To this point, I’ve been blogging primarily about things related to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is appropriate seeing that nothing compares to him in this life. Still, everyone needs hobbies, and I found one that takes up a little too much of my time and focus (according to my wife). Coffee. I don’t know if it was my wife’s influence, but I got to thinking about the pros and cons of my coffee obsession. To each person, the pros and cons of a particular thing is different. For some, practical benefits might outweigh the theoretical beauty. For others, the art of crafting and tasting good coffee might outshine the time, money, convenience lost in order to do so. I’m probably more along the lines of the second group (though roasting your own beans can save you money in the long run). And in thinking about my love for coffee and reflecting upon the steps taken to uncover the beauty of cooked beans, I’ve found pretty decent life lessons learned along the way. I want to take you on a journey with me in my relationship with coffee, and how it showed me different shades to the person I am.
I’m not the quickest when finding out the newest trends, so when the “third-wave” movement was starting up, I wasn’t in line with all the micro-roasters in my neighborhood. Besides, I was beginning to attend middle school when that was happening, and I don’t think it’s a good idea for twelve and thirteen year olds to be drinking coffee when some of them haven’t even gone through a voice change. In fact, it wasn’t until late in college and as a post-grad that I started to drink coffee. I won’t lie… I remember the early stages of drinking coffee, and I absolutely hated it. I couldn’t stand the bitterness, the burnt smell, and the medicinal taste in my mouth (when thinking of it, it was probably also due to it being bad coffee). I always had to couple coffee with packets of sugar, milk, or ice cream, or have it as a frozen dessert beverage of some sort. Still, I persisted with drinking coffee, because it made me feel like a grown up and I liked the idea of it. I mean, not all of us started to drink coffee for its taste, right? Liking the idea of coffee turned into a dependence upon caffeine, and that in turn resulted in an acquired taste for coffee. I finally started liking it.
I guess this is where my journey with coffee really started. Like many other coffee rookies, I started with Starbucks. There, I thought it was a true coffee lover’s duty to drink everything black and as dark as possible. I began consuming a venti cup of Pike Roast on a daily basis and depended upon it for my source of energy for the day. This eventually progressed into drinking iced coffee black which then progressed toward taking espresso shots over ice. At this point, I thought that was all there was to coffee. Comical, I know, but ignorance can cause you to think a multitude of things. I eventually had to start cutting back on my coffee expenses, because daily drinks at Starbucks would cost anywhere from two to four dollars, and that amounted to about a hundred dollars a month, at least, spent on coffee alone. As a seminarian and part-time intern pastor, that wasn’t ideal. So my caring wife (fiancee at the time), decided to buy a Keurig machine for Christmas. I started to buy K-Cups in bulk and took full advantage of the coffee selection Keurigs had to offer. Growing up in Minnesota, my mom was friends with the owner of a Gloria Jeans coffee shop, so I tried their assortment of flavored grinds. Along with these, Donut Shop, and Starbucks K-Cups, I thought I found my solution to saving more money with coffee while enjoying it.
I think I would have been satisfied with K-Cups for a length of time had I never tried Bird Rock Coffee in San Diego (I’ve tried other micro-roaster shops in San Diego but found this to be my favorite). This took coffee to a whole new level for me. I never knew that a cup of coffee could capture such sweet and fruity tones within it. I started reading blogs about beans, grinders, and methods of making a quality cup (Stumptown’s website has a good tutorial for those unfamiliar with how to use various coffee instruments). In a timely way, I was also gifted a french press and an aeropress that Christmas. I incorporated those with a Hario handheld burr grinder, and I grew increasingly satisfied with each cup of coffee I drank. Then, I started to look at what kinds of beans produce a certain kind of flavor that I liked. Having tried various beans from South American and Eastern Africa, I found Kenyan beans to provide my perfect cup. I was satisfied with buying beans from Bird Rock (they also give you a free cup when you buy a bag of beans–for Kenyan AB grade beans, $18.99/12 oz bag).
But of course, things have to be taken to another level for obsessive people like myself. I began reading books about coffee (recommended: Home Coffee Roasting by Kenneth Davids) and concluded that I needed to start roasting my own beans. Time is money since roasted beans have a short shelf life the moment after they have roasted. So I explored ways where I could roast at home and looked into roasters. The price of roasters scared me away, but with the help of one of my old college students Kichan along with a few blogs, I looked into making my own coffee roaster for a fraction of the price of buying one online. After doing laps at Home Depot, Target, and IKEA, I found some parts that might work to make a mini drum roaster.
