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Coming Soon: Self-Heating Coffee 536

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the and-we-just-thought-flavia-was-cool dept.
prostoalex writes "In 2005 Wolfgang Puck will start selling containers of self-heating coffee, USA Today says. The combination of calcium oxide and water will heat the coffee to 145 degrees and keep it warm for the next 30 minutes. The coffee will be sold in regular grocery stores, and folks at Fool.com tell Starbucks to watch out as this product, coming from a well-known chef, might target those of us grabbing a cup of hot latte on the way to work."
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Coming Soon: Self-Heating Coffee

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  • already done (Score:5, Informative)

    by monkey_jam (557265) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:41AM (#11146252)
    we have these in the UK. They taste about as good as warmed up cold coffee. Which is basically what it is....
    • Re:already done (Score:2, Interesting)

      by westi (212076)
      Indeed it is :-)

      See http://www.dolphin.soton.ac.uk/June2001/nescafe.ht ml [soton.ac.uk] for more info
      • Re:already done (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Golias (176380) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:19AM (#11146576)
        The point of Starbucks (or, in Minnesota, Caribou and Dunn Bros.) was never the coffee. You can get coffee anywhere. Every office has coffee, and there are plenty of coffee vending machines.

        The point of coffee shops is leaving the office for ten or twenty minutes.

        Most Americans are non-smokers, so making a "coffee run" is one of the few excuses the typical American worker has for getting out of the building for a little while. It's a six-dollar mini-vacation.

        So I don't think the executives at Starbucks are losing sleep over cold coffee that you re-heat with hand warmers built into the can.

        I could see it being popular with hunters, though. Having hot coffee in the deer stand without needing a big thermos could have some appeal.
        • Re:already done (Score:5, Informative)

          by mobiGeek (201274) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:49AM (#11146864)
          The point of Starbucks (or, in Minnesota, Caribou and Dunn Bros.) was never the coffee. You can get coffee anywhere.
          Speak for yourself(s). For us up here, Tim Ho's [timhortons.com] is all about the coffee...coffee...coffee....mmm-wwwha-ha-ha-ha!!

          10 minute break? How can you even get started without it???

          :-)

          • Re:already done (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mattdm (1931)
            Y'know, I've been to Tim Hortons, and while you've got a nice country and all, that place sucks. The coffee is weak and flavorless (at least our Dunkin Donuts has powerful coffee, even if it's not very good), and, while you didn't mention it, the actual doughnuts were horrid little dry paste things. We can get better from little glass cases in truck stops.

            Now, that's not to say you don't have good coffeeshops -- Bridgehead [bridgehead.ca] in Ottawa is worth twenty Starbuckses any day.
            • Those are two places you don't want to make fun of even jokingly. I swear they put crack in their coffee, people are SERIOUS about loyalty to either of those chains. Be safe, say you are sorry, and maybe no one will get hurt. Think of all those coffee-laced, pent up, hockey fans.
        • by clickety6 (141178) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:51AM (#11146872)

          The point of coffee shops is leaving the office for ten or twenty minutes.


          In Europe we call that a coffee break. In the US they call that a vacation! ;-)

        • Re:already done (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dmala (752610)
          I could see it being popular with hunters, though. Having hot coffee in the deer stand without needing a big thermos could have some appeal.

          OK, I'm stereotyping here a little, but I can't see the average hunter rushing out to buy something marketed by Wolfgang Puck.
    • Yeah, they've been around for about 5 years now. There's similar technology used in reusable hand warmers. It's a pouch which reacts and generates heat, when it has cooled you boil it up and reuse.
    • we have these in the UK. They taste about as good as warmed up cold coffee. Which is basically what it is....

      I've never seen that, though I've seen the cans of coffee that get kept in a warming device.

