistently enough. The water needs to be around 205 degrees F. as it pours over the grounds. Otherwise the grounds will be over-extracted and bitter or under-extracted and tasteless.
French press — this plunger system makes very nice coffee but requires a certain deftness of hand and it produces slightly gritty coffee that some people like and others don’t.
I prefer old-fashioned, inexpensive drip pots that use brown paper filters, such as the Chemex where you pour nearly boiling water over freshly ground coffee.
Oh, and always use filtered water.
The most important piece of home equipment: A burr grinder. Those little blade grinders most people use basically beat the crap out of the coffee. Not good.
Good to know.
Whilst browsing in a hip vintage/antique store by my apartment – the same place I once found a mint-condition yellow Parker Big Red pen – I came across a striking set of four espresso cups and saucers designed by Massimo Vignelli – i.e., the guy who, among other things, designed the classic 1972 New York subway map – that I bought immediately.
On vignelli.com, he explains the concept behind them:
Decoration is usually obtained by adding something. Since our design process is based on subtraction, we obtained decoration by removing the glaze from the edges, exposing the material. An unusual, but effective way to achieve product identity.