1743: Coffee

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 16:04, 7 October 2016 by (talk) (Megan is pouring coffee grounds, not coffee beans. Turkish coffee is not filtered, you're supposed to not drink the last bit and thus leave (most of) the slurry in the cup.)
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Remind me to order another pack of coffee filters from Dyson. Man, these things are EXPENSIVE.
Title text: Remind me to order another pack of coffee filters from Dyson. Man, these things are EXPENSIVE.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Very brief summary, please update
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This strip follows the frequently used theme of people growing up but finding themselves unable or unwilling to accept traditional adult roles ((see 441: Babies, 905: Homeownership, 616: Lease, and 1674: Adult). In many cultures, drinking coffee is considered an adult activity; most children aren't served coffee and likely wouldn't like the taste if they were, however there are cultures where coffee is served to children, as in many Hispanic countries with "Café con leche" (coffee with milk) which is at least 50% milk with plenty of sugar.

In this case, Cueball and Megan are anticipating guests. Offering coffee to houseguests is a commonly-accepted courtesy in the United States. However, they seem to be unaware of the basics of coffee making. Cueball is concerned that this lack of knowledge is an indication of their mutual immaturity (thinking of himself as a "fake adult"), but Megan is confident that the necessary steps can be determined.

They attempt to make coffee by pouring the ingredients on the ground (misinterpreting the meaning of "ground coffee"), sucking it up with a Dyson vacuum-cleaner (misinterpreting the meaning of "vacuum brewing"), then boiling the mixture by placing the vacuum-cleaner's removable (plastic) canister over a hot stove, and serving the resulting sludge without separating the grounds from the liquid.

Megan says she is a regular "Starbuck" (likely meaning a Starbucks' barista) after serving the batch of coffee. Her misspelling of the chain's name further indicates a general lack of knowledge regarding the subject of coffee.

This method of making coffee would be very expensive as it would most likely destroy the (previously functional) vacuum cleaner. It would probably not be very hygienic either. Furthermore, the removable canisters on bagless vacuums (such as the Dyson shown) are made of plastic and would melt or ignite if placed over direct heat from a stove. Furthermore, failing to remove the grounds before serving would produce a slurry, rather than the smooth golden-brown liquid that is customary in the western world.

The joke here is that Megan misunderstands the words "coffee grounds", attempts to pour coffee grounds on the "ground", tries to vacuum brew the coffee using a vacuum cleaner, and uses the wrong kind of filter (a vacuum cleaner filter instead of a coffee filter) in order to make a proper coffee. It demonstrates her total lack of knowledge of coffee making.

The title-text refers to the extreme expense of replacing the "filter", as vacuum-cleaner filters are considerably more costly than single-use coffee filters. It also suggests that they genuinely believe that a key function of the Dyson is to make coffee, implying that vacuuming is another 'adult' responsibility with which Cueball and Megan are unfamiliar.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Cueball and Megan are standing.]
Cueball: We should make coffee for our guests.
Megan: Crap. I know nothing about coffee.
Cueball: We're basically fake adults.
Megan: Don't panic. We can figure this out.
[Megan shaking can of coffee grounds out on floor as Cueball watches.]
Megan: We just pour the coffee grounds...
[Megan pouring pail of water over grounds on floor.]
Megan: ...Add water...
[Cueball watching Megan vacuum up mixture with bagless vaccum cleaner.]
vacuum: vrrrr
[Megan holding vacuum cleaner dirt canister over stove, Cueball watching. Vacuum cleaner in background.]
Megan: Now we just hold it over the burners...
oven: hissss
[Megan pouring contents of vacuum cleaner dirt canister into mug, while Cueball watches]
Megan: Annnd...Serve.
Cueball: Nice
Megan: I'm a regular starbuck!
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For me as a non-native speaker this XKCD looks like the guests ordered Ground Coffee and Cueball didn't realize that ground might come von "grind". Gunterkoenigsmann (talk)--

I hadn't even noticed that pun, thanks! 10:16, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for catching all the puns, that helped make the comic funnier. Explain xkcd at its best. Jkshapiro (talk) 01:35, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

With "I'm a regular Starbuck" Megan says, she is a regular visitor of Starbuck and has learned her skills there watching. Sebastian -- 08:10, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

Since the Starbucks coffee chain writes their name as a plural, I just assumed it was a cross-referential joke about the Starbuck character on Battlestar Galactica. 10:16, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
I also like to think "Starbuck" here refers as much to the Battlestar Galactica character here as to the coffee shop. I'm pretty sure he is the one who explained how things worked in the show. Being from another time & planet, his explanations were usually a crude interpretation of actuality and were funnier for being mostly right but decidedly odd. 19:04, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
On Capitain Ahab's ship in Moby Dick there was a chef mate named Starbuck. But I fail to see a connection to this XKCD. -- Gunterkoenigsmann (talk) 20:25, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

The expensive coffee filter comment might be a reference to the ridiculously high prices for vacuum cleaner bags. -- 08:12, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

