How do you explore the extraction space? - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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barry

Postby barry » Nov 19, 2005, 11:42 pm

malachi wrote:An example... everyone seems to have decided that flat line temp stability is "required" for good espresso.


okay, i'll stand up and wave my hand: i do not agree with that "requirement".


So - where do those of us who value measurement and value the scientific method but understand that in the end it's what's in the cup that matters and that is what should drive scientific exploration fit?


to defend against both the dogmas of technification and the myths of tradition.

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malachi

Postby malachi » Nov 19, 2005, 11:43 pm

barry wrote:
to defend against both the dogmas of technification and the myths of tradition.


LOVE it!
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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cannonfodder
Team HB

Postby cannonfodder » Nov 20, 2005, 2:30 am

malachi wrote:So... how about those of us who feel that it's all important, but that the goal is actually understanding what is going on?

Where do I fit in?


But that is the trick. Learning the variables (science side) and being able to marry that to the resulting cup (art side). In my mind, achieving symmetry between the two is the holy grail of knowledge.

My observations were not aimed at any one person, just a general observation over the past year based on my observations of post in multiple forums. You and a handful of others have found that balance, as evident in you first post. Knowing that adding a gram here or subtracting a degree there will typically yield Z in the cup. Keeping track of all the deltas involved is mind numbing at times. That is where experience, art and science meet in the cup. Without understanding one, you will never master the other.

And with that I must shut down and head off to bed. I am standing here in my smoke filled garage at 1:30am, covered with chaff and looking at six different beans and a notebook with scribbling that only a another coffee enthusiast would understand. I am getting there, slowly but surely, and one day I will hopefully hit that balance.
Dave Stephens

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » Nov 20, 2005, 2:54 am

cannonfodder wrote:I have noticed that there tends to be two distinct trains of thought in the espresso world..


I certainly don't hold the record on being umber-technical, but I do a lot of quasi-technical experiments. My rule is that the experiment has to end in a taste test. If I try a machine or roasting modification, I usually am less interested in characterizing the change in machine performance precisely (OK, I also don't have the test equipment and construction know-how for that). But I think as long as technical improvements or experiments don't end with a tasting report, they are incomplete.

On the other hand, some people are more comfortable doing the tasting, others the modding; so there's no reason these two parts of the same process shouldn't be done by different people.

Pursuing understanding is a much more difficult and noble goal. My approach, when successful, ends up with recipes that work, "if you want your coffee or shot to taste like this, do that." But working recipes are only the first step to understanding coffee; after that one has to figure out why they work -- a lot tougher.

For instance, a recipe that works fairly reliably (not 100% of course, but I'd guess 80%) is if the shot is sour, go hotter, if bitter go cooler. I think this also works for brewing -- I certainly find lighter roasted, bright centrals more balanced brewed relatively hot than relatively cool. However, to find out the how and why is beyond my powers. Such hows and whys would lead to new techniques and insights -- something that recipes cannot provide.

Still, for now, I'll gladly settle for lots of reliable recipes.

rcs914

Postby rcs914 » Nov 20, 2005, 10:18 am

barry wrote:
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.

Chris

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Walter

Postby Walter » Nov 20, 2005, 10:30 am

As a - once learned - chemist, scientist and technician I tend to think that the process of brewing a cup of gourmet espresso is still far too complex for being well understood. And I am afraid it will remain so for quite a while. That the quality of the ingredients limits the quality in the cup is common sense. And for the processes which lead us from the ingredients - water and beans - to the cup we are IMHO by now only slowly beginning to develop a little scientific understanding of some certain parts. Nothing more, nothing less.

Even when we look only at the extraction-process we have a very complex situation. Thus, to maintain that it all boils down to a linear temperature- and pressure- profile means, to say the least, missing the point. By now the physics IMO is understood only to some degree and the chemistry barely at all.

And because of this complexity human experience - of an excellent barista like Chris, e.g. - outperforms technology by far. The intuitive part of his understanding together with the rational part is what enables him to to adapt within a relatively short time to beans and machines and get the best out of a given "setup". Currently I see no way that an automated process could replace that experience.

Of course some measurements - or at least some processing standards - are necessary in order to gain more understanding and the ability get reproducibly good results. But what I do seem to notice is a rather narrow focus on temperature and pressure. This is not to say that these are not important, but they are not everything.

Somehow I do compare this with photography, a good camera will help a good photographer to get good results. But the same camera in the hands of another one may produce rather poor results. Whereas a good photographer may get even spectacular good results with an average camera. And this comparison - or allegory or metaphor, if you will - also tells me at what to focus and at what not: I will not focus on tools and toys and techniques to examine the quality of my cam, rather I will try to develop the "eye" for a good picture and the necessary techniques to achieve a good result. IMHO and especially for the home-barista it is as simple as that...

----

And as a sidenote: Chris' description above probably has already helped me within two days to get the best cup of an Ethiopian Bonga Forest I'd ever had.

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cannonfodder
Team HB

Postby cannonfodder » Nov 20, 2005, 11:58 am

Without challenging the currently accepted 'norm' there will be no continued evolution. As I look back at the history of espresso (or anything else), every milestone was created by one person that asked one simple question, is the there nothing more?

In each case, the technology and cup were thought to be at the zenith, there is no way to improve upon what we currently have. Then someone thinking outside of the box questions the established dogma. Applying a bit of new technology to the old art suddenly yields the next big breakthrough. In a hundred years people may look back and wonder how we ever made due with the GS3 and its low tech PID controllers and rotary pump. We have not even touched on the source, the Arabica tree. Maybe the next big innovation will come from the field and not the lab.

Using technology to enhance the understanding of the art of espresso. Learning to balance the two is the trick IMHO and is what I am targeting. I believe the best baristas have a solid understand of both. As I said, without understanding one, we will never master the other.
Dave Stephens

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malachi

Postby malachi » Nov 20, 2005, 3:26 pm

I think that the next big innovation will come at the producer level.

At least I certainly hope it will.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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barry

Postby barry » Nov 20, 2005, 7:43 pm

rcs914 wrote: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.


oh, chris, why would anything like this be overwhelming?? ;)


Image



:lol:

rcs914

Postby rcs914 » Nov 21, 2005, 3:06 am

Hey wait a second, I know that piece!

Image

Vegas By Trampoline
Barry Jarrett
(c) 2005


:D


Chris