Give me hot coffee, or give me death by caffeine headache
Every morning I peel myself out of bed and shuffle into my kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee before I even put on my glasses. I have a programmable drip coffee machine, so in theory my mornings could entail waking to the gentle rumble of the coffeemaker, then floating cartoon-like into the kitchen on a waft of warm, roasty odeur du café. I don’t do this because I’m afraid of sleeping through my coffee machine’s meek beep and waking up to hours-old coffee in my own home. The horror.
Hot coffee brings me to life. It is a non-negotiable condition for opening my eyes enough to read the paper, or at least locate the aforementioned glasses. I can’t get out of bed just for a refreshing beverage—Ooh, the juice is cold! Nah.
The argument for iced coffee is seasonal—a caffeine jolt for days above 65 in the shade—and I understand the appeal. I’m not a lizard. But in recent years iced coffee has also become an acrobatic gastronomical art form, its fanciest incarnations a far cry from what I suspect most iced coffee is: old coffee with ice in it. (A bodega near my last apartment served a rather generous if literal interpretation of iced coffee: a pot of coffee left balanced on cartons of soymilk in the refrigerated case.)
At more narrowly defined coffee shops, iced coffee is a standard option, and often, inexplicably, a more expensive one. From the first temperate day in April through the advent of Pumpkin Spice Latte season, "black coffee" is presumed to be iced, much the same way that “regular coffee” for some reason means “full of milk and sugar.” It’s a presumption that sides with the majority, rather than with logic.
I’m not generally a traditionalist, nor am I averse to culinary innovation. Improvements have been made in every realm of eating and drinking, from fried mac and cheese, to spicy beer, to Nutella anything. But iced coffee is a contradiction in terms, like “vegan chicken” or “hot snow.” Its adjective belies its falseness. Iced coffee is a minor abomination.
In autumn and winter, I hide my haterade in plain sight. Who could argue with the coziness and utility of a hot coffee on a walk through the park over crunching leaves, or on a frigid walk to the subway in February? In the cold season, a hot coffee is as logical as a hot shower. But I for one don’t start taking cold showers in the summer, nor do I alter my coffee habits. Does a hot scramble with sausage links sound less appetizing in June than it does in November? Would you dare ask for iced waffles at your favorite diner? No. My coffee is hot from January to January.
Hot coffee has a shelf life—or, rather, a table life—in the course of a morning. It’s hot for about twenty minutes, depending on one’s affinity for A/C. It compels me to keep drinking it in order to get ahead of its gradual descent toward room temperature—the uncanny valley of coffee temperature. At the same time, the longer it sits in the pot on a warming tray, the stronger it gets, and not in a pleasant way. The warming tray of my machine automatically shuts off after two and a half hours. It’s programmed to allow for two subsequent two-hour warming time extensions. You do not want to drink coffee that’s been sitting on a hot plate for six and a half hours. My morning coffee is a race against time, a window of morning in which the coffee is the perfect temperature, and after which there is no turning back.
In light of this brevity, I would point out that hot coffee actually lasts longer in summer than iced coffee—which in direct sunlight gets thinner and weaker as its eponymous ice melts. Moreover, hot coffee offers a small relief from the almost nauseating strength of subway and office building A/C from May to September.
I recognize my views are unpopular, and even aggressive, but I stand by my un-iced opinions. I categorically deny iced coffee as an improvement on hot coffee, or even an acceptable replacement. Give me hot coffee, or give me death by caffeine headache.