I suspect this post may be cut short by a baby. Regardless, I shall attempt!
I sat there this morning and contemplated a ridiculously huge coffee cup at Dunkin Donuts. You probably know the kind I am talking about. It has the handle of a standard china-set styled cup of coffee, but the cup itself is about six inches wide and four inches deep. It resembles and oddly shaped cereal bowl more than it does a coffee cup. It holds about the same amount of liquid as a "Big Gulp" from 7-11 (more on those later). My contemplation led me to a conclusion:
I do not like these mega-mugs. Or, at least, I do not like them as they pertain to coffee.
A rather laughable scenario plays out every morning at the Shusei household. My wife, who is half a foot shorter than me, drinks a from a rather large mug of coffee (still a pip-squeak compared to the Dunkinstein monster referenced above). I drink from a little dinky mug that I painted about a year ago during one of our date nights. Sometimes I even down-grade further to the lone demi-tasse that lurks among our mug graveyard. My wife and I would totally throw Goldilocks for a loop. Biggest bear writes demeaning essays about biggest bowl.
When I first get up, I do not want a massive amount of coffee. Just enough to warm me and wake me. I like the taste in my mouth and a slight eye-opening before I jump in the shower to get cleaned up. My wife is more of a pragmatist. She often does not sleep well, and she has a hard time becoming functional in the morning. She needs a massive shock of caffeine to get going (think defibrillator paddles). For her, coffee is a means to an end. For myself, it often has more of an aesthetic quality.
(Of course, this shouldn't be interpreted to mean that such is always the state of affairs. When the little guy has been up all night and I've got a huge trial in the morning, I'm known to get the bigger mug and maybe even sneak in some espresso. Conversely, my wife's constitution can't always handle "the paddles", as I call them.)
I have noticed a trend as I've grown older. Our society is doing everything way bigger. Hence Dunkenstein. The theory goes, "if some is good, a SHITLOAD must be really good!" We do this for everything - food, car size, hairstyles, sex, violence in movies... you name it. But I think this is a real mistake in many areas, coffee included.
Larger quantity often results in poorer quality. Grill 100 steaks in a row on your grill. I guarantee that you won't give all 100 the same loving attention you'd give 2. It comes down to simple work and triage theory. You only have X amount of energy to spend. If you have small amount, you will use maybe .1X for quantity, and you have .9X to devote to quality. Flip that portion, and you've got a lot of something shitty. My theory has always been that I want less of something that is good.
When I am not busy getting overwhelmed by something, I can pay attention to my experience of that thing. I think that this important, and often overlooked in society's current obsession of "more=better". One thing I really like about traditional Japanese decorating is how there isn't too much. A single vase with a few flowers on an unadorned stand, in an otherwise unadorned part of the room. The lack of "color explosions" allows you to really see the flowers and the vase. I think the same thing applies to coffee quantity.
I should take a moment here to cover my ass and defend my wife. See... I don't think there is anything involving aesthetics or appreciation (other than the kind that comes from the lizard brain) when she employs "the paddles". That is totally practical. It is a means to an end. When she goes to a coffee shop that she really likes, she doesn't have the barrista shout "clear!" She orders a normal sized drink and enjoys it.
So I guess I am OK with Dunkenstein if it is employed to provide necessary stimulation.
My problem with Dunkenstein is that it is marketed not as a means to an end (think "Big Gulp"), but rather the right amount for you to sit down and really enjoy. I don't think there is anything truly enjoyable about killing a half-gallon of coffee in half an hour. Of course, I do know a few people that say, "that is the amount of coffee that I need to really FEEL the caffeine." To those people, I say this: Jesus Christ, your heart is begging you to stop this. You are inflicting the 5-Point Palm Exploding Heart Strike on yourself. And all five points of your palm are on the double-venti triple espresso cafe americano in your hand... and in three days, your heart WILL blow up. Seek help.
Seriously, though, if you are a disciple of Dunkinstein (or his cousins "econo-steak" and "bucket beer") just TRY less of your preferred poison, at a much better quality, and see if that doesn't tickle some long-dead, overstimulated part of your brain.
- 5 Point Venti Technique