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Would You Like any Cream or Sugar?

October 8, 2010

I love cream.  And we are programmed to like sweets.  Give me a good crème brulee and I’m a happy man.  But today I want to talk about the use of these two delightful ingredients in good brewed coffee.

A long long time ago, before Raf was well versed in the world of good coffee, we were having brunch with some of my extended family in a distant suburb of San Francisco.  ADS, Raf and I were relatively new transplants in the area.  The bulk of our coffee knowledge came from Miami where it is served strong and sweet, and sometimes milky, from Cuban cafeterias.

Anyhow, I will never forget the exchange as Raf was offered coffee.

Mar: Do you take anything in it?
Raf: Cream and sugar.
Mar: Cream AND sugar?
[Mar pauses and looks at Raf]
Raf: [Looks back and nods]
Mar: Oh. [nervous chuckle] You’re serious.

What’s funny is that people drink coffee with cream and sugar in it every day.  Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks survive on the backs of people who drink coffee but don’t like the way coffee tastes.  Frankly, I don’t like the way Dunkin’ Donuts coffee tastes either, and I don’t begrudge you your fat and sweet.

But there is something important you should know.

Really good coffee, brewed properly, doesn’t need either one.  This isn’t really just a matter of personal taste or preference, it’s a matter of fact.

I know it’s a bit of an audacious claim, but please hear me out.

Cream and sugar have a very important role in the consumption of everyday coffee drinking.  They exist to correct the flaws of bad or poorly prepared coffee.  A lot of coffee is bitter.  The bitterness can come from a variety of flaws from roasting to brewing.  And overly bitter coffee benefits from sugar, to take off its edge.  Cream both adds body to thin coffee and softens the pucker of acidic or tannic brews.  A well-made cup, with a generous proportion of grounds to water, will have a gorgeous body on its own.  Acidity brightens a cup of coffee, but like anything, should be in balance.

Personally, I think that cream or half and half can generally solve both problems with the delicate sweetness of the milk sugars.  But I have a high tolerance for bitter things.

That is not to say that coffee has to be bitter.  It does not.  Bitterness can come from the bean, the roast, the grind or the brew.  There are so many variables involved in making a cup of joe it is no wonder that finding a truly great one is no small task.  Maybe it will help to think of it like wine.  Red wine doesn’t have to be tannic.  But tannin does add a level of depth and complexity when it is balanced with other components in the glass.  So it is with coffee and bitterness.

To automatically put cream and sugar in a cup of coffee is to concede that the coffee you are about to drink has no chance of being good on its own.  It is akin to adding salt and pepper to a dish at a restaurant before even taking a bite.

If you don’t like the taste of coffee, I completely understand.  Go ahead and mask the flavor of the brew any way you see fit so that you can choke it down and get your caffeine and sugar fix.  Just please understand if I tune out your opinions on the relative merits of one coffee over the next.  

Sometimes we all get into habits that are hard to break.

Here is what I encourage you to do.  Drink the first sip of your coffee black.  Don’t drink it through a plastic lid, at least at first.  Taste it.  Really, taste it.  Every time.  If the coffee is flawed, which is likely, correct for the flaws with dairy first, and then sugar if needed.

You may very well end up in the same place as before, no harm no foul.  But should you eventually stumble on a good cup of coffee, you will know it.  And then, you can tell me where you found it.

101 Comments leave one →
  1. derryX permalink
    October 8, 2010 9:16 am

    These are great tips. I generally have issues drinking “American”style coffee because, in most cases, the biggest flaw is the brewing apparatus. For example, the coffee maker at my work doesn’t get any where near hot enough to extract any of the good oils from the grinds. That results in a very thin and flat cup of coffee. When I tell co-workers that, they laugh.

    Ever since going to Italy, I’ve been big on espresso. Even here in the states, most places that serve espresso have the right equipment to grind and pull quality shots. The only variable left in that case is the dosing/tamping, which can sometimes be forgiving if not overdone.

    And I’ve actually done “the espresso test” with Dunkin Donuts coffee. Their roast is far too light for use as an espresso bean. When ground, dosed, and tamped properly, standard Dunkin beans result in a thin shot that has no robust flavor better than if brewed in an auto-drip machine. On the other end of the spectrum, doing the same thing with Starbucks Sumatra roast gave a nice creamy shot of espresso that, to my taste, required no sugar enhancement (I generally hate Starbucks espresso roast; it is overly bitter for no good reason).

    I can seriously talk all day about coffee which is why I never write about it…haha

  2. October 8, 2010 9:28 am

    I think my mother would agree with you, though she drinks coffee black even if it is nasty gas station coffee. Blech.

    I, on the other hand, am spoiled. My husband’s cousin owns a coffee shop in New Haven, and periodically sends me bags of whole bean coffee. I’ve been trying to cut back on my coffee intake (drinking more tea), but I do indulge on the weekends. I grind my beans, brew it in my Bodum Press Pot, pour a steaming cup after taking the dog for a walk …

    … and then I pour in cream. No sugar, mind you, as I don’t need my coffee to be sweet.

