Quitting coffee? No, just decluttering and simplifying

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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spromance

Postby spromance » Mar 06, 2019, 1:11 pm

Perhaps this post is a bit out of place, given the nature of it being a forum for coffee enthusiasts, haha, but I have two purposes in sharing it. The first is to serve as a lengthier explanation to prospective buyers of lots of the gear I'm hoping to list in the Buy/Sell forum - if I saw a bunch of gear pop up from the same seller, I guess I'd want to know a bit more backstory before committing to buying something from them.

The second purpose is just to share a perspective I honestly never expected I'd come to have, and that perhaps stands as a bit of a counterbalance to the endless-upgraditis I (and many others) 'happily' have been afflicted by :wink:

Without further ado, then, much to the surprise of friends and family, I have come to the decision to part with the majority of the coffee gear I've been slowly accumulating over the last few years. To most everyone who knows me (and my growing obsession, and gear collection) it feels like I might as well be quitting coffee. I've had a lot of questions from others as to "Why!?!?" I would ever consider doing so (given all the time, energy, and money I've invested into this hobby over the last few years). That's what I thought might be interesting to share with others here.

Essentially, over the last few months, as I've re-evaluated some of my priorities in life, I've come to a place of wanting to simplify my life's activities/tasks and to declutter my life of excess 'stuff.' The result in the area of coffee has been a shift in my 'philosophy' about coffee at home and deciding to really scale back on my gear to keep only what I enjoy using.

Previously, I thought the ultimate experience of coffee at home would be based on having a full arsenal of gear available for extraction, and pursuing 'perfection' (in the form of a complex and detailed process). So, like any good home barista, I accumulated one of (nearly) every type of brewer out on the market, two grinders dedicated for separate drip/espresso duties, an electric/pump machine, a manual lever machine, and made sure to always weigh everything, take notes of the variables and process, and on and on and on...

To be fair, it's not as though that kind of focused approach is wrong at all. Arguably, it's part of what pushes an individual's progress forward as they learn to bring the best out of their coffees at home. But, as I came to find over time, as each new toy's novelty lost its luster and as each new 'trick' that the internet promised was supposed to magically improve my extraction by x1000 seemed to result in the same cup quality (or worse!), I found both my cabinets cluttering up, as well as my mental bandwidth, in the midst of trying to just enjoy the cup for what it's meant to be: tasty, special(ty) coffee!

Realistically, I think I could have dealt with that 'problem' in a variety of ways, but (again, because of other thought processes going on in life) I decided that the easiest way I could get back to the core priority (of enjoying special coffee at home), would be to get rid of all the redundancy and complexity of my setup/routine, and just define my ultimate experience of coffee at home not through 'achieving perfection' but through 'simple enjoyment' of the cup.

Since arriving at that decision a month or so ago, I cleaned and packed up all the gear I'm hoping to sell and got it out of the kitchen...and I've gotta tell you, it's been fantastic. Again, different strokes for different folks, but if you've been on the fence feeling like all your excess gear might be inhibiting your enjoyment of the hobby, I'd at least want to encourage you that I really don't have regrets about clearing things out, and that I've actually really found myself enjoying my coffees at home more consistently now than ever before.

The cups are far from perfect, mind you, but that's kind of the whole point: although they're not 'dialed in' perfectly, and each cup and each pull is slightly different from the previous one, I actually can enjoy every single cup now! In other words, for me, unloading all the excess has helped me to stop endlessly critiquing each cup (and thinking about all the tiny adjustments I need to try to make to the next extraction to 'perfect' it). The coffee is still special - even when the extraction is a bit higher on this one, a bit lower on that one, a bit stronger here, a bit weaker there... and it makes me enjoy the hobby more, because it truly is all just for the fun/enjoyment of it.

SO...if I'm getting rid of most of what I have, what remaining gear am I retaining and falling back on for coffee at home from here forwards?

