Why Keeping Coffee Hot Never Became Cool

Among the 86 percent of daily coffee drinkers who brew their joe at home, there are plenty of obsessives who invest in costly European espresso machines; single-estate organic beans and - at least in some corners of the Bay Area's caffeinated culture - home roasting units. Yet after perfecting their morning cups, drinkers tend to go about their days with considerably higher tolerances for mediocre coffee. They buy to-go Americanos from Starbucks and fill their mugs from the office pot.

As a non-coffee drinker, I've always wondered why I don't see more folks hauling Thermoses from home. If coffee fans are so precise about their brews, shouldn't they adopt the blue collar tradition of making a day's worth of coffee in the morning?

Thermosrefused to share statistics on accessory purchases by working-age coffee drinkers, but a spokesperson didn't dispute my contention that the arms-length coffee carriers associated with truckers and construction workers haven't become even ironically trendy. According to a statement she spent a few days drafting, Thermos is aware of the surge in home brewing, but markets its mugs primarily to users of single-cup coffee makers.

"One of the best products in Thermos' assortment would be our direct drink bottles," Courtney Fehrenbacher writes. "We think of this style of bottle as the perfect "A.M. to P.M." bottle, as you can fill it with hot coffee in the morning, then use it for ice water in the afternoon. Nothing beats all day beverage enjoyment."

But even Fehrenbacher stopped short of pushing an oversized coffee Thermos. That's because, as Fonte Coffee's master roaster Steve Smith explains, fresh middling coffee is usually preferable to stale great coffee.

"Brewed coffee is not stable," Smith says. "In fact, the brewing process can be thought of as initiating a set of chemical changes that continue to develop long after the coffee is brewed. Coffee that is 15 minutes out of the brewer can readily be distinguished from freshly brewed coffee; coffee 20 to 30 minutes out is lacking in nuance. Longer than 30 minutes out of the brewer, coffee begins to take on an unpalatable character lacking in aroma and marked by sour, overly acidic notes."

As much as I liked various theories my coffee-drinking friends suggested for the scarcity of Thermoses -- perhaps the coffee run has replaced the smoke break as the sanctioned work break, or perhaps commercial coffee is better than homebrew, much as snobs hate to admit it -- it turns out putting coffee in a Thermos is just a really bad idea.

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