The Perfect Cup
cup of coffee

By Tiah Keever

was at a party the other day, and someone was saying she could never make her French-press coffee right, and she was considering buying a single-cup drip coffeemaker—one of those cone-shaped items that sits atop your coffee cup. You put in a filter, add the grinds, pour boiling water in, and voila! Fresh-brewed coffee. I use one of these contraptions and am usually pleased with the outcome, but I’m also a fan of the French press—I mean, hello, it’s French!

When I asked the woman what she meant, she said the coffee just never tasted right. I couldn’t accept this answer. “But it’s very easy and quick,” I said.

“I know—only four minutes!” she said.

Which is correct—that is the perfect amount of time to brew the coffee before pressing it down. I was amazed that she knew this and yet couldn’t make the coffee bend to her will. She then mentioned how she really wished there was a coffee shop in her neighborhood, for those dire times when the French press had thwarted yet another batch of four-minute coffee. I nodded gravely, and told the woman I would keep my eyes peeled for a drip coffee cone thingamajig for her, as I only had one, but was thinking of getting another one, since it seemed more precise than the French press. Plus, the person I sometimes drink coffee with doesn’t like my good coffee, and I hate to waste it on him when he prefers his cheap French roast store brand coffee. Sure, the woman at the party and I could both pay full price for one of the single-cup cone items at one of the fancy-pants cafes around town, but I prefer to spend my money on the coffee itself versus its maker.

Later, I thought about the woman’s comment that there was no coffee shop in her neighborhood. It seemed awful to me to live in a neighborhood without a coffee shop. I couldn’t imagine living beyond walking distance from one—there are four within a mile of my current home. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how good your coffee is at home, French press or drip, mini-Espresso machine or stovetop-brewed, you’re still better off letting a professional make it. They know more than we do when it comes to creating the right crema, and the coffee shop probably has better furniture, better lighting, and more-attractive strangers than our living rooms do, anyhow.

So the actual recipe for the perfect cup of coffee? It’s as easy as gathering a couple dollars, rambling down to the local coffee shop, and placing your order. You don’t even have to do the dishes afterward.

And if there’s no coffee shop in your neighborhood? Move.

Tiah Keever lives in Portland, Oregon.