How to find zen in espresso? - Page 2

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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cafeIKE
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#11: Post by cafeIKE »

kpucci wrote:go a Super Automatic unit
you'll be sorry :cry: :cry: :cry:

Buy a Nespresso. Coffee is expensive, but it's really consistent.
2x Roma pulled short is a very pretty good cup.
More than a few espressionistas have concurred when the Nespresso topic is discussed.

henri (original poster)

#12: Post by henri (original poster) »

kpucci wrote:I was so excited and eager to start my journey. It has not been zen for me at all.

I love trying new coffee (get beans delivered every month) and this has turned out to be my issue in a nutshell.

Trying to dial in a shot has been a challenge for me at the best of times, but switching coffees has made this so much more frustrating to the point that I am going to sell my machine/grinder and go a Super Automatic unit.
This sounds a lot like my experience so far. I started out with the assumption that any coffee could be dialled in, in principle. And while it may be true that most beans that are sold as espresso can be dialled in as espresso for some palate, it's not necessarily the case that they can be dialled in for mine, even with the best equipment. In retrospect, this should have been obvious - but it took me a very long time to realize that there simply are styles of espresso that I will likely never enjoy.

I'm wondering, in fact, if we're not doing ourselves something of a disservice by focusing a bit too much on prep and routine over other factors - in general, on the Mano variable over the Miscela. Looking at the sort of troubleshooting advice normally given to beginners, people rarely seem to consider the possibility that the coffee itself (or the coffee + palate combination) is to blame.

For now, I've gone back to a comfort blend that any third waver would probably scoff at: a dark roasted 60/40 arabica/robusta (Brazil/India) blend that exits the blind portafilter in a ridiculous cone of crema and yields a nice (comforting!) cup even if the barista has strayed quite far away from whatever is the theoretical sweet spot. I feel like this coffee has its limitations - I'd definitely be surprised if it ever yielded a true god shot - but it never disappoints. It's consistently mediocre, or slightly above. :lol:

Fascinating discussion in this thread - thanks everyone for your input so far. The advice to be more mindful of the process itself is, I think, spot on. This is, in fact, something I really like about my office setup, a Flair paired with a Kinu. It's far easier to be in touch with the process when it's all manual.

jpender

#13: Post by jpender »

henri wrote:The advice to be more mindful of the process itself is, I think, spot on. This is, in fact, something I really like about my office setup, a Flair paired with a Kinu. It's far easier to be in touch with the process when it's all manual.
I think you are in touch with the lever that produces the pressure. And you literally pour the water into it. But there are blind spots with an all manual machine that are difficult to avoid. Even though it's more techy a Decent machine would give you control that a manual machine lacks. You'd be more in touch without actually touching.

As to whether you'd achieve zen, that depends.

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another_jim
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#14: Post by another_jim »

henri wrote: ... It is definitely easy to get lost in the multidimensional parameter space of espresso by tweaking one parameter one way, then thinking tweaking another parameter will solve the problem (and so on and so forth with third, fourth and fifth parameter) - when in fact tweaking the first parameter the other way would have been the correct course of action. ...
The parameter space of shot making variables, e.g. does, grind setting, etc., is a state space: each possibility is a simple point, and there are no arrows pointing to which way might be better. The parameter space of taste is a phase space: each possible combination of bitter, sour, sweet, umami, florals, spices, etc., does have an arrow attached to it, "more sweet please" "lots more of everything please, this is boring," "this is burnt," etc. Every shot of espresso is either happy as is, or it wants to change in some definite way, and go to some definite place.

So the trick is mapping the taste space, which is a phase space with arrows, over to the simple state space of the shot making variables. Once you understand the mappings, you'll know that when, for instance, the espresso tells you it's boring, the shot's telling to you grind coarser and dose higher.

