Holy Grounds

I pull open the bag, and there’s that whiff of enlightenment that I’ve sorely missed, the rich caffeinated earth resting inside, denied to me by an elimination diet’s fanatic demands. The steeping pots of loose leaf tea that my husband makes have helped pass the time, but it’s just not the same. As hot water moments off the boil is poured carefully into a filter’s waiting bloom, I reflect on the many ways I’ve prepared the morning’s elixir over the years.

It began as a child, begging for a share of my father’s daily routine, with more milk than coffee in the cup. I remember gagging on the diluted insipidness, disappointed that this didn’t come close to the wonderful flavor of coffee ice cream. By college, however, I had learned to drink the cafeteria’s dark sludge (with very little cream) as a badge of sophistication, while I gulped down big burnt carafes during all-nighters in the art studio.

Even though my husband is not a coffee drinker, at our wedding reception I received not one but two espresso makers with open arms, and vibrated around our duplex alone or with other visiting coffee addicts whenever I made a batch of the extra-potent beverage. Daintily sipping from the tiny demitasse set that came with the espresso makers didn’t help, either.

From the exotic newlywed caffeinated experience, I then graduated to regular married life with my very own Mr. Coffee, practical, prolific, and always tarry by the time I poured my second cup. The making of smaller batches, while easier to finish without rocketing off into orbit, seemed to scorch faster on the hot plate, and this was years before you could turn off the machine and reheat in a microwave.

The quest for a good, small cup of joe led to a string of tiny coffeemakers, from the cute little drip machines that quickly brewed the right amount but lacked the flavor, to pour-over cones for a single cup that cooled too quickly, to a brief foray into steeping coffee bags (only slightly better tasting than instant coffee and just as humiliating), to a knock-off of a popular dispensing brew station that clogged into a dribble.

Then there was the attempt to get serious by purchasing a respectable grinder, a bag of eco-friendly and ethically grown beans, and a French press in trendy vermillion green. I confess that this arrangement, while producing great-tasting coffee, was messy and stressful in deciding when to press the plunger. I was irrationally terrified that the flimsy glass beaker would break and an angry, unfiltered mudslide flood my kitchen. Hardly a zen moment.

All of which has led me to my current ritual as an occasional coffee drinker. While my body still can’t handle daily doses of the good stuff without considering a spacesuit, I’ve found a method that is cheap, convenient, tasty — and mindful. The new caffeinated practice involves a small bag of good-quality ground coffee, a trusty Melitta #2 pour-over cone in unbreakable plastic, an electric kettle that boils faster than Mount Vesuvius, and a wonderful 16-ounce stainless steel thermos that lets me slowly sip hot coffee as long as I like.

All to say that once again, I can find reward in the slow passage of filtered thoughts through grounded intentions, setting the quickened pace for another productive day.

9 thoughts on “Holy Grounds

  1. I loved the autobiography in this! You and coffee in various stages of life, vibrating, rocketing, always in search of that exactly right bean. (I understand the Nirvana moment.) And I raise my mug of this morning’s jolt to the way you tied it all together at the last: “the slow passage of filtered thoughts through grounded intentions.” Very nice indeed.

    I needn’t say that I loved “Holy Grounds” as title and I laughed out loud when I got to the crack about the Zen moment.

    I also loved the photo but I can’t figure out what it is. The shape — vaguely tulip-like — is beautiful.

    1. Glad you could relate, fellow coffee drinker! I think I changed the title about five times before the present one came to mind and settled in. The photo is an arial shot directly above my pour-over Melitta cone as the water drains through coffee grounds. The edge of the “flower” is actually the unbleached paper filter.

  2. Don’t give up that occasional good cup of coffee if you can help it! Vera and I have been drinking some Lavazza coffee from Italy, which we got on $5 off coupons from a store demo. It doesn’t make getting up for work a joy, but it does add some pleasure to the daily grind.

    Did your father buy into the percolators that afflicted my parents’ generation? Fun to watch and listen to, but horrible, bitter coffee! It probably enhanced my health by keeping me largely away from the stuff until I was in my twenties.

    1. That Italian coffee sounds delicious! And my father was always ahead of his time, and purchased a Corning Ware drip-o-lator coffee pot with a glass carafe on top and a plunger inside that you pulled so that the water could work through the grounds. It’s been years since I thought of that contraption but it worked. I never dared drink the stuff from my grandmother’s percolator.

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