I’m not sure when Lauren and I received our first french press coffee maker, but I know it wasn’t until last year that we begin to use it. Like so many things that sit on on shelves unused, I believe it did so out of sheer ignorance…at least on my part anyways. Once we moved into a current home, I eyed the contraption suspiciously until finally I asked Lauren, “how in the world do you use this thing?”
Why the sudden desire? I think there were many factors. However, I believe the biggest to be my kindling interest in creation care. Lauren and I were trying our hands at gardening and I knew that coffee grinds were supposed to be wonderful contributors to compost piles. Also, the amount of Keurig cups I saw in our trash can made me warrant the possible need for change.
Lauren taught me how to use a french press, and with the exciting newness of a toy I had always had but just learned to play with, I bought my first bag of whole bean coarse ground coffee from the store. This happened a few times before we finally invested in an grinder of our own along with an electric kettle to heat water.
A regular size french press produces two large cups of coffee in our house, meaning we usually have to perform the act twice in order to have a couple of cups each to wake our bodies up for the day ahead. That means twice every morning we observe in the following actions;
The Act of Pressing:
Pour/grind coffee beans.
Pour water in the kettle.
Wash out the french press if we haven’t from the day before and transplant the grounded beans.
Wait for the water to boil.
Pour water over ground beans and stir.
Wait several minutes before “pressing.”
Pour steaming cup of liquid celebration into cup and enjoy.
Needless to say it takes a little more effort than popping a cup in a Keurig with a little water added. In a society where efficiency is valued, why do I take the extra time to make my coffee this way?
Again, I have thought of many reasons, but the answer I feel most comfortable giving is that I recognize the process as an act of contemplative prayer where I am aware of my embodied actions (my physical preparation to make the coffee), the items used to do so (my acknowledgement of others who have provided the materials needed), and my awareness of God in the moment (divine presence). In her book An Altar to the World, Barbara Brown Taylor says “Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way.” For me, the making of coffee in this manner allows for reflection of process; meaning I actually have to think about what I’m doing and, because there is waiting involved, I have to walk away from it which requires me to remember it later (I can’t tell you how often I’ve started boiling water only to completely forget about it leaving me to do it again).
The entire process might take between 10-15 minutes. For some, their days are started by encountering God with prayer once feet hit the floor. For others, they turn to personal devotions and scripture to connect with the holy. However for me, the act of shuffling around in my semi-dark kitchen pouring water and grinding beans is enough to remind me that I’m in the presence of the sacred.