The parts are the following: Two pencil cups, some nuts and bolts, two cork stoppers for turning, hatch, 3′ x 1′ x 0.5″ wood, aluminum sheet metal to put on the inside of the wood, and a portable gas stove. It’s definitely not the perfect roaster, but I’ve found it to be a good place to start. I usually get my beans from Klatch or Sweet Maria’s (2-5 pounds at a time at ~$8/pound). If you do the math, you can save a good deal of money, considering the fact that beans often lose weight while gaining volume in the process of roasting. Sure, you could aways save money at Costco buying a huge bag of dated and flavorless beans (also, often robusta which is a no-no). But for those who enjoy a nice cup of coffee that comes from freshly roasted and high quality beans, cooking your own beans might be worth your while.
Some might ask the question: Was it all worth it? I could give you the list of pros and cons for roasting your own beans from time spent to energy consumed to money spent/saved. Yet, for some reason, I guess this isn’t the way my mind works. To be honest, I’m not so sure that it was worth it to spend all that time researching, trying out different shops and beans, investing in different ways to make a cup, etc. But it makes me happy drinking a good cup of coffee, and I’m satisfied in thinking that I did everything I could to ensure a good cup of coffee each morning. The beautiful thing about hobbies is that the process is just as enjoyable as the end result.
I don’t mean to get philosopical after having talked about my journey with coffee, but this does point to a few things about myself that it made me realize. I’ve never been too good with balancing a checkbook and keeping tabs on my expenses/income, so I guess I’ve never been like that with anything else in life. If someone were to ask me if it was worth it to marry my wife, I don’t think I would give a list of pros and cons and show how the pros outweigh the cons. I would simply say that I love her, she loves me, we continue to grow to show Christ’s love to one another, and that’s all that matters. The same would go to how I spent my years in seminary. I spent a longer time there than most, because I took classes slower and learned slower than most while serving at a local church. But I’d say that I’m happy with the way things turned out. I learned a lot more than I would have had I stayed less years. I took more classes than I needed to having stayed the extra years, but I did more reading and I learned how to be a better student through it all. If I were to do it over again, would I do things differently? I’m sure I would, but I’d say the same with many things in my life. It just doesn’t help in thinking of how things could have gone differently. It’s not the way my mind works. I’m happy with where I am, and I think that’s all that matters.
Yet, I’m grateful for those who aren’t like me. If the whole world were to think the way I do, I’m not sure if anything productive would get done. A world filled with people pursuing hobbies would leave more necessary work to be done by less people willing to do it. So I guess I’m reaping the beneifts of those who weigh out the pros and cons of life and work hard to ensure people like me can ride our hobby horses without too many negative effects on society. I’m grateful for my wife who lets me have all my hobbies (I have a lot more than just coffee, sadly…) and doesn’t think the way I do. If she was exactly as I was, we’d be out of money very frequently and our necessities might not be covered. But most of all, I’m thankful for my God who gives common grace for all to enjoy (the original use of the rainbow). Even a good cup of coffee is something to give him thanks for.
I don’t know how many non-believers read my blogs entries. I mean, the title of my page is called “The Art of Godliness.” Still, it wouldn’t be fitting to close an entry without giving thanks to the thing that means most to me. No, it’s not coffee, it isn’t even my wife or daughter. It’s the very God whom I thank for the common grace shown through the tasty cup of coffee I drank this morning. In the Christian faith, there are two forms of grace given by God–common and special. Common grace is that which is given to all people. These are the very things we’re able to enjoy in life, such as good coffee, good music, a good pair of 501’s, and a beautiful summer night. Yet, if common grace is cause to give thanks, think of how amazing special grace is. See, this special grace is given without a cost to us, but it cost God everything. It cost the Father his Son, and it cost the Son his life. In him, we get more than a good cup of coffee. We get more than 80 years of a pleasant life spent. We have an eternity with perfect relationships, and we have a place where there will be no tears or pain. It’s home. So while I give praise to the small things in life given to me, they really stand small when placed next to the saving relationship I have with my God. I hope that we would all give thanks for the small things but know there is something truly worthy of our gratitude. For some, a relationship with God is one where the cons outweigh the pros. But I don’t think like that (not that the pros don’t outweigh the cons). His grace is enough, his love his sufficient, and I need him more each hour. That’s more than enough for me.