Thursday, May 5, 2011

Let's do coffee...or not

I don't drink coffee.

Odd, considering how often I utter the phrase, "let's go grab coffee sometime," when suggesting plans with a girlfriend. So far, no one's ever complained that my beverage of choice ends up being tea.

There's been some complaining from my parents, avid coffee drinkers who were disgusted to discover that the small coffeemaker I picked up at a garage sale was capable of producing about two tablespoons of brown sludge per hour. Fearing for their health and safety, they packaged up one of their old coffeemakers and gave it to me during a visit.

So I have a coffeemaker. That doesn't mean I have any idea how to use it. When coffee drinking guests stay with me, I dig through the cupboard until I find all the things I think might be involved in the production of coffee.

"What's this?" asked my brother during a visit. He held up something that looked like a stack of paper bra cups.

"Coffee filters," I replied, though to be honest, I wasn't sure.

"These don't go to this coffeemaker."

"They don't?"

"No. They're the wrong kind. Don't worry, I'll try to make them work. Do you have any coffee?"

Pleased to answer in the affirmative, I produced a small container of coffee grounds. Wiping the dust off the top, my brother gave me a dubious look. "How long have you had this?"

I shrugged. "Four or five years?"

By the time my brother finished brewing his coffee, he was left with a cup of something he said tasted a bit like liquefied sawdust. Since that's always what I think coffee tastes like anyway, I considered it a success.

But I've vowed to be a better coffee-producing hostess since then, perhaps even learning to make it myself.

I had an opportunity last weekend when I took my car in for an oil change and the friendly chap there offered to charge me all sorts of extra fees for add-on services I may or may not have needed.

"Just the oil change," I said.

He frowned. "You really do need to have the corrosion cleaned off that battery."

"I'll get right on that."

"Tell you what," he said. "I'll give you an insider's trick. Take a big pot of black coffee and pour it carefully over the battery. Scrub it with a wire brush to get all the corrosion off, and then wait for it to dry before you spray it with some sealant."

"Coffee," I repeated. "Sealant. Got it."

I had no idea what sealant was, though I suspected I wasn't supposed to use that special spray in my bathroom cupboard that smells like cantaloupe and claims to seal hair cuticles while adding body and shine. I decided to skip that step, but the coffee I figured I could manage.

I went home and pulled out the coffeemaker. My new 20-year-old housemate and his brother wandered through just as I was plugging it into the wall.

"You're making coffee?" he asked in the same tone he might have used to ask you're removing your own spleen with a grapefruit spoon?

"Trying to," I said. "Anyone know where the on switch is?"

The three of us fumbled around for a few minutes, mimicking the punchline of a joke that begins, how many monkeys does it take to make a pot of coffee?

Eventually, we got the coffee grounds in the right spot and found the switch to turn it on. We stood there staring at it, waiting for coffee to come streaming out. After about three minutes, my housemate's brother scratched his head.

"How much water did you put in it?"


So I added water, and lo and behold, something resembling coffee began a slow, pitiful trickle from the machine. A few minutes later, I was standing in my driveway, proudly pouring my first pot of coffee over my car battery. A neighbor walked by and stared at me.

"Morning!" I called. "Want some coffee? I made it."

He shook his head. "Um, thanks. I'm good."

So now I have a clean car battery and a newfound skill making coffee. Sorta. I don't suggest drinking it, but if you need your battery cleaned, I'm your girl.

Are there any seemingly simple tasks you know you should have mastered by now, but for whatever reason, you've failed to do so? Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Also, please tell me where the off switch is on this coffeemaker. It's not supposed to be smoking, is it?


Joyce Tremel said...


I've been drinking coffee since I was about 5 years old.

You'd love my coffeemaker. It grinds the beans before it brews. It doubles as an alarm clock, too. When it goes off at 5:45 am it sounds like a jet is taking off in the kitchen.

Kristina said...

Love this tidbit! Also, if you own real silver (I know, I know!) you can put aluminum foil on the bottom of your sink, add baking soda & water. Lay the forks, etc in there and they get untarnished while you drink your coffee. Or martini or whatever. :)

That is the one thing I remember from chemistry in college!

Patty Blount said...

Yep! I'm with you on the coffee thing. I hate it. I don't know how to make it and typically trick a guest at any party I hold into making it for me.

I love the smell of it but despise the taste. I only do chocolate!

therese patrick, author said...

I should have mastered my cell phone by now, had it over a year already. But every time a call comes in it's a scramble to hit the button and talk.

I took my first picture with it last week.

Ricky Bush said...

Well, your battery is operational. Coca Cola works on batteries also--just in case you burn up your coffee pot.

German Chocolate Betty said...

Sorry, folks, but I luuuuuuuvvvvvv my coffee. My darling hunkyhunka brings me my coffee each morning and leaves it on the nightstand even if I am still snoozin', bless his heart. And he's a tea drinker, so he makes it just for me. (Am I a lucky girl?) With warm whipped milk and everything. (The only thing I have trouble getting him to do is to turn the coffee maker off as soon as the coffee is through so it doesn't get that nasty overcooked taste -- choke -- but he's getting better at remembering, even if he doesn't understand it all...)

