I’m a Barista and This $5 Gadget Completely Changed My Coffee Routine

published Mar 4, 2020
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I work as a barista and I really care about the details that go into brewing the perfect cup. When I’m on the job, I weigh the beans down to the half-gram, I obsess over the roast date, and I’m constantly fiddling with water temperature and the grind.

When, I’m at home, I also take my morning cup seriously, but in a completely different way. It’s less about achieving a cup that really lets the bean’s inherent flavors shine and more about slowing down.

I have a $5 vintage hand-crank burr grinder that I picked up at a thrift store to thank.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

When I bought it, it was more of a novelty, an impulse buy that I thought would look sweet in my kitchen. But after sacrificing my electric coffee grinder to spice use, and realizing I couldn’t drink another cup of coffee that tasted faintly of cumin, I decided to put the hand-crank grinder to use.

It’s simple to use — the beans are deposited in a conical feed at the top of the grinder; a metal hand crank gets turned in a clockwise direction; and the ground beans fall to a small wooden box — but it’s definitely not efficient. It takes longer to grind a cup’s worth of beans than an electric grinder. The coarseness settings are adjustable but unreliable, so I’ll often wind up with grounds more suitable for a French press than my at-home pour-over setup. And it’s impossible to empty the box of grinds without getting coffee all over your countertops.

Despite of all of that, it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools.

Why I Love My Hand-Crank Coffee Grinder

Like so many of us, I fall into the “Open mouth. Pour in coffee. Repeat.” routine. When a cup of hot and fresh coffee is seconds away, it’s tempting to just drink another, even though I know it makes me jittery and anxious. The laborious process of hand-grinding my beans encourages more mindful consumption. If I find myself hankering for a second cup, I ask myself: Do I really need or want the coffee, or is there another way I can perk up? When I think about the process involved in making that extra cup, I often choose to do a few minutes of yoga or take a brisk walk outside. Herbal tea is nice, too!

I also like the fact that I can make my coffee without any electricity. I’ve brought my grinder camping, and it adds to the adventure of preparing food over a campfire. Because I have a gas stove at home, I never worry about being without caffeine during a power outage — a serious worry for someone who lives in an area prone to winter storms!

The most important reason I love my grinder, though, is that it allows me to be technology-free in the morning. I struggle with being present, and as a way to cope, I try to limit my interaction with tech, devices, and electronic gadgets in the early morning. I try to stay quiet and live small. No, plugging a coffee grinder into a wall socket is not the same as going down an Instagram-scrolling rabbit hole, but it does feel good to be completely manual and analog as I wake up.

It is a fair trade for a less-than-perfectly nuanced cup. Besides, I’ve found that after adding some frothy oat milk, I don’t really notice any imperfections in the brewing.

What’s your morning coffee ritual? Share in the comments below!