    This weekend, when I make my coffee – and believe me, Courtney’s coffee is REALLY GOOD COFFEE – I’ll keep this post in mind, and try it black first. I imagine it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but so is good wine and good beer, and I had no problems acquiring a taste for those beverages. :)

    I know my mother will be happy. :)

  3. October 8, 2010 9:44 am

    When I am drinking coffee at home I need only use 1/2 and 1/2 to make an enjoyable cup. However, when I buy coffee out I generally must add even a small amount of sugar to make it palatable. I attribute this to the fact that we grind and brew from excellent quality beans, which supports your argument. Our favorite source of beans, Porto Rico Importers, is approaching one of their two annual sales. Check it out:

    My method of lightening my coffee is perhaps a bit odd, but I find that adding the milk product to the cup and then pouring the coffee on top, makes for a better blended cup. Ok, maybe I’m just weird.

    • October 8, 2010 1:15 pm

      I don’t think it is weird … I do the same thing!

    • October 24, 2010 7:40 pm

      Your method is not odd at all.
      I do the same thing actually and you make perfect sense!

  4. October 8, 2010 9:48 am

    Black coffee is so good at Java’s!

  5. October 8, 2010 9:57 am

    I definitely agree, with a few exceptions. The coffee I had in Costa Rica was some of the best I’ve ever had but I drank it the way the locals did – black with just a little bit of raw cane sugar. Delicious. Ordinarily, I think even the tiniest bit of sugar added to coffee is revolting. I typically just take a bit of cream unless it’s really good coffee. I actually love the Italian roast from Ambition in Schenectady. Have you tried?

  6. October 8, 2010 10:11 am

    I started drinking coffee black almost at every opportunity about a year ago. I am a big coffee drinker (at least a pot a day, on my own) and I discovered that with my normal cream dose (I’d use Splenda for sweetener) I was getting a good 200-300 calories a day just from coffee alone.

    I’ve always bought decent to good coffee for home use (why balk at $6 or more – rarely do I hit the $12/lb mark – for a bag of grounds or beans when you’d not bat an eye at spending $4 for a single cup at a cafe). My first time really drinking my coffee black was a bit of a chore. The flavor was very different, though after the first few sips, was actually more enjoyable than my doctored cups.

    A few other tips for people looking to enjoy good “naked” coffee at home:

    1) don’t freeze your beans; it can dry them out
    2) clean your coffee maker regularly; a cup of vinegar in a pot of water “brewed” through a filter once every few weeks will keep it clean
    3) switch up your brands/roasts and try a variety; what tasted good with cream and sugar will likely be very different when had “naked” – you just might prefer a gentle Sumatra once you avoid drowning it in fat and sugar.

  7. October 8, 2010 11:12 am

    I always drink black. Save the sugar for what you eat along with the coffee, such as a sweet slice of pie.

  8. October 8, 2010 11:15 am

    What my husband does to balance the taste of gas station coffee is drink it with some hot tamales. Pretty good.

  9. October 8, 2010 11:43 am

    Interesting point of view! Here in Ontario we have a place called “Equator coffee” which is only fair trade coffee from various places around the globe. I have had it black and it is amazing (this comming from a usually Tim Hortons Double Double gal)….next time you are in our neck of the woods, you should try it!

    Cheers~ The Capital Junk Team

  10. Sunflowerdiva permalink
    October 8, 2010 12:15 pm

    I’m not big on coffee (although I do love the smell!), but this was very interesting to read. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  11. October 8, 2010 12:33 pm

    I love the smell of coffee but don’t like the taste, so therefore don’t drink it. I don’t see the point of going to somewhere like starbucks to get a generally expensive cup of fluff and sugar. Why not just get a hot choc, chai latte, or a cup of tea.

  12. October 8, 2010 12:50 pm

    Cream and sugar are merely a habit for me. I don’t think I’ve stopped to taste any of the coffees I’ve had around the world in many, many years. This weekend I will find a good local brewmaster and make the effort of restraint to taste first. Thanks for bringing the awareness back to my daily ritual.

  13. October 8, 2010 12:57 pm

    Ever since I have been traveling to Cuba, I have become addicted to coffee, especially espresso. However, there coffee is a little bit on the sweet side, no cream or milk, yet still incredible. I have finally learned how to perfect my own espresso making skills, yet often criticized amongst, family and friends, that it is too strong for them. On a recent trip to the Big Island, Hawaii, I spent a good portion of my time learning about the plantations, and that Kona coffee is amazing; plus with all the free samples, it was an added bonus. Oh, I love coffee, not the run of the mill diner coffee, but the real robust, shot of espresso or two.

  14. October 8, 2010 1:04 pm

    Alright! I’m taking this as a challenge. The first sip of every coffee I drink for the next week or so will be black and not through a plastic lid. I do love coffee but I usually have it “coffee con leche” style. I think the coffee I brew at home is pretty good so I’ll put it to the test!

