Extract Mojo and VST baskets, a perspective from a professional, daily user - Page 4

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
User avatar
RapidCoffee
Team HB
Posts: 3189
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2005 8:05 pm
Real Name: John Weiss
Equipment: Mazzer Robur, LaSpaziale S1, plus every coffee brewing device invented to date ;-)
Location: Rapid City, SD

Postby RapidCoffee » Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:36 am

+1000000 on all counts. Thank you, Dick.
John

User avatar
shadowfax
Team HB
Posts: 3353
Joined: Wed May 04, 2005 9:18 pm
Real Name: Nicholas Lundgaard
Equipment: Single Group Slayer, La Marzocco Shot Brewer, Compak K10WBC
Location: Houston, TX

Postby shadowfax » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:46 am

Peppersass wrote:I'm very disappointed by the direction this thread has taken. It has degenerated into personal attacks and has ceased to provide useful information to readers. Lots of heat, no light.

Dick, Thanks for the words of wisdom. I heartily agree. I would add that I also don't understand why there has been so much vehemence on this topic, and in particular the treatment of people who disagree with one's position on the topic of the usefulness of the VST refractometer/baskets as enemies deserving of having the worst intentions assumed of everything they say and do. I don't think anyone likes to read these unpleasant side comments that add nothing to what could and should be a very interesting disagreement.

I am thoroughly uninterested in the backstory of what's gone on privately among several of the gentlemen weighing in on this thread (Scott, Andy, Jim) and Vince Fedele as well as others. What I do know already is unfortunate and unpleasant. It's truly sad to me to read the things said by some guys who I've had the highest regard for. We should be able to disagree together without personal attacks, and if not, at least without it being aired in public.

I have little more to say on that topic, other than this: People expressing skepticism (even quite rudely voiced skepticism) about a product may be unpleasant, but is not libelous. Publicly accusing others of lying, however, really crosses a line to me. Jim is a great guy who's consistently and honestly pursued great coffee for many years. His spirit of honest inquiry is well documented on many forums. This line of discussion is uncalled for, and the accusations of lying aren't even relevant to the discussion at hand. This is not what we should be about, and I agree with Dick that we should all get past this unsavory sideshow and move on.

And, back on topic, I agree with John Weiss that Scott's 2 critiques of Jim's study beg the question of the usefulness of the refractometer and its relevance to what Jim was looking to study and also dismiss his usage of the baskets occasionally outside the manufacturer's spec as evidence to invalidate his study. While refractometer readings might have added a dimension of interest to the study, in my opinion, taste must be at least as good a judge if not better. On using products outside their intended range, what should we make of the validity of the TGP if we consider this a flaw? What's so wrong with exploring dose variation and its effects, particularly given that in commercial settings shots usually aren't weighed and are often eyeballed? I also found the comment doubting "why two shots tasting the same when cold is so important" in dismissing one of Jim's findings to be rather odd given the tradition of coffee cupping. I found Jim's result extremely interesting. I would appreciate reading more detailed responses to issues like this, rather than the more unpleasant, irrelevant topics that have come up.
Nicholas Lundgaard

USBC champion, voted 2009 'best micro-roaster'
mitch236
Posts: 1195
Joined: Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:26 am
Real Name: Mitch
Equipment: Strada EP, Robur-E
Location: Florida

Postby mitch236 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:18 am

I would like to keep this topic alive and on track. To that end, I have a question;

If I buy the Extract Mojo I would want to keep my extraction at 18.5-21%. Does it matter how I achieve that goal? IOW, how would I use this device to help me dial in a given bean?

Sorry if this sounds like a beginner style question but I don't have any experience with this sort of device and if it will improve the quality of my espresso, I would buy one.

bigabeano
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun Apr 15, 2007 4:25 pm
Real Name: scott rao
Location: Montreal, Canada

Postby bigabeano » Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:43 am

All right, I will attempt to state some coffee-related facts without what others interpret as personal attacks.

Nicholas, of course taste is the critical deciding factor. But reading one's opinion about a coffee's taste online leaves much to be desired, while discussing objective measurements online at least communicates something requiring no interpretation or adjustment for who is doing the tasting. It's difficult, at least for me, to read others' posts about taste without wondering "is he/she a good taster?" and "would I agree with that if I were tasting it too?"

As well, with this comment:

Plus, I don't see why two shots tasting the same when cold is so important, given that people generally drink hot espresso. I imagine your shots did not taste the same hot, which is more relevant.

I didn't mean to be "dismissive"; for some reason, many here view Jim's questions as "skepticism" and my comments as "dismissive." I think there is a fair amount of bias involved because Jim is a more regular poster here.

