Stop yapping and drink it.

p1010027Made myself a shot this morning.  Didn’t tamp it, just roughly levelled the dose and banged it in the machine.  It was good.  Did it again with a naked PF just to check and yep, good again.  So pleased was I with the accuracy of my grind setting that I filled up the doser.  Made another shot with that same coffee 20 minutes later and guess what?  It was good.

I’m not going to start talking about the whys and wherefores of this.  God knows the last thing the world needs is another article pontificating on the minutiae of tamping technique but it led me to wonder what the enthusiastic observer would make of it all.  I’m talking about the 0.5%.  The enthusiast, you, us. 

We all pay close attention to how our coffee is prepared.  That’s part of the experience of getting a coffee from a good shop.  But how much does what we see influence our evaluation of the drink.  There are some of a Daily Mail persuasion for whom technique as described above would ruin their day.  There would be no need to taste the drink. Heresy on this level would immediately prejudice the tongue and Outraged of Middle England would be on that keyboard without delay.

Maybe Outraged of Middle England should just drink it.  The shot I made this morning was not an act of slovenliness, just an experiment.  An attempt to streamline a coffee making process which is bogged down in folklore and common wisdom.  There is no need to tamp.  Ground coffee does not turn to manure in 10 minutes.  You don’t get salmonella if you don’t polish the basket.

I don’t think any of us would complain if the next time we ordered a coffee the Barista gave a full WBC style presentation complete with running commentary and a signed photo of the coffee farmer, but should we expect it?  No.  The making of espresso has been so thoroughly dissected, poked and prodded that it has become this holy grail which everyone hopes to find in a cafe but never will. 

Of course we should never stop trying to improve espresso but I think a lot of the time we should just relax.  Put those 0.001g scales back  in the cupboard.  Don’t get the hoover out next time you use your grinder.  Leave the yogurt pot for holding yogurt.

It’s really not that difficult.


~ by bombcup on December 16, 2008.

7 Responses to “Stop yapping and drink it.”

  1. steve! what a great post. It’s very easy to get caught up on the preparation of the drink , that it sometimes makes it difficult to enjoy. Ive had two absolutely amazing espressos in my life thus far. the first was made by Gwilym on my first visit to his colombia road stall, I consumed it, started walking away , made it about 3 blocks and turned back to have another. The second espresso was pulled by my boss yesterday at work. It was just perfect shot, so enjoyable and of course I was immediately trying to find something wrong with it but I couldn’t! Both Gwilym and Jeremy have pulled shots for me numerous times before where I have been around to inspect the extraction or what not. Is it coincidence that I when I had the two most perfect espressos of my life that I was not looking to pick apart the preparation or extraction??!?!?!? i think not 🙂
    Yes, relaxing is the thing to do!

  2. Hey wonderman, I love your blog!

    You forgot one very important factor in your experiment: The machine. There simply are machines out there that _need_ careful attention to detail. Machines that don’t get preinfusion right, that don’t get water dispension right. Grinders that clump too much, grinders that throw uneven and whatnot.

    May I ask what machine you’re using? I don’t want to start a fight, as I basically agree with you :), it’s just that many machines don’t 😉

    • Of course you’re right Lukas, and the article was intentionally quite flippant. I was not advocating ignorance of good technique. What I was responding to is my exasperation with the amount of stuff I read from people commenting on other people’s technique but not on their drinks, with a little poke in the ribs to home users who take the tiniest details to extremes. This is a good thing and it keeps the industry on it’s toes, it’s just not something other people want to hear about at a party. Making a great capuccino is interesting, telling them about your PID conversion is not!

  3. Great post – yes, some things (eg PIDs) must be kept quiet about in mixed company.

    One thing – TMCput me onto your blog, but I don’t see a feed! Could you add one – RSS/atom?

  4. is it just me or does this mean that common sense is making a come back! lovin the blog mate. keep em coming.

  5. Nice one Steve and an excellent post. I am with you on this, there is far too much mystique and folklaw within espresso. Too much faffing with PIDs dose, temp etc. My machine is commercial, but basic. No PID no thermosyphon, just press a button to start and a button to stop. And it makes great coffee, steams milk and pours hot water…job done and no complaints from friends who enjoy the coffee.

    I had a go at a no tamp brew this morning too. Dose – Just enough…brew time – oh about so long. Coffee – a nice Peruvian FT Organic. What I got was a really good shot. Smooth pour, no chanelling through the naked PF…in fact no different from when I tamp. Flavour wise, rich, lemon zest with a great chocolate follow through coupled with a flora lemon finish.

    In fact I am gonna have another one!



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