Love Bites: Memory sounds of making coffee

This month's columnist explores the memory sound associated with making a bubbling pot of coffee

Article by Christina Neuwirth | 10 May 2021
  • Clubbing Highlights May 2015

On a weekend morning I make a stovetop moka pot of coffee. I fill the octagonal base with water, smooth grounds into the metal filter, screw on the top, set it over a low flame and wait for its sputtering and whispering sound. The sound is boiling water pressurised by steam, forced through coffee grounds. The coffee-making sound is a mother memory sound.

To be specific, the original mother memory sound is that of a filter coffee machine – a warm, low, bubbling sound. Like my grandmother’s coffee. My mother, when she was alive, went to my grandmother’s for coffee most afternoons. My grandmother turned on her filter coffee machine in the mornings, and walking into my grandmother’s house there was always the feeling of lino underfoot and the chill of tiled walls, and the smell of that long-brewing coffee. My mother would say, 'let’s go have a coffee, so life has meaning again'.

When I moved away from home I bought a filter coffee machine for the narrow kitchen of the third-floor flat I rented with my best friend. The machine was black plastic, a glass jug where my grandmother’s was dented stainless steel. I think often of those first days of test-driving adulthood when I would look out of the kitchen window at the still unfamiliar view. The machine would make its gentle noises while I showered, got dressed, made toast.

I can’t go back in time to see my mother. I can’t bring her back, bring her with me. But I can make a cup of coffee. I can dip a bread crust into the vinegary dressing at the bottom of the salad bowl. I can buy a bag of caraway seeds.