Coffee: A Sensory Experience

My wonderful husband is taking Comp One in school. He wrote the following essay that I had to share with everyone. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did and as much as his teacher did.


There are few things I enjoy more than coffee. Making coffee actually borders on a ritual. There is a process when followed that can give one an incredible sensory experience. Let me try and describe what I mean. Take this journey with me, so that the experience may be shared and enjoyed by all: coffee beyond caffeine and the wonders it holds for all the senses.

I start with the beans, a dark roast this time. The beans are extremely dark brown, nearly black and really shiny. The shine is from the oils that cover the surface. This is my normal choice for mornings. I do not want to wake up too fast. Dark roast beans have less caffeine, but an incredible amount of flavor. The smell of coffee is actually weak at this stage; the roasting smell is more prevalent in these beans right now. After I have chosen the bean, I move to my grinder.

My grinder, a creation of pure beauty, is small, yet powerful, and not overly expensive. I favor a Burr grinder; it uses two revolving abrasive elements, such as wheels, between which the coffee beans are crushed with little frictional heating. The process of squeezing and crushing of the beans releases the coffee's oils which are then more easily extracted during the infusion process with hot water, making the coffee taste richer and smoother. I load my grinder with enough beans to make an entire pot of coffee, making sure the beans are distributed evenly so that they grind better. I turn it on and listen to the sounds that it makes. The grinder itself makes a high pitched whirring noise, that can be disturbing but I listen past that to the sounds of the beans being smashed and shredded. I listen as the crushing sounds diminish and all that can be heard is the whirring of the grinder, and I know it is time for one of the best parts of my ritual.

Turning off the grinder, I then remove the part that holds the grounds. I open it slowly so as not to spill it. For someone who merely drinks coffee this scent may just be the smell of coffee, but for a true coffee lover it is so much more. I inhale deeply of the scent of fresh ground coffee. This is a smell like no other. One can smell the darkness of this bean, the richness of the taste that will come from it, the boldness of the long roasting process. All this comes to mind just from the scent.

I move on to the next part of the process almost sadly. The grinder was set to a medium coarseness for this brew, which is best for a standard drip coffee maker. I check the consistency of the grind to make sure there are no large parts of the beans left in the container. Large pieces in the grind makes the coffee weaker and not as flavorful. If any large parts are found I remove them before putting the grounds into the coffee maker. Sifting through the grounds also releases some of the beans that was ground to fine and has become a light dust. The upside to this is the smell it releases to the air, which is almost as good as when the container is first opened.

The bean is ground and checked so it is time to move to the next step. I set up the coffee pot. A part of the process I could literally, and probably have, done in my sleep. I measure out the water; I can tell how much water is in the pot just by the weight. The water is added to the coffee pot and the filter is placed into the basket. It is finally time to put the grounds into the basket, but not without one last smell of the wonderful aroma. I make sure the grounds are distributed evenly through the basket and are lightly packed down to add a little more flavor. Now it is time to close the lid on the basket and flip the switch. The switch that will let the wonder that is coffee fusion begin.

All that can really be done at this time is to watch, wait and drool a little. To keep myself distracted, I clean the grinder as I listen to the chug, chug, chug of the water as it begins to percolate. I am done by the time the sweet aroma of brewing coffee starts to fill the air. I inhale deeply, and listen to the agonizingly slow drip of the coffee, as it starts to slowly fill the pot. For someone waiting on coffee, there is an eternity between drops as the pot slowly fills.

In days past, when the world was young and we did not know better, people waited for the pot to finish filling. But no longer are we that backwards a people. I use a Brew Station coffee pot that lets me fill my cup from a spigot and not disturb, or have to wait for, the brewing process.

I stand in front of the coffee maker watching it get to the point I know is enough to fill my favorite coffee cup. I caress the stoneware cup in my hand in anticipation, the smooth surface of it a comfortable friend that has been on this journey with me numerous times. I love the color and patterns on it, red with black lines and a black interior, one of the countless mugs that were presents from my daughters.

At last there is enough in the pot to fill my cup. I place the cup to the spigot and watch this wonderful black liquid fill my cup. I see the steam rise from it as it fills and curse the slowness of the filling. Then it is almost time, I bring the cup up close to smell what I have been so patiently waiting for. The smell makes me close my eyes and shudder in anticipation, as the warmth of the cup spreads through my hands. Finally I take that first sip, slowly letting the heat and the flavor spread through my mouth. The explosion of flavor makes me sigh as I swallow that first sip, and I relish the warmth as it slowly spreads to every part of me.

With a smile of satisfaction I turn away from my coffee maker. I start to walk out of the room, when the wife says “There is something so wrong with you.” My smile gets bigger as I lift my cup and leave the room.

Copyright © 2012 Shea Wilkerson

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