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The Dope meets his maker

December 26, 2008
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

I've a confession: I'm a coffee addict.

It's something I'm neither ashamed, nor proud of. Instead, it's simply part of my life, like walking the dogs every morning. Except, of course, sans cafe in the morning I can barely walk, let alone walk the dogs.

It started when I was 18 or so and it was love at first jolt. Plus, beyond the taste and jump start, my coffaholism gave me something else - entree to a social stratum I never knew existed - lunch counters.

They were fabulous centers of fun, friendship and gossip, and I spent thousands of hours in hundreds of diners, drugstores, cafes and the like, from coat to coast, for dozens of years and never tired of it. And since for a lot of those years coffee cost less than two bits a cup, the whole experience was one of the great bargains of the century.

Of course, back in them days, Bunkie (unlike now), the coffee scene was a simple affair. You sat down, ordered coffee, and that's what you got - coffee. Its brand and subspecies, how it was roasted, ground and prepared, or anything else about it were all moot issues. You took what they had and how they had it good, bad or indifferent, weak or strong, fresh-brewed or burnt to a crisp.

Not that anyone tried to serve bad coffee; it was just an occupational hazard of the times. We didn't have all the coffee paraphernalia, beans and know-how we have today. In short, when it came to coffee, we Americans were a naive lot. In fact, had anyone ordered something as foreign-sounding as Cafe Americano, they probably would've been reported to the FBI as a suspected commie spy.

I was no more knowledgeable than anyone else, except maybe I wouldn't have thought a guy ordering a Cafe Americano was a spy (though I sure might've questioned the virility of a guy who wanted cafe au lait).

Choice, choices, choices

Of course, once all the new coffees and coffee makers appeared, my coffee habits and tastes changed drastically. No longer was weak or burnt coffee acceptable, and I'd rather have drunk a gallon of warm spit than a cup of instant coffee.

But knowing what I didn't want was no guide to what I did want. A drip maker? Percolator? French press? Espresso machine? French roast? Ethiopian? Indonesian? Jamaican? Coarse grind? Extra fine? Medium? And on and on and on.

Pretty early on, I settled on a French press maker and I experimented with different brands and types of coffees except expensive ones. I don't mind paying for good coffee, but let some shmendrick with deep pockets and a deep need for status pay out the wazoo for great coffee.

In short, I'm in a comfortable place with my coffee jones. I brew up the right amount to get me out of the house in the morning; after that, I know how much it takes to keep me afloat on my java buzz. The only time I have problems with coffee is when I'm overseas, and then it's not coffee I have problems with, so much as the lack of coffee.

My biggest hassle is in Europe, and it's purely monetary: Given the Europeans' cost of living and the dollar's buying power (or more exactly, the dollar's lack of buying power), a basic cup o' joe will set you back five bucks. And given the necessary dosage of my morning fix, just to hit the streets somewhat cognizant will cost me three fins, at least. Then figure a couple more during the day to keep me going, and I'm looking at a $25 dollar-a-day coffee budget.

Of course, I refuse to spend that much. Instead, I take an electric tea kettle that I use to augment my meager daily coffee ration. But it's certainly no substitute. Expecting tea to do the work of coffee is like sending a boy to do a man's job and an anemic boy at that.

But with a European jaunt on the immediate horizon, I decided to see if I could find some simple and sensible way of maintaining my coffee habit and with it my sweet disposition - the one clearly depending on the other.

Where to turn? Where else, but the internet -- the fount of all knowledge (and of course the fount of a whole lot of stupidity as well).

My search was more enjoyable than tedious. First, I eliminated the impossibilities. Then I sifted through the possibilities. Finally, I ended up with the answer to all my overseas coffee hassles with a company named, appropriately enough, BuzzMug.

It is, believe it or not, a combination French press/travel mug. You just dump the grounds in it, add hot water and let it sit for however long you want. Then when you figure it's up to strength, you depress the plunger and - Voila - you're in business. There's a screen built in the cover so no grounds come out, plus it's double-walled stainless steel, so it's rugged and it keeps the coffee hot.

I've had it for a week and it's beyond all my expectations.

In fact, I think of it less as a travel mug than a work of art - a marriage of form and function. And in this case it seems like the perfect marriage, since if it keeps working as well as it has, the honeymoon will never end.



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