3.18.2018

How to Practice Mindfulness with Coffee

I’d like to take this time to make an argument for brewing coffee by hand. More precisely, I would like to make an argument for pour over coffee. You may have heard that term before at your local coffee shop, but some of you may have no idea what it is. There are a ton of different ways for a person to brew coffee at home, with an automatic coffee maker being the most ubiquitous. But there is a movement that takes things into the realm of manual coffee brewing. And under that umbrella of “manual brewing” there are two sub-genres: pour over and full immersion. Full immersion brewing is like a French press. There are other devices that use this same method, but it’s essentially like steeping tea. The coffee grounds brew in a bath of hot water for a certain amount of time before the coffee is ready. And whereas full immersion is like a bath, pour over coffee is much like a shower. Instead of the grounds steeping in hot water, the water is poured over the grounds, and as the water moves it pulls flavor molecules with it.

Now the question is why, if automatic coffee makers are everywhere, am I arguing for manually brewing coffee? Mindfulness. It’s simple, really. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have a 1+ hour commute to and from work, so I have to do something with my time. And almost every podcast I listen to is sponsored by a meditation app. And it’s not just the life-improvement podcasts either. Podcasts like Stuff You Should Know, a show that dives into one specific topic each episode, also have ads for apps like Headspace or Pacifica. There are a ton of these apps out there too. And they all want your money!

What these apps tell me is that there is a public need for mindfulness. Sure, advertising is a profession all about making people think they need something they don’t, but mindfulness isn’t something new thought up by a marketing firm. It’s been around for a long time, first stemming from Buddhist practices and then spreading throughout the Western world. These apps aren’t a result of a team of mad men trying to figure out a way to make more money. They’re the result of an app developer seeing people spend money on real life mindfulness classes and thinking, “We could probably do this too.”

So where does coffee come into this? Well, what is mindfulness? It’s the idea of existing in the present moment. How do you do that? Very often mindfulness meditation focuses on breathing. In through your nose and out through your mouth. But really, it could be anything in the moment. You could sit and listen to the cars driving by your window, or the birds in the trees. It’s about paying attention to what’s happening here and now, and not the bills you have to pay, the project at work, or the health of your loved ones. Let me walk you through my morning pour over to explain how I think adding this into your daily routine could actually help center you for your day.
  1. Start with 25g of freshly ground coffee.
  2. Add it to your pour over device.
  3. Start a stopwatch/timer.
  4. Gently pour 50g of water over your coffee grounds, making sure you saturate everything. This should take about 20 seconds.
  5. Wait until your timer says 0:45.
  6. Begin pouring slowly in the center of your device, spiraling outward.
  7. Hit 100g at 0:55.
  8. Wait 15 seconds (1:10).
  9. Pour slowly in the same manner to 200g by 1:30.
  10. Wait 15 seconds (1:45).
  11. Pour slowly to 300g by 2:05.
  12. Wait 15 seconds (2:20).
  13. Pour slowly to 400g by 2:40.
  14. Wait for the water to fully drain through the coffee grounds (~3:30).
Now look at all those numbers. I’ve always been very specific about making coffee, but it wasn’t until I started learning about mindfulness that I started to see other potential benefits. You have a scale, a kettle, and a stopwatch. And this method has you focusing on each one, jumping from the water leaving the kettle to the scale, and then from the scale to the time. Because the recipe is so precise, it doesn’t leave much room for other thoughts. There are countless recipes out there that are just as, or more, specific!

The takeaway is that you can choose to see these coffee recipes as finicky and fussy, or you can choose to see them as a way to start practicing mindfulness. The whole process takes under 3 minutes of active work, so it’s no big deal. But can 3 minutes of mindfulness even yield benefits? If you look at a lot of mindfulness guides out there, they say that starting small may be the right way to start building a habit. I’ve frequently heard gurus say that the biggest mistake a lot of beginners make is thinking they have to meditate for 30 minutes or an hours. What that does is burn you out before you see the benefits, so they often suggest starting at 5 minutes or shorter!

Give it a shot, and let me know the results.

What you’ll need:
  • Coffee
  • Gooseneck kettle
  • Scale
  • Timer

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