While we're at food-based cleaning tips, if you have cooking pots that are somewhat stained inside, just cook some stewed tomatoes in them. The acid from the tomatoes will eat all that stain away and the pots will shine again. Seriously.

(Don't just pick on my coffee, you dweebs. And the old hooha about Coke dissolving nails is just, well, hooha. Check it out.)

danielle spears said...

I never knew a writer who was not a coffee drinker. I didn't know there was such! :) Anyway, buy a Keurig for when your guests come over! Makes the perfect cup every time AND you don't have to buy a big can of coffee.

As far as tasks I should have mastered by now? Twitter. It confuses me. :)

Sarah W said...

Love the smell of coffee, hate the taste. But according to the ladies in the library's short story club, I make excellent java.

I do this with egg salad, too. I loathe hard boiled eggs, but my family always raves about my "recipe." So every once in a while, I put in my old swimming nose clip and indulge them.

However, at my age one would think I could manage to roll up my own sleeves or put a threaded cap back on its bottle without sending it spinning across the room. But I can't.

Laura Maylene said...

I didn't make (or drink) coffee until I was in college. I was terrified someone would find out I couldn't make coffee but too lazy to waste my time learning something so easy yet also so useless to me.

The first time I tried, I didn't add water. I mean, I *knew* you needed water to make coffee, duh, but somehow I didn't think about this step. Maybe I thought the water magically entered the coffeepot from the plug or something? I don't know, but the coffeemaker hissed and sputtered and my friends thought I was a complete idiot. Can't really blame them.

To this day I try to avoid making coffee for hard-core coffee drinkers. Every time I have ever made coffee in my life, I completely guess on the amount of grounds to put in. Sometimes it tastes great, sometimes not. So now if I have a guest staying at my place, I'll lay out all the coffee ingredients and say, "Go to it!"

While I do love a good cup of coffee (made by someone else), on a day-to-day basis, I'm a tea drinker, too. Can you tell?

abby mumford said...

i love coffee, but in recent years, my digestive system does not, so i've had to cut it out of my diet. except every now and again when i give into the craving and order a decaf.

however, i never could make a pot of the stuff. i know how to work the equipment (tee hee), but the flavor is always off. i even bought a french press because it seemed so much easier, but you have to buy different beans. so complicated!

Unknown said...

Tips from a tea-drinker with coffee friends: put the coffee beans in the freezer. That will keep them more fresh than if you just leave them in a jar on a shelf.

Also, the word "fika" in swedish can replace your "let's go get coffee" - it simply means taking something to drink (non alcoholic, mind!) and something sweet (cinnamon rolls for example) together.

I think holding a baby is one of those things I never quite manage to figure out...

Jason said...

I think there is as much coffee in my body as there is blood. Maybe more. I need it first thing in the morning so I don't crash on the way to work (literally, not figuratively) and I need it when I get home, to give me a pick me up so I can pound out a couple thousand words with some kind of coherent sense.

As for things I should have learned by now...I'm sure the list is pretty long, but off the top of my head: furnace air filters must be changed (that was an expensive lesson, but seriously how was I supposed to know?), basic lawn care (being a guy this is supposed to be genetic, I think - my lawn looks like crap and the dog is disappointed in me), anything having to do with cars (that's what mechanics are for), and - well, I could go on, but it's basically a list of traditionally manly stuff I've never been interested in doing.

Come on now - I'm a writer with a desk job testing software, what use do I have for power tool skills? Wifey and I figure we're smart enough to recognize what we don't know and hire an expert.

Danica Avet said...

Great post, Tawna, as always! LOL I drink coffee...can't live down here and not drink dark roast coffee from the time you're in diapers *sigh*

Anyway...I can't braid hair. I'm a girl and I cannot braid hair to save my life. I've tried. I've practiced since I was a teenager, but I can't do it. Other people can do it without even thinking about it, but not me. What I do resembles...well, nothing. *sniff* I also can't tie a pretty yes, my Christmas presents always look like crap.

P.S. Soft drinks work just as well to clean a battery...learned that from some construction workers when my car broke down years ago.

DrCarrieT said...

I made it through years and years of grad school without coffee. It never tastes as good as it smells.

However, you don't want to get between me and my Diet Coke. ;)

Paige Kellerman said...

Ok, just to get it off my chest, I'll confess that I still don't know how to put air in my tires *hangs head*. So sad, I know.

I cracked up at this post. Mainly because I posted the exact opposite this week.

Feel free to keep making me laugh my butt's getting to big.

Have a good one!


Stephanie said...

Neither me nor hubby drink when we registered for bridal shower gifts almost 13 yars ago...we debated. I just wanted one of those mini ones, but hubby said if we ever had his family over, they would drink that in three a full size it was...but the most simple plain one imaginable. But when we have parties and such...I pull it out and let my MIL actually make the coffee. I don't know how much to put in. And a trick..if you put coffee I the fridge, it lasts forever. I seriously had a can in there for 3-4 years. It only came out a couple times a year to make maybe 2 pots each time.


Joyce, that sounds expensive! Cool, but expensive.

