Like kissing your sister

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

WARNING: Strange commentary follows :!:

Life is hectic, especially with the whirl of activity generated by our rambunctious boys. While the morning commute is stressful for some, for me it's generally relaxing. In the past I used the half hour from cubicle-to-home for catching up on world events or listening to the mindless banter of disk jockeys. More recently it's become an escape of solitude, a moment of relative quiet with my own thoughts. My mind wanders in odd places after a long day of information technology-induced left brain thinking.

One particular day before heading to the parking lot, I stopped by the restroom, as is my habit. Without getting into details, one never knows if a traffic jam awaits and it's wise to plan ahead. Our employer hires a good cleaning staff, but common courtesy among my fellow collegues is often wanting (again, without getting into details).

In my car and stuck in traffic, I wondered why (a) some men are so sloven, and (b) if automatic hand-soap and fancy motion-sensitive water faucets are common, why not something to tidy up the seat of the porcelain throne after each use? Then I remembered my years in Europe, where in fact I saw not one but several instances of such modern convenience. I recall several designs that I won't bother describing, yet they were effective. Later that evening some inexplicable curiosity compelled me to look on the web for these products. Turns out that it's not a niche item, it's an industry! Did you know there is an American Restroom Association? And they have a "world summit" each year?

(, please forgive me for not linking back to your site)

If you've managed to read this far, you may be wondering what the heck this has to do with espresso. After dwelling on the possibilities of enhancing the restroom experience, I mentally switched to a more pleasant subject, namely the ongoing discussions on HB. The prior evening Michael Teahan was offering his opinion of super-automatics:
mteahan wrote:I can setup an automated machine that (aside from latte art) would produce a drink whose flavor profile and presentation would be indistinguishable from a hand made drink by a seasoned barista. After a week on site in the hands of people who could care less about quality--or simply don't know--it would begin producing the same vending machine quality drinks it takes 6 quarters to buy.
My experience with super-automatics is minimal. Our office had one of the Saeco models and it prepared a passable cafe crema. Initially considering Michael's assertion that an automatic-anything could match a practiced barista, I scoffed silently before the keyboard. "Sheeyah, right" are the words that came to mind at the time. Still, keeping my derision to myself seemed prudent given my lack of exposure to this genre of equipment.

(No opportunities have presented themselves to prove or disprove Michael's claim. I half-jokingly suggested to one of HB's sponsors that I would like to check out one of their super-autos. Sort of a "learn how the convenience-loving crowd lives" thing. Still waiting on their answer.)

With the melange of super-automatic toilets and super-automatic espresso machines in my head (please, no jokes), I figured Michael is probably right. If engineers can design a reliable device to handle one of the least glamorous concerns everyone faces each day, why not allow that equally creative minds are working towards simplifying a far more pleasant experience, namely preparing and drinking espresso? I'm keeping an open mind.

On the other hand, Steve mentioned in his Bench commentary one of his guest's comparison of the $2000 super-automatic he recently purchased and the espresso served from the Elektra A3:
Coffee from the Jura is like kissing your sister. It classifies as espresso, but it is not what you are pulling out of that Elektra.
I wish the super-automatic engineers good luck; now that Starbucks is converting to them, super-automatics are defining the espresso standard for many Americans. Even so, don't expect any reviews of them on HB anytime soon.
Dan Kehn


#2: Post by Tsiros »

I am not a native english speaker and therefore i want to apologize beforehand for what will follow. The matter is delicate, just enough to make things difficult for me. So, hoping simplicity will aid me in conveying my thoughts with clarity i shall use short sentences. It might be silly and immature, but it will be accurate.

Many things that man can make, a machine can also make. Many activities, too. Usually with "better" results. I put doublequotes around the word "better" because it is easy to say "better" and harder to properly define what "better" exactly means. oh man... is it the time? or am i really getting stupid? My thoughts come like rain and i have trouble filtering the good ones Besides, even if a machine is the "better barista" the "better driver" the "better whatever" even the "better lover", people will invariably prefer the human variety. Most people do not care for the result, the pleasure most of the time comes from the idea that it is a person that does the job. I have many ideas why could this be but i can not be sure any of them is the true reason.