Mitch:
Yes, it matters how you achieve a given extraction level. I think the best way to look at Extract Mojo is that is a tool meant to give you objective feedback about your technique and coffee. It is not meant to be your "single variable" but is meant to be a guide. It can teach you things such as:

What's the effect on extraction of:
using a different basket?
changing the grind x amount?
changing the brewing ratio?
etc.

Without the refractometer, it's far more difficult to keep track of how these actions affect coffee flavor. With a refractometer, you now gain insight into how your parameters and technique affect extraction level and how extraction level correlates with flavor. Your progress in improving your coffee-making techniques will be more rapid when having an extraction number to refer to along with knowledge of the technique used and coffee flavor produced.

A more general question for the HB community: How much can one really judge the merits of Extract Mojo without having a fair amount of experience using it? As an "outsider" looking at the various threads, I notice a lot of skepticism about EM, but the skepticism has been expressed solely or primarily by those with little or no experience with it. Those with extensive EM experience who have posted online have been unanimously supportive of it. I entered this discussion hoping that my having had so much experience with EM would count for something. But I've read many critiques and skeptical remarks, and very few opinions backed by extensive experience.

User avatar
malachi
Posts: 2544
Joined: Thu May 05, 2005 11:36 am
Real Name: chris tacy
Equipment: a couple nice cupping spoons and various loaner, demo, test and prototype machines
Location: sfca

Postby malachi » Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:04 pm

boar_d_laze wrote:Not really. Just a couple of dispositive examples showing the equipment set and extraction ratios benefiting from a VST basket in the chain is not as limited as [you] asserted.

On the other hand, I'm not suggesting the sets and ratios are particularly large either. Jim's results hint that the baskets can be used to achieve a particular sort of taste profile in a wide variety of machines, and (IIRC) at a more dilute ratio than you suggested.

My conclusion is that I don't have anywhere near the data set required to even have a strong opinion much less a conclusion.

With respect,
BDL


Sorry... I was just confused as I've never met a serious coffee pro who works on that Cimbali machine.

Thank you so much for your statement. I feel like 90% of the discussion on this topic is from folks who, as you put it, "don't have anywhere near the data set required to even have a strong opinion much less a conclusion." It would be great if this could turn into a useful, rational and fact-based discourse that actually moves coffee forward. But my conclusion after watching this goat-rodeo unfold is that I'm hopelessly optimistic and the existing pattern of personal assaults, unfounded assertions and faith-based dogma will continue. Given that this means that there is no hope that this will turn into a positive, useful or productive discourse, I'm going to excuse myself from this discussion and go back to my (ongoing, 9 month and counting) experimentation with these and other baskets as part of my attempt to actually understand espresso.

I would suggest that others consider doing the same.

As for those who have been calling, PMing me and emailing me to try and "rally me to their side" of this argument - please stop. I've got absolutely no interest in being involved with this unproductive silliness.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB
Posts: 9239
Joined: Thu May 05, 2005 1:16 am
Real Name: Jim Schulman
Location: Chicago

Postby another_jim » Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:39 pm

bigabeano wrote:As an "outsider" looking at the various threads, I notice a lot of skepticism about EM, but the skepticism has been expressed solely or primarily by those with little or no experience with it. Those with extensive EM experience who have posted online have been unanimously supportive of it. I entered this discussion hoping that my having had so much experience with EM would count for something. But I've read many critiques and skeptical remarks, and very few opinions backed by extensive experience.


I have several years experience taking dry weight extraction measures, i.e. the weight loss of the puck or brewed coffee grounds.
  • There was a strong relation between taste and extraction when using a single grinder and machine, or a single FP steeping method with the same grinder setting and slightly different steep times. However, I personally find it just as easy to taste the coffee or shot and decide if it needs more or less extracting (finer grind/less dose for espresso, longer steep time for FP, to get more extraction).
  • When I compared grinders for the TGP. I originally compared their taste by getting to the same extraction from each. After a while I realized that these comparisons were not as good and nowhere near as simple as comparing them set so they produced the same shot flow and time at the same dose. As far as I can tell, two espresso grinders will produce their most similar taste when they are set to make shots at the same flow from the same dose -- what I call ceterus paribus shots. There are more differences between them when they produce the same puck weight loss
  • When I compared brewing methods, I could produce very different tasting brews at the same extraction levels simply by grinding finer and steeping less, versus grinding coarser and steeping more. I'm not all that great at triangle tests, but these were gimmes. The point is even more obvious with temperature control, since one can produce a 20% extracted toddy coffee that has much less acidity or bitterness, and more caramels and sugars.

