Bad Coffee Will Make You a Happier Person

Bad coffee is the best coffee. Or less cryptically: The lower you can set your standard for acceptable coffee, the happier you’ll be.

When you like something, it’s not typical to voluntarily try a worse version. It’s much more usual to try a better version, as a splurge. With coffee, where you don’t have to be rich to enjoy the top of the line once or twice, it’s easy to train yourself to appreciate a better version, and to come to crave it every day, until you’ve bought yourself a home pourover setup with a grinder and a scale for your single-origin beans, because anything less tastes like stomach acid run through a dishwasher.

You start to rely on specific coffeeshops; you visit friends and turn down an offered cup. A tier of coffee that used to please you now disappoints you. You’ve kicked the ladder out from under you. You’re no longer backward compatible.

What if instead, you tried a downgrade? Acclimate yourself to a slightly inferior cup of coffee? Splurge on a cheap cup from McDonald’s or Dunkin’ or the bodega? Grab the pre-ground beans? Buy a fifteen-dollar coffee machine instead of fussing with pourover or French press? Your body still appreciates the caffeine. And thanks to the march of technology and infrastructure, that cheap cup of coffee is a lot better than you remember.

If your first attempt at cheap coffee goes horribly, that doesn’t mean you don’t like cheap coffee! It just means you have to test more varieties. Some “bad” coffee is burnt; some is watery; some is acidic; some just tastes funny. There’s a good chance there’s a “bad” coffee that doesn’t taste bad to you.