Crazy Old Coffee Grinders and the Human Condition

In my house we take coffee seriously. Over the years we’ve tried all manner of elaborate coffeemaking tools and techniques, in pursuit of the ideal morning latte. And we’ve settled, finally, on hand-ground organic Sumatran beans, bloomed at just the right temperature in a pour-over carafe.

All this coffee geekitude truly has paid off: Our a.m. brew is nicer by far than anything from Starbucks or Costa.

But why is that? Those two companies have coffeemaking down to a science. Their machines cost a fortune, their baristas go for special schooling on how to produce the perfect brew every single time. The flavor of our coffee shouldn’t really be able to surpass theirs.

Who knows, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the flavors are similar, but it’s just the satisfaction level in ours that’s so much higher.

These were my ponderings this morning, as I ground the beans by hand in our quirky old cast iron grinder. It’s a real pleasure to use, that thing. Fantastically well designed and solid, it’s built to outlast any of us. We found it at an antiques shop in America last year. I rolled my eyes when Steve insisted on carrying it home in our hand luggage—all 11 pounds of it.

But by God he was right. Not only does it do a stellar job of coarse-grinding beans (which is perfect for a pour-over), there’s something incredibly satisfying about cranking that wooden handle for the minute or so that it takes to complete the job.

And it’s that minute of intense satisfaction, I think, that gets absorbed by the beans and ends up, ultimately, ineffably, perfuming the final cup.

We drink our own satisfaction, and it nourishes us.

As with coffee, so with life. These days it seems I’m intensely drawn to quality products made by human hands. Things made by skilled people who actually enjoy what they do, and want others to enjoy it too.

Because I can’t help feeling there’s something about our machine-programmed world of throwaway objects that’s distinctly unsatisfying. A little disconnected and soulless.

I’m definitely not against modern innovation, mind you. As an artist, computers are great—it’s just that after decades of creating digitally, I discovered I’m hungry to use my own hands to make something real. Something actual.

Is it just me? Probably not. Probably we’re all a little bit starved for that, whether we fully realize it or not.

At Love Made This we make stuff that’s real. We get our hands dirty; we genuinely love what we do. And much like the satisfaction that ends up in that cup of morning coffee, we know our love of the work is itself a primary ingredient, an intrinsic part of the finished piece.

And yes, it nourishes us—and, we hope, it nourishes the person who lives with the finished piece afterward.

It’s a beautiful thing, dirty hands. Hugely satisfying. We’re toying with the idea of opening up our studios as a makers space for others to come and get their hands dirty too. We might offer classes as time goes on.

But for now, it’s handmade art by commission. And some really damn fine excellent coffee.

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