Living and traveling in different parts of the US has driven home one point with which almost no one can argue: Americans will drink just about anything labeled “coffee” no matter how god-awful it is. The whole time we were traveling on our latest trip, we didn’t have one cup of coffee that was even half-way decent.

Here are some helpful tips for those who think it takes special skill or equipment to brew decent coffee:1. Start with good grounds. Just as you can’t make a steak out of dung, you can’t make decent coffee from crappy grounds. Folgers, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers: these are the three Goblins of the Percolator. Most of the big companies use the cheapest, rottenest coffee beans they can get their grubby little hands on. Then, to increase profit, they cut the beans with sawdust and oil refinery byproducts to increase yield. This doesn’t mean you have to use unbelievably expensive gourmet or boutique coffee grounds. Chock Full o’ Nuts and Dunkin Donuts both sell ground coffee that is affordable, but decent.

  1. Actually wash the coffee pot periodically. Just as we expect pots and pans to be washed after using them, coffee pots need to be washed as well.
  2. Throw out old coffee. Ideally, coffee would be thrown out twenty minutes after it was brewed. Even more often would be better. However, if your coffee is older than one hour, chances are it is now bitter.
  3. Don’t skimp on the grounds. If I wanted water with a hint of brown in it, I’d drop some vanilla flavoring into my cup. However, if I’m drinking coffee, I want actual coffee flavor, not hot water with a hint of coffee flavor and bouquet.
  4. Don’t reuse filters or grounds. Both of these should be shooting offenses. Decaf drinkers like myself have it especially bad. As soon as we leave the comfortable confines of our own home we’re immediately relegated to little decaf ghettos. Most people and companies that serve decaf seem to assume that we should be happy just to have the option to drink decaf and that we’ll gladly slurp down anything decaffienated. If you’re serving us cheap-ass decaf coffee, chances are it was decaffienated in some third-world nation by running it through a pair of sweaty socks. Trust me, we can taste the difference between good decaf coffee and bulk-rate, third-world slavery produced coffee that was decaffienated with a blend of donkey droppings and nerve gas and then shipped to this country in the ballast tanks of rusty container ships.

Why would establishments like Hampton Inn or Clubhouse Inn and Suites, for instance, serve shitty coffee? They concentrate so hard on all other aspects of their customer-facing appearance and then they expect us to overlook the sorry excuse for coffee they serve for breakfast? Do they not realize that we put the coffee in our mouths? If I serve you something to put in your mouth, you can be damn sure I’m satisfied with it, because you will form an opinion about it (and me, by extension). They’ve got people out there fluffing the eggs and sausage every five minutes. Quick-brew industrial coffee pots are also in use. Would it be so hard to keep good coffee handy?

A pre-emptive response to those who would say that Starbucks is where I should be drinking coffee when I’m not at home:Starbucks overroasts their beans. The coffee tastes burnt. And no, I’m not just sensitive to dark coffee. In fact, I drink French Roast coffee with chicory every morning. I actually like coffee much darker and richer than most folks. Starbucks coffee doesn’t taste dark and rich, it tastes burnt and awful. Why should I support Yet Another Chain Store by paying exhorbitant prices for bad coffee?