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My fascination with coffee began long before I actually started drinking it. I was born into a family in which coffee was not merely a morning ritual, it was a companion throughout the day... the coffee was nearly always on.
I remember from my childhood the bruup, bruuuupup of the percolator, later replaced by the stately drip and mysterious rumblings of our family's first Bunn brewer. The aroma was so full of promise... those first few tastes - sneaked from a cup while my parents weren't looking - were astonishingly bitter to my unknowing taste buds. It didn't take long to learn that I could make it drinkable with liberal amounts of milk, and when I learned years later that I'd been drinking café au lait I felt quite the man of the world. Of course, I was ten or twelve years old... it was likely the most continental food I'd yet managed. [French fries do not count; neither do croissant when referred to as crescent rolls.]
In high school, a minor seminary, I was a charter member of our tiny class' café klatch, at least until the school's dean took away our coffee pot. "You sit there like a gaggle of little old women!" he would admonish. Our little group thereafter took great glee in observing the faculty in their dining room, sitting round the table, drinking coffee like a gaggle of little old women. We were great fans of irony at St. Thomas Aquinas.
In college I bought a Black & Decker under-counter space-saver coffee maker. It was sleek and stylin' and had a built-in timer. It made lousy coffee. I hardly noticed... I drank far more beer than coffee those days.
On my wedding day I was given my first Bunn coffee brewer by my aunt Lorna. I was ecstatic - I'd learned by this time that the best drip-brewed coffee I'd yet tasted came from a Bunn. I first hugged the coffee pot. Then my aunt. I fear my lovely new bride felt a bit upstaged.
Between then and now I've learned a good deal more. I learned that if you put your coffee cup directly under the brewing stream of a commercial brewer, you got a great cup and ruined the rest of the pot. I did this frequently. [To everyone at CBS who found themselves drinking the rest of the pot, I hereby formally apologize.] It was, I think, my oldest brother who first clued me into buying whole bean coffee and grinding it at home. And it was my first business trip to Seattle that opened an entirely new world for me - full-flavored, fresh-roasted coffee - coffee with a syrupy body, and tastes that lingered on the tongue. I was completely, utterly smitten by the bean. I still am.
So began my journey... my quest to make the perfect cup. I have learned more about coffee in the last dozen years than many ever do. And I have learned more in the last few months than I learned in those dozen years. And the more I know, the more I know I still don't know.
I am, however, still learning. And I hope to share what I learn with you here.
First, I need to think that same lovely bride, for putting up with my incessant "here, try this and tell me what you think," and for letting me gradually take over ever larger plots of kitchen counter real estate, like some caffeine-fevered form of manifest destiny.
I should thank, too, the amazing group of people found in the newsgroup alt.coffee. They've generously shared their stories, their advice, their triumphs and tragedies, and their tremendous knowledge.