Reviving the coffee Zen?

Coffee preparation techniques besides espresso like pourover.
drH

#1: Post by drH »

Yesterday while trying to decide whether my single origin light roast from Peru would express itself best as a V60, a Kalita, or as a long ratio espresso, I marveled at how complicated I've let coffee become and how much cognitive space it's come to occupy.

Pour.... Swirl...get out the mellow-drip....pour...wait 45 seconds....ugh, the grind could have been finer!

Where has the Relaxing coffee ritual gone?

It made me think back to the days when I first started to love coffee. As a graduate student I had no money for equipment, no awareness of "specialty coffee", and it was a treasured occasion when I splurged on a bag of Starbucks Guatemala Antigua.
Coffee was crushed in a mortar and dumped into a pot of just-boiled water. When it settled, I decanted through a sieve into a cup.

And it was good. Or at least it always made me happy. Eventually I upgraded to a Frieling French Press and Zassenhaus. It felt like luxury.

So this week I put away my Cremina and my Chemex papers and mined my cupboard for the Frieling. I've brewed with it every morning now (using my Comandante) and...

...it's wonderful. I forgot how easy it is to get tasty, piping hot coffee with immersion brews. Of course I won't part with my Cremina or my V60s. But I'm going to make a concerted effort to get better at doing fewer things, to simply my workflows, eliminate some gear and focus on the methods that bring back the joy of the ritual.

I just thought I'd share and ask you all about your coffee journey. How have you maintained your Zen? Do you feel overwhelmed? What do you do to keep joy in coffee?
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nrcoffee
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#2: Post by nrcoffee »

I agree with you. I ended up switching to a ratio 6 brewer. Just fill with water, grind, and push a button. For espresso, I've found myself trying to find a consistent blend. Something that I'm not constantly tweaking and messing with grind settings and ratios. I'm sure I'll slowly get back to my old ways, but not at the moment.

sluflyer06

#3: Post by sluflyer06 »

I've been "into" coffee since I was around middle school age and I'm 38 now. I got really serious with it around 2009, started learning about espresso while I went down the rabbit hole with pour-over. I'm an engineer and I tend to research everything there is and then keep going, with pretty much anything I'm into. It's all or nothing for me, so you'd think that could cause burnout but it hasn't taken away any of the joy.

I got heavy into espresso in early 2015 and never looked back and here we are over 10,000 shots later under my belt and I still am excited to come downstairs every morning and make my wife a latte and myself a shot and we're always switching beans, from northern Italian style to light roasts, or recently I've moved to a 2 grinder setup to stop the battle between me and the wife between beans I really like as a shot but don't work for lattes and me getting bored drinking milk resistant espresso blends.

I still am always looking at what's going on in the coffee world, trying out new puck prep trends to see how things can be improved, its fun (and occasionally frustrating) trying to get the best out of a bean, different temps, ratios, extraction times, preinfuse or not.

I'm big on workflow, I have a dedicated 72" espresso bar with plumbing and a sink and I make full use of that space to setup a workflow that is intuitive and easy which is very zen for me. It's a hobby so I don't mind spending extra on tools and things that makes the process smoother so I can focus on what matters. I think I enjoy both the chase and the results in the cup, so it's easy for me to stay "into it". I just wish we had more parties, probably one of my favorite things to do is be able to make a large amount of drinks for people, they're always very excited to come over for good coffee.

drH (original poster)

#4: Post by drH (original poster) »

sluflyer06 wrote: I'm big on workflow, I have a dedicated 72" espresso bar with plumbing and a sink and I make full use of that space to setup a workflow that is intuitive and easy which is very zen for me. It's a hobby so I don't mind spending extra on tools and things that makes the process smoother so I can focus on what matters. I think I enjoy both the chase and the results in the cup, so it's easy for me to stay "into it". I just wish we had more parties, probably one of my favorite things to do is be able to make a large amount of drinks for people, they're always very excited to come over for good coffee.
As a scientist I get the desire to go "all in." Maybe it's one way to satisfy the itch to improve- just maximize your ability to pull great coffee with excellent equipment and technique. What made you decide on the GS3 vs a modified Linea, Decent, or other end-game machine?

sluflyer06

#5: Post by sluflyer06 » replying to drH »

