What espresso standards, fads, and trends have reversed over the years?

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

#1: Post by TheMadTamper » Aug 12, 2019, 2:39 pm

I've been away from internet coffee for quite a long time. I entered in at CG, maybe 15 years ago. Last visited probably 8 years ago. After all those years away from it, I've found it interesting to re-enter and see all the common wisdom, New Truths, and "future trends" that were all the rage at one point ether progress to a new place since then, or do a complete 180 and got right back to where it previously was before the new revolution became all the rage.

A few things stood out to me in particular.

The last time I was around, everyone was removing their bottoms! Bottomless portafilters were all the rage, the revolution had begun, spouts were passe, dirty, devices of the past that did nothing but add rancid coffee oils into a shot, and contributed nothing positive to a shot. The future was bottomless for all, and any serious enthusiast would only use bottomless, spouts were a relic of the past. Today, it seems like while plenty of people still enjoy bottomless more, things have calmed and reverted, with bottomless once again being commonly regarded as a troubleshooting tool rather than a part of the production process. The chorus preferring the texture and crema from spouts has grown considerably.

When I started, the 30 pound tamping rule was strictly enforced. Everyone was grabbing their bathroom scales to practice their tamp. Espro, Click, calibrated tampers were the new upstarts to ensure you got that full pressure in. Today, such claims are scarcely even heard, consistency is the focus.

Silvias were a great value.... the standard first serious machine, and a PID'd Sivia was almost as good as it got. PIDs required a description of what exactly they were every time they were mentioned. And Rocky was....ok, even then there was some consternation regarding Rocky.... :wink:

For the other long timers....what things have you seen that were once fads, trends, and the "future of espresso" that have changed dramatically since yesteryear?
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another_jim
Team HB

#2: Post by another_jim » Aug 12, 2019, 2:58 pm

Not really sure how to answer. You could use the google site search (see the search option in the menu) to read up; but it would probably take a few months. If I summarized all the stuff we once thought was a big deal, it would take a few weeks; which isn't something I feel like doing. So I'm going to lay out what I think is important now; and others can tell you how full of it I am.

Once upon a time, in the early aughts, Seattle espresso porn was all the rage, and Schomer was the king. We took medium-dark roated coffee, stuffed a double basket to the gills, ground it coarse enough so that it shot was done in about 25 seconds and looked gorgeous coming out of a naked PF, was brewed at exactly 203.7 F, and tasted like .... well an acquired taste, to put it mildly, and if all the stars were right, a "godshot," which was basically getting punched in the mouth with a Hershey bar.

Nowadays, we use all kinds of roasts, with very light ones being the leading edge, and the ones requiring the best of modern technique. That technique beings is extraction based Highly extracted coffee (i.e. where more of the puck ends up in the cup) is milder and and more balanced. Less extracted coffee emphasizes the sours and bitters. You can extract more by grinding finer, and less by grinding coarser. This requires weighing the dose (so you don't gush or choke the shot), and getting baskets that are designed for finer grinds. The emphasis is on getting well balanced shots with clear and distinct tastes from any coffee at all.
Jim Schulman

Espresso_Junky

#3: Post by Espresso_Junky » Aug 13, 2019, 5:23 am

I've been involved in espresso for maybe 11-12 years now and have read many of the things you mention quite too often. Honestly I've never been one to believe 'said rules' were of any real importance as taste is subjective and there is no right/wrong way of doing things. As long as the end result satisfies the one consuming it that's all that will ever matter. Over those years I've tried all sorts of equipment, coffees, techniques, etc. and still have yet to find anything 'cutting edge' I like as good as what I first started out with so to speak. Guess I'm a traditional purist and I've yet to see/taste anything impressive enough to ever change that.

I will say that the single biggest change for me was starting home roasting. For years I thought the only way to have great/fresh/consistent coffee was to buy from artisan roasters. A little over 3 yrs. ago I really started thinking that if others could successfully roast at home I could achieve exactly what I like for my espresso at a fraction of what I was paying for quality roasts. Devised/built my roaster, hit the ground running and the results have been so awesome I seriously doubt I will ever buy roasted coffee again.

maxbmello

#4: Post by maxbmello » Aug 14, 2019, 10:10 am

I remember when concial grinders were deemed to be the best and highlighted the bright fruity flavors in coffee and provided more flavor separation, while flats were lauded for promoting the "bass notes" of coffee bringing out the caramels and chocolates.

Seems like that has completely flipped, and flats are all the rage these days (especially for light roasted coffee).

