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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Coffee / Fast Dilemma

And so it begins…

Yesterday Zahava reminded me that the time has come to once again begin tapering off my caffeine intake in anticipation of the full-day fast on Tisha B'Av. So… since I am going to be fixated with coffee (or lack thereof) over the next week or so, guess what? You get to fixate on it right along with me.

Some people get hungry or thirsty when they fast… I usually don’t. Maybe it’s the, ahem, significant stores of reserve fuel I so prudently put aside during the rest of the year. Or maybe I just have a higher threshold for discomfort.

However, coffee - or more importantly the potent drug it delivers: caffeine - is what holds me in its evil grip. I don’t drink gallons of coffee throughout the day the way some people do. I usually have one… perhaps two cups in the morning, and don’t even think about coffee for the rest of the day. However, I’m a bit of a fanatic about the coffee that I do drink… making it oh-so-hard to wean myself down to mornings of decaffeinated tastelessness.

First, and foremost is the quality issue. I am a bit of a coffee snob when it comes to my beans. I don’t require brand-name coffee (although many of the well-known brands tend to be more consistent in their quality), but outside of the big roasters, I find it hard to find good, consistently fresh, medium-dark roasted beans. To that end, some of the beans I like best:

The Beans:
Peet’s (Berkeley, CA) – Major Dickason's Blend

Community Coffee (New Orleans, LA) – Breakfast Blend

Starbucks (Seattle, WA) – Gold Coast Blend

Green Mountain Coffee (Waterbury, VT) – Wild Mountain Blueberry (the only flavored coffee I have ever really enjoyed…and it is available only during the summer ...great for making iced coffee!)

[Request: I would appreciate a recommendation from anyone in Europe (hint, Mlle A.) who knows a good, consistent, continental coffee purveyor who won’t mistake me for his banker]

The Form:
Whole bean…preferably vacuum packed. Since I live so far from the source, I like to buy the beans whole so they can be ground immediately before brewing. A few years ago I restored a 1930’s era wall-mounted, hand-cranked coffee grinder. It holds exactly a pound of coffee, and can be adjusted to exactly the grind I want. Also, since it only grinds as fast as you can turn the crank... it doesn’t inadvertently heat the beans the way most electric grinders do. [more on that here]


The Preparation:
While I enjoy the occasional espresso, cappuccino, or even ‘Turkish coffee’ (which I’m told is actually not Turkish, but Arab in origin), I almost always use a press pot. Some people complain that the few minutes the coffee steeps in a glass press pot means it won’t be hot enough when served. I’ll share a trick I learned in the navy: When boiling the water, add a very small pinch of salt. The salt raises the boiling point of the water by a few important degrees, but is not nearly concentrated enough to be noticed when you drink the coffee.

bodum ©Bodum

The Additives:
I like fresh cream in my coffee. I don’t understand people who put milk (especially skim milk) in coffee. Why not just get some white food coloring, mix it with water and use THAT to hopelessly dilute your coffee??? I’m not talking about using heavy whipping cream (although if there is an open container in the fridge I have been known to treat myself), but rather light cream… the kind you use for cooking.

Since I try to stay away from sugar, I usually use Splenda® (which is made from sugar that has been bonded to an inert substance that your body won’t digest). It tastes like sugar, and it doesn’t add carbs to my day. Best of all, no sugar-substitute aftertaste!

The Cups:
If I’m drinking coffee at home, I like to drink from what my wife affectionately calls my ‘soup bowl’. OK, it might be a tad bigger than your typical coffee mug… but I like it because when I’m sitting outside on the mirpesset (balcony), it rarely requires refills!


