Botching the Ritual

By , May 11, 2017

Recently, I performed one of my most enduring morning rituals: making coffee. I set up my Italian stove top espresso maker, set it on the burner, adjusted the flame, and moved on to my next task.

A short time later, Michelle commented that something didn’t smell right.

I had forgotten to put any water in the reservoir!

Thankfully, the cabin didn’t fill with smoke, but a smell of over-roasted coffee did permeate our home. I snatched the coffee maker off the burner and set it outside to cool. A while later, I brought it in to clean. I had to scrub every inside surface free of carbonized coffee, and scrape off the few places where the silicone gasket fused to the metal. I then replaced the gasket, filled the reservoir with white vinegar and ran it through the maker, followed by another round of pure water.

It worked. I had to make another cup of coffee with the machine to ensure that it tasted okay, and it did, despite the burned coffee smell lingering in my sinuses.

All that came later. As the coffee maker cooled, I still wanted my morning coffee, so I turned to my Aeropress® (see What Defines “Perfect” Coffee?). Ironically, I apparently didn’t have the mental faculties to make coffee with my usual coffee maker that morning; as a consequence, I had to use a more complicated process!

Luckily, that’s all. The sun, moon, and stars continued in their courses. The garden continued to grow. The homestead prospered, and the grumpy ogre that sometimes torments my wife and daughter did not appear that day. The ritual, though flawed, apparently worked—eventually.

Like most coffee drinkers, I often joke about the problem that one needs a cup of coffee before one can make coffee properly in the morning. It’s a Catch-22, at least, possibly even a Zen koan. To make things worse, I have advocated sacralizing coffee (see Sacred Coffee: Elevating the Habitual to the Mindful, or find the best version in my book: Sacred Coffee: A Homesteader’s Paradigm) emphasizing the importance of the coffee-making ritual in my life.

I guess, like any primitive, superstitious, magical thinker, I live in fear of botching a ritual, of performing it incompletely or badly, risking the inevitable consequences of such carelessness. My only recourse must be to practice it constantly, until I get it right every single time!

4 Responses to “Botching the Ritual”

  1. Dick Pilz says:

    My wife has the coffee making problem solved. I get up early, make my pint of tea (in a French press) and prep the espresso machine so I can turn it on and make 4 shots for a latte when she wakes up. (It’s a ~$100 DeLonghi pump-type). I also hand grind the coffee with a Hario burr grinder, usually the night before, when I’m web surfing / watching videos. So, coffee is easy for her.

  2. Angie says:

    Mark, I did the exact same thing once, years ago. I remember there was no taking that pot apart until it had cooled down in its own good time. The gasket underwent a nearly molecular transformation, attempting to meld with the rest of the coffee pot. The bright side? This is a mistake you only make ONCE.

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Dick, I won’t say my wife or daughter have never prepped my coffee for me, but it’s a rare treat. I’d love to know your wife’s secret of persuasion!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Angie, I was really lucky that the gasket didn’t fuse as much as I’d feared. I probably wouldn’t have had the good sense to wait for it to cool, if Michelle hadn’t commented that the base was glowing red hot! An odd, circular scar branded onto my palm could have been a good reminder not to forget the water.

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