Malawian Monday Time



Well its official this morning, the rest of the world carried on like normal, it's Monday.


Monday does not mean anything other than a start of a new week...its not even scientific..its a random mishmash of semi-critical ancient relic of a non-metric age which still persists.  And the thought of Monday being non-metric led me to remember time as it is perceived in Malawi.  


In 2010 Tribe was teaching roasting to a classroom of hopeful roasters in Malawi and I think they may have hit upon something huge; at the time I thought it was quite funny, but in retrospect I think it may have legs...Metric time?  


How this came about was because of my example on how to calculate the “Turn-Around” period in a  roast cycle.  What we do with coffee roasting is to time the entire roast and create a profile for each coffee for that year.  The first stages of a roast profile are relatively sedate and are as follows:

  • Drop green beans
    • into the drum on a rising temperature
      • with as cool a drop-in temperature possible
  • Watch the rate of cooling within the drum
  • Measure the time
  • finally figure out at what time the roast period went from cooling to heating
    • this period is called the “Turn-Around”.


Problematically this turn-around time is often measured slipshod and haphazardly, with the problem being that most digital temperature probes only register 0.0C and as roasters we need 0.00C in order to have the most accurate repeatable profile.  


So when the temperature gauge stops descending at say 98.8C at 1min50seconds and starts climbing back up at 98.9C by 2min12seconds then the turn-around time 98.8C at 2min01seconds...the math is as follows: 

  • 2min12seconds – 1min50seconds = 22 seconds
  • 22 seconds divided by 2 = 11 seconds
  • 1min50seconds + 11seconds = 2 min01seconds


Here was the rub...when the hopeful Malawian trainees were answering the question of time they related to a minute lasting for 100 seconds.  At first this was troubling...but then I got it.  


One minute currently has sixty seconds at a specific rate of change which means another second happens only once the period of time changes via tenths, hundredths, thousandths, millionths, and so on.  


What the Malawian's had done was to say that 60 seconds was divisible by 100 not sixty.  


So when subtracting 1min50 from 2min12 they got 62seconds difference.  It took me a good half an hour drawing clocks and stopwatches and showing them their own watches to get them to recall that there were 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour.


I think they were right and that we should be working on a metric second, metric minute, metric hour and metric day.  This would mean seconds in millions, minutes in thousands, days in hundreds, months in tens, and years on a count.  


And, in the end, it would mean the end of Monday.  


No more early morning social media rants about how sad that Sunday has passed and that work must begin.  It'd just be another day, a point in time. Metrically perfect with little or no relevance to myth or legend.  


And then when someone asks for 60ml in 25 seconds...I wouldn't have to worry about what day it was or why it was no longer some other day but simply concentrate on the espresso.


Next time I'll talk about over/under/perfect...all in time.


(For more on time... )