    Thank you for this post! What fun for coffee lovers. :)

  15. Bakbakee permalink
    October 8, 2010 1:12 pm

    Ok, I am really not well versed with the finer nuances of drinking coffee.

    So basically, you mean to say that yes coffee is mostly bitter due to ‘flaws in roasting and brewing.’ But coffee has to be bitter?

    I m a coffee drinker – cream and sugar. The cream yes, to balance the bitterness and the sugar … well just because I like all things sweet.

    The first time I had an espresso, with sugar, it was bad. really bad. Maybe if I’d let it settle on my palate, it would have definitely changed my notion about black coffee in general.

    I think cream adds weight and sugar tones down teh bitterness. And that’s a balance!

    PS: I loved your jargon-less post. Congrats on getting freshly pressed!

  16. October 8, 2010 1:57 pm

    I drink my coffee black. Any other way isn’t real.


  17. October 8, 2010 2:16 pm

    I must be one of the only people in this area that does NOT like Dunkin D. coffee! I love a good brew but DD does not qualify!

    • Tonia permalink
      October 14, 2010 1:13 pm

      No, you are not. I detest DD coffee. It is the McDonalds of coffee. :-)

  18. ryoko861 permalink
    October 8, 2010 2:38 pm

    Ha. And all this time I thought the dairy was to cool it off.

    Silly me.

    I love coffee, and I’m going to try your suggestion to just sip first without anything in it.
    I’ll make sure it’s a good brand of coffee as well.

  19. October 8, 2010 3:10 pm

    I became a coffee fan as I got older because I need the caffiene. Good post and I will try your suggestion of drinking the first sip black. It may not stay black but that is ok.

  20. Allison Huyett permalink
    October 8, 2010 3:35 pm

    You are serving up nice cup of brew yourself, if you don’t mind my saying so. When in Rome…when at home…when a littleFUSSYilike rawbrown sugar cubes with 1/2 and 1/2; 80% of the time half- and- half alone will do, unless it is espresso or Brazilian. Sometimes with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Do you find it best enjoyed in good company? Dear Daniel, one lump or two?

  21. October 8, 2010 3:53 pm

    I. Love. Coffee. I wrote a coffee blog a short while back, and all of a sudden I realised that half of it was very sexual! But so is coffee. It sparks ideas, friendships, etc, and coffeehouses used to be THE places to go for intellectuals and artists and creative genius’ waaaaay back in the day.
    It’s a beautiful thing. My friends turn their nose up at my dark and stormy brew as they pile honey, milk, and all sorts of additives into their mugs, but I joke that I have always drunk coffee the way I prefer my men: hot, black, rich, and comes with refills.
    I agree with ya. Really TASTING your coffee before you add anything to it lets you appreciate it’s quality (or lack thereof).

    If any of you are ever in Vancouver, please check out Mario’s coffee shop. It’s a tiny hole in the wall cafe attached to a big office building downtown, small but very well-kept and great little atmosphere; this guy is a wiz and it’s the best coffee in Vancouver. He’s there Monday – Friday with his niece (who is also fabulous), it’s just the two of them who work there! The place is on the corner of Howe street and Dunsmuir street. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it, and its only open til 4pm.

  22. October 8, 2010 3:59 pm

    No truer words have ever been spoken. Didn’t really realize the complexities of ‘a good cup of coffee’ until I read your blog. Thank you for that. And for pointing out the facts in the usage of cream and sugar. I will now have a little bit more tolerance for people who obsessively poison said beverage.

  23. bradenbost permalink
    October 8, 2010 4:06 pm

    Well put. I still manage to somehow choke down the awful coffee we have in my office without cream or sugar every day, so I thankfully don’t have the automatic process of ruining it every time. When I have genuinely tasty coffee I’m often quite shocked. “Oh, I forgot coffee could be good!” Most recently it was some Maui coffee I brought back from my Hawaii vacation, steeped for 10-15 minutes in my french press. Here in Seattle, there’s some really good, honest-to-goodness coffee places around (by which I mean NOT Starbucks), such as my personal favorite, Zoka Coffee Roasters. Nothing really quite comes close to a pour-over done correctly there, with the beans brought into the country and roasted and ground all within the span of about a week.

    Thanks for the post!

  24. October 8, 2010 4:21 pm

    I have heard a similar silly argument used by Mormon family who obviously have never tried the stuff.

    “I don’t see how you can like something with a taste that has to be masked with cream and sugar.”

    Have any of you ever tried chocolate without any sweetener? It’s nasty. Just because I like milk chocolate doesn’t make it any less chocolate.

    The first time I tasted coffee in my late 30’s I thought, “No God of mine would ever forbid THIS!”

    How wonderful that we have milk, cream and varieties of sweetener to make coffee even better!

