Neverending Novelty of Nakedness... Not

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

I'm not responsible, but I did contribute my small part to the bottomless portafilter craze by publishing Perfecting the Naked Extraction. No argument that a chopped PF is an invaluable diagnostic tool. No quarrel that it's pretty neat to watch. No quibbling that it is easier to clean up, assuming you've addressed the issue of channeling. But why the undying fascination with photographing an extraction?

To get an idea of what I'm talking about, wander over to the thread Look Out JonR!!!!! on CoffeeGeek. And you better be loading from broadband, because the hundreds of posts including thumbnail sketches will take a long time otherwise.

So who is JonR and why are so many bottomless portafilter enthusiasts alternatively showering him with praise or engaging him in one-upsmanship? Plainly stated, because he is to the naked extraction what Obi-wan Kenobi is to The Force. Don't be fooled by his relaxed demeanor:

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Jon Rosenthal,
Master of the
Naked Triple Extraction


And not only does he post pictures on CoffeeGeek by the hundreds, he's slumming on TWO websites featuring his work! Below is a mere scintilla from jonr.coffeelinkcentral.com:

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The debauchery continues on www.webnotized.com/jonr10. Can you imagine how many photos he would post each week if he ponied up $4 / month for webhosting on godaddy.com?

Hey, it may sound like a rant, but honestly I'm not singling out JonR as the fount of excess... although one should note that he's recruited others to his lust for obsessive observation of espresso extractions:
OK, true confessions time. At first I was jealous... no bottomless portafilter, no pretty pictures to post. Felt left behind. And when I did get one, they just didn't photograph like Master Jon's. Below is my feeble attempt to emulate The One:

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The evenness is great, but where-oh-where is the fullness? Oh, that's right. Triple baskets aren't my thing. Too much caffeine, no improvement in flavor or body (just "bigger" espressos), I gave them up. Yet the feeling of being the last kid to be picked for the softball team lingers... aww-w, who care's about looks anyway, right?

Answer: Lots of people. And why? C'mon, face the truth. It's the word that drives us mad. It's the word that brought you here. You know the word just as I did.

Naked.

Not convinced? As my own little social experiment, I changed the title of an HB article from The Mind and Machines of Verna Design to Making the "Naked" Portafilter. What was a sleepy little piece on Lino's workshop was transformed into an article demanding attention. All because of one word:

Naked.
Dan Kehn

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HB
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#2: Post by HB »

Voila, my weapon of choice, the Verna original:

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This past week I buckled under the pressure and started using a triple basket. Not bad, but I feel compromised... and naked. :shock:
Dan Kehn

PheasantCreek

#3: Post by PheasantCreek »

All this talk of pictures, naked and triples . . . whoa! Maybe we should make this an 18 or over site!

All aside the naked "Crotchless" portafilter was invaluable in diagnosing the screen problem I had on the LM. When watching the extraction you would see a cheesecake slice take out of the pie where nothing was being extracted. After constant dosing, tamping and pulling we notice the problem was always on the same grouphead. Removal of the screen revealed that one of the steel holes never got punched out and that was causing all the extraction problems.

It still amazes me how such a little thing can create a big problem.

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HB
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#4: Post by HB »

Secretly I derided the triple basket as an example of American excess; a "real" barista doesn't need the extra margin, I reasoned. It's fun to ogle over a burgeoning cone-shaped extraction, but there's something about producing a true double (60ml) from a true double-shot's worth of coffee (14g). More meant cheating.

Sure, I may have cheated a little by adding an extra gram or two. T'was necessary to get the right puck-to-grouphead clearance, n'est-ce pas? Well this morning, after several mornings of triple-basket shots, I thought... "Damn, the crema on this one is really rich." No, I'm not talking about a Malabar Mountain of crema. While many fixate on the crema height, I rarely bother with shot glasses to make it easier to see. What I'm talking about is the rich, thick, cinnamon-reddish crema eggshell surface that says come-and-get-me-espresso.

Allow me to regress for a moment... Last year I participated as a SCAA regional judge. The moment was even caught in the local paper, proof positive it was a slow news day:

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(Image courtesy of the Durham Herald)

Before the competition all judges were required to attend a workshop. We covered the rules, scoresheets, and the key criteria to look for. One of them is crema consistency. If you've attended a barista competition, you may notice the judges taking a little spoon and toying with the crema. A quick "crema pull" at the edge gives a visual clue about its consistency, as indicted by a lively return of the surrounding crema to fill in the gap. Crema that is sluggish to recapture the gap suggests it is too thin and too dry -- not enough oils were extracted. The taste usually confirms the crema is as lifeless over the tongue as its lounging in the cup suggests.

Back to this morning... the naked extraction was right on (OK, I dare not say it was JonR-level right on, but bear with me). The coloring and texture looked better than any I've seen in competition and on par with the best of the best I saw in Seattle. If only I could learn to photograph like this...