More grinder manufacturers are putting a focus on alignment as key, and there are more single dosing options than ever!

I would also say we've seen a minor resurgence in lever machines compared to 10 years ago, with several great prosumer options.

All in all, we are in a much better coffee world than 10-15 years ago when the rocky/Silvia combo was considered the holy grail for home setups!

TheMadTamper

#5: Post by TheMadTamper » Aug 14, 2019, 2:14 pm

This is turning into the fun thread I hoped it would be...a neat stroll down memory lane!
another_jim wrote:Not really sure how to answer. You could use the google site search (see the search option in the menu) to read up; but it would probably take a few months. If I summarized all the stuff we once thought was a big deal, it would take a few weeks; which isn't something I feel like doing. So I'm going to lay out what I think is important now; and others can tell you how full of it I am.

Once upon a time, in the early aughts, Seattle espresso porn was all the rage, and Schomer was the king. We took medium-dark roated coffee, stuffed a double basket to the gills, ground it coarse enough so that it shot was done in about 25 seconds and looked gorgeous coming out of a naked PF, was brewed at exactly 203.7 F, and tasted like .... well an acquired taste, to put it mildly, and if all the stars were right, a "godshot," which was basically getting punched in the mouth with a Hershey bar.

Nowadays, we use all kinds of roasts, with very light ones being the leading edge, and the ones requiring the best of modern technique. That technique beings is extraction based Highly extracted coffee (i.e. where more of the puck ends up in the cup) is milder and and more balanced. Less extracted coffee emphasizes the sours and bitters. You can extract more by grinding finer, and less by grinding coarser. This requires weighing the dose (so you don't gush or choke the shot), and getting baskets that are designed for finer grinds. The emphasis is on getting well balanced shots with clear and distinct tastes from any coffee at all.
Ohh, yeah, I forgot the Schomer era entirely. I kind of tuned it out at the time. Come to think of it the whole "bottomless revolution" seemed to stem from Schomer's espresso porn. I never really paid much attention to most of what was going on at the time with that stuff. I never liked the move toward triple baskets, extensive overdosing etc. I did get in on the VST baskets back then, and recently moved to IMS...and am very happy with the return to finer grinds and lower doses.

Though to be fair, I'm similarly ignoring most of the current trends and obsessions as well. It's fun to watch. But it's not for me. I'm a traditionalist I suppose. None of the third wave experiments really appeal to me, I just want espresso. I figure the Italians have spent over a century trying to perfect it and still don't have it quite yet....third wave keeps trying to reinvent it from scratch every decade or so. INEI may be a bit too strict for my liking, but I suppose my personal guidelines fall somewhere around theirs, in general. Mucking with scales under the spouts is a bit too clinical, and I imagine in another 10 or so years we'll all be here laughing about such silliness much like with Schomerism today. Much of what you said I can get behind, though. Not so much measuring extraction weights by digital readouts, but a return to milder, balanced, and not trying intentionally to underextract. That's definitely moved back in the right direction. I think, though we have the opposite obsession in third wave today. The other hard extreme, away from the Hershey bars and into the orange juice. :lol:
Espresso_Junky wrote:I've been involved in espresso for maybe 11-12 years now and have read many of the things you mention quite too often. Honestly I've never been one to believe 'said rules' were of any real importance as taste is subjective and there is no right/wrong way of doing things. As long as the end result satisfies the one consuming it that's all that will ever matter. Over those years I've tried all sorts of equipment, coffees, techniques, etc. and still have yet to find anything 'cutting edge' I like as good as what I first started out with so to speak. Guess I'm a traditional purist and I've yet to see/taste anything impressive enough to ever change that.

I will say that the single biggest change for me was starting home roasting. For years I thought the only way to have great/fresh/consistent coffee was to buy from artisan roasters. A little over 3 yrs. ago I really started thinking that if others could successfully roast at home I could achieve exactly what I like for my espresso at a fraction of what I was paying for quality roasts. Devised/built my roaster, hit the ground running and the results have been so awesome I seriously doubt I will ever buy roasted coffee again.
It sounds like we're coming from a similar place with traditionalism. Maybe it's the minority of the internet coffee scene, and I'm not quite ready to hang Lavazza umbrellas outside, but my aim has always been that wonderful taste of Italy more than a taste of Portland. :wink:

I considered home roasting a long time ago but....I don't need another obsession! And my brewing/water gear already consumes my entire kitchen. I think I'll leave that part to the expert. Plus I'd need a huge roaster to get all the coffee I go through...
maxbmello wrote:I remember when concial grinders were deemed to be the best and highlighted the bright fruity flavors in coffee and provided more flavor separation, while flats were lauded for promoting the "bass notes" of coffee bringing out the caramels and chocolates.

