One of my fondest boyhood memories is lying in bed beneath the covers on a cold winter morning while my father got up to make a pot of Maxwell House. “Wake up and smell the coffee!” he’d yell. And we’d all groan.
He’d put the pot on the gas stove, and as it started to percolate, the house would fill up with the robust aroma of coffee … until it bubbled over and my mother would scream from the bedroom, “THE COFFEE’S BOILING OVER! YOU’RE GONNA RUIN THAT STOVE!” I suppose it was a small price to pay for a good cup of joe. Besides, his name was Joe, my name was Joe and my mother’s name was Josephine, and if three Joes can’t brew a good cup of java, who can?
That percolator made coffee that was so potent it put hair on your head, which is something bald guys like me really appreciate. But times change, and so does technology. A few years later, we got an electric percolator that was more convenient, but the aroma wasn’t as good.
Eventually, we invested in a Mr. Coffee drip pot with a basket filter, followed by a high-tech Cuisinart with a cone filter and all sorts of confusing settings that made it an intellectual challenge to brew a pot of coffee if you didn’t have an engineering degree and the patience to read 20 pages of directions in English, Spanish, French, German, and, I think, Japanese, although it could have been Chinese.
Ten years ago, we entered the Keurig era of the single-cup coffee pod, which to my thinking consists of more packaging than product. Nevertheless, it promised a perfect cup of coffee every time.
Unfortunately, my wife, Sandy, and I went through one of those coffee makers every 12 months because we never bothered to run descaling solution through them to get rid of mineral deposits. If you use filtered water, where do the minerals come from?
In the Starbucks world of overpriced coffee, a new era has dawned. So I could keep up with the hipsters, my daughter bought me a “coffee bar” a year ago that has a frother and can make vanilla lattes, Frappuccinos and cappuccino.
It stayed in the box a long time, however, because the directions were more complicated than applying for Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. When my daughter discovered the coffee bar was in the basement, there was a family blowup, and I had to drag it out.
Despite the high-tech gadgetry, I couldn’t master the formula for a perfect cup of coffee. Either I put in too much coffee or too little coffee. Either it came out too strong or too weak.
Then, just as I seemed to be getting the hang of it, the “CLEAN ME” button lit up, which meant there was a calcium buildup somewhere, and I had to act quickly or it could turn into a toxic waste crisis. Where did the calcium come from? Had my wife been putting her calcium supplements in the Brita pitcher?
I read the directions for 15 minutes and then drove to Walmart for descaling solution, but when I got home, Sandy told me that we had to use white vinegar because it was “natural” and she didn’t want any chemicals in her coffee that could cause a third eyeball to appear, not to mention an extra big toe.
I poured in vinegar and I poured in water and I flushed it … and then repeated the process and waited 15 minutes for it to soak and did it again … and again. Two hours later, the light still hadn’t gone off. I said some prayers, which seemed to work even though that step wasn’t mentioned in the owner’s manual. Total cleaning time was three hours, which included reading directions, a trip to Walmart, a half-dozen flushes, and tense waiting. All for a cup of coffee.
That afternoon, while I was relaxing after all the coffee bar cleaning, I had a crazy idea. I went on Amazon and found a stovetop percolator for $19.99. What a deal! I bought it. And now once again, I can savor the smell of coffee in the morning … and so far the pot has boiled over only three times.