We interviewed four people—a barista, a mom, a coffee-cart operator, a designer—to find out the how, what, and why.
For many, the beginning of a day is marked by a cup (or two, or three) of coffee. After chatting with a few New Yorkers about their morning routines, I learned that can be anywhere from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a wide range of beans and brewing techniques.
Holly Pevzner, Freelance Writer
Time of First Cup Brewed: 6:30 a.m.
Makes Coffee With: Hamilton Beach BrewStation
Coffee: Chock Full O’ Nuts
I’m not looking for fireworks in the morning. I just want to wake up. I like to think of myself more as a milk-and-sugar drinker than a coffee drinker. I’m mostly looking to get the job done of a little caffeine jolt and have a little dessert-in-the-morning flavor.
When my coffee maker kicked it, I literally searched “best cheap coffee maker” and bought what Google told me to: the Hamilton Beach BrewStation. I like it a lot, actually. The coffee always tastes great, and because it keeps it warm inside the machine instead of a carafe, it never has that weird old-burnt-coffee flavor.
That all said, I visit my sister for a week every summer, and she has no coffee maker. I used to walk to a Cumberland Farms convenience store to get a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s horrible. So I bought a French press to store at their house. And I have to say, that French press stuff is good. I keep a bag of Dallmayr French Press Ground Coffee there. I’ve pondered doing the whole French press thing at home, too, but I really just want to get the job done at home—with two kids to get out the door and the morning hustle, there’s no time to linger over a beautiful cup of coffee.
Anonymous Midtown Coffee-Cart Owner
Time of First Cup Brewed: 5:00 a.m.
Makes Coffee With: Cecilware Stainless Steel Coffee Urn
Coffee: Crown Emperor’s Blend
I live in Queens, so I have to wake up at 4 every morning to get here. By 5, I’m already serving coffee to construction guys. People who work in the offices around here start coming around 7 or 8. And by 10:30, there are still a few stragglers. After I close up at 11, I just go home to sleep. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and have probably served tens of thousands of coffees. But me? I just have one cup in the morning. I put some grounds in a brew basket and let this thing do the work, and I dispense it. I’m around this stuff all day.
Mario Gonzalez, Barista and Assistant Manager at Joe Pro Shop
Time of First Cup: Anywhere between 6:00 and 11:00 a.m., depending on when I wake up. It’s like when they’re coming to install the cable or gas/electric! One just never knows.
Makes Coffee With: Baratza Encore Grinder, Hario V60 Drip Scale, Bonavita Variable Gooseneck Kettle, Hario V-60 02 glass dripper paired with a Hario Range Server, plus Hario V-60 02 Paper Coffee Filter
Coffee: Sometimes a coffee bag will come to an end and will fall short of making a batch in the shop. I take them home, since I don’t want these beautiful coffees to go to waste. My current rotation is Kanzu, Rwanda from Coptic Light; Agaro, Ethiopia from Passenger Coffee; and Kibingo, Burundi from Joe Coffee.
Sometimes I find myself combining different “dregs” and improvising blends. But on the day-to-day, I like coffee with a classic “smells like coffee, tastes like coffee” profile. I’m looking for a flavor profile of nostalgia that reminds me of growing up drinking coffee with my grandparents.
Overall, it takes about three and a half minutes to brew my coffee. I use 25 grams of coffee beans and 400 grams of water. First, I level my coffee grounds flat, then I pour on 60 grams of water hot off the kettle. I try to saturate the entire bed of grounds. Then I wait 30 to 45 seconds while the coffee blooms, wakes up, and releases gases.
I start to pour in a concentric circles starting at the center of the bed, in what I like to think is a more aggressive, yet controlled, style of pour. My goal is to bring the water level up to 200 grams. I like to stir and agitate the coffee grounds once I’m up to 200 grams of water. I then wait until the minute-and-15-seconds mark for my next pour, and let that initial water extract through. From here on out, I’m slowly pouring water on in 100-gram increments within a minute of each other. It’s what I like to think of as a “fill and chill” technique. I pour more water slowly, until I reach 300 grams of water, and wait until the two-minutes-and-15-seconds mark. At the last lap, I pour on the final 100 grams of water. The scale should read 400 grams, which will be our final solution.
I’ll usually make oatmeal and a green smoothie alongside my morning coffee. I live in super uptown Manhattan—Inwood—and take the 1 train downtown. As I hit the street, I make sure I have my phone, keys, wallet, and camera. I usually play an album on Spotify for the commute, something of the jazz or James Blake morning vibe. I sit on the train, write a little poetry or read, and while my mind is slow, I sip my coffee.
Peko Cao, Designer
Time of First Cup Brewed: 8:30 a.m.
Makes Coffee With: Mizudashi Cold Brew Pot
Coffee: 15 oz. can of Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory Blend
The preground kind you use for Vietnamese coffee is also perfect for cold brew. It’s affordable, easy to find (the New Orleans–based brand can be found on Amazon or at my local Union Market), and I don’t have to waste the expensive beans I have from Counter Culture or Sarutahiko (which I lugged all the way back from Tokyo). The night before, I just fill up the basket with coffee grounds and pour water into the jug, and it’s ready the next morning. Sometimes it sits overnight for eight hours; other times, it’s upwards of 12. It’s a lot easier than breaking out the Chemex every morning. I can just pour it into a glass and not have to worry about cleanup or getting the water boiler going.
People seem to think year-round cold-brew drinkers are freaks of nature, but sometimes I just crave the clean, smooth taste of cold brew. But there have been some days this winter that were upwards of 50 degrees. That’s totally iced coffee/cold brew temperature. But also, what’s wrong with drinking cold brew when it’s cold outside? I always drink my coffee at home before going to work, so the heat is on indoors anyway.