      Point is, almost my first thought (*) was "Isn't this going to taste quite poor, since it's basically brewed ages in advance?" I don't see that the people who think Starbucks is so great (whether it is or not; I'm proud to say I've *never* even been in Starbucks; nor Gap for that matter) would be that mu
    • Let me just add, warmed up cold coffee which wasn't that great to start with. I suppose maybe it's okay if you just want the caffeinne kick, but I'd suggest chewing Pro Plus as the more desirable alternative :)
    • Re:already done (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:53AM (#11146370)
      Exactly. I recall seeing Nescafe self heating cups. Think coffee which has been left in a themos overnight and then reheated.


      Of course, if the container were to split the coffee from the water until you heated it, it might not be so bad. But even that seems hardly different to me than buying some instant crap from a vending machine. Except of course the vending machine gives you a coffee instantly, rather than fumbling around in the cold trying to activate the device and then then waiting several minutes for it to be even drinkable.

    • Actually I thought these were a really bloody good idea, but I was always a little concerned that the alarming red / white chemical mixture which you could see through the bottom would some how leak into the coffee.

      It didn't taste spectacular, but if you were cold and wanted a warm cup of coffee (and it did get pretty damn hot) it was a fantastic solution. Just a shame it cost so much and didn't sell so well.

      As a result, I haven't seen these for about a year or so now :(
    • Re:already done (Score:2, Informative)

      by AndroidCat (229562)
      Better be careful to not store them too close to your self-cooling cans of beer. [thisislondon.co.uk] That could be a real mess! ("Mmmm, luke-warm coffee-beer!")
    • If their target market is Starbucks customers, I doubt that taste is a big worry. I have never had a coffee-based drink from Starbucks that didn't taste horrible, acidic and watered down. And over priced too - why is it always the crappy companies that do so well (MS, Starbucks, Dixons, PCWorld...).
      • why is it always the crappy companies that do so well

        Because crappy or not, they clearly give the customer what they want. If they didn't, they'd never make any money.
        • Yes, I think it's just that the customer doesn't know any better. I mean, my local PCWorld is selling gold-plated USB cables for £30($50?) or so and is clearly doing pretty well out of clueless computer-buyers.
    • by shokk (187512) <ernieoportoNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:44AM (#11146810) Homepage Journal
      do people start breaking them open to see what's inside and spilling the boiling contents on their laps? Do they have a warning telling people not to do that? Or is self-responsibility considered more widespread across the pond?

      "Look here, Cletus. This is what them's calls calcium oxi--- aaiiiiieeeeeeeee!!!!! Muh giblets!!"
      • by Bearpaw (13080) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#11149649)
        At what point do people start breaking them open to see what's inside and spilling the boiling contents on their laps? Do they have a warning telling people not to do that? Or is self-responsibility considered more widespread across the pond?

        More likely scenario: Someone who hasn't trimmed their fingernails down to the quick accidentally breaks it open, causing crippling third degree burns. After finding out that the company knew that this was a problem (from countless other similar accidents) but decided that keeping a corporate legal team was cheaper than redesigning the container, the customer managed to find a lawyer who hadn't sold their soul to a corporation. After that lawyer somehow manages to get the case into court despite the well-practiced tactics of the corporate team, a jury examines the evidence and awards the customers enough to pay their medical bills, plus a punitary award that seems large for an individual but is corporate pocket change. After multiple appeals by the corporate team, the settlement is whittled down to enough for the medical bills and free coffee for a year.

        Meanwhile, politicians whose re-election coffers are fattened with corporate checks make a big deal about how "lawsuit happy" the country is, and -- once enough gullible people have bought into grossly exaggerated "examples" [lawandhelp.com] -- push for "tort reform". For some reason, "responsibility" isn't seen as a concept that should apply to corporations.

    • Yes - Nescafe & UK (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lxt (724570)
      Nescafe marketed these sorts of drinks s few years back, but as the above poster says, they were basically just warmed up cold coffee, and tasted like it too. Plus, you didn't get much, god only knows what the enormous containers did to the environment, and they cost far too much.

