- Created: Sunday, 19 June 2005 04:35
- Written by Adam T.
There are many different ways to get into coffee: the taste, the gear, the politics, the history, yada yada yada, a fun time for all. On the road to coffee nirvana there are many obstacles to overcome. You must be prepared, young one, in order to fully realize your potential.
You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by finding yourself a guru. You are going to make mistakes, waste money, lose time and sleep, and be overcaffeinated from experiments.
I am an experiential learner. People can tell me things and sometimes I will remember, but show me how to do it and I have got it. Much of the coffee wisdom that has been donned on me has since flown out the other ear. It is funny that I am writing this article actually, hopefully you will gain something from it, even if just some entertainment.
Let's get to the point. You have probably been trolling around this website, other websites, coffee shops, books, and so on, for coffee knowledge, or better yet, your own coffee guru. You probably know the
value of having a good machine and fresh roasted beans. I have a modest home setup: a Hamilton Beach Cappuccino Plus (which seems to be a copy of a Delonghi), a Reg Barber Tamper and (GASP!) a blade grinder...
Maybe you see where this is all going. I get my beans whole, I grind at home, my espresso tastes bad, but I have gotten to be damn good at hiding it in lattes and mochas. I often try a sip of the espresso as it
comes out of my machine and sure enough it tastes bad. I have only owned the machine since Christmas and I have been starting to itch for a Silvia.
I have looked through coffee sites and looked for experts to help me. I have gotten much better at making my morning fuel, but it still wasn't nirvana. Enter Mr. Colin. I found my local coffee guru a few weeks ago and things have looked up ever since. Colin runs this site and has been
spewing wonderful coffee knowledge for years. He loves it and it loves him.
So, I invited Colin over to take a peek at my machine. He loves looking at any machine he isn't familiar with. I showed him the deep drip tray and my joy at using a 58mm tamper (I still would love to eventually have that Silvia). It has a pump and is rated at 15 bars of pressure. I
got this machine for 100$. Hard to argue, but what would my coffee guru say?
In all seriousness, in order to really evaluate a machine you must make all variables static and focus on the facts, don't let your emotions get involved. Colin brought over his Rocky and beans he was familiar
with: Sara's Espresso blend from EveryDay Gourmet Coffee in Toronto. We tried a fine-ish grind and ran a shot through. I saw crema, real crema! Crema is seen in my house daily, but it is the brown sit-on-top, not the golden ethereal mixture.
"Oh no, we are not done here. See how it comes out too fast?" My coffee guru had spoken and I was to listen. Listen, I did. We raised the stakes and went with a finer grind. More crema, but hold on it actually
tasted good too. Finer still, now we were getting the right flow and that golden honey was spewing out of the portafilter.
This was not the best coffee I had ever had in my life, but damn close, and when coupled with the fact it was enjoyed with a good friend and expert and that it was happening in my own home: WOW! Colin generously ground more beans and left me with the pulverized heaven to enjoy.
I knew that a blade grinder was bad. I knew that you can't get good coffee with it. I also knew that grinding coffee and leaving it for a few days is bad. I thought fresh grinds would offset bad grinds. What I
really learned was that a grinder is probably the most important part of your setup. The machine is important, but grinders seem to play second fiddle.
Coffeecrew, I have seen the light and it is the grind. I have experienced the difference. You need to find someone who knows how to adjust the grind. You need to lure them to your machine and have them
show you the difference between a good, bad and ugly shot. It is different in your home than it is in a cafe. You need to thank them.
You need to do it loudly, publicly, sincerely and often. Thank you, Colin. My morning java is so good it is calling me to up my daily dosage. My faith in my machine is restored. My blade grinder remains unplugged.
Adam T. is a Phd candidate at the University of Victoria and enjoys a good coffee. He is the newest member of the coffeecrew.