Somebody Shake Me

Thirty-two years, two months, five days- the precise moment in life at which grinding one's own coffee in the morning finally loses its allure.

I stood there, grasping the worn and well-used black Krups, its 160-watt motor pushing the 'rotating knives' (as Cleese once said) in infinite circles. I shake the device as it performs its task upon the Breakfast Blend. Not out of anger, mind you, but because of centrifugal force.

The Krups (as well as most other brands I would imagine) not only acts as a grinder, you see, but as a kind of centrifuge. As it pulverizes the beans, it also separates the large pieces from the smaller ones. The larger chunks are thrown to the edges of the containment unit, outside of the reach of the blades, while the smaller pieces get ground further. As a result, a straight 15-second blast of the motor results in a mixture of larger chunks (from which you cannot extract a lot of brew from a standard drip machine), and finer powder (which passed through our gold-tone filter, resulting in coffee sediment at the bottom of the pot).

That is why I shake it like a Polaroid picture. Hey ya. Shaking brings the big pieces back towards the center so they can continue to be cut down to size.

So I'm shaking the Krups, enjoying the brief whiff of ozone immediately followed by a more permanent odor of roast coffee. Cheap electric motor creates two ozone molecules for every three oxyegn molecules. Yes, while oxygen is an element, its standard form in our atmosphere (what we breathe) is two oxygen atoms bound together. Ozone is three oxygen atoms together, a sort of chemical menage and just as unstable. Ask Dr. Science for more, he's got a Masters Degree... in Science!

"Why am I doing this?" I ask myself. Not aloud, although technically my daughter would have been within earshot, so I could have been asking her. She is fifteen months old, however, and not entirely familiarized with metaphysics.

Most households consume coffee quickly enough that keeping whole beans for longer-term storage purposes is pointless. Pre-ground coffee will maintain its freshness long enough to finish the pound. Grinding coffee, thus, is a snob's chore, busywork for the effete middle-class.

And that's where I am. I buy premium coffee, but it is just Starbucks, and at the grocery store, not from sniffing Vente Barrista bored with me the moment I pass through his portal.

I think I originally bought a grinder because I was an early adapter coffee snob. The coffee house (and it literally was an old converted house) on campus (Cleveland, '91-'95) nurtured me, sustained me, addicted me to the point that I would become aghast and indignant if any other coffee shop claimed that it was not possible to make an iced Cafe Voltaire.

"Stupid gits," I would smugly think to myself each morning as I exposed the collection of soluble molecules trapped in each bean moments before using boiling water to extract them. "Their pre-ground coffee has been sitting for God-knows how long, the tasty volatile chemicals slowly evaporating over time. They'll be left with nothing but a dreary cup of brown water."

And that's true, to some extent. That's why I still have the jar of whole nutmeg I purchased years ago. When I need some spice, I just grind a little fresh batch, knowing that the mildly hallucinogenic substance contained therein has been waiting patiently for me to unlock it.

This morning, however, the last vestiges of me giving the slightest shit disappeared. Those specific volatile chemicals in my ego, ground up long ago, finally drifted entirely off into the atmosphere.

I would like to end this with some grander realization, some epiphany that takes this episode and applies it to my entire life. I'm not feeling it, though. I will remain satisfied with this small powdery piece of understanding, while the larger chunks remain outside the reach of my spinning blades.

Somebody shake me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Susan Powter says "Stop the Insanity!" Just buy yourself some ground coffee -- be snobby and buy gourmet ground coffee if you must, but step away from the grinder!

- Ms. FS

10:22 AM, February 02, 2005  
Blogger merseydotes said...

Yain't done yet, boy.

I just bought a pound of whole bean last night! Sorry...I wasn't privy to the revelation. Though I did hesitate long and hard in front of the coffees, considering the ground stuff.

We'll savor this last pound of bo-bo brew.

11:04 AM, February 02, 2005  
Blogger B.V. said...

I know. I should have noted that this moment was also spurred by the fact that I was breaking open the new bag this morning.

11:23 AM, February 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By never buying into the whole coffee cult (this weblogger starts the day with juice), to date I have avoided spending roughly $2.3 billion on the stuff. That's almost enough to buy a senator.

11:45 AM, February 02, 2005  

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