making coffee
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN ZEIGLER/GETTY

Enjoy The Mental Health Benefits Of Coffee Without Taking A Sip

It takes me a while to brew my morning cup, and that makes me a better dad.

July 30, 2015

With two young children in the house, certain things have become precious resources. One of these is quiet time. In the early days of our marriage, my wife and I spent entire weekend afternoons hiking, visiting museums, and engaging in long conversations about whatever interesting article or book we’d recently read. Sometimes we’d even let a comfortable silence settle in while we quietly enjoyed each other’s company. 

These days, of course, I can’t go to the bathroom without my 4 year old pounding at the door or sticking her fingers underneath it to get my attention so she can sing a song she’s making up. And our newborn wants only to eat or be held, loudly protesting when one or both isn’t happening. This has made us incredibly distracted people: I’ve been known to walk out the front door with only one shoe on.

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Of course, I knew when I had children that I would miss the time I had to myself, just as I know that when my children are older, I’ll miss moments I enjoy now, such as when my oldest pulls on my hand and begs me to play. Still, quiet space is important. I need time when I have the ability to concentrate and even accomplish something. That’s why I started getting up really damn early and making very complicated coffee.

Most mornings, while the rest of the house is asleep, I pad downstairs and begin the day by solemly making coffee. Sometimes I put the radio on low, but more often I’ll just let the creaking house and the birds outside be my accompaniment. I source beans from a variety of organic, mail-order places, and I’m partial to small beans, such as Ethiopian Sidamo. I grind them in an early 20th-century cast-iron hand grinder I picked up years ago on eBay. It’s beautiful and sturdy, and because it’s all done by hand, I can’t multitask or be distracted.

coffee gear
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS MICHEL

I place the grounds in a reusable steel filter and heat the water in a pretty little Pourover Kettle that I like—the long spout lets me be precise. Then I let everything steep into a Glass Coffee Pot. It makes a delicious cup, more so because of the care and attention I’m able to put into it.

 

Of course, it wouldn’t matter if I was making coffee, working on our Family Garden, or carving harmonicas. What matters is the ritual. Rituals center us. They allow us to pay homage to detail and precision. And in a world that is increasingly distracting, they’re increasingly necessary. From work email to push notifications, from commercial breaks to highway billboards, it’s easy to feel inundated by a million different things competing for attention, even without young children. My coffee process makes space in my day for calmness, for focus. I can give myself a few moments of peace and start my day balanced, on both feet. Sometimes with two shoes on.