The Robot - for manual espresso
  • It seriously is an amazing piece of work, and as soon as I got it this fall I fell in love with the rhythm and process of manual espresso
  • It'll never break, but even if it did, I would just keep buying new ones (that blue color Paul has now is to die for)
  • BEST of all - it requires no maintenance, I have no concern about water scaling/issues any more, it's easier to clean up than an electric machine (imo), it's not a counter-space hog, and it's a beautiful piece to display in the kitchen
Freshly aligned steel-burr Vario - for single-dosing double duty
  • A single Vario is not ideal, per se, but I think it's about as good as it gets without the commitment to a much higher price tier for double duty (i.e. monolith, EK, bunnzilla, etc), or the alternative of keeping my second grinder around.
  • (I really do like just having one grinder on the counter now)
  • I had my doubts about the steels for espresso, but so far so good.
  • The burrs are broken in but relatively new, and I think the alignment really helps take it a step up (both for filter and espresso)
  • I roast light, but not ultra-light, so I think I'm in pretty safe territory for not wearing out the Vario (at fine grind levels for espresso)
  • Also I've been freezing espresso doses and grinding frozen (which hopefully? is helping even out the particle spread, as well as moving the whole spread a bit finer)
Kalita 185 and a pourover kettle - for single cup brews
  • I always have preferred to drink small cups of coffee
  • To me, the Kalita 185 is a no-fuss method for 300ml cups
  • I'm planning to stop using scales eventually too, but just need to build a little wooden stand for the dripper first so I can see the cup volume when brewing
Bonavita Metropolitan - for brewing for multiple people
  • If I drank multiple brewed cups at once, I'd have just gone to this (and gotten rid of the Kalita)
  • I really like the Metropolitan
  • It's a rockstar for serving coffee to friends/family. Brews in 6 minutes, stays hot for 45 minutes, and the matte black is way prettier than the stainless (imo)
That's basically it. To many of my friends/family it's still a 'serious' coffee setup, but to me it's quite simplified. Even with boiling my setup down to those five components, I can still brew espresso and single-cup brews for myself, as well as larger batches for guests, which ticks all the boxes for me and is much simpler/modest than what it used to be...and it's nice to reclaim a bit of counter/cabinet space!

Well, that wraps up what I thought might be interesting to share with others here. (Hopefully, I don't get 'blacklisted' here for encouraging less gear, rather than more! :wink: ) Joking aside, it's truly a personal motivation and shift I've gone through, that so far has been working well for my season of life. And I guess I wouldn't want too many others encouraged to simplify their setups...because then I wouldn't get to keep vicariously experiencing all of them over in the 'Post a pic of your espresso setup' thread! 8)

(The new simplified setup)
Image
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happycat

Postby happycat » Mar 06, 2019, 2:19 pm

Good for you!

And I don't think you need to justify anything.

Psychobabble start:

When you can enjoy an experience for what it has to offer (rather than seek how to best control it to the nth degree to meet some standard and reject anything less) you're on the road to accepting yourself instead of feeling you have to explain yourself, or be different or better to meet some imagined standard... I think OCD in any degree is about manufacturing a microcosm where you can create a sense of power and importance through ritual. Letting that go means accepting that "what is" is not what "should be".

Psychobabble over.

I think your post relates to the old thread about espresso "being for the rich". It depends on how you define a hobby. Some people define a hobby as gear acquisition. It can also be defined as coffee appreciation. Totally different.

And coffee appreciation can be subjective and not rely on someone's numeric ratings or cliquish trends.

Now you can spend on coffee!

Best wishes
LMWDP #603

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yakster

Postby yakster » Mar 06, 2019, 4:59 pm

Looks good. I need to declutter my house and will probably be looking to part with some of my coffee gear at some point.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

Alslaw

Postby Alslaw » Mar 06, 2019, 5:22 pm

I also think that obtaining and using all of the gear at some point enables you to distinguish the good from the bad, and also how to get the most out of the tools you DO decide to keep.

I also love the metropolitan. However, in my opinion, the metropolitan paired with the chemex and able kone takes up the same space as the bonavita kettle and filter tray, but is noticeably better in the cup. You know, for your guests! :D
LMWDP # 606

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grog

Postby grog » Mar 06, 2019, 7:25 pm

I moved along multiple home levers last year, including ones that I never thought I could part with. Most of them went to fellow HBers and it makes me happy to know they are with people who will use and appreciate them. I also moved along two grinders that I didn't ever anticipate selling. My motivation was that I lucked into a commercial lever, something I had long wanted but never figured on actually having.

I've never had any pangs of regret. Maybe if I had three times as much space as I do, and could have everything optimally situated such that I could truly use the array of machines regularly...but alas, that is not the reality. Less really is more and I love my current streamlined setup. It's been in place for about six months now and I have no desire to get more coffee stuff - just more beans!
LMWDP #514

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master_photog

Postby master_photog » Mar 09, 2019, 1:44 pm

grog wrote:Less really is more and I love my current streamlined setup. It's been in place for about six months now and I have no desire to get more coffee stuff - just more beans!


