No, this isn’t an article harkening back to the my bygone barista days. This is real. The quest for the best way to grind coffee led, albeit indirectly, to deeper awakening and increased inner peace. Really.
As a former barista, I owned a high-quality electric home grinder for years. According to homegrounds.co, it was the best: “In terms of Burr coffee grinders, the Baratza Virtuosa [sic] is our number one favorite […sic?] and we give it 4.7 stars out of 5,” the website raves. Check it out:
40 settings. Amazing. I bought in to it all. Surely the home barista’s joy, the Virtuoso enabled optimized grinding-whirrs and efficient, effective gurgles when flavor-masking carbon dioxide was released upon the bloom phase of brewing. It is essential, essential, that each grain of ground coffee be as similar in size as possible.
And of course, the Virtuoso was consistent day after day, cup after cup. It delivers speed and efficiency. Again I quote from the #1 Google result homegrounds.co (with disbelief that this is a real statistic), “[t]he 40mm conical burr ‘s [again, sic] on this grinder results in grind [sic] at speeds of about 1.5 to 2.4 g/second depending on your settings.”
1.5-2.4 grams per second! Can you believe it? (Depending on your settings?) I could wake up, measure out 24 grams of coffee, and have it ready for brewing in 36 to 57.6 seconds. Add an electric kettle into the mix, time it right, and from start to finish, fully optimized hand-brewed coffee could be had for the low low price of three and a half minutes. Fully optimized perfection.
And one day, it broke. One of the grinding-whirrers, probably.
Repair attempts failed; the company, upon being consulted, was not optimistic on the economics of sending it in for their technicians’ attention.
So I faced a choice. I could try, again, to repair it myself. I could buy a new one. Maybe it was even time for an upgrade? You can spend just about as much money as you desire on a coffee grinder.
And then there’s this little guy:
The typographically-challenged but respected Homegrounds.co still likes the Hario Skerton grinder. But it takes a while. 35-57.6 seconds turns into 4-5 minutes. And there’s no double duty: if you’re grinding, you’re grinding. Add in brew time, and now we are talking about eight to ten minutes.
Since I was at this point solidly on the road to renouncing my funds-providing day job, I decided I couldn’t justify the cost of an electric grinder. The Skerton is was. Plus, what’s five minutes in the morning, right? Surely it wouldn’t be that bad.
It was, dear reader, it was.
It’s not difficult, spinning the well-designed handle on the Skerton. But is it ever repetitive. “Crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch,” the Skerton softly acknowledges the steady but slightly maddening pace of its work.
I wake up, stumble into the kitchen. Gotta make some coffee. Bluh, what time is it? Have to go to this job still. Coffee’s gotta be good, for a little bit of something nice before the rat race. Weigh out 53 grams (a little strong, and for two cups). Dump it into the hopper of the grinder. Fill up the kettle, get it boiling. Here we go. Crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch. After two minutes, my arm’s a little tired. Keep going. Crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch. The water boils, but I’m still not done. After what seems like forever, I pull out a filter, put it into the Chemex, rinse, dump in the ground coffee, and we are ready to brew. Finally.
I didn’t like it, but I could endure it. It’s not worth dropping $225+ on a grinder, I always need to remind myself.
Elsewhere in my life, I continued my personal journey. I meditated, I let go. I reprioritized, I made change. I sought to find peace in every step, as Thich Naht Hanh reminds us we can do. And somehow the connection failed to register in my mind, though I am sure it has already registered in yours.
One day I decided that, yes. Yes, I can enjoy grinding this coffee. Coffee is already something I enjoy. Let me re-paint you this picture.
I wake up. My fiancée is beside me, always snoozing a bit longer that I do. I know I can wake her up with that delicious Arabica aroma. I come into our kitchen, pink with open shelving, and still dark, since I’m up before the sun. I turn on the Edison-bulbed overhead lamp, giving everything a soft orange glow. When I unscrew the Ball jar that holds our coffee beans, I am instantly hit by that wonderful smell. I close my eyes and inhale. That smell is the product of the skill of our friend who works at MOM’s Organic Market, who roasts it every week. Thank you, Garrett.
My water kettle, whose metal construction means a distinctive, pleasant ring every time I remove the cap. Fifty-three grams of coffee. Just right. My grinder fits easily into my hand. I feel the cold glass. Crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch-crrch. You know, it’s actually rather pleasant. As the beans grind, they begin to release their flavors directly into the air. What a morning to be alive this is. What an amazing journey this is, and what a privilege to make this coffee every morning, ground by hand, to lure my partner into the kitchen. She will, as she does every morning, greet me with a sleepy “good morning!” With arms overhead, she feigns the morning pep that I have and which she lacks.
With this painting in my mind, rather than the other, I enjoy my morning ritual. And not only that, but the daily coffee meditation serves as a reminder and a personal training session to better enable me to find joy in everything.