      They were withdrawn from sale shortly after introduced, due to lack of popularity.
  • There's no point having a really quick cup of coffee if it tastes like shit.
  • by philbowman (707419) * on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:43AM (#11146267)
    I've tried the version available in Europe, and even allowing for the fact it's Nescafe to start with, it can't be described as even vaguely resembling coffee. Might be worth having in the car for emergencies, but it wouldn't replace anyone's daily coffee if they have any taste buds.
  • Hands down. This kicks more ass than anything that has ever kicked ass before.. including the wheel.

    I just hope that it doesn't taste as ass nasty as the Wolfgang Puck soups do. Those soups are almost as bad as Dinty Moore products.

    Now, I doubt that I'd grab one of these in the morning but taking a case or two of them on weekend camping trips would be nice, especially when camping in cold weather.
  • Nescafe has been making this kind of coffee in Europe for quite sometime now. They even have it in vending machines.

  • Isn't calling it that breaking various trades descriptions laws?
  • Does anyone remember that movie or TV show where they invented a self-lighting cigerette, but it didn't produce any smoke?
    • Why remember a movie or TV show when they have battery operated (and hense, smokeless) cigerettes already on the way? I suppose I could do a search for it in Slashdot to find the obligatory link, but I'd just be taking all the fun away.
  • by Wheely (2500) * on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:45AM (#11146289)
    I don't quite understand how that can be a time saver. My kettle takes about a minute. I do realize that I then need to be less productive in other areas for about the five seconds it takes to pour the water in the mug and stir.
  • by JanneM (7445)
    Here in Japan, most vending machines have both hot and cold beverages, including coffee and teas (soda is pretty unusual, on the other hand). Not by self-heating cans, though, but by the lower-tech method of having those cans and bottles in a heated compartment. It's ok as a quick pick-me-up in the morning.

  • by ctid (449118) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:46AM (#11146304) Homepage
    We've had this for a long time in the UK. Or at least I saw this for the first time three years ago; I haven't seen it recently. I tried it twice, and both times it didn't seem to get very hot, although I did follow the instructions.

  • Four years old? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by igorthefiend (831721)
    This has been tried now on more than one occasion in the UK, most recently by Kenco, I think, but previously by PG Tips with tea (again, my memory my fail me on this) but I think this has now been on the market for more than four years on and off, as I remember trying it while at university! FWIW, the coffee is better than the tea, but with the ubiquity of Starbucks etc... how desperate can you really be for a cup?
    • how desperate can you really be for a cup

      If you're willing to go to Starbucks, you must be pretty desperate. Or else you've bought into the brainwashing that the over-roasted crap they have there really is coffee.

      Used to be I only had trouble believing what came out of people's mouths, now I have trouble believing what they put into them too....
  • by rm -rf /etc/* (20237) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:47AM (#11146309) Homepage
    Starbuck's is ok, but I always got the impression that they are the big name because of marketing and locations rather than having a really great product. Why are they always the benchmark that everyone tries to meet or beat? Their coffee is ok, but nothing special. If you can find a local coffee shop that roasts beans on site and grinds them fresh for your cup, you'll get a much better cup of coffee, potentially cheaper than starbucks.

    As for this coffee in a can... Well, I can't imagine how good it would really be. It will probably be ok, given that it's going for a lattle, most likely flavored and sweetened. I don't think this could work for a plain old cup of coffee, but for a coffee drink with milk and flavoring it will probably mask enough of the stale coffee flavor to be drinkable.
    • by adamjaskie (310474) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:58AM (#11146403) Homepage
      Starbucks, while it is not great coffee, is significantly better than the brown water that most of us Americans are used to drinking at home. Remember that the average cup of coffee in America is still made with coffee from companies such as Folgers or Maxwell House. The coffee is purchased preground, in a one kilo tin, and sits on the counter kept nice and warm by sunlight for the six months it takes to be finished off by people that brew coffee with one teaspoon of grounds to every cup of water.
    • AMEN! Micro Roasters rock! The local one here(Stauf's...they also own Cup O Joe) used to do all of their roasting in store. Now that they have expanded, they moved most of the roasting operation to a local warehouse, but they still do the roasting instead of having another company do it for them. They still have one of thier Probat roasters in their main store and do roast daily in it mostly for the ambience. Thier original store also has free WiFi! :D
    • Just like beer and wine, locally roasted coffee tends to match a palate better. I prefer Bucks County Coffee to Starbucks, because Bucks county A) doesn't have to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator and B) the people who roast it live nearby, and have similar tastes to me.
    • Starbuck's is ok, but I always got the impression that they are the big name because of marketing and locations rather than having a really great product.

