Learning to make a coffee.

Drink­ing cof­fee is one of the habits I formed in the past 18 months. This is less so because I need to calm my nerves or stay awake. My pri­ma­ry moti­va­tor has been to learn and oper­ate a man­u­al cof­feemak­er in the kitchen at my work­place.

Every work­day dur­ing the 10 minute morn­ing break at 10 a.m. I take my cup, go to the cof­fee machine in the kitchen. I grind some aro­mat­ic fair trade beans into han­dle, let hot water flow through the crushed cof­fee pow­der and col­lect the decoc­tion into the cup.

Then starts the crit­i­cal part on which the whole cof­fee drink­ing expe­ri­ence depends, which is to froth the milk. Pour some milk into a steel jug. Immerse the steel tube of the espres­so machine into the milk. Turn on the knob that dis­pens­es the steam via the tube into the milk. The milk swirls nice­ly and heats up to the required tem­per­a­ture. Stop inject­ing steam when the lev­el of the milk rais­es and is about to over­flow the jug. Then just pour the frothy milk into the cup mov­ing the jug up and down. The process is fair­ly sim­ple, except when froth­ing process becomes cacoph­o­nous and scares the peo­ple around. The result could be a jug of yucky tast­ing burned milk.

It is this process of froth­ing milk that chal­lenged me and took over an year of con­sis­tent prac­tice to mas­ter. In the begin­ning I was ter­ri­ble. I failed near­ly every­day. The noise is unbear­able. The cof­fee is potable but tast­ed ter­ri­bly. I kept try­ing but one day some­one at the kitchen table made a sar­cas­tic com­ment which tempt­ed me to give up. But the next day I appeared at the machine with my cup to retry. I did well. The streak improved and I even­tu­al­ly got bet­ter. I do ruin milk occa­sion­al­ly but now I am gen­er­al­ly good. I can claim that I can make an awe­some cup of cof­fee.

The take­away from this learn­ing expe­ri­ence is much more than a cup of java. In this process, I learned the impor­tance of small but sus­tained prac­tice to learn some damn thing. And how not to give undue impor­tance to oth­ers opin­ions, bou­quets or a brick­bats. I do get thumbs up from peo­ple who occa­sion­al­ly notice how well the cof­fee is com­ing up but I just smile and move on.

That’s my cof­fee mak­ing (and there­by drink­ing) expe­ri­ence. I will con­tin­ue to prac­tice and hence, drink. But I am sure I am not going to be a cof­fee addict as my trig­ger and incen­tive for this habit are unusu­al.

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