Be fully aware while making coffee, and you may just make the perfect cup
While tradition holds that meditation practice is usually observed in a quiet, peaceful room while sitting or reclining in one of a few specific positions, the benefits of meditation can be experienced while doing normal daily activities as well—even something as mundane as making coffee.
I’ve learned a lot about coffee over the years. I started off as a young adult with the normal grocery store coffee; Maxwell House or whatever was on sale. I would put the grounds in the pot, fill it with tap water, and push the button. It was completely brainless, and I wasn’t remotely aware of my actions while I was doing it. It became a habit, and there was no magic involved. Push button, receive drink. It didn’t taste very good.
I learned from a friend that premium coffee tastes better, so I started ordering mail-order coffee from a specialty roaster. It came in aluminum, vacuum-sealed bags. I did the same thing: Put the grounds in the pot, add water, push button. It tasted slightly better, but it still wasn’t very good.
I started to become more aware of my actions. Was I making sure the carafe was clean? Was I aware that the coffee maker was dirty and needed to be rinsed out? I opened my eyes and actually looked at the coffee maker. It was dirty. I spent some time reading instructions on how to clean it. Looking back, I now realize that this act of taking conscious effort to improve things was an early form of practice.
I still wasn’t pleased with the coffee and over the years became much more educated about the beans, the process, and the art of making coffee. I began to learn about how interconnected the flavor of the drink was with the place it was grown and the people who picked it and cleaned it and processed it. I spoke with growers in faraway lands. I learned to understand the full extent and the magic of how this simple daily pleasure was deeply intertwined with my persona and my daily happiness.
Today, I am very careful about making coffee and I enjoy making it for others. It’s ritualistic, calming, quiet, reflective, and rewarding—all hallmarks of a good meditative experience. I use a Hario ceramic funnel, a Hario kettle, Hario filters, and a Bodum burr grinder. I get my beans from the lovely Chazzano Coffee in Ferndale, Michigan, as Frank (the owner) is one of the most conscientious coffee roasters I’ve ever met.
Making the coffee
I check the cleanliness of my kettle and wipe it down if it’s dirty or clean it out if needed. I admire the craftsmanship of the metal, the shape, and the design. I appreciate the artistry and skill that went into crafting the kettle. I think about the person who designed it. It’s a Japanese kettle, so I think of how awesome it is that I live in a world where I can use this implement that was created a half a world away. Next, I begin to fill it. I contemplate the impurities that have made their way into the water and the journey the water takes to get to my tap. I am careful to filter the water to make the coffee as clean and bright as possible. I enjoy the sound of water pouring into the empty metal pot. I love staring at the cool, still water in the shiny metal kettle.
I put the kettle on the stove and go to the grinder. I smell the beans, remembering where I bought them and from where they came. I think about the growers, the sunlight, the coffee cherries drying, and the marvel of transportation that allows me to have these so soon after being picked. The roaster I go to has taken great care to roast them to perfection; I’ve seen him fret over these beans, smelling them, watching them, listening to them crack as they turn dark brown in the heat.
I grind them and take deep breaths as the beans are turned into coarse powder. The smell makes me feel at peace.
I take the filter and fold it carefully. I love the texture of the filter as my finger runs along it, making a tight crease. I take the ceramic funnel and marvel at the skill that must have been involved with designing it. It has spiral channels built into it and it’s almost a work of art on its own.
I put the filter in the funnel and run some filtered water over it to wet the filter, while waiting for the kettle to come to a boil. I fill the filter with grounds, taking care to gently tap the grinder cup to get the grounds out.
When the water is ready, I start the pour. The pour-over method should take three minutes if done properly. It’s very slow, contemplative, and you have to be aware of what you’re doing the entire time. You start with a slow pour in the center of the grounds, and since I’m using extremely fresh beans, the bloom that appears due to release of carbon dioxide is beautiful, and the smell is intoxicating. I count carefully and when thirty seconds have gone by, I begin slowly to swirl the kettle. to wet the rest of the grounds.
The kettle is designed to pour very slowly and consistently (thus the swan-like neck). This allows me to swirl the kettle in a spiral fashion, careful not to touch the sides of the filter, while ensuring that all the grounds continue to get evenly distributed without the funnel filling up too quickly, causing the grounds to stick to the side. It takes a great deal of attention and patience to get it right—just like meditation.
The joy of the experience
In the end, I am left with a wonderful, truly remarkable cup of coffee; more than drinking it myself, I love giving it to a friend and seeing the look on their face as they inhale the aroma and take their first sip.
It’s one of the most peaceful parts of my day, and it helped me realize that peace and contemplation can be found in everyday experiences. It doesn’t always have to be on the zafu or in the meditation room.