In short. I can taste whether a brewed coffee needs a shorter or longer steep, or a shot a finer or coarser grind. My generic extraction measures worked well as predictors of taste in limited circumstances; but didn't add to the information about prep changes one can garner from tasting. I am perfectly willing to concede that the Extract Mojo can serve as a taste predictor in a wider range of circumstances than puck or grounds weight loss, but that would not add to being able to directly taste what prep changes are required.

I submit that learning how to make prep changes by taste may be a more useful way to pursue this hobby than becoming expert in the Extract Mojo. If however, using one makes this ability easier to learn; it may be money well spent. I have no experience in this; and would be interested if anyone has in fact trained him or herself to dial in brews and shots by taste using the Extract Mojo.

User avatar
shadowfax
Team HB
Posts: 3353
Joined: Wed May 04, 2005 9:18 pm
Real Name: Nicholas Lundgaard
Equipment: Single Group Slayer, La Marzocco Shot Brewer, Compak K10WBC
Location: Houston, TX

Postby shadowfax » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:25 pm

bigabeano wrote:I didn't mean to be "dismissive"; for some reason, many here view Jim's questions as "skepticism" and my comments as "dismissive." I think there is a fair amount of bias involved because Jim is a more regular poster here.

I think the 'bias' is more because there are claims made about the VST baskets that have not had the benefit of transparently produced, publicly viewable verification. I have seen repeated requests and invitations for such data. I look forward to seeing it when it's made available. For now, though, I am biased towards Jim more because he designed and conducted an experiment and published the details of the design and the results of the experiment. He used the VST baskets as well as others and tested them in ways that we have traditionally evaluated espresso-brewing products: consistency of flow rate, change in flow rate in response to changes in dose, and tasting the coffee. If I am biased towards him, it's not because of a silly sense of seniority or familiarity, it's because his conclusions based on his detailed study lines up better with my informal experience—to me.

I appreciate your comments about taste. It's true, taste is subjective, and your questions always linger in everyone's minds in approaching these types of tests, I assume. Certainly mine. Yet, there is still no substitute that I know of to taste. The best thing you could possibly hope to say about Extract Mojo is that it correlates directly to 'coffee taste'—that two brews of the same coffee with the same refractometer reading should taste the same. But this doesn't appear to be true—you have to, as I understand it, control a number of variables (extraction evenness, etc.) to make the refractometer readings correlate to coffee flavor. Maybe I've misunderstood that, but this appears to be what you are saying as well as many others.

Given that, I don't understand why it should be a requisite in a comparative basket evaluation unless we wanted to directly assess the extraction claims regarding the VST baskets. This is and would be an interesting claim to assess, and I would love to see data about that along with details as to how it was obtained, in line with the data that Jim has produced to test what he has about the baskets. Still, I do not understand the perspective of insisting that extraction yield as measured by a refractometer be assessed during testing being a prerequisite for any valid, useful evaluation of these baskets. Such a requirement would limit the group of people (EM owners and those with access to one) who can evaluate the baskets in a valid way, without a justification that I can see as to why it must be a requirement.

A more general question for the HB community: How much can one really judge the merits of Extract Mojo without having a fair amount of experience using it? As an "outsider" looking at the various threads, I notice a lot of skepticism about EM, but the skepticism has been expressed solely or primarily by those with little or no experience with it. Those with extensive EM experience who have posted online have been unanimously supportive of it. I entered this discussion hoping that my having had so much experience with EM would count for something. But I've read many critiques and skeptical remarks, and very few opinions backed by extensive experience.

I think a lot of the EM skepticism probably comes with the prohibitive expense of the tool for a home user. I haven't seen a lot of people (any at all?) denigrating the device or completely writing it off, but it strikes me as natural to wonder—is the expense worth it? That is perhaps also true of the VST baskets, although they are a lot more within reach ($25 is below my personal threshold of really even thinking about it, honestly). I bought a full set of the baskets the first day they were available, and picked the 18 and 22 g baskets up directly from Vince at his corner of the Baratza booth. I think there is a significant number of VST basket owners on this forum. How much experience any of us has is probably up for debate.

