Order of Importance: Coffee, Grinder, Espresso Machine... and Barista?

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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tekomino
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Postby tekomino » Mar 10, 2011, 6:31 pm

HB wrote:...the order of importance of contributors to exceptional espresso are:

  • Barista
  • Coffee
  • Grinder
  • Espresso Machine
Yes, the espresso machine is in fact the least important contributor to exceptional espresso.

This looks good, I would have little different order for contributors as such:

- Coffee
- Grinder
- Espresso Machine
- Barista

When you have good stuff it just ain't that hard...



...split from How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price by moderator...
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cafeIKE
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Postby cafeIKE » Mar 10, 2011, 7:02 pm

+ 10^10^10

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HB
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Postby HB » Mar 10, 2011, 7:40 pm

tekomino wrote:This looks good, I would have little different order for contributors as such...

I've read similar comments about ranking the barista last in importance, but I disagree. I can teach the mechanics of shot preparation in less than an hour, but it requires significantly more time and experience to diagnose extraction problems / taste defects. Or, to put it another way, you can't buy your way to exceptional espresso.
Dan Kehn

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cafeIKE
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Postby cafeIKE » Mar 10, 2011, 8:37 pm

NO barista can overcome year old supermarket coffee / Braun K30 / DeLonghi.

I'll take the missus or anyone else with 15 minutes training on a Vibiemme DoubleDomo / Macap MXK / Red Bird or similar over any one you care to name with the above.

It may not be exceptional, but at least it's not execrable which is all you'll ever get from the first combo.

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Randy G.
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Postby Randy G. » Mar 10, 2011, 8:39 pm

HB wrote:I've read similar comments about ranking the barista last in importance, but I disagree....

For any given coffee, I would as well. I have pulled some drinkable straight shots using a very basic machine paired with a good grinder, but it was my experience and knowledge that allowed me to get the most from that equipment. Of course, GIGO applies as always.

The only other comment would be that I currently recommend the Espro Press over a French Press.

That, and I equate the "ultra-convenience" pod machines to consumer-grade inkjet printers. What the manufacturers lose on small-margin equipment sales is more then made up for through licensing and sales of their cartridges... er... capsules and pods.
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Ken Fox
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Postby Ken Fox » Mar 10, 2011, 9:12 pm

HB wrote:I've read similar comments about ranking the barista last in importance, but I disagree. I can teach the mechanics of shot preparation in less than an hour, but it requires significantly more time and experience to diagnose extraction problems / taste defects. Or, to put it another way, you can't buy your way to exceptional espresso.


Yes and no. The coffee itself (what it was in green and how it was roasted and how fresh it is, etc. etc. etc.) so grossly outweighs all the other factors combined, that it should be on one page with the rest of those factors following on the next page.

The "secondary" factors, e.g. grinder, machine, barista, only have importance if the coffee itself is very good. Their impact revolves more on how much they detract from what is in the coffee to begin with, than anything else. They seldom or never add anything, they only subtract from the potential presented by the coffee itself.

ken
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flathead1
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Postby flathead1 » Mar 11, 2011, 12:41 am

I agree with Ken, in fact the following quote is posted over my grinders;
"In the end, the only magic is in the bean; the rest is not messing up when getting it into the cup."
I'm sorry I don't know the author (if it is you Ken I really apologize).

The relative ranking of the remaining three IMHO is open for discussion.

What I really wanted to plug was that in the discussion there should be at least a passing mention of the niche group, levers. Granted there hasn't been much innovation in the past fifty years and Dan was asked about changes in the last two, but for a budget of $1200 (Vario and 8c Pavoni) you've got a system that can produce classic drinks.
A Lever and a place to stand ...

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Mar 11, 2011, 3:47 am

There's at least two schools of thought here.

The first is that the cherry on the tree defines how good the coffee can get, and that every subsequent step in the supply chain from bean to cup -- picking, sorting, processing, moving & storing, roasting, and drink preparation -- can only mess this up to a greater or lesser extent. George Howell is particularly associated with this theory.

The second is that one can use any set of beans, good or bad, to create a blend with a taste profile that matches, as closely as possible, the Platonic ideal of espresso held by a roaster or cafe owner with exquisite taste. Here the roasting and drink prep become the creative art, and having the right gear and technique becomes much more critical. David Schomer in the US, and the National Institute of Espresso in Italy, are particularly associated with this theory of espresso.

George Howell's Addis Ketema SO was one of the best espresso's I've ever had; but when it comes to dark chocolate bombs with a hint of berries, Schomer's Dolce is hard to top. So my take is that if you want to taste the full range of great espresso, you'll need to accept ones that are made according to theories that contradict one another; and if you only have espressos that are logically consistent with your favorite theory of good coffee, you'll be missing out on some very good shots.

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michaelbenis
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Postby michaelbenis » Mar 11, 2011, 4:23 am

Re the QA: I think the vocabulary in particular is simply too technical for a consumer magazine - it will go over many people's heads and they will believe that making great espresso is too complex and expensive to do in the home.

I totally agree with Jim. One disservice of all Illy's thinking, plus that of his successors (e.g. Schomer) and its popularisation, is that we now have a class of enthusiasts who approach the coffee through their thinking rather than approach their thinking through the coffee. I reckon the increasing obsession with control technology rather than technique is a part of that.
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Marshall
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Postby Marshall » Mar 11, 2011, 1:07 pm

tekomino wrote:This looks good, I would have little different order for contributors as such:

- Coffee
- Grinder
- Espresso Machine
- Barista

When you have good stuff it just ain't that hard...

Had any restaurant espresso lately? As someone who works with some of the very best wholesale roasters and has heard them driven to exasperation by their retail accounts, I can confirm that Dan had it right. Sooner or later they realize their retail customers will ruin their coffee brands unless they are given intense training. And then retrained as staff turns over. And even then, and with good equipment, they still manage to spoil the coffee much of the time.
Marshall
Los Angeles

 
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