I Tried Tom Petty’s Favorite Coffee
Drinking coffee dates back to the 15th century, according to Wikipedia. These days, it is a fine art, from knowing where the bean is grown and how it's roasted to the technique used to brew it.
I remember smelling coffee as a kid, just as my kids do now, and thinking it smelled amazing. Then, you try a sip and you wonder why anyone would ingest the stuff. My dad drank Folgers. Usually in the can, but at some point, there was a vacuum-packed brick that he was happy to buy as well. Have you seen the brick of coffee? Before it's opened, it could do damage if tossed at someone's head. Thanks to my older brother, I know this. But after it was opened, it became a light and fluffy bag of coffee.
Long boring nights in a small town led me and my friends to often take up a corner booth at Denny's, adding tons of cream and sugar to make pots of coffee drinkable. I first truly enjoyed coffee when I was in my twenties, as I learned about espresso and higher-quality coffees. Let the snobbery begin.
One day, as I was looking for some cool factoids about Tom Petty, I found this article on Rolling Stone, where interviewer Warren Zanes talks about Tom Petty's search for the perfect cup of coffee.
He mentions that when interviewing Petty at his house off the Pacific Coast Highway, there was always a tray with a thermos of coffee, cups, sugar, cream and spoons nearby. Warren Zanes mentioned to Tom Petty that he always provided a great cup of coffee, and that comment got Petty's attention. Petty said, “You’re not the first person to say that.”
Then Tom Petty told 2 stories about finding the best cup of coffee:
The story he told me went something like this: He’d been out driving with his wife, Dana, north of their Malibu home, when they’d stopped at a diner. The coffee there, he told me, was close to perfect. Generally reserved, even shy, he felt compelled to ask the waitress what kind it was. She didn’t know. She told him she’d ask the manager. The manager, possibly surprised that a rock & roll legend wanted information about the diner’s coffee, gave him the secret, which probably wasn’t a secret at all. It was Maxwell House.
When Petty heard the words “Maxwell House,” he didn’t turn back. He wasn’t going to deny the truth of his experience. In his view, it was a great cup of coffee. He didn’t bow to any hipster sensibility that went against his own tastes. His response? “Can I see how you make it?” The manager took Petty into the kitchen, where a Bunn Automatic coffeemaker was doing its thing. If you look in most any diner across America, the Bunn Automatic is a pretty standard fixture. For the places that do high-volume work, their units are professional-grade, tied into the plumbing rather than just sitting on the countertop. So, not long after the diner visit, that’s what Petty installed at his home. Two of them, in fact. He didn’t want to find himself waiting for a cup of coffee.
But the story didn’t stop there. The following Christmas, Petty explained, when hosting a family gathering that extended over a week, a private chef providing each day’s centerpiece of a sit-down family meal, Petty was again struck by a cup of coffee. The chef was using the Maxwell House, the Bunn Automatic … yet the coffee tasted even better. Again Petty went to the source, asking the chef what he’d done. As the man explained, before he put the Maxwell House into the machine, he used a knife to level off every cup he measured out. It was exact. Not close, exact. From there on out, that’s how it would be done at the Petty home. That, Petty told me, is what I’d been drinking.
Yep, Maxwell House. "Good to the last drop." I found a can at King Soopers for around $4. I decided I should give Tom Petty's favorite coffee a try. It's good. I couldn't honestly find a reason not to enjoy it.