I can’t drink coffee any longer, and haven’t since 1969. I used to consume it by the gallon, or by the thimbleful when I lived in Naples, Italy – lots and lots of thimbles. Back when “uno normale” cost 50 Lire, the equivalent of 8¢.


Nowadays my caffeine addiction is fed in other ways.


But there are times when a hot cup of something hits the spot, and this idea has never really appealed to me:


Enter Erzatzkaffee, a German word meaning “coffee substitute.” I remember hearing my mom talk about this when I was a kid back in the 50s, and the impression I got was that it was made from anything they could find, sorta like this:

Rag Man from Project Luser

Apparently it wasn’t quite as bad as all that. Mit herzlichem Dank an Benutzer Helmut0815 over at the Axis History Forum, I found this:

In wartime Germany as well as in early postwar era there was of course a massive shortage of coffee as Germany was cut off from it’s resources. Real coffee was only available on the black market.
So the people drank Ersatzkaffee widely known as “Muckefuck” (from french “Mocca faux” = false coffee) which was made from roasted chicory roots, malt, barley, rye, acorn and many other things which were available. Of course this Ersatzkaffee did not contain any caffeine.

Some popular brands were Linde’s Kaffee-Ersatz-Mischung, Kathreiner Malzkaffee, Koff and Effka.


After I gave up coffee, I took to drinking Postum™, once a ubiquitous feature of Greyound Bus waystations all over the country, to be found in little packets right next to the Sanka™ instant coffee, but over time its popularity faded and it was discontinued in 2007. Fortunately for me, Eliza’s Quest foods acquired the trademark and Postum™ is now once again in stores and can be had online.


The product was responsible for multiple foilings of “Mr. Coffee Nerves:”


After a two-year stay in Austria, I came home converted to Caro™, which tastes a lot closer to coffee:

Caro Landkaffee

Fortunately for me, Caro™ is marketed in the USA as Pero™.


These products are based on malted barley, chicory, and rye, and although an inveterate coffee drinker would probably think they taste like panther piss, after a while they grow on you if you can’t have the real thing.

A lot better than pencil shavings, at any road.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

With love, to baristas everywhere.

Most people are not aware of The Whiteboard, firstly because it’ a webcomic and the vast majority of people out there don’t follow them; secondly because it revolves around paintballing; and thirdly because it’s characters are anthropomorphized animals which all God-fearing, right-thinking people know are the spawn of Satan’s fiery ass.

Their loss.

Doc Nickel is not only a skilled technician[1], he’s also a very funny and gifted writer and artist, and I’ve enjoyed his strip for years even though I don’t know the difference between a Tipmann and a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Long, long ago, back in the stone age when the syndicated comic Piranha Club was known as Ernie, Bud Grace did a series about a marriage between coffee machines and technology. As smart as today’s young people are, even they might choke on some of the antiquated references used in this series, but to a “Knight of the Old Code” such as myself, this was hilarious (click the image for a larger version):


Strangely enough, the last panel is still valid for even the most advanced systems…

Well, now comes Doc with a whole new take on the complexities of coffee making (and apologies for reproducing these here – I hope the added exposure is compensation enough!)

Clicking each image will take you to the relevant page at The Whiteboard:







Even though I haven’t been a coffee drinker for around 44 years (Old_Wolf_Cry), I lived in Italy for a good stretch of time between 1970 and 1971, and I know what good espresso is. I also know that it’s not a brainless operation to make a good cup of joe; a lot of thought and technique goes into choosing the appropriate raw materials and the process involved.

So the next time your barista takes an extra minute to whip up your Venti 1 pump caramel, 1 pump white mocha, 2 scoops vanilla bean powder, extra ice frappuccino with 2 shots poured over the top (apagotto style) with caramel drizzle under and on top of the whipped cream, double cupped, give her or him a break. It’s not like building tinkertoys.

Oh, and tip them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] An example of Doc’s machining skills can be found here. (I hear an ominous hummm….)