A friend posted a query on Facebook: “Do many of my friends name inanimate objects they own? I just discovered people do this; I don’t know what to make of it.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. And I suddenly remembered, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to write a thing about Mr. Coffee Brush.”
Mr. Coffee Brush is not an accessory to the Mr. Coffee coffeemakers you can buy in fine department stores nationwide (wait, they still make Mr. Coffee machines, right?) (quick Google search: answer, Yes). Mr. Coffee Brush is a little brush we keep in our kitchen that is used exclusively for brushing coffee bean grounds out of the coffee grinder. We do not own a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker. There is no formal relationship between the company based in Cleveland, Ohio, and Mr. Coffee Brush. There is no informal relationship between the two. They are strangers to one another. But Mr. Coffee Brush is well-known in our household. This is to say, not only do my husband and I know who he is, but our daughter knows.
There have been two Mr. Coffee Brushes in our kitchen, over the years. The first one was an ancient, plastic-bristled basting brush that somehow wound up with us from I think my parents’ batterie de cuisine. There was really nothing elegant about it. It was, to be honest, a grungy little thing when I started using it around the year 2000. I mean, it was clean — don’t be grossed out — but it was not distinguished looking. It had a little plastic handle and a long twirled-wire neck, and then the end with the brush was just some yellowed-plastic bristles held close by a little plastic white cap. I began to use it to wipe coffee grounds from the coffee grinder my beau used to make the coffee every morning because I was skeeved out by all the coffee that didn’t get used because it didn’t fall automatically from the grinder into the coffee filter. I realized, one fine morning I can no longer recall (but I’m sure it was fine) that if I just brushed the coffee from the grinder, the machine would be cleaner and we wouldn’t waste coffee. This was the beginning of a coffee-grinder maintenance process that I maintained for aeons. Daily brushing, and every ten days or so I’d grind some raw white rice in the machine to make it possible to get the thing really clean again, wiping it out with a clean damp towel.
My beau thought this was freaking nuts but he was tolerant of me and my ways and I believe it was he who started referring to the brush as Mr. Coffee Brush. (He is welcome to dispute this.) Over the years, even he used it, grasping eventually that little bits of rancid ground coffee in the grinder do not add positively to the coffee-drinking experience. “Where is Mr. Coffee Brush?” we would ask each other, looking around the pantry, where the brush usually lived in a utility drawer near the sink.
Eventually Mr. Coffee Brush began to crap out. The bristles began to break. He went from being grungy-but-clean to being just… a piece of junk. I had to admit, Mr. Coffee Brush’s day had come and gone. And so I began to poke around looking for another item that could replace him.
I cannot recall, now, where I got the brush to replace Mr. Coffee Brush (1.0). But I can tell you that the presiding Mr. Coffee Brush is an entirely different kind of object. He has a round wooden handle and I think technically he’s really more of a pastry brush of some kind. The bristles are arranged in a circular way, not flat like a brush you’d use to paint your walls, and the handle is tapered: this is an object that some designer deliberately tried to make “attractive.” And it’s not unattractive; but it’s not all that interesting, either. It’s just a brush with 1 inch natural bristles of some kind. It’s fine.
At any rate, Mr. Coffee Brush (in new, more refined mode) joined our household’s batterie de cuisine. Someone who shall remain nameless drew a little face on the wooden handle, giving Mr. Coffee Brush a face. And it was shortly after that that we stopped buying coffee beans that we had to grind ourselves.
We moved to our current apartment, which was a shift that meant no more fancy coffee for a while (we started buying canned coffee grounds) and because our new kitchen was tiny and had dismal storage space, a high percentage of our kitchen gear was kept in large plastic boxes in the basement because there wasn’t room to unpack them into the kitchen. For several years, whenever we needed something, we had to go to the basement to find it. I knew that there were two Rubbermaid bins where I would find whichever odd item I needed: the springform pan, the muffin tins, the dopey little jar that held the dopey little corn cob holder thingies. Mr. Coffee Brush lived in one of those Rubbermaid bins. Then we renovated the kitchen, and most of our gear was finally unpacked. (It is really nice to have the muffin tins and springform pans and the food mill at hand; I admit, I am not sure where the corn cob holder thingies are.) But because we still didn’t really use our coffee grinder on a daily basis, I wasn’t moved to relocate Mr. Coffee Brush to the kitchen.
It was only about a year ago that I was rummaging around in one of those boxes looking for something (a bottle of linseed oil, as I recall) that I found Mr. Coffee Brush (and the bottle of linseed oil) and I thought, “Hey! What are you doing here?” There he was, bristles nice and clean, Sharpie’d little happy face smiling up at me in spite of being trapped in an airless plastic box for five years. He was undefeated, unfazed by his lack of love and attention; like a once-beloved stuffed animal shoved into a box in a closet, he was waiting for me all the while. I brought him back upstairs and put him in the top drawer in the kitchen, a place of honor. We almost never use him, and we almost never think of him, to be honest, because we still buy coffee in ground form and not whole beans.
But he’s right there in the kitchen drawer, next to the can opener and the kitchen scissors I like best because you can take the parts apart to wash them and the whisks and the vegetable peeler.
Even if we never buy whole bean coffee ever again, we’re keeping Mr. Coffee Brush. He’s nice to have around. You open the drawer, and there he is, smiling at you.
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