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Pour Over as Meditation

Posted by Nathaniel Fleming on

Man Making Pour Over

Previously, Erin wrote a piece on Self Care called What is Self Care and Why is it Important?. In this article she suggests some alternative ways for one to practice self care, one of them being “Taking the time to make a good cup of coffee and enjoying it.”

I want to explain what making a daily pour over does for you before you take a sip of the coffee.

Let’s talk about rituals: a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order (often referred to as a religious or sacred practice). The important parts of a coffee ritual are: the act of repetition, the effect this has on you psychologically, and then the reward (the coffee) becoming a reinforcement of behaviour.

A daily pour over is the repetition of ritualised actions, repeated on a longer timeline: the subset of actions in making a pour over are repeated each day, indefinitely. There is no coincidence why people who like making pour overs repeat the process religiously— they may do it every day, and may turn their practice into an art. It becomes a tool for them to access mindfulness and clarity.

Why is the process enjoyable?

When you make your daily pour over, you are practising for a reward you already know you are going to enjoy, multiplying the enjoyment due to anticipation. The reward of a pour over coffee becomes a reinforcer of actions. Combined with repetition, augmented into a meditation, practicing pour over mindfully can physically, mentally, and emotionally improve your wellbeing.

Frequent pour-over practitioners will have their method down to muscle-memory. This allows them to practice their meditation with less focus on their movements, and more on their thoughts, allowing them to dive into a deeper state of mindfulness through interoception.

Interoception is the consciousness of what’s going on inside your body. Highly interoceptive people have acute awareness of their bodily needs. Meditation helps with this. You become more sensitive to your body “in the now”, rather than let emotions or other reactions overwhelm the senses. The focus and flow-state of consciousness while performing a ritualised pour over can help achieve this interoceptive awareness, and act as a tool for self-regulation.

On the flipside, although ritualistic actions can help neutralise anxiety, they can be a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The perfectly controlled environment and meticulousness of pour over precision can become pedantic if OCD is a problem. This is when the pedantics start to have a reverse effect, such as overreacting when something goes wrong in a pour over. Stress and anxiety may be a sign that the obsessiveness of the pour over is taken too far.

Imagine you go on a camping trip with your mate. Everything is perfect. You’ve got a prime site, isolated from the rest of the world, in nature, and you have all the right gear including your camping pour over kit. Your mate is a bit of a control freak though: everything about the pour over setup is controlled except you can’t boil the water to exactly 96°C because you forgot one tool; a thermometer. To your mate, the pour over is now ruined, and as a matter of fact, for them, the entire camping trip is ruined because the pour overs you make on the trip are never going to be perfect. This is an example of when a ritual becomes detrimental to one’s mindset because it’s linked to their anxiety. So in a scenario like this there can be detrimental effects in the ritual of making a pour over, if it triggers anxiety.

Without action, a pour over is a standalone reward: an appetitive stimulus.

Including its action, a pour over is the change in your behaviour: a performed sequence of events, and then the appetitive stimulus itself; the coffee, and finally, the reward consumed.

What we can take away from this is that the psychological effects of repetition and practice of a focused and rewarding task can be extremely beneficial, and that pour overs are healthy rituals. Unless you’ve got severe anxiety triggered by OCD, the ritualised pour over can become an art and tool for self-regulation and interoception.

What’s a better way to start your mornings?


About Nathaniel Fleming

Write ✍️ Design 📐 Brew ☕ Barty Single Origin's resident Coffee Expert & Coffee Quality Assurance Officer. Nathaniel's understanding of coffee and culture comes from his international background of the United States, Australia, Europe, and Asia. His approach to sustainable design in the specialty coffee industry is driven by a biocentric perspective and a passion for excellent coffee. He is currently based in Sydney, Australia.


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