On the relationship between not getting lost in state spaces and Zen; ask a Roshi.
Jim Schulman
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Nunas
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#15: Post by Nunas »

For me, achieving zen means I've produced great morning coffee without thinking about it and all the variable parameters. Kind of, "Hey, there are two cappuccinos here...did I remember to do everything correctly?" It was nigh on impossible to achieve this with consistent results until I started roasting my own beans. BTW, you can hit a zen mind when roasting beans too if you eschew the computer (after using it to learn, of course). I call it seat-of-the-pants roasting, where I rely on manually operating the machine according to sight, smell and sound, using only BT and ET thermometers. The foregoing takes a lot of practice. :wink:

jtbenson
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#16: Post by jtbenson »

another_jim wrote:The parameter space of shot making variables, e.g. does, grind setting, etc., is a state space: each possibility is a simple point, and there are no arrows pointing to which way might be better. The parameter space of taste is a phase space: each possible combination of bitter, sour, sweet, umami, florals, spices, etc., does have an arrow attached to it, "more sweet please" "lots more of everything please, this is boring," "this is burnt," etc. Every shot of espresso is either happy as is, or it wants to change in some definite way, and go to some definite place.

So the trick is mapping the taste space, which is a phase space with arrows, over to the simple state space of the shot making variables. Once you understand the mappings, you'll know that when, for instance, the espresso tells you it's boring, the shot's telling to you grind coarser and dose higher.

On the relationship between not getting lost in state spaces and Zen; ask a Roshi.
Jim,
I love the cause/effect actionable scenario you've presented in this reply. Can you point me to a reference with more such examples please (in my mind's eye, I'm ideally envisioning a flow chart poster :D )?
Cheers!
Jason

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another_jim
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#17: Post by another_jim »

Dose and grind is here. Brew temperature is mostly cooler for more acidity, hotter for more bitter (i.e. generally brew darker roasts cooler, lighter roasts hotter, for a good taste balance).

With pressure profiling and designer baskets, there's a whole host of new variables. Longer shots with preinfusion and gentle pressure changes are more fault tolerant, and make ultra light roasts easier to manage; but I don't know how they systematically map over to the taste profile.
Jim Schulman

MatGreiner
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#18: Post by MatGreiner »

Get a rake? :D

LMWDP #716: Jeez, kids! Don't swing on that!

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cafeIKE
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#19: Post by cafeIKE »

henri wrote:it's not necessarily the case that they can be dialled in for mine, even with the best equipment.
I disagree. I have far from the best equipment, but I've yet to come across a roast from very light to not quite cinders, that I could not make work.

If trying to use 'normal' doses, in a single basket, I'd agree it's hopeless. However, with a range of baskets from 12g to 21g nominal, it might not be a doddle, but PDG* is definitely attainable... and I have a 15 year track record of doing it for not just myself, but pals and guests always profess to enjoy.

Admittedly, I may have written something much different 10,000 or 15,000 shots ago, but today I say "Bring it on." [As a side note, a pal recently remarked on the varietals in my wine cellar that he hadn't heard of most of them.] "Variety is the spice of life"

IMO, people focus too much on the hardware and not enough on the variables.

Nunas wrote:It was nigh on impossible to achieve this with consistent results until I started roasting my own beans.
15 years ago, I may have agreed, but since I was forced to quit roasting 14 years back, I dissent. I've a few home roasting pals and most of the their offerings are DTB. Since there's no Way Back machine, I can't compare my roasts of yesteryear, but I like to delude myself, as that my tastes in whisky, bourbon, wine, porto... have veered minimally in the past ¼c., my roasts were tolerable.
MatGreiner wrote:Get a rake?
More useless bling :twisted:


* Pretty Damned Good
Direct to Bin

Pressino

#20: Post by Pressino »

MatGreiner wrote:Get a rake? :D

image
I'm by no means an expert, but wouldn't too symmetry and especially the lack of perceptual blind spots) get in the way of achieving Zen, at least for Japanese landscaping? :?