Paying Attention (or Why I Love Coffee so Much)

Paying Attention

I made the best cup of coffee I’ve made in a very long while this week.

Obsessing over my pourover coffee technique is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve been through several iterations of brewing equipment and technique, finally settling on a Kalita Wave paired with a Baratza Encore grinder, and they have served me well. The combination produces exceptional coffee, and the Kalita is used by a number of amazing coffee shops alongside their terrifically expensive commercial grinders.

It was in one of these amazing coffee shops, Little Owl Coffee in Denver, that I realized I’d been missing the mark. The cup at Little Owl had flavor notes and subtleties to it that had somehow snuck away from me at home. I had produced cups like this before, but it had been a while. As I stood there watching the barista carefully tend each cup, pouring the water just so, I realized what a hurry I had gotten into making my daily cup. My coffee ritual had gone from among my favorite parts of the day to a banal set of steps I followed to get my fix.

So I came home, I took a deep breath, and I got back into my coffee ritual. I tweaked my grind. I poured slowly. I made sure I hit my time marks. And I was rewarded with an amazing cup of coffee. This was with the same equipment and beans I had been using before the trip to Denver; the massive improvement came down to technique and attention to detail.

There’s not enough time in life for you to care about everything. I spend an inordinate amount time and attention on coffee because it brings me joy. I could easily go buy a nice drip coffee maker and let it do the work for me, but I enjoy the endless futzing in search of perfect extraction, and I get a lot of satisfaction from being (relatively) good at it.

Even for all the joy it brings me, it still takes mindfulness on my part to not fall back into autopilot and settle for a good enough cup. Coffee is a trite example, but it’s easy to go through the motions with most anything (or anyone) you care about in life. Attention is a finite resource, and if you aren’t deliberate about where you want to spend it, you’ll end up giving it all to the squeaky wheels in your life and not have nearly enough for the things that recharge you and bring you joy.

My challenge to you is to spend a few minutes thinking about all the places in life where you’re spending attention by default rather than by choice. Are you spending your attention in the right places, or are you robbing yourself of joy by just going through the motions?

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About Nickolas Means

Nickolas Means is a disaster storyteller, a student of generative leadership, and an aficionado of the human side of software engineering.  Read more →