words and images by mk swanson
Making a Cup of Coffee

Making a Cup of Coffee

I wrote a sample set of “how to make a cup of coffee” instructions for some damn position or other. They didn’t like my take on it.

Make a Cup of Coffee

It’s almost time for the ten am stand up. You skipped breakfast and you need a cup of joe, but on the forehead of the break room coffeemaker perches a yellow sticky labeled in whiteboard marker:

Frowny Coffee

You need coffee. You will not be able to communicate the status of your team, the vital nature of your project, or the critical requirements of your timeline without it, but the product of the evil merger of Keurig and Dr Pepper clearly has it in for you.

How can you make a cup of coffee au naturel?

Components and Ingredients

Components required to brew a cup of wakeup juice are deceptively simple:

  • 1 heat resistant cup
  • 1 filter
  • boiling hot water
  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee per 6 ounces water

Source a Filter

Most offices do not come equipped with individual coffee filters, but caffeine deprivation is the stepmother of invention.
There are only two absolutes: it must be a fine enough mesh, and it must be clean. (If you have to sacrifice one of these, go with cleanliness—the water is boiling, after all.)

With that in mind, here are some possibilities in descending order of desirability:

  1. Forgotten, no-longer-fits-the-coffeemaker reusable K-cup.
  2. Your cube neighbor’s decorative silver tea ball, used each afternoon for a tiny cup of Earl Grey.
  3. Dish towel.
  4. Heavy-duty paper towels.
  5. The silk scarf you’re actually wearing. (Move to number 3 if already brown.)
  6. A French press. (By the time you learn to use it, it will be time for tomorrow’s standup.)

Locate the Precious Grind

Two options present themselves—the first is greatly preferred.

  • Measure out fresh- or pre-ground coffee. If coffee pods are available, rip one to three of them open in your flavor choice.
  • If there is no coffee, look for grounds left in the coffeemaker.* If not, and you decide to look in the garbage for yesterday’s, no judgement.*

If plagued by ill health or a modicum of self-respect, don’t brew with grounds over 24 hours old.

The Process

With boiling water, cup, coffee grounds, and filter in hand, begin brewing, following these steps:

  1. Place preferred amount of coffee into filter. If reusing grounds, double or triple the amount.
  2. Set filter in cup.
  3. Pour enough hot water to soak coffee.
  4. Allow to steep for one minute.
  5. Pour the remainder of the hot water slowly over the grounds until the cup is full.
  6. Remove the filter carefully to avoid cleanup time.

Optional Ingredients

If desired, add sweetener, milk, or creamer.


Making a cup of coffee doesn’t have to involve a robot harder to comprehend than BB-8, or coffee so expensive that you forego purchasing a home to feed your habit.
If you’re desperate, you can make a cup adequate to fuel your morning in the most humble of break rooms.