If I’m in the car, I have my trusty Starbucks travel mug. I hated to pay the exorbitant prices that they demand for their products… but this happens to be the absolutely best travel mug ever. I challenge anyone to show me something that even comes close! It keeps the coffee hot for over an hour… it has a rubber gasket in the screw top to prevent leaks… and most important, the drinking hole has a hinged stopper that clicks securely into place to keep every drop inside the cup (even if you hold it upside down!) until you want it to come out. I have forgotten this cup on the top of my car (only to see it bouncing on the pavement in my rear view mirror), and it has survived countless winter mountain climbing trips. It has dents and scratches and stickers to attest to its beloved status, and it is absolutely perfect in every way.


The withdrawal:
Well after all that, here I am… facing a couple of weeks of less and less caffeine (read: less and less flavor). To accomplish this self-deprivation I will have to start mixing in more and more decaf to the morning grind. Hopefully Tisha B’Av, won’t find me in the fetal position wishing for the world to end.

Feel free to share your coffee-related hopes, dreams and stories. I’m assuming that anyone still here at this point is either an extremely close friend or a dedicated coffee aficionado.

Posted by David Bogner on July 14, 2004 | Permalink


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wow david, you are almost as coffee obsessed as my sister. Who incidentally, used to work for Starbucks, which was good for me, cause free coffee. I also have begun to wean myself off, cause otherwise I will have the mother of all headaches on Tisha B'av. I wish you hatzlacha in your quest to find something to fill the void in the meantime!

Posted by: faye | Jul 14, 2004 12:47:13 AM

As disgusting a concept as they may appear, would caffeine-laden suppositories be a lesser evil than doing without coffee for two or three weeks? It seems that a pharmacy in Beit Shemesh has them available:

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Jul 14, 2004 5:29:47 AM

Whoa! Andy...buddy......this is a family blog! We don't talk about putting stuff up our butts!!! I thought Decaf was tasteless, but this... Way to get the ball rolling. :-)

Thanks faye...don't worry...if you come here, you'll know how it's turning out. Zahava can tell you I'm not the type to suffer in silence.

Posted by: David | Jul 14, 2004 6:26:47 AM

Honestly, David! To say that you drink only two *cups* of coffee in the morning is rather misleading, don'tcha think?! :->

Good luck in the weaning process. =:-O

Posted by: jennifer | Jul 14, 2004 8:46:34 AM

Wow--you take your coffee pretty seriously. So, what we're saying here is, a cup of Postum just won't cut it, huh? Maybe those suppositories aren't such a bad idea -- I've heard of others using them.

Posted by: Noa | Jul 14, 2004 11:44:51 AM

People, people puleeze! What is this fixation with...well you know?! I mean I rarely let medical professionals under the sink to examine the plumbing... like I'm really gonna start shoving... man I can't even say it!


Look, all I'm saying is that in the confines of a monogomous, committed relationship, whatever floats your boat...know what I mean? But we're talking about a mild caffeine addiction here, not an intervention at Jack's place on Will & Grace!

I'm begging you... Back on topic please. :-)

Posted by: David | Jul 14, 2004 11:58:29 AM

Gosh, and I thought I was bad about my coffee jones.

Have you tried any of the local coffee purveyors for beans? I like Cup o' Joe's (or, as they call it in Hebrew, "Cafe Joe") since they roast their beans themselves on site.

It might save you some time and money compared with Peet's or Starbuck's.

Posted by: Shai | Jul 14, 2004 12:07:01 PM

Shai...Thanks for the tip! I hadn't heard of it...where is it located?

I have stumbled upon a few places here in Israel that had excellent coffee once... only to go back and find them still selling out of the same tired, stale supply I had originally loved.

Israeli's love their coffee, but seem to love the deals that come with buying in bulk, more.

If they roast their own beans at 'Cafe Joe', that should solve the freshness issue.

I'll look forward to finding out more.

Posted by: David | Jul 14, 2004 12:13:59 PM

She got the hint and will be back with a list soon, promised. I have some in mind...am sorry to say Starbucks excluded. For a European, they are just as bad as McDonalds....I suffered when I worked in CA, since it took me weeks to get hold of a good coffee bean.
Meanwhile, do plan a visit to Daliat al Carmel for the best 'cafe bi heel' ever, and while you're there, do stop by the best baklavah bakery of the region. [I guess I'm just being counter-productive to your cause...ahem.]