    OK – now you can discount everything I’ve said because here’s how I like my coffee:

    Grind the beans myself (Ethiopian is my favorite), coarsely and then put into Italian espresso maker that makes exactly one cup. I add one Splenda and two shakes of…. *gasp* powdered non-dairy creamer (I actually like the flavor) and top it off with a dollop of 1% milk to cool it off a tad bit.

  25. October 8, 2010 4:23 pm

    I love this post because I recently ran out of cream and sugar and for whatever reason kept forgetting to take time to stop at the store to get more. The only time I’d remember is when I was about to go to bed, and realize that I would, once again, have to stop at Starbucks on my way to work the next morning because I had, once again, forgot to get to the store. After about 3 mornings and over $20 bucks later, I bit the bullet and brewed some coffee before going to work and tried it without the cream and sugar. I was pleasantly suprised at how good it was!

    Sadly, I can’t get my boyfriend to do the same though.

  26. Elena Potter permalink
    October 8, 2010 4:27 pm

    I love coffee, and I think the coffee that I treat myself to once in awhile (coffee isn’t a daily thing for me), is excellent. Your presentation of the facts about why fast-food coffee is often so unpalatable, is really thorough and interesting!

    But I completely disagree with you about adding dairy to coffee.. in your words, of course really good coffee doesn’t NEED cream/sugar. But it IS a matter of personal taste. I like to add a spot of milk to my coffee— after tasting it— NOT to correct the flaws of bad coffee, but to create a different balance of flavours.

    I think this kind of purism, when it gets so extreme as to ridicule the preferences of others, is a bit much!

  27. October 8, 2010 4:27 pm

    I love coffee. I’m perhaps mildly addicted in my adult life. But I remember that when I first started drinking it I always wondered why it didn’t TASTE the way it smelled when I would walk past Barney’s– the mall coffee shop. Nevertheless, I continued indulging, softening the bitterness and acidity that I thought was normal with cream and sugar. I am now onto half and half, no sugar, but did come across a place that makes amazing coffee…that TASTES like it smells. It’s Stumptown coffee. So far I’ve found it at two places here in NYC- The Ace Hotel on 29th Street in NYC and in Brooklyn at Variety. Variety actually had written on their chalkboard outside one week “Our coffee is so good, you’ll want to blog about it.” So, I just might have to! Thanks for a great post.

  28. October 8, 2010 4:50 pm

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I really like your blog :) If you like coffee, you’ll love this little cupcake. It’s a fun take on coffee and donuts :)

    – Jill
    Stay Calm,Have a Cupcake

  29. October 8, 2010 5:05 pm

    Great post; thanks for the sage advice. I’m definitely guilty of dumping a lot of additives into my coffe: sugar-free vanilla, milk, Splenda… pumpkin spice syrup! I’ll definitely try your advice – and not just when I run out of cream. :)

  30. October 8, 2010 5:13 pm

    AWESOME TIPS! I appreciate this so much. I was going to turn away from your blog and read another Freshly Pressed until you said “hear me out”. So glad that I did. I’m inspired to go on a quest for good coffee. I will start now. I’m going to walk into my break room at work & see what their workin with! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  31. October 8, 2010 5:13 pm

    Also put a tweet this button on your blogs! I’d love to Tweet this to my Twitter friends :)

  32. October 8, 2010 5:29 pm

    I used to take honey in my coffee, after my dad. Recently, in an effort to minimize my sugar intake, I stopped the honey and -oh-THAT’s what it’s supposed to taste like! It helped that I was living in Olympia, Wa., which has a host of good coffee shops. Yet when I’m traveling out-of-town, I have trouble finding consistently good coffee, unless I go to (gasp!) Starbuck’s and get an Americano. Nothing in there but caffeine and heat. Full flavor, not heavy, not bitter, and I don’t have to share ;) bc the wife only likes it all doctored up. I have to tip my hat to national chains for providing a consistent experience across the board to travelers. At home…French roast in a French press.

  33. October 8, 2010 5:39 pm

    I sort of agree with you, Mr Fussy! Smiles.

  34. October 8, 2010 6:17 pm

    I’m not a big fan of coffee but you’re making me crave it!! :P


  35. myheartresonateswithaglorioussound permalink
    October 8, 2010 6:21 pm

    Wow great post! I am avid coffee drinker (even being pregnant) and never thought coffee should be with out cream or sugar. I wish their was a post about the great coffee places…like I live near DC and would totally drive locally to get a good cup of joe :-)

  36. October 8, 2010 7:01 pm

    Well, we are just starting to become coffee drinkers in my house. We bought a coffee maker, special blend coffees, half and half, extras like chocolate and whip cream, and filters. My daughter worked in the school coffee shop so has experience making the coffee and will be in charge of doing so as we begin our coffee adventure.

    None of us are serial coffee drinkers, although I went through a phase when I was younger drinking “nothing special” decaf when my friend and I would eat breakfast out quite a bit. So we’re excited to start out on our quest to become coffee drinkers together. My teenagers are 16 and 19–one in college and one about to go next fall. I think it will be a good bonding experience for us because we all love the smell of good (I assume, by the smell) coffee when we are anywhere near it.

