Today’s Saturday Supplement is inspired by Mike Stanbridge, who suggested in a tweet that I should write about my coffee making methods and routine. Initially I dismissed it, feeling it would be boring, but I’ve had a rethink and, now that I’ve written it, you can decide for yourself. Who’s right: Mike or me?
The change of mind came about because of what else but COVID-19. I was thinking about people’s routines, particularly those new to working from home/working remotely, something I’ve been doing for over 10 years. So, I thought, I could write about my daily routine in the hope that it would help some people. What stopped me was the initial thought that it had nothing to do with coffee. The Coffee Spot is, after all, a blog about coffee (and travel, if you count the Travel Spot). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that my daily routine is my coffee routine. Hence the change of heart.
Of course, this post comes with the usual caveat. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Take what inspires you in this post, make it your own and feel free to ignore the rest!
You can find out more about my daily route after the (very short) gallery.
Let’s start with some basic facts. I’m a night owl and a terrible starter, so I inevitably do my best work late into the evening/night (as an example, I started writing this at midnight…). This also suits my current work, where I have five two-hour conference calls a week, three starting at either 11pm or midnight. There’s little point shifting my sleep-patterns during the days between calls, so I’ve established a regular routine of waking at 11 am and going to bed at 3 o’clock the following morning.
As I’ve said, I’ve been working remotely for over 10 years, either from home, or, increasingly, on my travels. However, for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on my home routine, particularly since my travels are temporarily on hold (one of the novelties of COVID-19 is that I’ve spent an entire month at home for the first time in at least four years).
For me, routine is extremely important when it comes to work. Although my (paid) work is flexible, with the hours I log depending on what needs doing, writing the Coffee Spot is a fairly full-time hobby and I don’t make a distinction between paid work and Coffee Spot work. Therefore, having set times when I expect to work (even if I don’t) are important to me. It’s also true that if my routine is disrupted, it can throw me off for the entire day.
My mornings start with coffee and breakfast, which go together, and woe betide anyone who gets between me and them. At home, that first coffee is invariably made in my cafetiere, typically using an espresso blend or a strong, bold single-origin. I don’t want anything subtle or delicate, nor am I looking for anything challenging. The way I see it, my palate has yet to wake up, so I need something simple and familiar (for the same reason, if I’m visiting coffee shops, my first coffee of the day is usually a flat white).
As a poor starter, I tend not to throw myself into work. Instead, between breakfast and lunch I focus on admin, often catching up on either Coffee Spot admin or accounts. Often, by the way, is a lie. That’s what I aspire to. What I often do is lose a couple of hours down some social media rabbit hole which I convince myself is Coffee Spot work. There’s some truth to this, by the way, since a significant chunk of my time is spent building and maintaining my various social media presences, but even so, mornings are my least productive time.
My first break is for lunch. For me, coffee and food go together, so it’s also my second coffee, when I turn to more subtle or challenging coffees. It depends what I have on the go (typically one, sometimes two, single-origins). I use the best method available for the coffee, drawing on three main methods: V60, Clever Dripper and AeroPress. At the moment, the V60 has been wining out, but I go through Clever or AeroPress phases.
After lunch, it’s time to return to (or depending on the morning went, start) work, which we’ll tackle after the gallery.
I aim to work through until afternoon coffee, which is something of a moveable feast. Since I’m a poor starter, once I’m underway, I like to keep going, so afternoon coffee is often pushed back to early evening coffee. This is traditionally when I fire up my Sage Barista Express and pull myself an espresso (or, very occasionally, I’ll make a flat white). However, I will sometimes go for a pour-over, particularly if I have two coffees on the go, when I’ll have the one I didn’t have at lunchtime.
The nature of my work involves sitting in front of my computer, often for long periods. I’ve known for years that I need to be more mobile, but it was only when I got a step tracker a few years ago that I realised just how inactive I was. I could go for two or three days at a time without leaving the house, doing as little as 1,000 steps.
As a result, I set myself a goal at the start of the year to get out of the house more, with a minimum of 5,000 steps a day for at least five days a week. This pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s worked out well for me since I’ve been able to achieve my goal by combining it with my own permitted daily outing. If you’ve been following me on twitter, you’ll have seen that this takes the form of a daily walk, usually in the hills behind my house, which, now that the evenings are longer, comes just after my daily espresso.
When I get back, I make dinner, which is tied to my evening coffee. This is always decaf, invariably prepared in my AeroPress, although depending on the particular beans I have on the go, I sometimes use the Clever Dripper. After that, I get down to work, usually until it’s bedtime.
So that’s my daily routine. Although COVID-19 is a pretty unique set of circumstances, it’s a routine that’s served me well over the years. The only new part is the daily walk, which I hope I can keep up once the movement restrictions have been lifted (and once the nights start drawing in).
Since this is the Coffee Spot, I’ll finish with an observation about coffee. My routine, as you can see, is based around coffee. But more importantly, it’s based around making coffee. This won’t be for everyone, but I enjoy making coffee. I enjoy the ritual of it. I enjoy the time it takes and hate it when I have to hurry. People who try to sell me time-saving gadgets when it comes to coffee are, invariably, wasting their time, trying to solve a problem I don’t have.
I hope this has been useful and, if you are struggling at home right now, I hope you’ve found something that you can take from it. I also hope that Mike was right (and I was wrong) in the initial assessment of the idea…
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