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Jul 14, 2004 1:05:52 PM

We took a sidetrip to Berkeley during my recent visit to San Fran. I hadn't had Peet's coffee in awhile, but ohhhhhh....was it good!
Very, very occasionally I will go for a fussy, foamy cappuccino, but usually I prefer a nice dark roasted coffee. I used to put half-n-half in my coffee, but recently have been using soy creamer. I like the nuttiness of it. No sweetener of any sort in my java, no thank you.
Good thing that you are weaning yourself off the coffee before your fast. Coffee withdrawal headaches are the pits. :(

Posted by: Lisa | Jul 14, 2004 3:44:18 PM

I am puzzled by the 'mehalech' of weaning off coffee for two or three weeks. I have tried that and all it does is give me headaches for two weeks rather than one day.

Like you, I also drink only one or two cups of coffee per day but I get a massive headache if I don't have my coffee infusion by 9:30 a.m. On Tisha B'av and Yom Kippur, immediately before the fast starts, I drink a very strong cup of coffee. It often gets me through most of the fast. (on 'minor' fast days, I get up very early before the fast starts).

I have not tried the suppository method but I have a friend who swears by it.

So, David, drink the coffee and visit the pharmacy. That's my advice.

Posted by: MO Chassid | Jul 14, 2004 5:03:39 PM

Cup o' Joe-Arena Mall in Herzila-on-Sea. Comes with a WiFi zone, too. :)

Posted by: jennifer | Jul 14, 2004 10:55:52 PM

WOW. You ARE a coffee connoisseur.

I feel so amateur. :)

Posted by: Lachlan | Jul 15, 2004 5:47:52 AM

God, I love coffee.
Therefore, I love your blog.


Posted by: Queenie | Jul 15, 2004 8:53:11 AM

Good luck - I've pretty much off the coffee - will stick to a nice cup of tea.....

Posted by: Gil Ben Mori | Jul 15, 2004 2:58:46 PM

Wow, and I thought I was a coffee snob? HA!

I'm a cream/no sugar kinda gal. Can't stand the milk, either.

Posted by: maura | Jul 18, 2004 10:07:56 PM

I enjoyed Gevalia kona(10) or blue mountain(25)

Posted by: dave | Jul 19, 2004 7:45:47 PM

I note with great interest, my old friend, that you are no longer drinking the Peet's Arabian Mcha Java, but have moved to the Major Dickason's Blend. As you are the one who introduced me to Peet's, all credit goes to you you for my other choices. My coffee of choice is currently Peet's Sulawesi-Kalosi or Aged Sumatra. But when I buy to serve to a more diverse population, I too prepare Major Dickason's.
I agree that weaning off of coffee is a good idea in theory, but I figure i will be miserable anyway, so why suffer more day than necessary?

Posted by: Jordan | Jul 21, 2004 2:43:50 AM

Does coffee stain your internal organs? Like the way it stains your teeth! Don't get me wrong I love my 2 or 3 cup's a day. Mornin noon and night time too. I heard somewhere that if you add milk it wont stain. truth or bunk?

Posted by: George Brunelle | Apr 7, 2005 7:38:06 PM

I loved your posts, and the coffee things is me to a TEA! Keep on bloggin'.. we love it here in NYC!

Posted by: Cyndi | Mar 21, 2008 4:34:20 AM

i just drank a small cup of regular coffee, and my hands started to shake really bad and i feel jittery. this happens everytime i drink something with caffeine in it. does this happen to everyone, or do i have a sensitivity to it

Posted by: sildenafil citrate | Jun 7, 2010 7:33:08 PM

I own one of those coffee grinders
from the 1930's.

Posted by: Jeff | Mar 4, 2014 8:05:30 AM

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