I had a Linea for 5.5 ish years before the GS3 which just came a few weeks ago, I did have a preinfusion chamber for awhile on the Mini which worked well for some coffees, less so for others. Couple of reasons for GS3 really is "open concept" floor plan of the exposed group, I was tired of working under the 'shelf' of the way the lineas are designed, felt like you had your vision blocked, we actually use the tea wand somewhat regularly and the flash boiling, spitting, nature of your standard wand always bothered me, I like the idea of the manual paddle, I know it's not as repeatable as a 2-stage setup like slayer but that doesn't bother me much. La Marzocco service network is great, if I have any issues that would make me nervous to fix myself, there are local techs a phone call away and no issues with parts. Lastly and more superficially, a. I've always wanted a GS3, b. I like the aesthetics and so does my wife.

ojt

#6: Post by ojt »

Though I'm much newer to coffee nerdery I am already in the "back to the zen" point. I tend to be too busy or tired (work, kids, other nerdy hobbies / habits) to really go all sciency on coffee. I have La Pavoni, Origami and a frenchpress between which I usually choose based on feeling and beans.

I know I could get "much" more from the beans by upgrading my grinder, or get a refractometer for diagnosis, or new pour over brewers and gadgets, custom tamper, piston pressure gauge, electric kettle, etc. Then of course there are always better beans out there to try, with taste notes of primoses, banana and cocoa nibs, with hibiscus finish.

But you know what? I get pretty damn good coffee with my simple recipes, simpleton devices and 10-15 minutes of concentration. I cherish the fact that I know where and how to improve, but I resist on the fomo and upgraditis. I enjoy my coffees and I try to choose my coffee moments so that I can actually stop and take my time. Slow coffee as they say. Also low stress coffee.

Not sure if this brings anything to the discussion.. I just sympathize with the idea of coffee zen
Osku

SutterMill

#7: Post by SutterMill »

This thread is appreciated. This morning I was reminiscing over the Cuisnart coffee maker I had for the past 10 years. I set it to grind and brew 15 minutes before I woke. Nearly every day for a decade I would stumble into the kitchen to a damn good pot of hot coffee sitting in a thermal carafe. No fiddle or faff involved.

Sure my coffee is better now that I weight input and output and carefully attend to my pourover. But is it really worth the extra effort? Some days I'm not convinced.

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another_jim
Team HB

#8: Post by another_jim »

drH wrote: ... I marveled at how complicated I've let coffee become and how much cognitive space it's come to occupy.
Perhaps it has to do more with the kinds of complications than the complexity itself. Ideally, the more skillful you become, the more pleasurable the task.

For me, this presupposes a kind of smooth flow where the variables are more like musical variations -- "ah, we're going to play it this way today!" than a lot of calculations and head scratching. I dislike it when coffee becomes a lab or programming task. So my ideal for Zen coffee is sprezzatura, an old Italian word meaning doing things so skillfully they appear effortless. That's my Zen.

For others, putting on a a show of effortlessness is just fatuous BS; their Zen is to be ultra focused, precise, and to keep notes, turning it into lab thing.

I think when people say "enough of this; I'm going back to my super-auto" or whatever was their pre-hobby mode; it may be that they are pursuing the wrong kind of Zen. There are certainly different kinds of high end gear that channel people into different kinds of coffee and espresso making styles. So maybe knowing what stye of skillfulness brings you joy is the first step.
Jim Schulman

drH (original poster)

#9: Post by drH (original poster) »

another_jim wrote:

I think when people say "enough of this; I'm going back to my super-auto" or whatever was their pre-hobby mode; it may be that they are pursuing the wrong kind of Zen. There are certainly different kinds of high end gear that channel people into different kinds of coffee and espresso making styles. So maybe knowing what stye of skillfulness brings you joy is the first step.
That's a very mature and wise perspective. This is what I was aiming at, less eloquently, when I was expressing a desire to simplify. I feel happier when I'm working with just a few tools and methods, but when I know them well, compared to when I'm shooting from the hip, juggling 5 different brew methods without a plan. That idea of growing skills and learning about extraction is appealing whereas sometimes all the associated gear can be a distraction.

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Brewzologist
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#10: Post by Brewzologist »

Some days my Zen can be enjoyably hyper-complex. But most days my Zen is to quickly prepare an excellent beverage and then spend my time mindfully savoring it. Fortunately I am able to do both with the gear I have depending on my whim. Perhaps the makings of a koan here! 8)