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(Image courtesy of Pheasant Creek Coffee)

It's been a long time since I bothered pulling out a spoon to check crema consistency, although I probably should... what a winner. The gap refilled like powered sugar returning to level. And the taste and body? The signature Black Cat -- sweet, thick, bold with a lingering aftertaste of tobacco.

Damn you JonR! Now I'll burn through beans 30% faster. I see the truth now: He's not Obi-wan... no, his loyalty aligns with someone entirely different:

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(Image courtesy of the Emperor Zurg)

"Join me and together we will rule the galaxy!"
Dan Kehn

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shadowfax

#5: Post by shadowfax »

Dan,

It's interesting reading your initial thoughts about the triple basket. I have to say, at first I was probably just using it (if not for novelty) as something of a crutch to improve my otherwise fairly mediocre stuff. Now... I don't really know. I feel like I'm possibly growing up a little too fast with espresso, getting new stuff before I have truly, logically ruled out the old. But I'll stop when I get my HX machine, right?

Apparently 1st-line is about to start stocking the BFC Junior Levetta model... I'm thinking I'll probably cough up the extra cash and get that instead of an Andreja Pro. with THAT end the upgrade fever?? On that topic, is that La Valentina in your post? It kinda looks different when all you can see is the backplate (like any machine, I guess).

Back to the topic at hand, I would say that a lot of the fixation on visuals, in addition to being related to "naked" and the heightened sensuality of the pours, is a result of the internet craze. You can't post a picture of how your espresso tastes, and espresso from a double spout is far from visually interesting. I think regardless of the word naked, there's a lot of interest in naked extractions for their rich colors and sometimes bizarre shapes. I mean, look at our fixation on "tiger balls." you can't actually see these with the "naked" eye. You can only catch them with a flash camera. Purely for the entertainment of seeing them (and showing your pics off), a pursuit almost wholly separated from a god shot.

For my own part, I have truly enjoyed photographing my pulls to see my own progress at "perfecting the naked extraction," as well as for the additional feedback I get as to my shots. One thing is for sure, the naked portafilter has been instrumental for me in refining my technique, and being able to post them online has helped others such as Noll and Jon help identify problems and offer suggestions.

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HB
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#6: Post by HB »

Welcome Nicholas, it is truly a pleasure... even if you are one of Jon's foot soldiers. :wink:

Seriously, you really nailed the point: There are no absolutes. Those who close their minds to alternatives like naked portafilters, triple baskets, up dosing, etc. stop growing in the art. Chris Tacy reminded me of this when he suggested changing baskets to suit a particular blend. Yet another variable to add to the pile.

I'm reminded of something Lionel Vatinet, owner of the incredible La Farm Bakery, once said. I had asked why he, a master baker and coach for the winning US Baking team in Paris, would choose to live in Cary. I mean Cary isn't exactly the Mecca of cuisine. He cited several reasons. First, the cost of setting up shop in France is exorbitant. Second, the competition among bakeries is brutal. Finally, he felt limited by the expectations of his French clientele. They simply would not accept any deviation from accepted standards of French cuisine. He wanted to innovate.

And that's where espresso-USA is today: In the state of innovation.

Specifically to your question, that's not Valentina in the picture above; it's Geoff's La Marzocco FB70. Obviously it's not easy to tell in close-up. And I've heard the same rumor about 1st-line introducing the Levetta, but you'd have to chat with Jim for confirmation. Good luck with that upgrade fever, wherever it leads you. And if you have suggestions on what you'd like to see in future reviews, please stop by the suggestion box.

PS: Some JonR fan club trivia... not only does he snap photos faster than Hollywood paparazzi, he's posted on CoffeeGeek over 3100 times in the last year! The man clearly enjoys his caffeine. I wonder how many of those posts are naked extractions...
Dan Kehn

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JonR10

#7: Post by JonR10 »

HB wrote:...he's posted on CoffeeGeek over 3100 times in the last year! The man clearly enjoys his caffeine. I wonder how many of those posts are naked extractions...
Certainly quite a few are :twisted: But I'm under the impression that I'm just under 3100 posts at coffeegeek (my how the time flies). 8)

Welcome to the dark side Dan. :)

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HB
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#8: Post by HB »

JonR10 wrote:But I'm under the impression that I'm just under 3100 posts at coffeegeek (my how the time flies). 8)
That would be the number of replies, but you omit the number of topics created. In any case, JonR watchers can click here for the countdown. By my calculations, we've less than four hours before our boy passes the 3,100 replies threshold. Go Jon, go!

Updated: Woohoo! He crosses the threshold two hours ahead of schedule (link)!
Dan Kehn

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JonR10

#9: Post by JonR10 »

HB wrote:Updated: Woohoo! He crosses the threshold two hours ahead of schedule (link)!
Well it's a good thing too because apparently the site is down for the moment. :shock: (Only 18 hours and I'm already starting to get shaky....)

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HB
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#10: Post by HB »

Mark says they had server problems starting around 6PM yesterday and had to reboot, which apparently is a non-trivial exercise. Wayne did not offer an ETA. Hang in their buddy, I'm confident it won't be long. :D
Dan Kehn