Corby Kummer at The Atlantic discusses how to make a “simple cup of coffee.”
Spoiler: It’s actually not all that simple.
I’ve always opted for unplugged, no-think, early-morning ways to brew. That’s why in my book The Joy of Coffee I advocate manual drip, a simple version of what today’s shops call “the pour-over”—and what I call “the agonizing pour-over.” My method involves putting grounds into a metal filter (which lets through more flavor than a paper filter), evenly pouring a small amount of hot water over the grounds to thoroughly wet them, and then letting the flavors “bloom” for 15 to 30 seconds or so before pouring the rest of the water over the wet grounds in a slow but steady stream. Simplicity itself, even if the hot-water-to-grounds ratios for different amounts of brewed coffee that I recommend in the book took weeks to work out.
I was born well before the rise of Starbucks when Maxwell House was a common fixture in a coffee drinker’s home, and office coffee wasn’t Flavia or even a Keurig but an anonymous packet of grounds that percolated through a soon-to-expire Mr. Coffee. No matter where you worked the office rules dictated that whoever finished the pot had to make another, so for hours, you’d see a thin layer of black liquid that was not “good to the last drop” slightly burning at the bottom until someone desperate for caffeine gave in and made the next pot.
I can’t state definitively if life is better now that we know all about Kenya and Ethiopian reserve blends. Although my mother, who took her coffee black, would probably insist that if you’re going to dilute your cup with cream and sugar, you might as well stick with freeze-dried crystals.