Posted in March 2013

Fancy Kaffee

We have two coffee machines at work. The first is a normal industrial drip machine, which sits downstairs in the lunchroom and makes coffee that causes my throat to tighten up. Some coffee does that to me, so it’s not unexpected. The second machine is a small home espresso “serious coffee maker”, which sits 10 paces from my desk chair. It grinds the beans right before making your order. This machine exists because the Italians and fancy-pants Germans prefer it. An Italian guy brings beans back from Italy, and everybody pools their money (weighted based on the number of check marks next to your name, indicating the number of cups you’ve made). We have apparently been using not-the-best-but-still-good-but-next-week-I-will-bring-the-best-beans-from-Italy coffee beans, which are not as good as the beans from the previous week, but still pretty high quality and certainly better than the coffee downstairs, ha ha ha! Besides not having my throat close up, I can’t tell much of a difference.

But the machine refuses to fill my cup to the proper level.

“Machine,” I say. “Fill this cup with coffee, the way God intended.” And I press the button with the single cup icon.

It purrs for 10 seconds, grinding the beans and packing them into the do-hinkey that holds the grounds. Then it super-heats the water and pushes it through the grounds, making various grunting sounds as if the whole endeavor is difficult, but not too difficult for a machine that probably cost over a thousand dollars.

Then it squirts exactly 15 ml of liquid into the bottom of the cup, and turns itself off.

“No, machine, that’s not what I asked,” I reply. “That is approximately 1/8th of a cup of coffee, and won’t last the trip back to my desk.” I point to my chair. “And I only sit just there. Please try again.”

The machine loads more beans and whirs loudly, interrupting the thoughts of my coworkers for a second time.

Then it squirts another 15 ml of liquid into the cup, and goes to sleep. This time, the bottom of the mug didn’t change from white to brown, so I have no way of telling if the volume of coffee increased.

I’d blame the machine, but in fact, the same behavior exists with the machines in the local bakery. “I’ll have one coffee please” is understood as “I’ll have a half-cup of coffee, using the smallest cup you have”. And for the record, this “espresso” is more like normal programmer-strength American drip coffee, but with none of the nice acidic bite. The first week I was there, I tried putting a double-shot in the mug, and filling the rest with hot water from the kettle normally reserved for tea drinkers. But it turned out far weaker than a Starbucks Americano.

So the next time a European complains about American coffee, grunt a lot, while you pour 15 ml of coffee into his cup. Add a sugar cube and a tiny spoon. He’ll be delighted.