Next week the blog will be turning one. While I was perusing old blog posts for ideas for an anniversary post, I came across this gem: Journaling and Challenging Yourself with Deliberate Practice.
Along with a few typos and formatting errors, I found it to be a pretty intense post. It has high aspirations, bold plans and even a mathematical concept or two. It is also one that I have had almost zero percent follow through on. My habit of journaling my brewing and improving my technique is still virtually nonexistent. (I’d be embarrassed but I think it is also one of my least read posts.)
After the I posted that article, I made a page layout template, cut out a cover (out of a Three Floyds six pack) and attempted to make an elaborate coptic stitch brew journal (it would have been pretty cool).
I smile at my blind ambition and the memory of my wife incredulously dismissing my original goal of recording two brewing sessions a day and encouraging me to start with one and see how it goes. Let’s do a postmortem on this journaling ambition. Where did I go wrong and why didn’t it work out the way I planned?
Overcomplicating Something is Not the Same as Actually Doing Something
We’ve all been there (or at least I go there a couple times a month). A small idea turns into an elaborate but beautiful plan which turns into a half finished monster that sits around your house waiting to be finished and mocking your ideas of grandeur.
The steps involved for me to actually complete my elaborate brewing journal were too many. The journal was never finished and thus, I never really started recording the information I was after.
There was lots of activity but little actual action towards my purpose. Lesson learned. Keep it simple and actually start, there is plenty of time to improve on the design later on.
A House Divided
In my original post, I was unwilling to specialize in a particular brewing method.
“I don’t want to specialize. I want to collectively improve all my skills gradually, even if that is not the most efficient way to do things” -John Giuliano (April 28, 2015)
Six months later, I am very ready to specialize. My brewing station is constantly overrun with devices and my brain is always flooded with the jumbled information of multiple techniques and grind settings.
I got a new grinder earlier this year (a Virtuoso, I need to write a post about it) and I am still pretty much using the suggested settings for most of my brew methods. I’m not saying that the suggested settings are bad, I just have not experimented enough with each brew method that I am confident in those settings as the best for my brewing setup and tastes.
I have come to the conclusion that, while using multiple brew methods can be entertaining and enjoyable, for improving your brewing and dialing in your recipes it is best to focus on one method at a time.
Hold everything loosely
Let’s face it, life gets busy. Coffee is a hobby for me. My blog as well as my general exploration of coffee are routinely placed on the back burner for things that are happening in my life of greater importance.
If coffee is not that important, then journaling about brewing coffee is really not very important. If I can’t sit down and focus on my technique and recording every variable, there will still be coffee.
Life goes on.
A New Plan
All this to say, I’m going to give it another shot. I do think keeping a coffee brewing journal will be helpful to me in improving how I brew and taste coffee, so I am going to try again. Here is the new plan:
- Keep it simple– No more coptic stitch journal with two pages of variables to keep track of. I am going to a simple, small notebook where I can record as much or as little as I want each time. Of course, this notebook should be awesome looking and inspire me to record into it (more on that shortly).
- Focus on one method- I’m going to be taking an entire month (more if needed) to focus on single brewing methods. Since I still have a few brew guides to write for the blog, I thought I would start with the methods I have not written about yet. For November, I will be focusing on the Chemex. This doesn’t mean I will shun all my other brewers for the entire month, but I want to use the Chemex for the majority of my brewing sessions.
- It’s not that big of a deal- I am going to make an honest effort to record brewing sessions into my brew journal but if I fall behind or get distracted, it’s not a big deal. There are many things in my life that are worthy distractions from brewing coffee.
A New Product
This brings me to an exciting topic. The blog’s first product.
In the midst of working on some upcoming projects for the blog, (I will hopefully be talking more about this next week) I ended up creating a journal as a little side project. This journal is nothing fancy, but I find it elegant in it’s simplicity and I’m a sucker for cool stamps and letterpress design.
It is a Moleskine kraft paper notebook with a manual brewing design stamped on the front. I have a small logo stamped on the back as well. Inside the 3.5” x 5.5” notebook are 64 lined pages (the last 16 of which are detachable). There is a pocket in the back for loose papers etc.
Obviously, this notebook doesn’t have to be a brewing journal, it can hold whatever handwritten things you like. I like it for it’s small size, durability and I think they wear really well.
I have several designs that should be available soon but in honor of my month of Chemex brewing, I would like to release the Chemex print first. You can buy them here (I’m working on integrating a shop into my website). Use the coupon HAPPYBDAY for 15% off until the end of the month.
Lastly, the Brewing Coffee Manually store is in beta right now. I would love suggestions, feedback and comments. If you have feedback you think would be helpful please send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Do you have an experience you can share about a brewing journal success or failure? I’d love to hear if you think a brewing journal is important and if so what variables you keep track of. Join the discussion in the comments below.