That seems like a strange answer, doesn’t it? After all, why would you willingly choose the least efficient way to grind coffee? Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
If you’ve never used a manual coffee grinder, it’s nothing more than a set of grindstones with a hand-turned crank. Making enough coffee for a pot typically requires about 10 minutes of steady turning. When you’re done, you have coffee that looks like every other coffee you’ve ever prepared in advance of sticking it in the pot.
Here’s why this is important, at least to me. It’s an enforced creative break. It’s 10 minutes of mandatory downtime where there’s no convenient way to check messages (your hands are busy holding and turning the grinder) or take calls (too noisy). It’s required boredom, and that’s a healthy thing, because in those 10 minutes, you can give your mind time to process problems and step back from work.
The very real problem we face today – part of the reason we feel stressed and burned out so often – is that everything is too convenient and too fast. When you can plop a plastic cup in your insta-brew coffee machine and have coffee 15 seconds later, you don’t get a real mental break from work. When everything is available right now, right now gets really crowded and overwhelming. One look around at the rest of the animal kingdom indicates that “right now all the time” isn’t a sustainable way to live. The lion that requires incredible speed to catch its dinner doesn’t sustain that speed for very long.
Power question: how can you introduce more mandatory breaks in your day?
The other thing that using a manual grinder does very well is it gives you time to consider what it is you’re about to consume. If you’re not a coffee fanatic, coffee is actually an exceptionally storied, labor intensive process. Farmers in distant lands, from Hawaii to Ethiopia to Indonesia, manage farms made of coffee trees. These trees grow coffee cherries (yes, the coffee bean is the pit of a cherry-like fruit) which are then harvested by hand, then dried or pulped to extract the pits. The pits are bagged up and sold on various commodity exchanges or to stores that either sell them raw or roast them, which is a polite way of saying burn them. Once they’re lightly burned, they’re sealed up and sold, either as is or processed further. Those insta-cup coffee machines are at the very tail end of a very long chain.
By hand-grinding your coffee, you’re participating in a very small way in the tremendous chain of human effort to create a cup of coffee. It gives you time to mentally honor the many people who have put effort into creating your morning coffee. All of that tends to fall by the wayside when coffee is no less or more effort than clicking a mouse or starting a smartphone app.
Enjoy the coffee.
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