Linda Brooks Davis

Calling Ella: Grinding out the Best

Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind …
Psalm 26:2 (Tweet That!)


I love coffee. But coffee is nothing but beans without grinding

coffee-beansWhile I know the flavor of a good cup of coffee, I know next to nothing about the grinding methods that produce it. So as I considered delving into the subject of coffee making, curiosity took me to the internet where I learned the fineness of the grind, along with other factors, strongly affect the brew.

fine-ground-coffeeThe finer the coffee is ground, the richer the potential of the final product. But the finer the grind, the less time it should be exposed to the heated water. Too fine a grind for a longer brewing time produces a bitter, harsh taste. But too coarse a grind combined with a short brewing time results in weak, tasteless coffee.coarse-ground-coffee

Well-regulated balance is key to flavorful coffee. (Tweet that!) 

Burr mills use revolving abrasive elements that crush or tear the coffee-beans-grindingjpgbeans with little frictional heat. That’s a good thing. The coffee beans release oils that, when infused with hot water, make the taste richer and smoother. 

Blade or propeller grinders cut coffee beans. But the grounds often aren’t uniform, and “coffee dust” can clog coffeemaker sieves.

Another method is pounding. Arabic and Turkish coffees require that the grounds be almost powdery in fineness, finer than can be achieved by most burr mills. Pounding the beans with a mortar and pestle pulverizes the coffee finely enough.

And then there’s roller grinding in which the beans are ground between pairs of corrugated rollers. This produces an even grind size distribution and heats the ground coffee less than other methods.

LBD_calling-of-ella-mcfarland-6 copy-enhancedAll of which brings to mind Ella McFarland, heroine of my debut novel  The Calling of Ella McFarland. At times she’s pressed between abrasive materials like her sister Viola and lifelong friend Frank or future mother-in-law Josephine. Other times, she’s pounded by the cruelty of gossip or a dream gone bad. Blades like abusive Walter threaten to slice her to bits, and circumstances grind her to powder in a tragic, hard place or two. 

As I was writing The Calling of Ella McFarland, I wondered at times if Ella would emerge from a given circumstance bitter or sweet, harsh or smooth, tasty or tasteless. As the author, the circumstances of her life developed creatively as my imagination swirled.

Not so, real life.

Life outside the binding of a book can chafe a woman until she bleeds. 

It can crush a man’s confidence. Slice completely through good intentions. And pulverize his spirit. 

It can produce harshness and bitter words. Or a broken heart and withdrawal from the world.

Cynicism. Or naivete. 

Brashness. Or timidity.

steaming-coffeeIn The Calling of Ella McFarland, Ella is engaged in struggles that test her faith. Does faith’s aroma survive? Does it dissipate? Or does it thrive, full-bodied and alluring?

Ella is thrust into trials that threaten to destroy her spirit and erase every dream she ever imagined. Does she emerge dreamless, weak and tasteless? Or stronger, more flavorsome?

scoop-of-coffeeMuch like a decanter of coffee beans, useless until they’re ground, David, the psalmist, begged the Lord to test him … try him … examine his heart and mind. (Tweet That!) At times God crushed him; other times, He pressed him between rollers or sliced him down to size. The agony of grief pulverized David’s heart and spirit, but like a stream of water heated to perfection, diffusing the flavor of a finely ground batch of coffee beans, delicately timed, the Lord led David to green pastures and still waters where He restored his soul. (Tweet that!) 

Millennia after King David the Psalmist, we catch a whiff of the aroma, a taste of the flavor of a man who has been tested and emerged so in tune with His Shepherd that his words are like honey — or fine coffee — on our tongues. (Tweet that!) 

Dear Lord, bend an ear to us, will You? We’re fearful at times; overly confident at others. Some days we hurt; others, we exult with joy. We’re blood and flesh and bone; we break. Knowing You made us, we come to you as little more than powder in Your hands, begging You to mold us through trials and prove us in the midst of confusion. Have Your way with us, for we are Yours. For Jesus’ sake. Amen


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