    My grandfather use to drink his coffee with so much milk in it that it looked like caramel instead of coffee. No sugar, though. Your tips will help us to start out on the right foot. Thanks!

  37. October 8, 2010 7:25 pm

    I recently started drinking coffee Great tips..

  38. October 8, 2010 7:45 pm

    One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to sample the coffee shops in out of the way places.

    I’m a Starbucksaholic. I’ll admit it. I also get the tutti-frutti flavored drink, as my friend calls it. Shameful, isn’t it.

    But when I’m in the mood for COFFEE, I’ll take it straight up black. :-)

    Speaking of which….

    Thanks for an interesting post!

  39. October 8, 2010 8:36 pm

    Interesting take on coffee. I’ve never looked at coffee from that angle before. I finally lookm at vegetables in that way now, and didn’t truly enjoy vegetables until I was well into my late twenties, because I’d never had them cooked properly. Thank you for the insight. Congrats on being freshly pressed! I would’ve peed my pants if it were me! hahahah…

  40. MarchTheCreative permalink
    October 8, 2010 8:46 pm

    Loved your post. You make some very good points!

    I started to drink coffee because I had always loved the smell of it, and naively thought to myself that “of course it must taste as good as it smells!” I was so wrong.
    I had memories from growing up that the scent of coffee filling the house meant something warm and safe, or something dangerously good like chocolate – probably because you usually eat something sweet with your coffee. Discovering how bitter it actually tasted was a shocking experience!

    Ironically enough, it’s just that bitter, acidic taste that I love about coffee today. I usually make it way too strong and balance it with milk. Sugar kind of ruins coffee, I think. Though a real cup of coffee IS when it tastes good enough just as it is! The one time I can remember having experienced that was at a restaurant where they served arabian coffee. Looked like a normal espresso, but it didn’t taste that way. It was very strong and had a sweet edge to it, but no sugar was added. Perfection.

  41. simplyvictorious permalink
    October 8, 2010 9:46 pm

    Great post about a great topic! Life doesn’t get much better than a perfect cup of coffee, and I prefer mine with a little sugar and no cream. My mom, on the other hand, is one of those people who makes you want to say, “Try some coffee with your cream!”

    Congratulations on making Freshly Pressed :]

  42. October 8, 2010 10:06 pm

    Coffee for most of us is all about control. 10 people in a meeting, all 10 drinking coffee, all 10 drinking different presentations of coffee… all 10 feeling very powerful about their coffee individuality.

    In the end, we’re all drinking coffee. It’s the control freak’s vice.

    Now, tea drinkers, mind you, are headcases of another sort ;)

  43. October 8, 2010 10:43 pm

    Wow this is a really great post thank so much for it! :) I love coffee, any kind really however I can be a bit picky. lol

  44. October 8, 2010 11:38 pm

    Whoa, look at all this coffee discussion! How awesome!

    I am not a coffee drinker, really. I live for tea, but I’ve learned to enjoy coffee. I like it with a splash of milk or cream–sugar is just, eugh. Sometimes I like it really, really creamy, but I suspect that’s just using the coffee as an excuse to get to the cream.

  45. Adelia permalink
    October 9, 2010 12:50 am

    i like both cream and sugar

  46. October 9, 2010 3:59 am

    Black coffee, ftw. I’ve told people about the uses of sugar and cream in coffee for years and have never once felt like anyone actually listened to me. Hopefully some people who’ve read this will take your word for it. There are plenty of things people ruin by feeling they inherently need to add something…i.e., a good steak needs no A1.

  47. October 9, 2010 4:28 am

    The restaurant I work in has an incredible local coffee supplier, that freshly roasts our coffee the same day. The quality of the product is incredible. The coffee is so delicious and complex, that putting sugar and cream into my coffee feels sacreligious.

    Tonight I had someone put soy milk in their coffee. I truly don’t understand why one would put soy milk in their coffee. Somebody help me explain this customer’s desire.

  48. October 9, 2010 6:23 am

    Funny to see, how this issue is being taken so seriously :D

    Always milk and sugar. 50% milk 50% coffee.
    Best regards

  49. October 9, 2010 7:32 am

    I cannot survive a day without coffee. Black or with sugar and cream…is fine. Thanks for the little tip on tasting the goodness of the first sip. Now got to get my fresh brew now! :)

  50. October 9, 2010 9:24 am

    ….although we have more than one brand of coffee I rather separate them by location in three groups.

    a.) “The vending machine coffee or as I call it-brown water” is just something to occupy your hands and mouth at work in your break time.

    b.) “Pub coffee/espresso/cappuccino etc.” is group number 2 … and is never good while drinking plain and straight (it has that metal taste). Now … I know my coffee and you must consider the location of where you live. We don’t have starbucks … and I don’t mean in the neighborhoud but in the whole country. Soooo …. group number 2 is just something warm to drink while having a chat with your friends.

    c.) “Homemade coffee or turkish coffee”. Turkish coffee is a method of preparation and not a type of coffee. The coffee is strong and its very flavorful. There is no need of adding things like milk, sugar or cream, but I like mine with milk and sugar. I just need a gooood power boost in the morning and I think adding sugar just gives me more energy.

