There’s Value In Ritual

It starts with Santa

I must have been a good boy this year, because Santa was unbelievably generous to me this Christmas.  In addition to gear, books and films, this


Photo taken from the ROK website.

made it’s way to my door (courtesy of Mrs. Collins).


“You say tomato I say espresso.”

The Rok Espresso maker is a hand pumped espresso maker that requires no electricity.  In theory, you simply add ground espresso to the portafilter and pour boiling hot water in the top chamber.  Lifting the handles up pushes water into the chamber and pulling them down creates about 9 bars of pressure to make an espresso shot.

I say “in theory” because it turns out that there are a lot of factors that go into espresso quality.  Traditional espresso machines have boing water going through them which keep the portafilter hot and makes for a more uniform shot – so I started soaking the portafilter in boiled water in the cup to pre-heat both of them.  The roast and grind of the coffee play a role so I experimented with pre-ground and full bean blends.  This lead me to a hand cranked ceramic burr grinder:

Ceramic Burr Grinder

Which works aesthetically with the powerless espresso maker and provides a uniform grind.  Experts will tell you that there are a near endless number of factors that will go into the flavor even down to the tamper (a stainless steel 49mm tamper for me – but the plastic tamper works fine).

Getting a shot of espresso now requires:

  • heating boiling water
  • hand cranking the burr grinder for about 115 rotations to get the proper amount of coffee
  • putting the portafilter in a cup and pouring the boiling hot coffee in
  • waiting about 10-15 seconds for the filter to heat up
  • pouring out the water
  • scooping the coffee into the portafilter
  • tamping it down
  • attaching the filter
  • pouring the water into the espresso maker
  • lifting the handles all the way up
  • pulling the handles down about an 1/8″ to infuse the espresso
  • lifting the handles back up and pulling them down to extract the espresso

then dumping out the portafilter.

in other words – it’s a few more steps than loading coffee into my Aeropress coffee maker which also makes a really good cup of coffee.

You may be asking yourself

What the Hell does this have to do with guitar?

and the answer is – quite a bit.

There’s value in ritual

When you slow down and invest time into something, you have the opportunity to enter a different headspace.  It’s not guaranteed, but think about the number of times that you realized something while you were brushing your teeth before bed or taking a shower before you start your day.

Hand grinding the beans only takes a minute or two, but it gives me pause and becomes a kind of meditative action.  When I get through all of the steps and taste the espresso, it’s nuanced in deeper way than the Aeropress coffee.  It’s a completely different experience than popping a netpresso pod into a machine and hitting start.

If you’re having problems reaching the goals that you want, you may want to consider taking the approach of adopting a daily ritual.  If you’re talking about guitar playing, consider adding one daily ritual to whatever you’re currently doing.  Maybe it’s transcribing, sight reading, chordal studies, scales or improvisation.  It really doesn’t matter that much what it is, and more that you’re doing it daily, with purpose and with proper technique.

Wait where are you sending me now?

Every year, I put a post up on about New Year’s resolutions, goal setting and breaking out of the mistakes of the past and if getting things done in the New Year interest you, you may want to read that here.

In the meantime, consider this…

In my experience, the biggest long term changes that come in life come from daily attention.  Don’t worry about huge overarching goals.  Work on one thing, and commit to doing it every day.

I have to “test’ more espresso while working on my 8-string playing (one of my daily rituals now that it’s back) and prep for UFC 168 tonight.

There’s a lot of good things happening that will be manifesting themselves more fully in the new year in the meantime,  I hope that 2014 is your best year yet.

As always, thanks for reading!


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