to defend against both the dogmas of technification and the myths of tradition.
That is great Barry!
You know, I've been seriously interested in coffee and espresso for a little over three years now. The one thing I've learned is that the more I test, the more I experiment, the more I play around with with it all, the less I feel like I really know, since every aspect seems to just create more questions. The idea seems reasonably simple at first. Fresh coffee + Proper grind + Proper water temp (whatever that may be) = decent espresso. It's only after a while that one really comes to appreciate the intricacy of the whole process, and how, as Chris said, there are SO MANY variables.
While I feel that the technical aspect is a tool for understanding, I will readily admit that eventually I get overwhelmed by it all, such as when I am looking at charts and graphs of long term temperature studies. While I think that knowing these things can be helpful, sometimes it just seems so far removed from the point of the whole exercise, which is to enjoy the coffee (yes, I know that isn't a new sentiment
) This isn't to say that I would be adverse to doing the same thing to my own equipment, to further my knowledge about how it works, but I've been limited by how much I'm willing to spend on said test equipment.
I think this is where the appeal of machines like the GS3 come in. They eliminate, or at least help you control in a repeatable fashion, some of the multitude of variables. Machines like this are technical wonders, but you still have to have a reasonable knowledge of what you are doing "on the handle side of the portafilter". Personally I think that the biggest benefit to a machine like that to the home user is to be able to readily get good (if not absolutely mindboggling) espresso on a routine basis, WITHOUT having to worry about exactly what your intra-shot temp profile looks like, or having to flush 6oz of water, and counting off 14 seconds before starting the extraction. You can adjust the temp to your liking, and pretty much get a pretty dang good shot, as long as you take some care with grinding, dosing, tamping, etc. This isn't always so easy when trying to flush a HX to the exact temp you want.
I don't mean to make it sound like these machines enable the user to be lazy, because they don't. Personally I see the benefit as allowing the user to simply get the most out of their coffee, without having quite as many sink shots. Even the "mediocre" shots are likely to be significantly better than the same non-professional user would get out of a Gaggia Coffee, simply due to greater control of certain variables.
Anyway, sorry this rambled a bit. I was writing it over several hours while I was at work.