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Friday, April 15, 2022

Letting go - Part 1

I wrote this post a couple of months ago but it was scattered and didn’t feel right.

A couple of months ago I decided it was time to take on a new hobby. Something that would take me away from the computer that I sit behind for 8 to 10 hours a day on a good week. Something that would stimulate a different part of my brain.

Opening up a coffee shop has been a dream of mine for a long time, but I have never spent any time behind the bar of a coffee shop. It seems silly to try to open a coffee shop without ever pulling a shot of espresso so I decided to take a deep dive into the world of coffee. Apparently, I like to torture myself with difficult things to learn.

I knew there was going to be a lot to learn but that was certainly an understatement.

Back in December, I started diving deep into all the tools I would need to gather to build a decent at-home setup. I was trying to be frugal but wanted to get all the tools I needed to remove variables.

photo of my home coffee bar

Espresso machine, grinder, milk pitcher, shot glasses, tamper, mat, knock box, milk thermometer and…oh yeah, coffee 🙂

I want to talk about that second to last item, the milk thermometer.

My day job as a web developer relies on a lot of tools to eliminate issues. Removing variables is key to being efficient but it can make things feel a bit formulaic. I brought this same perspective to my coffee journey. I got everything I could to reduce issues from the start including that milk thermometer. I had read articles and watched many YouTube videos about getting milk to the right temperature and once I got my equipment, I slapped that thermometer onto my pitcher without ever trying to steam milk without it.

I poured the milk into the pitcher, dipped the steam wand into the milk and turned on the steam. I fixated my eyes onto the temperature gauge. I watched the needle slowly move clock-wise into this little green segment of the gauge. After a few seconds the needle reached the ideal zone and I was able to shut the steam off. I thought I was going to end up with a good pitcher of milk. It was just hot. The drink was fine, but it was underwhelming.

I tried this a couple of times, turning on the steam wand watching the temperature gauge... more hot milk.

I got frustrated, I took the thermometer out.

I began to notice things I hadn’t been paying attention to. The sound of the steam wand, the temperature at the bottom of the pitcher, the swirling of the milk... I had to let go.

I had to let go of measuring every aspect of this process. There are a lot of things I can and should measure but that thermometer was eating my concentration. It consumed my attention to the point of not being able to rely on my senses. I need to feel how hot the pitcher was getting, I needed to hear the slight paper tearing sound when the tip of the steam wand is positioned just right in the milk and I needed to see how the milk was swirling.

Now, am I making the perfect pitcher of steamed milk? No. But I feel so much closer now that I am relying on my senses and not a thermometer.

This new freedom of letting go has started to bleed into the rest of my life. About a month ago I started to let go of my constant need to control every situation in my life and career. Removing that burden has lead to bigger decisions in my life, career and family.

My coffee journey continues...