Essays on Technology and Culture

The Power of the Morning Cup

Mornings, to me, should not exist. When left to my own devices, as I’ve discovered multiple times, I will easily slip into a nocturnal mode. During my “lost year” I would find myself waking up at four PM, eating breakfast, going to my part-time job for three hours, and staying up until the crack of dawn. Even once I was working full-time, normal human hours, I’ve often delayed getting out of bed until the last possible moment, cramming a morning routine into as little as ten minutes. It helped when I lived above a coffee shop, though I would still get in a few minutes late most days.

For the past few days, I’ve started getting up on time and discovering the pleasures of leisurely, early mornings. I don’t know, specifically, what changed. I go to bed by 11, but I’ve done that most weeknights for the last two years. I track my sleep with Sleep Cycle, which I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with. I don’t sleep in a pitch dark room—we still need to buy curtains for the new apartment—and I don’t use magnesium citrate, though I’m considering it. My working theory, however, is that what gets me up in the morning is coffee.

I know coffee is what keeps me up in the morning. Without coffee, I can’t function for a few hours in the morning, no matter how well I slept. Since moving to New York, I’ve been self-medicating the expensive way, with a morning cup picked up before going into the office. I’m not a finicky coffee snob, though I have standards. Dunkin’ Donuts will do when it’s the only thing available (which it is, in my neighborhood). For a time, I was a regular at a fancy little shop on 37th Street in the Fashion District that made the third best cup of coffee I’d had in the city, [1] though now it’s closed. However, my usual choice is a Starbucks Blonde Roast—readily available, and tastes better than the standard cup. And I take it black.

In the back of my mind, I always knew that I could make coffee at home. I have a french press. I have a kettle. I have a stove, and I even have a bag of decent, medium-roast ground coffee in a bag in my freezer. I also can hear every coffee snob reading this scream out loud, but bear with me. I made a cup in the press one Sunday morning, after mulling whether to put on pants and walk to the local Dunkin’ Donuts. I put a kettle on the stove, scooped four tablespoons of coffee into the press, steeped, pressed, and drank. It felt good. The next morning, Monday, I got out of bed with one thing on my mind: making my morning cup. It’s kept me going this far.

I’m not fancy with my coffee. I don’t even grind my own beans, though I do have a hand-me-down blade grinder. I put water in the kettle, put the kettle on the heat, take the bag out of the freezer, scoop the grounds into the press, add the boiling water, steep for five minutes. It’s enough. During the week, the contents go straight into a thermal mug, and I nurse it through breakfast, the subway, and at my desk if anything is left. Maybe, perhaps, one day I’ll get fancy like Marco Arment, and turn coffee into a proper ritual. Maybe when I have a shorter commute, and more money to blow on coffee-making gear. For now, coffee is my MacGuffin—the little reward I give my brain for overcoming the soft, warm resistance of the bed, and facing the day.

  1. The best cup I’ve had in New York is from Culture Espresso on 38th Street. Worth the wait, and worth the price. Second best is Oren’s Daily Roast.  ↩