It's that strange time that's neither early nor late. The sun hasn't yet begun to crest the horizon and no bird song fills the air. Yet you could not accurately call it night.
So I'll skip the superfluous descriptors, and just call it 4 am.
I'm awake, and not the kind of fog-brained eye-crusted awake typically associated with such an hour. No, I'm awake, and jumping out of bed. This is christmas morning in April; only it's better, because I know what I'm in for.
Good coffee. Check that -- great coffee. Good coffee can be prepared using pre-ground beans and an electric drip machine. But great coffee? That takes a personal touch. In my case, it takes 19th century technology.
I've got my melitta one cup cone filter, a stove top and a pot. I have fresh beans. But all of that, while great, is not new. It is not cause for excitement.
My exuberance is instead due to the fact that my Hario Skerton arrived in the mail yesterday. It is a miniature ceramic burr mill that one operates manually. It produces the best grounds I've had the pleasure of smelling, and of tasting.
And so, visions of a full bodied roast dancing in my head, I throw on just enough clothes to keep this story pg-13 and bound up the stairs. I measure out two scoops of beans -- Starbucks Cafe Estima -- and deposit them in the grinder.
With the Skerton set at the appropriate level of "clicks" -- three in my case -- I begin to turn the crank. The crunch is too satisfying, both to hear and feel. Which is good, because this is an involved process, as mornings go. It takes about two minutes of steady cranking to grind the beans in to a fine mass -- which is more time than many are willing to spend cooking breakfast, let along preparing coffee.
But even before I brew, it's worth it. This is coffee on an intimate level. Anyone can push a button and produce a decent grind. But to produce the perfect grind, and to do it by hand? There is a satisfaction in that.
So too is there pleasure to be had slowly poring just-off-the-boil water over the grounds and stirring the blooming mass. The black brew streams in to my mug -- its smiling visage mirroring my own.
Nutty. Round. Slightly sweet. Immensely satisfying.
4 am. The sun doesn't know what it's missing.