French Press

Effects of a societal lack of mathematics on a mathematician.

After a deliberate decision to develop an addiction to caffeine, I wandered down to Starbucks the other day to buy a French Press. Much to my chagrin I found that they had a large collection of assorted sizes to chose from. A puzzler indeed. With no better guide than that a tall coffee is 16 ounces, I went with the eighteen ounce model.

The next task was to find the proper measuring spoon which would get me the perfect strength and flavor for my home made brew. This decision, however, needed a professional opinion. I decided to ask the friendly employee behind the counter for some help. At this point I evolved from a coffee illiterate to a problem customer asking a hundred difficult questions to an underpaid young Starbuckker.

I wandered up to the front counter where a young lady smiled from behind the cash register.

“How much ground up coffee does it take to make a cup of coffee?” I asked to the young lady.

The friendly smile turns to a thoughtful frown and then glows with inspiration and hands me a small card that says: ‘Two Grandes = 0.12’ The sign on the wall behind her indicated that a grande is a sixteen ounce drink.

“0.12 whats?” I asked her.

“Grams!” She said confidently nodding her head.

Even though I was a coffee novice, I was suspicious with 0.12 grams. “Would I be able to check you units on that number with someone else?”

“Why?” Her confidence wavered. She cast a furtive glance along the counter toward her manager.

“I'm not one for weak coffee.” I replied.

“Oh.” She beams. “Wait, come over to the scale.” She says lifting the scoop that must weigh several pounds over a tenth of a gram.

Smile. Frown. Smile. Pensive chewing. Smile. “Pounds!” Confidence pours out over the coffee shop as if she were confirming her first answer, rather than comparing dingys and battleships. Round two, I think to myself.

“OK. 0.12 pounds for two grandes makes 0.06 pounds for one.” I state trying not too sound too pedagogical.


“And multiplying by 16 oz. in a pound gives roughly one ounce.” This might seem at first to be senseless math pummeling of this defenseless Starbuckker, but please stay with me for a second.

“That seems right to me.” She says with a smile. I am now convinced that I could walk out of here with a fortune in wares at little cost.

“So... this measuring device if for two tablespoons. How many ounces is that?” I ask realizing that I am failing at my attempt to not be pedagogical.

A montage of expressions beginning with a smile and ending with bewilderment played across her face. One expression really never ending before the next takes over with the intermediate expressions beyond my descriptive abilities. Her dynamic facial concoction with: “I think I need some paper.”

What can one say? My puzzler was sore. I smiled, declined further investigation, and promptly paid up.

Offhandedly I mention that ‘America should go Metric’ to which she responds: “Man, that would really make things tough.”

I wandered out of the Starbucks with a shiny new French Press and the stainless steel two ounce coffee spoon with me wondering: Is it just me?