Kristina, I don’t think I own real silver silverware, but I may have to try this with some jewelry!

Patty, why on earth can’t they make coffee taste like it smells? I love the smell of coffee shops and freshly brewed coffee, but the taste is always such a letdown.

Therese, I can barely limp along when it comes to using my iPhone. I’ve gotten better, but apps are still a mystery to me.

Ricky, the mechanic mentioned the coke thing, but he said it leaves your battery sticky (whereas the coffee doesn’t).

German Chocolate Betty, that is very sweet! You have him well trained. I’ll have to remember that about the pots!

Danielle, the whole Pacific Northwest is crazy about coffee, so as a writer and a native Oregonian, I’m doubly weird for not liking it. I’ll have to check into the Keurig thing, though I suspect it’s expensive. As for Twitter, I highly recommend reading Shel Isreal’s TWITTERVILLE, Joel Comm’s TWITTER POWER, and/or Kristen Lamb’s WE ARE NOT ALONE: THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA.

Sarah, teach me to make coffee and egg salad sandwiches!

Laura, I once worked in an office of about a dozen people, and not a single one of us could make coffee. I have the excuse of not drinking it, but several of those people were actual coffee drinkers (with a seriously pricey Starbucks habit, I might add).

Abby, my body can’t handle coffee either, which is one of the reasons I’ve never been a fan.

Malin, I used to put the coffee in the freezer, but was recently scolded for that by coffee drinkers who say that’s no longer an accepted practice (I can’t remember why). I like the idea of “fika!”

Jason, hats off to you for admitting a lack of interest in the manly chores! That right there is sorta manly (I was gonna say it takes balls, but that seemed rude. Wait, when have I ever cared about that?)

Danica, my parents drink coffee so strong it requires a fork. I can do a basic braid, but French braids have always eluded me.

Carrie, I’m stepping away from the Diet Coke now, lest I come away with bite marks.

Paige, I can put air in tires if I absolutely must, but it terrifies me a little.

Stephanie, yeah, my little baby coffeemaker wasn’t much of a hit with the coffee drinkers in my life!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Laina said...

I don't drink coffee either. I don't like the taste and too much caffeine makes me BUZZ. (Seriously. 3 days awake straight once.)

I can't change a single lightbulb in this house besides the one lamp I own, but that's mostly because I can't reach them, even standing on a step...

Anonymous said...

I love coffee. I have two cups every morning and heaven help the person who gets between me and my daily minimum requirement.

I learned how to make it out of self-defense years ago because no one else in my office could make decent coffee.

OK, embarrassing fact: I can't alphabetize without singing the alphabet song.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm totally useless in the kitchen. I can't even heat up frozen pizza without burning it. I do have cookbooks that I've tried, and I watch the cooking shows; somehow, though, the food I make ends up making me want to go on a hunger strike.

Jacqvern said...

Hi :) Very funny.

I don't drink coffee either. I drink tea and I take my coffeine daily dose from Coke (a lot of Coke :D).

I'll give you a tip though, :D, keep coffee grounds in the fridge. It lasts much longer and fresh.

Thank you for the laugh :)

TheLabRat said...

You live in Oregon, if I recall correctly, so you won't think this is that weird. I grew up in California so it is very weird. I'm 35 years old and I've never had a driver's license. SO I've never pumped gas. I think I could figure out how. Only one way to find out?

Also, courtesy of a childhood in the military, I find conventional medical insurance (with all those forms) confusing as opposed to merely tedious. When my mom was Air Force, if I needed to go to the doctor we just went. No copay, no bring copies of this and this, we just went. I pretty much stopped going to the doctor after she got out of the military. ANd now I haven't had coverage since I was 19 anyway, so it's all a moot, anyway.

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

I love coffee and I'm very particular about how it's made.

I don't know that much about my iphone, either.

And podcasts. What the hell does one do with a podcast?

London Mabel said...

I can identify. I keep instant for when my stepmother visits twice a year. Last summer I stayed in a hotel and learned to use the coffee maker... so that I could make tea. There was no kettle! So I put the tea bag where the coffee&filter would be--worked like aces, and I was very proud of my new found skillz. ;-)

Danielle Spears said...

Thanks for the twip on the books! As for the Keurig. Yes, it can be pricey. But there are smaller versions. And you could use it for yourself and not just your guests too because they have tea K-cups which I've heard are really good! You can get hot chocolate cups too. I am also a native of the PNW. I am from Seattle and going to visit in June. I plan to drink espresso for each meal. Since I moved to OK, I had to trade Starbucks for snow cone stands. :( I will be blogging about that later today. Have a great day! LOVE the cover!

Skye said...

When I left Seattle for the Oregon Coast, I told people that I had to move because Seattle wouldn't renew my visa: I drink neither coffee nor microbrews. :)

I have been drinking tea since I was about 3, due to my maternal grandfather, and I am a bit of a snob when possible; I love loose tea and my fave is a more expensive brand.

I used to be able to make single cups of coffee because my then-roommate used to telepathically control me: on weekends, just about when she was thinking she should get up, I got up to make tea and made her coffee, too.

I still can't do multiplication very well. Mostly I guess.