    Regards, Nex.

  51. October 9, 2010 11:45 am

    I have to say I like my coffee with one sugar and NO CREAM OR MILK. Before I would have 3 sugars & xcream, but the always put too much cream. It was to the point you could taste the coffee. So, I shall flip the script on the coffee makers.

  52. Hannah permalink
    October 9, 2010 12:54 pm

    For a while I’ve thought of myself as a coffee-holic, but now I’m reconsidering the extent of my expertise. These are great tips; I’ve never thought to taste the coffee without anything in it, always assuming that you weren’t supposed to drink it without cream and sugar. What’s funny is, I’m in the midst of brewing some right now, and I’m about to put your tips into practice :) Thanks for the post!

  53. October 9, 2010 2:16 pm

    black is the way to go! once you start drinking coffee without sugar, it is painful to go back

  54. October 9, 2010 4:12 pm

    Great post.

    Getting to the point of actually drinking coffee without any extras is just a part of the natural evolution of a coffee drinker or coffee connoisseur.

    It was great when I learned to appreciate the true flavor of a good cupa. Many years ago I, too went from adding a little coffee to my sugar and cream(in that order). To now grinding my own and using a press and drinking it naked (the coffee not me). Add anything to my coffee, and I consider it “desstert”. Having any of the coffee based potions in Starbuck’s, is like going Coldstone.

    I would never consider myself a coffee snob. I will drink just about any coffee available. But I know what I like. I enjoy going to a reastaurant or to a gastation and still trying the coffee they have. Just to see what is available. If you don’t know what is bad, it is hard to tell what the good stuff is.

    Here, if you go to the corner cafeteria you see the worn and beaten 2 x4 in the garbage can that is used to release the used grounds from the holder to start another colada. The strange looks I get when I tell then no sugar is comical. And they insist on giving me a few packs of equal or splenda, which I don’t use, just in case I change my mind.

    My suggestion:

    Try it one day, fresh brewed, as soon as it stops dripping wait about 2 minutes, pour it into your favorite cup and take a sip. Do that a couple of times and you’ll open up a whole new world of flavors. If you don’t like it, hey no big deal. I always have fresh cream and sugar on hand.

    A cup of coffee and good company…….life is good.

  55. October 9, 2010 5:06 pm

    I like my coffee these day´s, in fact ever since I got my Senso Coffee maker, I am in heaven, found a good brand that I like, and yes I can drink it black, it comes out frothy and lovely. I prefer a brand called Remy, I don´t know if it is available in the states but, it is here in Ice. Also what I like about Senso is the fact that you can use that coffee maker, with freshly ground coffee beans. So whether we use the little bags and trust me, no more coffee that goes down the drain, or the little wonder holder for the fresh ground, you are getting a good cup of java within a minute of waking up.

  56. October 9, 2010 6:56 pm

    In the main, you are right: Good coffee needs nothing else and the maker/equipment/whatnot can make a world of difference.

    However, I find myself in strong disagreement with “ Cream and sugar have a very important role in the consumption of everyday coffee drinking. They exist to correct the flaws of bad or poorly prepared coffee.” and “To automatically put cream and sugar in a cup of coffee is to concede that the coffee you are about to drink has no chance of being good on its own. It is akin to adding salt and pepper to a dish at a restaurant before even taking a bite.” (and that general line of reasoning):

    Modification of the taste of coffee is perfectly valid in its own right—and has lead to e.g. the cappuccino. A good steak needs nothing else, but few would even think of criticizing the addition of a suitable sause to enhance or modify its taste. [With any number of similar examples.] This addition is fundamentally different from being an “autocondimentor” and disallowing it would not purify the “art”, but limit it in a manner that does more harm than good in the long term—much the way that a ban of a new school of painting might have lead to greater mastery of the preceding school, but ultimately would have been destructive.

    I do not deny that the reason you give is often true (I have had some near undrinkable cups of coffee over the years); however, critically, it is equally often a legitimate expression of a valid preference. There may be particular (exceedingly rare) instances where a cup of coffee is so well made that adding milk or sugar (with a lesser touch of mastery) would be quasi-criminal. This, however, must not preclude the use of milk and sugar even in well-made coffee. To continue the art analogy: The master may prefer the works belonging to his own school and he may consider those of others schools less qualified to discuss it. At the same time, he must not deny that other schools are legitimate, proclaim them “not art”, or deny their proponents the right to speak on art in general. (Notwithstanding that these errors have historically been very common.)

    For the record: If the coffee allows it, I almost always drink it black.