Ask yourself: You have in front of you a machine that can pour out espresso like you dreamt it. Not just "perfect", but every time you pull the handle, exactly like you would like it. And next to it, you have an aged man who can teach you a good way of preparing an espresso. What would you choose?

Someone had said, i do not remember who, but it comes to mind: "Whether Deep Blue is better than man at chess, is like asking whether a submarine is better at swimming than man"

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HB (original poster)

#3: Post by HB (original poster) »

Tsiros wrote:Ask yourself: You have in front of you a machine that can pour out espresso like you dreamt it. Not just "perfect", but every time you pull the handle, exactly like you would like it. And next to it, you have an aged man who can teach you a good way of preparing an espresso. What would you choose?
A non-native English speaker chooses one of my "odd" blog entries to reply to? You are far braver in a second language than I (in my case French)!

You bring up an interesting point - what if all the artistry was eliminated? Would preparing espresso carry the same allure? I would miss the slower morning routine and serendipity if it were reduced to an insta-godshot button press.

Years ago I wondered the same thing while watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. OK, OK, so I liked watching the series through most of its run (the first season was laughably bad in retrospect). To my point, sometimes the storyline would include the characters enjoying some fine dining. The service person would call up the requested meal from the "replicator." Seconds later a perfectly prepared hot meal would appear from within the murky interior of this machine. I thought, "If we could record and then replicate the best preparation of a particular meal for all to enjoy, would we become bored? Would it be necessary to introduce some variation of the ultimate preparation to keep the diners' interest?"

I think so. Should we someday be offered the insta-godshot, I'll ask for a "randomize" option.
Dan Kehn


#4: Post by Tsiros »

A non-native English speaker chooses one of my "odd" blog entries to reply to? You are far braver in a second language than I (in my case French)!
i try :D

I remembered something my father told me. When he was young, the toys that were the most fun and desirable were the ones that had a button or a similar function. "Even if the button was fake, and even if we knew", he noted, "we would just go nuts with that toy". I think that kids and adults are not very different. Most of the time, i note that a child has much clearer thinking. It wants a toy that it can control, or even give the illusion that it is controllable. "I do what i want". That is how grown-ups think, as well.

People want control. Not to control other people, no, that is not what i want to say. People want control of their own life. Even if that is just to prepare your coffee the way you want it.

(people that are fked in the head want to control OTHER people, but let's not open pandora's box... it is 6:30 and my krapsI MEAN KRUPS is still warming up...).

(oh: your site is very nice. thank you.)


#5: Post by tcampbells »

It is funny. I think this is what got me into espresso in the first place. The playing with the buttons and the control. When I looked for an espresso machine I looked at the S1 and others, but I felt Rancilio Silvia was better for me (actually I would rather have a lever machine, but that is another story).
There is something about crafting your own drink, making mistakes, learning from them and improving. We really don't want perfection. The GOD shot is something we all strive for, but if we found it daily then the fun would be gone. It is like everything else, the struggle makes it all worth having.
If you could buy anything you wanted when you wanted, the objects would lose their value and their interest to you. Coffee and espresso are the same. We search for the best, but need to have the worst (well not the worst, but something bad) to make it really the best!

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#6: Post by Psyd »

Tsiros wrote:I am not a native english speaker and therefore i want to apologize beforehand
No apology necessary, your English is better than some other native posters on other fora that I frequent. And you've reminded us why the Greeks were the first of the great philosophers as well!

Oh, and Dan, to solve that, uhm, 'common courtesy' issue? We once posted a picture of some old Army marksmanship training materials comparing a rifle to pistol, and suggested that anyone using a 'pistol' at that range would leave too large a group to be effective, so they should shorten up the range. Also intimating that anyone following them into the 'range' would be sure to know that they were sporting inadequate 'small arms' if they left their target evidence.
Nothing has ever worked better. ; >
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175