The quest for the perfect cup of coffee

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If you’re in the business of leading people, you must also be in the business of building relationships.

If you’re not, you can forget about having any significant level of influence.

Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee from a Chemex.  You know how long it took between the time I ordered it and the time I took my first sip?

Nearly 12 minutes.

Was I frustrated?

Not a bit.

It was a perfect cup of coffee.  Perfect.  It was clean, smooth, and a bit chocolatey.  Its roasty-ness wasn’t overwhelming, but its flavors deep and rich.

With the Chemex, you don’t just hit a button and watch the magic happen.  You have to stand beside it the whole time it’s brewing, continuing to add more water at just the right time.  Then wait for the percolation to happen.  Then add more water (with a very specific type of kettle) to the areas that are dry, starting with the center and moving out towards the edge.  Until finally, after all of the water has percolated through and the brewing process is complete, you get a decanter full of perfection.  The cup of coffee that comes from the Chemex is truly a work of art.

And relationships are no different.

We’d like to think that relationships are microwavable.  Quick, easy, and cheap.  But they’re far from it.

Truths about Significant Relationships

Relationships take time, effort, and expense.

They take constant care and attention.  Don’t walk away, or you’ll miss that key opportunity, that key moment that the next step forward is contingent upon.

Each relationship is different.

Building relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model.  Just as each Chemex cup takes a slightly different amount of time to brew, depending on the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you pour the water, and the temperature of the water, so each relationship takes a different amount of effort, time, and care.

You can’t have significant relationships with a vast number of people.

There’s just too much expense involved.  It’s not possible to give of yourself enough to have deep, significant relationships with significant numbers of people.

Relational investments take cultivation to grow.

Don’t expect to hit a button, wave your magic wand, and voila!  Cultivating important relationships is hard work.  You’ll have to let other things slide.  Other commitments, responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and things less important.

It is worth the wait.

If you’ll give a relationship the time and effort it needs, you’ll be surprised the mutual benefits that will follow.

If you lose sight of the end goal, you’ll get frustrated.

You’ll get burned, feel like it’s too big an investment, and feel the tension to just move on.  Like this is a hopeless cause that’s benefiting nobody.  Offering grace, mercy, love, and hope isn’t something you do because you are looking for immediate results.

“Love is patient…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)



Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Luther Wesley

    Amen. Relationships are tough and they take time and expansive effort, but the fruit is sweet. The thing is we never know when we will need someone to invest time into us….to have friends we must show ourselves friendly

    God Bless

  • Kenny Silva

    Great post, Ben. I love the illustration. It was awesome getting a chance to sit down and connect. I hope you have a wonderful trip and will be praying for a successful presentation. 😉

    • Ben Reed

      Thanks Kenny! Sure appreciate the encouragement. And the prayers…yeah, I need those for sure.

      Loved hearing your heart, and getting a vision for where God’s taking you. So excited to see how He continues to grow, you, shape you, and use you to influence this generation.

  • Grant Jenkins

    I love this, bro! Excellent post!

  • Ryan Tate

    Great post. Reminds me of recent conversations we’ve had in our men’s group about the discipleship relationship between Paul and Timothy. Some scholars (not us) think that Paul and Timothy’s relationship went on for 15-20 years.

    Today we don’t see much value in longevity, but that is where friendships and relationships blossom. Thanks Ben.

    And I gotta try that method of brewing coffee!

  • Larry Hehn

    Great analogy, Ben. I had never heard of a Chemex before, but now I’d really like to give one a try!

    • Brandon

      It was a great example! 

  • Tabitha Ramos

    Great analogy, loved it!!!

  • Brandon

    Everyone is in search of the perfect cup………………………wait…………………I think I found it!……….yum! 

  • Jeff Goins

    Great post, Ben! Ok, dude, I gotta know — better than even an french press?

    • Matthew Snyder

      always better than a french press. ALWAYS. 

      • Jeff Goins

        Really?! I’ve never heard of this. Why?

    • Ben Reed

      Wow, that’s a tough question, Jeff. Hard to say if it’s “better,” just different. I love a French Press. The Chemex tends to be a bit lighter and cleaner.

      I drink French Press most of the time, so having a pot of Chemex is a nice change!

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  • Grant Jenkins

    I loved this when you first posted it 3 years ago. Now, 3 years and lots of life later, I love it more. Great stuff, bro.