Before I talk about the thing I love, I must revisit the thing I once hated: the space where I used to prepare coffee every morning for myself and my wife, Spirits columnist M. Carrie Allan, the woman who still sucks down emergency cups of 7-Eleven mud behind my back.
Just a few months ago, we lived in a Takoma Park bungalow, a rental with a kitchen the size of Charlie Sheen’s conscience. We had exactly one tiny counter that wasn’t cluttered with equipment we didn’t use or cups we had no place to store or bottles we could no longer stuff into our crowded pantry.
My frustration wasn’t limited to the counter. If Carrie wanted to open the refrigerator door while I was making coffee, we had to perform an early-morning pas de deux in our cramped kitchen — all without the social graces that come to the fully caffeinated. If one of us had used a small appliance the previous night, the odds were good that we had unplugged the coffee grinder to operate it. Let me state this plainly: Coffee grinders do not function without electricity.
In late December, Carrie and I moved to our own house in Hyattsville. One reason I fell for the place is that it has countertops as long as a two-lane country road in Kentucky. I immediately staked a claim to some counter space near the windows, which flood the kitchen and dining room with warm, buttery light. I then proceeded to build my coffee bar.
Second only to time, space is a resource best appreciated when you have some. I feel like a cellblock prisoner who has been suddenly pardoned and given a cattle ranch in Texas. Our home coffee bar doesn’t just have counter space for the burr grinder and the various pieces of coffee brewing equipment — siphon, Kalita Wave dripper, Chemex pour-over and Moccamaster (each brings out different flavors in a bean) — but it also boasts drawer and cabinet space for all the accessories that go with them.
When the alarm clock sounds — okay, the fourth time the alarm clock sounds — I shuffle out of bed, let our beagle outside and happily stand in one place to prepare our morning brew. The sun provides the only light necessary. I place the water kettle on a burner to my right and pull out the coffee scale from the drawer at my waist. I open the cabinet over my head, grab the coffee sealed in a canister (no more beans degrading on an open shelf by the window!) and measure out the precise amount needed for this particular bean.
This is ritual. This is comfort. This is slow coffee.
Once the coffee is prepared and sending up curls of steam from our favorite cups, I pull the half-and-half from the mini-fridge that I’ve installed next to the counter and add a small amount to Carrie’s mug. It makes her happy. Maybe as happy as I feel as I stand, with a warm coffee cupped in my hands, staring out the window and watching our pooch, Lucinda, romp in the backyard.
Space. Coffee. Carrie. Lucinda. Joy.