  57. October 9, 2010 7:28 pm

    Do you like coffee ice cream? To me, coffees with cream and sugar (which for me have to be frou-frou drinks, like Frappuccinos or cafe mochas or flavored lattes) are sort of like that, the other end of the coffee spectrum, like coffee ice cream. I take my coffee either at one end or the other — either totally tarted up with flavors and cream and sugar (and cookie bits/chocolate syrup/crushed ice/etc.), or totally straight, black, just coffee.

  58. sayitinasong permalink
    October 9, 2010 7:58 pm

    I’m totally with you. I like my coffee strong and hot. And very, very black. :o)

  59. October 9, 2010 8:03 pm

    This is very true! I drink coffee and dowse it in caramel, cream and sugar…lol

  60. October 9, 2010 8:25 pm

    Thank you for the tips, I just started drinking coffee maybe lest than a year. This morning I had my first cup black. It will never haven again. DANIEL some were in life you did something to your taste buds, and now they’re getting back at you.
    And by the way I do add salt & pepper to food in restaurant before I try it, a little at first then more if needed.

  61. October 9, 2010 8:40 pm

    Great post! I am not a person who needs coffee to wake up so really just enjoy it for the taste. According to your post…possibly the wrong way ;-) I’ve always automatically put sugar and cream in my coffee because I like how it taste. Next time I make some coffee in my French Press, I’ll give the no-addition version a try! Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  62. blackwatertown permalink
    October 9, 2010 9:28 pm

    This all sounds horrible – in the post, not the comments. Why drink it if it is so unpalatable? Why mask the unpleasant taste to make it bearable? Drink something else until you can get a decent cup of coffee in, say, France.
    I’d suggest a cup of tea in the meantime, but if the local coffee is that bad, God knows what the tea is like. Beer is probably safest instead.

  63. October 10, 2010 12:04 am

    I’m not a gourmet coffee connoiseur, but I love regular american coffee and always drink it with creamer. I ditched the sugar 15 years ago. Most of you who read this comment will laugh but the absolute best coffee I’ve ever had is from the WaWa convenient stores that are located in the Mid-Atlantic states. It’s just a pleasant satisfying cup of coffee and it’s always consistent. I always look forward to stopping on my winter drives from Florida to NY and back down. Try it sometime.

  64. October 10, 2010 12:08 am

    Oh thank god, I thought I was the only person that thinks adding sugar to coffee is like putting ice cubes in red wine.

  65. October 10, 2010 1:05 am

    I love how youve so carefully and methodically broken down the explanation of something that most people dont bother to give two seconds of their time to.
    Wonderful, clear writing.

  66. October 10, 2010 1:14 am

    I enjoyed reading your writing on coffee. I never gave the cream/sugar in the coffee much thought until now. Growing up I wondered why when people wanted cream and sugar they requested it Boston style, we didn’t live in Boston!! I admit, when I initially joined the world of coffee drinking it was with cream and sugar. That lasted for quite a few years, until one day I decided to try it black. Whola, doing away with those “little” extras did help me discover what a rich flavorable cup of coffee should taste like. I have my favorites, which I will spare you the brands. However, I have to admit, I slip every now when I have a cappucino, frappe, or iced flavored coffee. Oh well, at least my taste buds now know a great cup of black coffee when I have one.

  67. October 10, 2010 6:19 am

    I like how you explained your thoughts on coffee. Just to add my tuppence worth, I believe people were introduced to coffee with cream and sugar as its default companions and they just got so used to it. When one is so used to a certain thing, most of the times, they never even bother to check out each element on its own and thus never realizing that coffee can be taken without anything with it.

    Thank you for writing this entry. You’re helping others enjoy their coffee better. :)

  68. October 10, 2010 11:16 am

    Good tips.
    I drink instant coffee black because I drink it for the caffeine and not for the taste. Also, instant coffee costs a lot less than better quality coffees. I know I am in the minority, but that was the way my parents drank coffee and that is the way I drink it, too.

  69. October 10, 2010 11:56 am

    Interesting observations, but I disagree. Some of us enjoy the different – not better, not worse – flavors that come with additions of cream and or sugar. After dinner, I always drink my coffee – usually espresso – black, sometimes with Sambucca, sometimes with sugar. Breakfast coffee is always accompanied by a little milk, but never ever sugar. After lunch I like an espresso – with no sweetener. Unless I have a cappuccino.

  70. October 10, 2010 1:17 pm

    Great post – thanks for sharing these thoughts! I am a “coffee with cream” person and will try out your suggestion. Keep blogging!

  71. October 10, 2010 1:20 pm

    Who knew there could be so much to say about cream, sugar, and coffee? ;) Great post.

  72. October 10, 2010 1:22 pm

    nice post. I love my coffee black. :)

  73. October 10, 2010 2:09 pm

    Friends laugh at me for the the fact that I do not like cream and sugar in my coffee. I chuckle to myself. They don’t know what you have so eloquently stated in your blog–Really great coffee needs no addendum. If the coffee aroma isn’t right; I pass and drink juice or water.

  74. October 10, 2010 4:39 pm

    <> OK, this actually did make me LOL!

