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
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
- 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)
- 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
- 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)
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! ) 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!
(The new simplified setup)