100% dead on

I can't comment specifically regarding coffee hardware, but this philosophy certainly carries over to photography. I just had to upgrade every two years to the new Nikon body, I had to have the latest and greatest prime lens, I have Profoto studio lights (the best in the industry and most expensive). Having all of this makes you a better photographer, right? Nope, far from it.

When we moved to a new home with no room for a studio, as we had in our previous home, I sold most of my studio lights and stands. I now have 3 main lenses (that I only used anyway) and I have 3 camera bodies. If anything, this has made me a better photographer due to not having to fiddle and recall what body does what or what studio light to grab while on assignment.

I go on a photoshoot with ONE camera bag and end the photoshoot in less time with better images!

I truly was a FAUXtographer in the beginning, once I minimized my gear, my photography certainly attained new levels.

An image shot last Fall with a reflector and the model's dad as my assistant. Less truly is more.
Image

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spromance

Postby spromance » Mar 11, 2019, 1:15 pm

happycat wrote:Good for you! And I don't think you need to justify anything.

Psychobabble start: When you can enjoy an experience for what it has to offer (rather than seek how to best control it to the nth degree to meet some standard and reject anything less) you're on the road to accepting yourself instead of feeling you have to explain yourself, or be different or better to meet some imagined standard...I think OCD in any degree is about manufacturing a microcosm where you can create a sense of power and importance through ritual. Letting that go means accepting that "what is" is not what "should be".


Thanks David! (and everyone else!)

Fwiw, it wasn't just psychobabble to me :wink: I think what you're describing is/was pretty much the case in leading to this decision. I feel like I'm at one of life's bigger 'shift-points' where my priorities, values, perception, self-awareness/acceptance, etc have all kind of evolved and shifted across the board (for various reasons), and are now starting to 'solidify' in new relations to one another. In this case, my coffee hobby kind of got caught in the 'crossfire' (in a way I'm happy with in the end, though).

To agree with lots of the sentiment expressed in the replies above, the big plus is now the money and energy can be put towards sourcing new and exciting coffees! :D Woot!

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spromance

Postby spromance » Mar 11, 2019, 1:16 pm

Alslaw wrote:I also love the metropolitan. However, in my opinion, the metropolitan paired with the chemex and able kone takes up the same space as the bonavita kettle and filter tray, but is noticeably better in the cup. You know, for your guests! :D


...always, always for the guests! :lol:

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drgary
Team HB

Postby drgary » Mar 18, 2019, 2:03 am

This is a great thread, Josiah!

I've pondered something like what' you've done and have stopped actively collecting. From time to time I think of moving some of my gear on, but since I'm into vintage items, much of it's like an art collection. We've had plans for awhile to build a display, but not the budget. If we ever seriously downsize, I could see being quite happy with a setup like yours.

Like you, if pulling shots for myself, my gear is good enough and I know how to dial in well enough without excessive measurement to just enjoy the beverage. When reviewing gear or coffee, I'll get more OCD to communicate effectively.
Gary
LMWDP#308

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

indiehouse

Postby indiehouse » Apr 02, 2019, 5:31 pm

Alslaw wrote:I also think that obtaining and using all of the gear at some point enables you to distinguish the good from the bad, and also how to get the most out of the tools you DO decide to keep.

I also love the metropolitan. However, in my opinion, the metropolitan paired with the chemex and able kone takes up the same space as the bonavita kettle and filter tray, but is noticeably better in the cup. You know, for your guests! :D


Are you saying a Bonavita coffee maker makes a better cup than the Metropolitan? Sorry, just getting started into the coffee hobby and have been researching stuff for the past few weeks. I like the simplicity of the OP's setup. You like the Metropolitan over a Bonavita (model?) for drip brews? I'd like to get into espresso's and the Robot looks simple and affordable. The other machine I was looking at is a Rocket Appartamento, thought it's bigger, but it does steam milk. I was set on the Baratza Virtuoso grinder (just saw that the Virtuoso+ is being released), but now I'm almost ready to pull the trigger on a Niche Zero for more money. I basically want to buy once and not have to worry about upgrading, even if it means spending a few extra dollars. I also like good bang for the buck gear, and the Niche Zero and the Robot both seem to be quality that punches above their price. Not sure if I'm going to get tired of the manual press of the Robot, though. Also, I would need to manually control the temp of my water. Urgh. Makes my head spin!