June 20, 2019
Artwork by Alex Wolfe
From the time I was 13 years old, my mother woke me each morning with a hot cup of coffee. We had a standard coffee maker, the kind found in any suburban home—fill the tank with water, insert coffee grounds, press the button, and go. Basic stuff. Joining my mother on the couch, in my oversized robe, together we’d digest the morning news. I’d only ever make it through the headlines; I just needed a good 15 peaceful minutes to drain my cup and incentivise my young brain to cooperate.
It was a routine I was hardly aware of—just something I did. Before I was really self-aware enough to realize the significance of this habit, my all-American college experience decimated any sense of normalcy. My time dorming was chaos. Regularity was non-existent. Instead of being something to look forward to, coffee became an any-and-all-the-time beverage; either a utility for pushing away sleep, or something to do during the day with friends when alcohol just wasn’t reasonable.
It was only recently that I began to think back and crave my old mornings. At this point, in my late 20’s, I’ve returned to some sort of life standard. A 40+ hour work week in itself demands a strict morning pattern—I jump out of bed at the siren of my last alarm, with just enough time to groom myself and make a quick selection of a somewhat acceptable outfit for my corporate job in fashion. It all happens within a five minute variance of leaving home and boarding the train.
In some ways this predictability can be nice and stabilizing in a frenzied city. But in other ways, it was making me claustrophobic. Like all my time was being spoken for, without me even noticing. Reclaiming those precious 15 minutes each morning felt like a good place to start carving some time out for myself.
Admittedly, I tend to sleep as late as I can during the week, milking the snooze button until the last possible second—a classic attempt to resist the inevitable. In order to manufacture more time in my days, I knew I needed to start getting up earlier. But what would be the incentive? My hot cup of coffee. Simple.
In my first attempt to channel calm- and peace-filled mornings, I took a more artisanal approach. After all, maturity is about acquired taste, right? My career in luxury menswear sure had me fooled. I researched different roasts, bought a grinder for fresh beans, tried french-presses, pour-overs, and gooseneck kettles. And it almost worked!
Instantly my apartment was filled with a mix of that almost-burnt, chocolatey aroma, and a good whiff of nostalgia.
The brews themselves were delicious—or maybe the placebo was—but the laborious process did little to motivate me out of bed. Making coffee via any of these methods requires hawk-like attention, the kind I don’t necessarily have upon waking, and I quickly lost the fortitude. After a good half-hour browsing the internet for an alternate solution, I found my answer; the most coffee, for the least effort. For an accessible $29.19, I ordered myself a 12-cup programmable coffee maker with guaranteed delivery on Saturday. Nice.
Two days later, it arrived. I’d already acquired the proper filters, selected a more ubiquitous roast, and cleared a designated space on my counter. Unboxed, I already liked it. The black and stainless steel design matched my kitchen. The carafe and basket were dishwasher safe. Aside from a few aesthetic differences, like more buttons and a branded element here and there, it was, in essence, the same as my mom’s. The directions recommend running it once with water to wash away the debris (of which varietal I am unsure), and then, just like that, I was back in business.
The night before its morning debut I loaded it with water and coffee. I ambitiously set the timer for 7:00 a.m.—a good hour before my usual alarm. It was the sound that woke me first. I may as well have been 13 again, feeling that crackling and bubbling envelope my sleepy subconscious. Instantly my apartment was filled with a mix of that almost-burnt, chocolatey aroma, and a good whiff of nostalgia. Wide awake and brimming with boyish excitement, I hopped out of bed and poured myself a cup—black as always. It was uncannily perfect. I brewed four cups and I drank four cups, realizing in that moment, this simple cup of coffee was just as much a home comfort as an old hoodie.
I do find it funny that my morning routine has come full circle, while pretty much everything else has changed since those early mornings with my mother. I’m older, more responsible, recently engaged, and on the verge of starting my own family. But with its programmable features, I now get to wake each morning as I once did, to the comforting smell of hot coffee. Donning the same robe—now tattered, but more appropriately fitted—I’ve managed to recreate those 15 blissful minutes.
My productivity has increased; I have more energy (of the natural kind, too); and I’ve brought a cozy, familiar element into my everyday. And it’s all thanks to a standard 12-cup coffee maker.