Seems like that has completely flipped, and flats are all the rage these days (especially for light roasted coffee).

More grinder manufacturers are putting a focus on alignment as key, and there are more single dosing options than ever!

I would also say we've seen a minor resurgence in lever machines compared to 10 years ago, with several great prosumer options.

All in all, we are in a much better coffee world than 10-15 years ago when the rocky/Silvia combo was considered the holy grail for home setups!
Huh, now there's one I hadn't even realized had changed, I thought that was really already determined to be the way it worked. The gear obsessions (and related price tags) do get weird from time to time. I bought in on the conical thing. I have my K10 and K8 side by side. K8 for my daily milk blend, K10 for everything else, mostly meaning everything roasted lighter. I consider getting another K10 from time to time to get the doserless version. It's not this year's fad, and they've sure gone up in price....but I'm partial to them. That's funny that the internet moved on from conical obsession and I didn't even notice. I've flipped back and forth on single dosing. I single dosed K10 originally. Then filled the hopper and bought a Gralab and just dose them out. Doses are inconsistent at times....but I'm also unconvinced inconsistency is inherently bad so long as the result is tasty. Commercially it may matter more where you want to serve the same shot to everyone. Yet, ironically, commercial seems much less concerned with consistent doses as a matter of pure practicality than the internet is. And the lever resurgence is definitely attracting me.

Definitely a better place than back then though! Still, the new fads (light, fruity, and poured on a scale!) make me giggle a bit...

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slybarman

#6: Post by slybarman » Aug 14, 2019, 2:25 pm

I have a suspicion the E61 flow control device may become one of those things that, 10 years from now, will make us wonder what we were thinking. Kinda like bell bottoms.

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Randy G.

#7: Post by Randy G. » Aug 14, 2019, 6:36 pm

It was SIlvia and Rocky back in 2000 or so. Mainly because the combo worked and there was less to choose from back then. In many ways it stood alone between the department store low-end and the "prosumer" choices such as they were at the time.

If you get a Vibiemme, the fourth or fifth time you go to knock the grounds out and have the thing dribble coffee across your machine and the counter you will be heading to the drill press like I did. And the show is still as much fun to watch as it was when I drilled out my first portafilter about 14 years ago.

Weighing the dose will be around for quite some time- that's another that has not reversed.

We started the PID "craze" on alt.coffee and that sure is still with us.

Conical vs flat. Light vs dark. Ribbed vs non-ribbed. Whatever keeps displacement from becoming greater than the mass of the vessel.
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com

TheMadTamper

#8: Post by TheMadTamper » Aug 16, 2019, 10:05 am

slybarman wrote:I have a suspicion the E61 flow control device may become one of those things that, 10 years from now, will make us wonder what we were thinking. Kinda like bell bottoms.
Harsh! True...but harsh!
Randy G. wrote:It was SIlvia and Rocky back in 2000 or so. Mainly because the combo worked and there was less to choose from back then. In many ways it stood alone between the department store low-end and the "prosumer" choices such as they were at the time.

If you get a Vibiemme, the fourth or fifth time you go to knock the grounds out and have the thing dribble coffee across your machine and the counter you will be heading to the drill press like I did. And the show is still as much fun to watch as it was when I drilled out my first portafilter about 14 years ago.

Weighing the dose will be around for quite some time- that's another that has not reversed.

We started the PID "craze" on alt.coffee and that sure is still with us.

Conical vs flat. Light vs dark. Ribbed vs non-ribbed. Whatever keeps displacement from becoming greater than the mass of the vessel.
I'm still a secret fan of Silvia. It's overpriced. But sometimes the user interface and experience matters as much as what's in the cup, and what Silvia does is provide a very commercial feeling experience to what's technically a little bit better than a department store plastic machine. The same buttons the Epoca and Classe semi-autos use, a heavy group with standard screens, gaskets, and PFs, in a stainless shell and steel frame that is, IMO higher quality than a lot of prosumer E61s have. I can't imagine I'd ever use my Silvia again....but I still have it. I still play with the buttons when I pass by, and lock the PF occasionally....it still "feels good". If I could time travel I'd still tell my former self to buy it. Sure I could have spent less and got the same or better coffee. At the time I'd have to have spent much more on a Livia 90 or such to get better. But I suspect I wouldn't have fallen down the espresso rabbit hole quite as deeply without the Silvia giving me that first hit for free (years after department store machines and such.) Not sure a Gaggia Classic or Saeco would have taken me that far. Of course today some of the SBDU QM's and such may be better. But there's still something about that robust little Silvia that's charming in it's pseudo-commercial-grade clothing. Overpriced...but charming. Of course if I had to use any SBDU again (lever aside) I'd tear my own skin off....

