Every year (well, twice so far) a bunch of college radio friends gather at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn for a holiday dinner and gift exchange. There’s indie Christmas music on the stereo and a roast on the table, and absent friends appear via videochat on various laptops.
Last year I didn’t get in on the gift exchange early enough so I just showed up and made green beans with drama and took in the scene. This year I got my lucky recipient a 100 year old book about boy inventor/adventurers and received, among other things, this mug.
In my family, we like to foist excess hospitality on visitors. If they won’t accept food, surely they’ll have a cup of coffee or tea? I can’t start my day without coffee, preferably in one of my sentimentally valued specific favorite mugs.
We of the Building don’t like to buy things new. If we can’t make that thing, we try to find or buy a used thing. This policy is especially true of mugs, because it’s literally impossible to walk into a Salvation Army needing a mug and walk out without one that’s perfect, either because it’s hilarious or gorgeous. And they’re always cheap.
But obviously it’s cooler if one of your friends makes a mug by hand and gives it to you. This thing is hefty. I could brain a burglar with it. I’m definitely going to eat a bunch of soup out of it. And it’s already held espresso and chai, but when I go back to basics after the holidays it’ll be cowboy coffee all the way.
I was taught how to make cowboy coffee by M., an Outdoor Ed friend who drinks it while she’s leading backcountry canoeing expeditions. It’s good if you’re either cooking in the woods, have no specific coffee-making equipment, or are just too much of a waste product to deal with even a French press, like I am before I’ve had my coffee. Also since you’re learning this verbally over the Internet, it will take you a few batches of overly weak or strong coffee until you can gut-estimate the water to coffee ratio for whatever vessel you’re using.
Boil water in a pot or pour boiling water into a mug. Add enough ground coffee that some floats on top and it seems like the right amount based on gut + past experience (about a heaping spoonful for a big mug). Maddeningly vague! I know. Let steep for ~4 minutes, then sharply tap the outside of the pot or mug – several times, all the way around – with something that won’t break the mug if that’s what you’re using. This will cause the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom. If pot, pour or ladle the coffee off the top into mugs. If mug, drink the coffee off the top. Coffee grounds are great in your compost, if you’re doing that.