Ironic, since Dyson vacuums are "bagless" & use a canister instead. (Which is disgusting, by the way.) 10:16, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
Actually even Dyson vacuums have at least two filters in them. -- 10:21, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
Filters, but not bags. Emptying & subsequently cleaning the removable canister on a bagless vacuum can be hazardous for anyone with allergies (or just anyone, if the canister contains toxic or noxious materials); Not that most vacuum-cleaners aren't basically big dust blowers anyway. Inboard HEPA filters mitigate the dust issue during use, but emptying the canister itself can be a delicate & irritatingly messy task. Aside from the bag material wasted during disposal, bag-vacuums are in some respects very much preferable to bagless. Personally, I recommend eschewing vacuum-cleaners entirely, avoiding wall-to-wall carpeting like the plague, & using area rugs which can be removed for a thorough cleaning (on BOTH sides). 11:17, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
why don't you just vacuum out the canister? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Actually, the latest Dysons have no filters at all, because they improved the cyclonic filtering to render them unnecessary. That's what Dyson claims, anyway. 09:13, 13 October 2016 (UTC)

Can you actually "hoover" something up with a Dyson? ;-) 08:37, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

Decidedly not! That's like saying you are "rollerblading" when you are actually just inline-skating, or calling any cola a "Coke". You don't go toyotaing in your Chevrolet & you don't Colgate your teeth; such branding idioms really annoy me. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to gutenberg some compuserve post-its before my redenbachers are done kenmoring. 10:16, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
This may be a UK v. US English issue, my British friends all refer to vacuuming as "hoovering." Through usage over years, some proper nouns become 'ordinary' nouns (e.g., linoleum, jacuzzi, etc.). Miamiclay (talk) 03:19, 8 October 2016 (UTC)
Additionally, there are many places in the US (especially in the south/southeast) where all colas (and sometimes, all sodas in general) are called 'Coke' and all tissues are called Kleenex. Additionally, none of the proper nouns you mentioned as examples are often used as verbs, whereas 'to hoover' is in regular usage, as is 'to google,' even when the action is performed with a different search engine. Finally, the term 'Rollerblading' is so commonly used instead of the phrase 'in-line skating' that it's lost its capitalization. This entire conversation is pointless in its pedanticity.-- 23:31, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
OMG, I had always assumed that "to hoover" came from the tendency of the FBI to suck up enormous quantities of information, and was referencing the former director. Sort of like how "the Don Ameche" meant "the telephone" to my parents' generation because of his role as Alexander G. Bell. 10:41, 11 October 2016 (UTC)

megan explicitly calls them "grounds," probably because that's what they're called on the packet. no one mentioned beans. what made you think of beans? also, she's heard of "starbucks" and thinks it's a collection, and, since she is just one person she calls herself a starbuck. oh well. -- 11:54, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

are made of plastic and would melt or ignite if placed over direct heat from a stove – no, they wouldn’t; not as long as there is liquid water in it. You can even use a paper-cup to boil water. --DaB. (talk) 17:03, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

I thought about that too but it depends on the thermal conductivity of the material. Paper cups are thin enough to transmit the flame's heat to the water efficiently; the same is not true of a styrofoam cup. (Another word that is technically still a trademark, by the way.) I suspect a vacuum-cleaner canister would be thick enough and enough of an insulator that it would get damaged. Jkshapiro (talk) 01:35, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
Also, some kinds of plastics, while not directly melting, will become "plastics" enough to bend under weight even in temperatures near boiling water. PET bottles will not survive boiling water, for example. -- Hkmaly (talk) 15:21, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

Another reason why the coffee will be very expensive: if you throw a package of beans on the ground, you need many, many, many beans, as there is not enough surface on the beans to make the water brown and give the water any taste. With ground coffee you can get several cans out of one package, the method illustrated here needs at least one package per try. --User:Anonymous guest 20:19, 7 October 2016 (UTC)

I think this might also be related to the The Coffee Test, proposed by Goertzel as a way to measure Artificial general inteligence. By this standards they really seem to be "fake adults". Qbolec (talk) 15:16, 9 October 2016 (UTC)

When I first saw this cartoon - I thought that the point was that our heroes had looked online for a way to do this - and somehow tripped over one of those old vacuum cleaner adverts where the salesperson throws coffee grounds and water onto your rug, then vacuums it up to have it look like new. I'm not sure that was what was in Randalls head - but it's another interpretation of the cause of the error that is being made in the story. SteveBaker (talk) 01:37, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

When I saw the overall content, I thought it was in reference to the quality of Starbucks coffee... tastes about the same as drink something brewed off the floor. 19:29, 11 October 2016 (UTC)

I have some issues with parts of the current explanation, primarily due to the fact that I own a Dyson and know its parts inside and out. For starters, while it does have two filters, the materials collected in the canister are never in contact with either one. Both filters are for removing fine particles from the expelled airflow, with the last one at the HEPA level. In addition, my Dyson is not designed to vacuum liquids (although newer models may allow it), and some of the liquid might get to the first filter element at the motor and cause minor problems (yuck), but both filters are in fact washable and don't need be replaced. Furthermore, when Megan is pouring out the canister, there's no filter in that area of the canister to remove either the coffee grounds or 'the ground' from the brewed coffee - I think this is part of the 'eewwww' factor with this comic!

Since this is a bit pedantic, I'm not going to alter the current explanation but wanted to point out these details from my own Dyson. Peace, out.  ;-) --Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 17:07, 5 June 2017 (UTC)