A couple of weeks ago my wife alerted me to the fact that I had developed an occasional odour problem. This surprised and distressed me somewhat. I will admit certain standards loosened during the pandemic but I thought I was still doing OK on the fundamentals of personal hygiene. My wife was unable to clearly identify the cause so a bit of detective work was required. Eventually by process of elimination I discovered that excessive coffee consumption was responsible for my unpleasant aroma.
I wasn't always a coffee addict but during the pandemic lockdowns I got into the habit of brewing a large pot every morning. My wife sticks to decaffeinated so I got to polish off this litre sized jug of strong coffee all by myself. It fills a large mug three times. The first mug was fresh and piping hot. I tempered it with the smallest drop of milk, less than a teaspoon, just enough to give some colour. The second mug poured later was stronger and cooler so I would forgo the milk. By the time I got around to the third mug it had gone quite cold and treacle like. I am sure that coffee aficionados will be horrified to learn that I just heated the resulting sludge in a microwave and drank it without milk. The pot was empty by lunchtime so I had to make do with one or two cups of instant during the afternoon. I rarely drank coffee in the evenings.
I don't know if a litre of strong coffee and two cups of instant per day qualifies as a lot. I didn't experience any of the usual symptoms of coffee addiction such as anxiety or insomnia but it was definitely doing something to my insides to give rise to the unpleasant odours. When I realised this I immediately cut out coffee and switched to water and tea instead. I am happy to report that my wife has confirmed that all odours are now gone.
Do I miss coffee? Yes and no. I miss the ritual of grinding beans and making coffee in the plunger (cafetiere). I also miss the convenience of instant coffee (more later). When it comes to flavour however I am somewhat ambivalent . I have experimented with expensive designer coffees over the years but I genuinely cannot distinguish them from cheap supermarket brands. I do like to buy beans instead of pre-ground and I do like a nice coffee smell but I find that after the first sip my taste buds are deadened so any subtleties are totally lost on me. This probably explains how I can tolerate the final microwaved cup of sludge from the pot.
Aside: I mentioned that I miss the convenience of instant coffee. This is because I grew up in an era where tea making was a sacred social tradition in Ireland. Tea was always made in a pot to be shared. Initially we used loose leaves and only later, begrudgingly, tea bags. One spoon of tea for each person and one extra "for the pot". It is hardly less convenient to make a single cup of tea with a tea bag than to make a cup of instant coffee but at some gut level this feels wrong to me. I still do it but I am not happy doing it.
Will I ever go back to drinking coffee? I have already experimented with a cup of instant coffee and my wife did not report any adverse effects. In hindsight there is a good chance that the real damage was being done by the final cup of brewed coffee. The plunger traps the larger coffee grounds but it does not cut off contact between the liquor and the grounds nor does it stop the finer powders from getting through. That third cup which had been steeping for hours was notably heavier, stronger and sludgier than the first cup from a freshly brewed pot. I am not yet ready to go back to brewed coffee but I may in time experiment with different approaches to making it. Filter coffee for example should give a more consistent product. I am not in favour of pod coffee machines. They are known to be an environmental disaster and I have never warmed to the taste of pod coffee. They also rob you of the ritual and aroma of grinding fresh coffee beans.