      Well yeah - Starbucks is nothing but location and marketing. The beans are decent, the milk is scalded (rather than steamed and frothed) 50% of the time and the price is outrageous - it is fast food coffee. I drink it sometimes, but if you come from the northwestern US Starbucks coffee is definitely second rate.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:35AM (#11146724) Journal
      Same reason anything Linux or Apple does is compared to Microsoft. Starbucks and Microsoft both make crappy products with great marketing. Sure it's better if you grind your own(Linux), or visit the local non-chain coffeehouse (Apple), but when there's a Starbucks on every streetcorner (Microsoft's 90% market saturation), sometimes you just take the path of least resistance to get your fix(or work done).
    • by Daytona955i (448665) <flynnguy24.yahoo@com> on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:57AM (#11146948)
      I think Starbucks realized if you charge a lot of money for your product and call it better, yuppies will flock to it and become coffee snobs.
    • I have to disagree with this. Starbucks is a marketing monster, but they also make a quality product. I'm sure a lot of people are predisposed to hate them no matter what they do due to their corporate policies, which is fine, but a lot of people who know and enjoy coffee do agree that Starbucks makes an above average cup. Comparing it to most of the local coffee places by me, I'd say they're up at the top - not the best, but up there.

      As for cost, if you don't get a latte or other "complicated" drink
    • Starbuck's is ok,

      Starbucks coffee is way over-roasted. It is still way better than Folgers or Maxwell house which is why *$ does such brisk business.

  • won't work (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigBir3d (454486) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:47AM (#11146316) Journal
    Comparing this to Starbuck's is foolish. People go to Starbuck's so they can say they go there. And to be seen there.

    Your average coffee drinker does not even realize that most all Starbuck's coffee is over roasted and made of inferior quality beans. The really scary thing; the quality of Dunkin Donuts coffee beans are higher than Starbuck's! I did not know this, but a coffee guru (bean tester and whatnot for major coffee companies) tells me it is true.
    • TRUE. DD coffee is actually pretty damned good, and when I forget to order beans for home roasting I'll buy a bag of DD beans to hold me over.

      This Wolfgang Puck thing sounds like an abomination, and will likely resemble coffee as Coors Light resembles beer.

    • Dunkin Donuts recently "improved" their coffee. I have not had any of their "new" coffee, but I have heard it is actually suprisingly good.

      Starbucks, while not really great coffee, is certainly better than anything instant, or anything made by companies such as Folgers, which is what people here are used to. I can't stand Folgers, but Starbucks, at least their lighter roasts (House Blend and Breakfast Blend, to some extent Columbian) are quite decent. Not up to the beans I can get at a good local roaster,

      • Anything brewed is better than anything instant.

        I had a cup of coffee at Starbucks that tasted like antifreeze. I'm never going in there again (well, other than to use the free WiFi). The coffee that comes in little foil pouches at work tastes better than Starbucks coffee.

        What's more unfortunate is that Starbucks has pushed most of the smaller coffee shops out of business. There was one nearby that used to be the hangout for the art & music kids at local schools. The furniture was all mismatched and t

    • Re:won't work (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sax Maniac (88550)
      Thanks for the insight, it's what I've suspected for a long time now.

      I've been a DD drinker for a long time -- here in MA it's a bit hard to avoid it. But when I had my first Starbuck's I thought I had a bad batch. Way too burnt tasting.

      I thought my tastes weren't sophisticated enough, and it was better coffee that I just hadn't appreciated yet.

      Now, their frillyfrothycreamycandythingies aren't half bad. But most days I want a $1 cup a coffee, not a $5 dessert.

