Are there "exercises" that are part of the morning routine which could be practiced in isolation? For example, here's a few that I do from time-to-time:
- Brew temperature management (HXs) - whether using a thermocouple over the lip of the basket or thermofilter, every once and awhile I'll recalibrate what I think is the temperature to what objective instrumentation says. As a rough guide, I consider obtaining the target temperature to within 1.5F acceptable, although it isn't difficult to do a little better for the third shot and beyond. Anything above 2.5F degrees off target temperature is getting pretty sloppy, and 4F or greater is a sink shot for all but the most forgiving blends.
- Volumetric coffee dosing - for a long time I was into weighing beans either before or after grinding to confirm the dosage. Sometimes when I'm first testing a machine the old habit will return, but generally I'm a basket volume guy. If I'm overstocked with beans, that's one place they'll be put to use: Dose, weigh, dose, weigh (repeat five times). My target accuracy is within 0.5 grams and I won't get too irritable if it remains within 0.7 grams.
- Steaming temperature - different machines and tips steam at their own pace, but I prefer to stick with feeling the sides of the pitcher to judge the milk temperature. That can be tricky when switching from a monster steamer like the Elektra A3 to her little sister the Microcasa. I'm overdue to recalibrate by tossing in a thermometer, if only to confirm consistency across machines. I have the sneaking suspicion that the end temperature is varying too much.
- Latte art practice - something that I loath to do. Abe jokes about my "onion" latte pours; he'd really split his sides at some of my other attempts, my odd favorite being nicknamed "butt crack" (sorry, no pictures... imagine a failed heart). I could use stale beans to provide the base for pouring; somebody suggested using a lightly dampened cup dusted with cinnamon to simulate crema action. Haven't tried it myself.