I should clarify the dose weighing I'm referring to means weighing the liquid mass, not the beans. Bean dosage is unavoidable be it weighting mass, approximating by time, doser, or approximated volume by finger striking or a "neat little pile", you always need to measure your dose to at least some standard, otherwise the rest of the process doesn't even work. But measuring the mass of the liquid output, I'm calling it, it's a silly fad, like all those others. It's not even practical, common use obstructs the drip tray from doing what a drip tray is meant to do. It's good for analysis like the bottomless, but just impractical and silly for actual production. :evil:

Though the general, somewhat amusing trend of internet espresso, overall, has been that it's become dominated by engineers and scientists who take that mentality into trying to dial espresso by number. "The meaning of espresso is 47." It's like everyone secretly just wants to design a super-auto that cranks out peer-review determined "ideal espresso", but nobody actually agrees on what that actually is. :lol: My own view is that the best part of espresso is that "a good shot" can mean almost anything, and repeatability isn't everything, or even necessarily desirable, and in reality, probably not actually possible without more effort than the repeatability of the result actually provides benefit. If I approximate doses within a generally suitable range, vary my grind within a suitable range, with about the same water poured through it, more or less, and generally within the range temperatures at the start.......I get a whole bunch of similar but not quite the same great coffees. Can't ask for much more than that! The quest for repeatability (both with internet enthusiasts and in computerized machine design), to me, loses sight of what really matters most for great coffee. Heck, the resurgence of levers among the enthusiasts tell me many agree...though, then then go back to trying to dial the lever to be repeatable.... :roll:

I'm still amused by the conical thing. How we got back to flats being preferred, I'll never guess. Technically I use my flats significantly more often than my conical, but only because that's my timed doserless model so I need a bit more time to play with my dosered conical. It's more practical for the daily, but I still prefer my conical more in the cup (and the tamp stand), even if I prefer using my doserless flats for speed and cleanliness.

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Randy G.

#9: Post by Randy G. » Aug 16, 2019, 12:56 pm

In terms of Silvia, I had it for 6½ years and sold it about as soon as the Vibiemme Domobar Super was in service in my home. There was a reason that so many got interested in adding PIDs to Silvia which was apparently the early driving force for that movement.

But with all these discussions you have to take into account that Home-Barista.com is at the apex of espresso discussions and most home baristas would look at this thread (and much of what is read on these forums) the same way people looked at my wife and I 40 years ago when we spoke of being vegetarian and choosing organic foods as often as possible. Maybe not the best of comparisons, but in virtually any food circle there are always the fringe elements that push the limits. Weighing shots, roast levels, roasting curves, and so much more; what sticks around for the folks up there on the top of the pyramid is what consistently creates better espresso. Some of it lives on and some does not.

In the espresso realm, few have had what we often referred to as the God shot. A perfect espresso. One is all it takes to continue the quest. I remember a thread were someone stated that people don't hesitate to spend $1800 (and in today's market, sometimes more) on a refrigerator but will ask how can they make espresso at home with a budget of $500. We all have our priorities and limits as to the investment we will make, whether in cash, time, research, and process, to achieve. In 2000 when I started roasting coffee on a Hearthware Precision many thought I was crazy. In 2002 when I started roasting on a Hottop and was giving roasted coffee to friends, they all said that it was the best coffee they ever had. Insanity is relative.
Espresso! My Espresso!
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com

Espresso_Junky

#10: Post by Espresso_Junky » Aug 17, 2019, 4:51 am

TOTALLY agree on the practice of weighing the extraction output and coming up with ratios. Some seem to think that's the only way to dial espresso in consistently and I would agree it might be for newbies. I've done enough espresso over many years on all sorts of equipment that I can dial any coffee in to my liking based on instinct. Another topic that gets quite old is the thinking that espresso has rules that just have to be followed to make it 'proper'... Taste is subjective and there is no right/wrong at the end of the day. All that will ever matter is the espresso satisfying the user.