      But I have to admit, sometimes it's a


    • People go to Starbuck's so they can say they go there. And to be seen there.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but where do people think going to Starbuck's is a status-enhancing gimmick? The only place where this might work is East Podunk, USA. In most metropolitan areas the Starbuck's outnumber the Kwik-E-Marts and carry about the same cachet. They are appealing because a) they are absolutely everywhere [in most cities], i.e. convenient and b) the product is generally consistent across stores in di
  • With your purchase you'll receive an amazing way to keep your teeth clean and enjoy the luscious bounties from the farm...

    Seedless Corn!

    and coming soon, watch out Atkins!

    Here comes Fat-Free Lard!
  • If it really works and tastes halfway decent, I can see myself buying these on a regular basis. Take 'em with me to outdoor sporting events, car trips, skiing, grabbing one on the way to work in the morning vs. going to the starbucks or waiting to get to the office for coffee (taking the time to make at home not an option; requires waking up 10 mins earlier!) - endless possibilities.
  • by infolib (618234) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:50AM (#11146341)
    For the rest of the world [google.com]

    That's 336 K for physicists.

  • I used to go to a coffee house that has large, heavy ceramic mugs which seem to be generally cold due to the weather or air conditioning. They pour hot coffee into them, and the coffee ultimately turns out lukewarm. I can't digest lukewarm coffee, and I find it disgusting, so they lost a customer. Although this self-heating coffee doesn't too appetizing, they might get a customer back if they went for this solution. Sign of the times I guess.
  • Yuck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CharAznable (702598) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:54AM (#11146374)
    As a Costa Rican, the idea of instant coffee is insulting, let alone self-heating coffee.

    Every time I go home, I bring a few months' supply of 100% pure Arabica beans. Here in the US good coffee is insanely expensive.
    • Yes. As of late, it's been around 9-10 dollars a pound or more depending on the country of origin to get some good roasted Arabica beans. In fact I just checked the prcie of my favorite blend and it's higher then I have remembered it being in the past....10.75 per lb. Still not the 39.95 per lb Jamaican Blue Mountain price, but pretty damn expensive. On the other hand it's WAY better then you'd get in any grocery store. Going to have to get some Kaldi's Blend or some Original Espresso for the holidays.
  • Why don't I just eat the CaO, and let it react with my body moisture to stay warm?

    (CLUE: It's rhetorical sarcasm. I really DO know why.)
  • Now why don't they take this tech an use it with soup? In fact why didn't they do soup first? After all if you are essentially just reheating coffee it will probablyt taste like crap, but re-heated soup doesn't often taste much worse than when it starts.
  • Why is an exothermic reaction that heats up your coffee so amazing? Not to be cynical or anything but this really isn't that amazing.
  • Mmmm, MREs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:03AM (#11146442) Homepage Journal
    Meals Ready to Eat, the US Army's replacement for it's old rations, usually come with a similar contraption: a wafer of material which is massively exothermic when combined with water.

    It comes in a bag; you add water and then stuff your entree into the bag. The water comes to a boil (or at least apparently; it may just be hydrogen evolving from the reation, and they tell you not to use it in an enclosed place). The food goes from room temperature to way-too-hot-to-eat in a few minutes.

    They recommend two of them if the food starts off frozen, but I've found that one will take it from rock-solid to tolerable (the things were designed to be eaten room-temperature as well.) It's not exactly luxury food, but it's incredible to have have hot food available almost instantly without having to carry cooking equipment or starting a fire.
  • I don't really know Mr. Puck. I've seen his name during a couple visits in the US on some outfit. Seems to be sort of a famous chef branching out to a number of franchises.

    Such a product was introduced to Switzerland some 4 years ago. Appart from the environmental unfriendliness it tasted like shit!. I don't think that it's still available, but I'm not sure.

    So why the hell launches such a famous guy such a product? Sure he can probably add a 50 cents premium on a product that he most likely doesn't manufa

  • I mean, why would you want to reheat coffee? I've always thought it tastes like ass when it's reheated. Are we going to go through a sun coffee rage like the in the 80's? Or is this for people that take more than 30 minutes to drink a cup of coffee...