I would say, though, that your question, if it's about the baskets in particular, appears to admit that there are at least some critical opinions backed by extensive experience. Why not address these directly and ignore the opinions that don't seem to be experience-backed? I think it'd be unfair to lump the few experienced negative/neutral opinions in with all the inexperienced skepticism.
Nicholas Lundgaard

expert repairs with an italian touch
chang00
Posts: 543
Joined: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:25 pm
Real Name: Henry
Equipment: Too many
Location: WCR

Postby chang00 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:23 pm

VST's response to TDS methodology was here. One year later, I could not find published result of refractometry in comparison to dehydration oven.

http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee...462?Page=2

The SCAA and various coffee organizations may have independently verified the equipment, but I wish these findings are published, so the methods can be duplicated and confirmed. For example, conglomerates like Nestle contribute to a vast amount of knowledge in their food science publications.

Nevertheless, I hesitate to purchase a product from a company that threatens lawsuit to a hobbyist forum where many members could be potential customers.

User avatar
Peppersass
Posts: 1341
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:54 pm
Real Name: Dick Green
Equipment: La Marzocco GS/3, Compak K10 WBC, Baratza Vario
Location: New Hampshire

Postby Peppersass » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:02 am

chang00 wrote:Nevertheless, I hesitate to purchase a product from a company that threatens lawsuit to a hobbyist forum where many members could be potential customers.

I don't want to sound like the resident schoolmarm, but this is an example of a potentially inflamatory post based on incomplete information. This is how rumors get started.

I've read all of the relevant posts, and while the phrase "legal issues" was used, as was the phrase "threats of legal action", I don't recall seeing any explicit statement that VST actually threatened to sue HB. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't.

There's a whole range of possible communication that took place and resulted in those phrases being used, anything from suggesting that the posts could be interpreted as libelous, to mentioning that one is referring the matter to one's attorney for further investigation, to actually threatening a lawsuit. We have no idea where in that range, if at all, the communication landed, and it does matter.

I don't know what was said, but unless and until this is revealed, I suggest people refrain from making assumptions. Speaking as a former entrepreneur and an investor in new businesses, a company's reputation is critically important. Maybe the company's reputation deserves to suffer, maybe not. But absent a transcript of what was said, it's wrong to make accusations.
Dick Green

User avatar
HB
Posts: 14632
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:13 pm
Real Name: Dan Kehn
Equipment: La Marzocco Strada, Elektra Microcasa a Leva, Compak K10 WBC
Location: Cary, NC

Postby HB » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:09 am

Given recent events, I chose to recuse myself from posting on this thread; however, I have contacted some of the posters offline as the conversation unfolded. I asked that they weigh their comments carefully to avoid the past ugliness that led to multiple cooldown periods and ultimately a thread deletion at Vince Fedele's written request. The first few pages of this thread progressed in a reasonably civil manner, consistent with the site's Guidelines for productive online discussion. Unfortunately, the tone turned ugly, especially in the posts accusing Jim of being a liar.

Anyone who's searched online will invariably find the trove of Jim's contributions to espresso discussions over many years, whether on alt.coffee, CoffeeGeek, or Home-Barista.com. I got to know Jim through CoffeeGeek, first learning the ropes of improving my espresso skills on that site, then later the ropes of moderating during my five-year tenure. In addition to being tirelessly helpful, I believe Jim is one of the most honest, earnest, and widely respected people I know in the coffee community.

That said, he's not perfect. Over the years, I have chided him about his occasional curmudgeonly attitude towards newbie questions (or more accurately, lazy newbie questions). He's also not afraid to passionately defend his point of view, sometimes skirting the edge of the site guidelines on civility. I have no doubt that if he were to misspeak in the forums, he would correct himself, or admit to an error if such a discrepancy were first discovered by others. But I don't believe for a moment that he would lie. My confidence in Jim's integrity is based not only on my assessment from his tens of thousands of posts, but from the opportunities I've had to meet him in person. Unlike some people who have an "online personality" and an "in real life personality", what you glean about Jim's personality from his online posts accurately reflect the real person. So, don't be satisfied with my vouching for his integrity; skim his online history and judge for yourself.

In closing, I would like to thank Scott Rao for starting this discussion. While there has been a few side discussions I would have preferred to be handled offline, overall I think most contributors have stated their positions in a fairly reasonable manner. I hope this bumpy start won't dissuade Scott from continuing his online participation. I would like to publicly acknowledge Andy Schecter. Although I don't always agree with him, he's unquestionably a top contributor to the knowledge base of the online espresso community. Many of the technology, techniques, and vernacular we employ today were originated by him (e.g., PID controls applied to home equipment, brew ratios). Despite our past disagreements, it's my hope that he'll consider rejoining the HB community as a regular participant.

From this point forward in this thread, I ask that contributors refer to the Guidelines for productive online discussion before posting, notably Be respectful and Stay on topic. Those with questions/concerns are welcome to contact me offline. Thanks.
Dan Kehn