Musings

Let Me Put On a Pot of Coffee

You can keep your oldies stations and TV/Movie reboots. What I’d like to revive from back in the day is sharing a pot of coffee.

“Whoa, Grandma. Put down your Folger’s and get with the times.”

Right. I know. Starbucks. Keurig. Lattes and cappuccino. This is the golden age of coffee. Coffee shops are a multi-billion dollar business, and Americans who consume coffee, demand a higher quality and bigger variety then ever before.

A brief coffee history. Before the 1970’s people percolated pots of coffee. Percolating coffee smelled amazing, partly, as I know now, because the coffee was being over-cooked and the flavor was being released into the air. Coffee percolators from that era seem overly complicated to modern coffee drinkers. Assembly is required to get the coffee going. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Percolating coffee was replaced by the far simpler automatic drip coffee maker. Automatic is a key word in any modern appliance, and from 1972 when Mr. Coffee was invented, the public found ease and solace and a smoother brew in our pots of coffee. Of course, by then, no one was sitting around the house waiting for neighbors to come over for coffee much less the coffee accoutrements of coffee cake and neighborhood gossip. While morning coffee remained a habit, the socialness of sharing a pot of coffee was already dying. This is the part of coffee drinking I want back.

Just a quick word about drinking coffee before the Starbucks era. Most people who made pots of coffee didn’t think about how the coffee was brewed…it was, after all, automatic or, for the hold-outs percolated. Not only weren’t we thinking about how we made coffee, we weren’t thinking very much about the actual coffee. Tins of Folgers and Maxwell House were good enough. When we thought about how we liked our coffee we basically had two thoughts: cream and sugar (or artificial, diet-friendly sweetener).

We got schooled in a big way when Starbucks went national in the early 1980’s and asked us to “consider” coffee. Relatively quickly many of us realized there was not only better coffee than what we were used to, but all kinds of ways to concoct coffee drinks. There were flavors to be explored, and whipped cream to be added. If you wanted to, and if you had the money (and lived where the baristas were), you could order coffee in an unlimited number of combinations. Many people found that when they could order a cup of coffee exactly the way they wanted it (the cup even had their name on it), a pot of automatic drip lost any allure.

Automatic drip machines started to get replaced by Kuerig machines or home espresso machines. Now, even at home, coffee drinkers can have the precise cup of coffee they want. But does our every coffee whim have to be realized with every single cup of coffee we drink? Wouldn’t it be okay to have the occasional “lesser” cup of coffee, poured out of a communal pot, so the focus is the people, not the bean, not the brewing, not the making of the coffee? Lots of people drink Folgers and Maxwell House and use automatic drip coffee makers every day. They are doing just fine, thank you.

How about instead of asking “What kind of coffee do you want?” a host just said, “Let me put on a pot of coffee.” And, for the sake of my coffee utopia, and let’s add that the guests weren’t disappointed that they weren’t going to get hazelnut (or whatever) they were just happy to be sharing a pot of coffee. Heck, maybe we could even throw in some neighborhood gossip

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