    I just don't get it
  • Alan Hilowitz says, "Starbucks is about great coffee and a relaxing experience."

    In other words, feed a double-shot to that monkey on your back and he'll leave you alone for a while.
  • Yet another environmentally hostile product. Apart from the disposal (I guess the calcium oxide bit is fine for landfill but that the incineration companies wouldn't like it) the conversion efficiency must be awful. Coffee is a simple, low-energy-consuming, long-life stuff that is intended to taste interesting and, depending on your perspective, ruin the lives of lots of people in the 3rd world or provide them with export trade opportunities. It isn't intended to be the bit of brown gunk that provides an ex
  • by Brento (26177) <brento.brentozar@com> on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:22AM (#11146607) Homepage
    I can't wait to walk down the coffee aisle and surreptitiously push the "heat" button on dozens of cans of coffee. Muhahaha.

    "Damn, I got another can of self-heating coffee that doesn't heat!" I can almost hear the recalls as we speak. Another global corporation out to kill my neighborhood coffee shop, foiled by little old me.
  • Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by Catmeat (20653) <mtm AT sys DOT uea DOT ac DOT uk> on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:25AM (#11146633)
    As others have said, self heating coffee has been available in the UK for 3-4 years. But using the Calcium Oxide/water reaction to heat food goes back at least 20 years. When I was a kid, self-heating cans of food were available for a while in camping shops.
  • MRE coffee (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dr. Cody (554864) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:38AM (#11146756)
    This technology reminds me of the greatest example of well-aimed technical documentation... EVAR!

    Presenting...

    The MRE "Rock or something" manual [aaoobfoods.com].
  • sooo... (Score:5, Funny)

    by justforaday (560408) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:08AM (#11147073)
    So, this thing produces a cup of something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee?
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:14AM (#11147146) Homepage
    This isn't new. Nescafe and the University of Southhampton [soton.ac.uk] developed this in 1998. Product launch was in 2001. Here are some reviews from 2002. [ciao.co.uk]

    Nescafe Hot was a flop. [hirzel.com] "In 2002, Swiss beverage maker Nestle SA tested a self-heating can holding its Nescafe Hot When You Want coffee in England. But the company ended the trial run after several months, finding the can did not heat the liquid to a consistent temperature, said Nestle spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud. "It didn't pan out," he said. Nestle is still interested in the idea, which it believes will be popular with consumers, but it is "not aware of a self-heating can that lives up to our expectations,"

  • by Lucky Kevin (305138) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:34AM (#11147368) Homepage
    This is just what we need to go with all the ridiculous packaging that is added to almost everything that we buy nowadays. However, this coffee idea goes one better, we get extra chemicals to toss into the land fill as well. When will people wake up to the idea that all this "fast food" comes at a price (in addition to the price tag).

    The only real use I can see for it is when hiking or as part of an emergency kit.

  • by nwbvt (768631) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:49AM (#11147600)
    Its this new technology called an 'insulating mug'. It costs about $5 at Walmart and is dishwasher safe. You pour the coffee in and it stays warm while you drink it.
  • by njan (606186) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @12:11PM (#11147952) Homepage
    ..in europe (at least in the UK; but nescafe are a european brand, so I'm guessing the stuff spread), but it was *terrible*. The stuff tasted disgusting, and if your can of coffee was cold to start with (as opposed to room temperature), it warmed up lukewarm; as I discovered when woken up on a signals exercise at 3 in the morning; I just ended up binning half a dozen cans and falling back to redbull to get my caffeine hit for the morning.

    If you really really want lukewarm reheated instant coffee for the price of a latte at starbucks, great. For the rest of us, thermos flasks suffice (Or if you require masochism in your life, simply carry around a flattened paper cup with a few single-serving packets of instant coffee; just add lukewarm tap water, and you're good to go - and for a fraction of the price!)

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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