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How the Real Men in the Navy Make Their Coffee

Oh, you were expecting whipped cream and chocolate syrup in the belly of a battle ship?

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

January 23, 2012 - 2:41 pm

How do our heroes in the military drink their coffee?

B Dubya, one of the commenters from my Sunday morning PJ Lifestyle post revealed the secret:

I had just aquired a taste for black coffee when I joined the Navy in the spring of 1970. In those days, Navy coffee was in packed in 5 pound rectangular tins; in the six years I spent on my first submarine, we would burn one of those in three days just in the engine room pot.

From the time I was 20 until I left the service at 32, I did not measure the volume of coffee I drank in cups. It was more like in quarts and probably averaged 6 quarts daily.

For a brief time, they tried to get us to drink freeze dried coffee, but it sucked so bad that the rews raised hell over it and the supply types were forced to go back to the real deal.

There is nothing like very strong engine room coffee to keep your motor running for two to three days in a refit period, when you are on deadline to get the ship ready to get underway and sleep is not an option. After a few years, the caffein “jitters” never appeared again, even after massive quantities of the stuff. In fact, like other stimulants, you eventually aquire a very high tolerance for it. While I don’t drink coffee by the gallon any more, I still drink at least a couple of cups of it before I go to bed and I sleep like a baby.

Decaf? You’re kidding, right? Might as well drink water as decaf.

One of the worst headaches I ever had was two days after the entire boat ran out of coffee at the end of an extended patrol in the North Sea. It was due to caffein withdrawal. Well, that and maybe one too many days in a 400 foot sewer pipe with 145 other guys without seeing daylight. The secong thing I did after we got back into New London was to drink and entire pot of coffee made to my specs (Most people who drink coffee I make eventually develop a taste for it of just give up and dilute it).

On a destroyer I was on before I went to the Mare Island NPTU, I know for a fact that the overhaul of that ship was largely financed via the exchange of cans of Navy coffee for yard bird services and parts, which we could not get at any price in another exchange medium (actual US currency). Of course, the overhaul was in Hunter’s Point Shipyard, which is located in Vichy San Francisco, so that may be the basis for the value of good old black market coffee.

Is there nothing coffee can’t do?

Coffee and a little Irish whiskey is my martini of choice to this day.

When I inquired further as to his methods, these instructions came:

My coffee technique is very simple. 2/3 cup of grounds for a 10 cup pot. I brew it into a carafe at home, because nothing kills coffee as effectively as leaving it open to air and over heat. I also keep my coffee cans covered and refrigerated; coffee left open and at room temperature oxidizes and turns sour, both in smell and taste.

I don’t like Starbucks, as a rule. Over roasting just smells and tastes burned to me. I absolutely love the smell of fresh ground, regular roast coffee. The way I make it makes it taste the way it smells to me, warm and earthy, just a hint of bitter.

My mother’s mother was an Englishwoman named Winifred Alden. She taught me how to make tea, and I suppose it carried over to the way I like my coffee. To her, black tea was too weak if, after pouring a quarter inch into a white china cup, you could see the bottom.

As much as I like the way I make my own, I will drink coffee that has been on the burner for 8 hours and that you could float a horseshoe in, if that’s all that is available.

Ron Robinson and Kathy Shaidle also had some amusing coffee anecdotes to share in the comments.

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for WTHR.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.
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