Yeah! Coffee, bitch! Cooking meth and brewing coffee seem to go hand-in-hand in the last four and a half seasons of Breaking Bad, AMC’s very serious bid for Greatest Television Show Ever. We’re superfans, and with just 7 episodes left to go, we felt it was high time to dissect some of the show’s many uses of coffee as a plot element. Warning: For those not fully current with the show, this post contains a heaping helping of plot spoilers.
Gale Boetticher’s impressive vacuum reflux/distillation set-up is just a drop in the (human goo) barrel, as coffee is just one of many underlying thematic props for the writers of Breaking Bad. We’ve made a series of .gifs for some of our favorite classic coffee moments in the series, which currently airs every Sunday night on AMC this fall, leading up to show’s heart-pounding finale on September 29th. We’ll be in Los Angeles that night, attending the epic finale event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside the show’s cast, crew, and biggest fans.
Where to begin? Let’s start with our favorite coffee moment, from the episode “Shotgun” in season four. Who could forget that moment when, awash with hormones and driven mad by breakfast lust, Walt Jr. demanded to take his coffee black.
His loving, caring father Walt brews him up some pre-ground Folgers at home.
With a pretty weak coffee maker.
Walt appreciates the aromatics. Walt Jr. drinks out of a Ted Beneke mug. It’s a shared moment with latent morbidity. Is Walt’s insistence on subjecting his family to sub-standard coffee really a clue? Was this the moment when we learned, once and for all, that family has only ever been a convenient excuse for Walt’s murderous, exhilarating descent into building a methamphetamine empire?
We’ll take back now to season three’s “Sunset“, where we first meet Gale Boetticher’s ridiculous vacuum reflux/distillation set-up. The scene is unforgettable: here they are, these two evil nerd geniuses, surrounded by thousands (probably millions) of dollars worth of methamphetamine cooking equipment, and they’re dorking out about coffee. Let’s watch:
You’ll notice how Gale gives credit to “Sumatran beans,” but not to any particular roaster. Does this mean Gale roasts at home? Do they have a like 3 kilo set up somewhere in the back of that lab? Gale Boetticher definitely strikes us as an active Home-Barista.com commenter. If you want to learn more about the science behind Gale’s Florence siphon brewing apparatus, the bunch of geniuses over at Weak Interactions have heaps more information.
Even with all the Gale uber brew, cooking meth for Gus Fring is tiresome. In the third season’s bottle episode spectacular, “Fly“, coffee is the delivery system Jesse uses to peacefully knock out a deranged, bug-addled Walt.
Walt doesn’t seem to notice.
Walt is feeling sleepy. Very sleepy…and also evil. Very evil.
Back to the fourth season now, to an episode called “Problem Dog” – the episode for which actor Aaron Paul locked down his 2012 Emmy award Best Supporting Actor award. Paul’s character, Jesse Pinkman, manages to make the simple act of brewing coffee in a crummy automatic machine into a moment fraught with deep tension. Maybe it’s the ricin in his pocket. Maybe it’s the flavor crystals.
How about Walt’s wife, Skyler? She’s broken more than just a little bad over the course of the series, and that includes abusing that perfectly good “Area 51” mug as an indoor ash tray.
The mug is significant, or something, because the episode takes place on Walt’s 51st birthday, and is titled “Fifty-One“. We also know the show’s many ominous flash-forwards take place on Walt’s 52nd birthday. Fans are fairly certain this all matters – something about breakfast and the color yellow.
Let’s jump forward now to season 5, and “Dead Freight” (an Emmy nominated episode). This is another great example of coffee been used as a mover for some serious dramatic tension in the show. Hank (Walt’s brother-in-law and a DEA ASAC) offers coffee as a way to comfort an inconsolable Walt…
Who just so happens to be bugging his office with a listening device…
Later on in season 5’s “Buy Out”, Walter White escapes form a zip-tie like some kind of meth MacGyver, using the wiring in your standard conventional coffee pot (which could use some Urnex). They are badly in need of a “coffee ambush” at the offices of Vamanos Pest.
At Denny’s in season 5’s “Live Free Or Die“, your meal is free on your birthday if you show valid ID. Your valid idea might be totally fake, and you could be using Denny’s as a front to purchase an enormous machine gun, but the breakfast – and coffee – is still totally gratis.
Elsewhere in season 5 (“Madrigal“), Mike prefer’s the coffee service at Loyola’s (they don’t carry soy, bergamot, or stevia).
Mike makes for the best .gifs. Here’s another one, from “Say My Name” — Mike calmly pours himself a cup of sound ground before getting raided by Hank and his DEA goons.
Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning (in .gif form) that Hector Salamanca does not drink coffee at any point.
There’s also a whole cornucopia of Breaking Bad coffee paraphernalia available online, including these t-shirts for the (fictional) Boettiger’s Fair Trade brand, all manner of “Better Call Saul” mugs, and even this ridiculous (and probs accurate) Saul Goodman microroaster meme. The folks at Birch Coffee have done a little Breaking Bad photoshop, but Tonx.org beat them to it with these hilarious Error 404 messages. Last but not least, the folks at Magic Beans Coffee Roasters in Lexington, Kentucky are offering a “Heisenberg Blend” at the Lexington Farmers Market.. They claim it’s 99.1% pure, and here’s a photo of their cook:
Thanks Breaking Bad – we’re huge fans, and it’s been a wild ride. All that’s left is the race to the finish…here’s hoping that the White family has time for one last breakfast before it all goes to hell. More flavor crystals, please.