  75. October 10, 2010 5:07 pm

    “To automatically put cream and sugar in a cup of coffee is to concede that the coffee you are about to drink has no chance of being good on its own. It is akin to adding salt and pepper to a dish at a restaurant before even taking a bite.”

    I honestly never thought of it like this. This is eye-opening.

  76. mostafa permalink
    October 10, 2010 6:36 pm


  77. October 10, 2010 8:34 pm

    This is very true.

  78. October 10, 2010 9:25 pm

    Long Machiato (smallest dash of milk)

  79. October 10, 2010 9:29 pm

    So, I’ve tried the coffee black the last couple of days. It’s good, but my palate is not ready for “cold turkey” on this. It’s getting there. :)

  80. October 10, 2010 11:08 pm

    Nothing better than Colombian Coffee,
    no sugar and cream, that kill the flavour

  81. October 10, 2010 11:27 pm

    I really enjoyed this read. I am a fan of great coffee and you summed this up perfectly!

  82. Doc permalink
    October 11, 2010 12:37 am

    This is actually a very timely post, as I had this exact experience this morning. the pregnant wife and I waddled over to a new barista-staffed hipster hang on Valencia street to try their morning offerings (including a pork-stuffed pastry… delicious… and $4.50). I ordered a decaf americano and, ten minutes later, heard my name called. The pierced and stache-ed barista had filled my cup to the brim, either by mistake or, more likely, with the thought that no one would dare ad cream and sugar to his masterpiece. So I was forced to take the Profussor’s advice and just drink some of the coffee as-was, and it was ok. Not awful. But I still ended up adding cream and sugar once there was room.

    Here’s a question for you, Profussor: Are you saying never to have milk with coffee? What about a cappuccino in the morning? This is traditional in Italy, at least to my understanding. Sometimes isn’t it just better that way?

  83. October 11, 2010 12:58 am

    Nice post! I’m not a coffee lover, but I prefer to have it with sugar and cream. Great tips by the way.

    Parenting Articles

  84. October 11, 2010 1:25 am

    As a barista for the past 7 years, I agree whole heartedly with this. I love myself some flavors and cream, but if you have a good brew.. Why ruin it? *like!

  85. October 11, 2010 5:07 am

    I am one of the guilty ones who always has my coffee with cream and sugar. I should really try my coffee black but I suspect I have yet to have a really good espresso.

  86. October 11, 2010 10:20 am

    I found it. The really really good cup of coffee. It’s in my kitchen ;-)
    Extra fine grind, French press and a splash of organic semi-skimmed milk.

    Cream and sugar in coffee has always made me think of coffee-flavoured fudge. Yuck.

  87. October 11, 2010 10:43 am

    When I go to the local brew house, I barely add anything. Maybe a little cream. But at work, we have Folgers – I’d like to see you try to suck down Folgers without some kind of goodness brewing at the bottom of the cup.

  88. October 11, 2010 11:08 am

    Coffee is a “bad habit” ( Among many others…. ) that I picked up in the Army many, many years ago. Been a coffee junkie ever since. Kroger brand “Lite”, low fat milk.

  89. October 11, 2010 11:18 am

    It took this two-month long trip to Costa Rica for me to discover what you’re talking about. I always had to have cream and sugar in my coffee – until I came here. Then I realized it’s not that I don’t like coffee – I just hadn’t had GOOD coffee until now!


  90. October 11, 2010 6:19 pm

    This is a very useful post! Thanks!
    For all the coffee lovers I’d like to share some posts that I wrote on my blog about Italian coffee – espresso, cappuccino… all made in Italy – and a very good tip to make a perfect cappuccino foam without any machine! It works!!!

    I hope you’ll enjoy it!!!

  91. Chris permalink
    October 12, 2010 6:33 pm

    I have become a coffee snob as I have gotten older. I also used to work over a coffee shop and I’d get coffee there on my breaks. Yum! It was soooo good compared to the stuff I’d make at home. It was strong and flavorful.

    Unfortunately, my husband gets up before me and he brews the morning coffee the way he likes it… weak. I don’t even bother to drink it most days because it tastes so lousy- there is no amount of cream or sugar to help it. I usually wait until afternoon and brew a pot the way I like it. I use very little sugar, about a quarter teaspoon and 1/2 and 1/2 to cool it off. I could easily go black. I think it would taste more like coffee.

  92. monica permalink
    October 14, 2010 7:58 pm

    drink hot coffee black BUT iced coffee absolutely must have sugar and the fattiest milk or cream available (or vanilla ice cream). go figure.

  93. October 19, 2010 10:45 am

    You’ve got me salivating for a real cup of coffee…drink happy my friend :)

  94. October 19, 2010 10:45 am

    Oh…and let’s not forget the soy!

  95. Sydney permalink
    October 25, 2010 5:37 pm

    I don’t drink coffee but I love starbuck’s frappacino’s. And I am definitely a sweet lover. I try to lower the cals by not getting whipped cream though. Great post.


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