I posted this in my blog, but also wanted to start it as a discussion in the comments section.

From my blog:

"Are we there yet?"

Views: 92

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Maybe because its early, and maybe it's because I just had my first cup, but I'm struggling to see what the actual question is. Are we there yet? What, or where, is "there"?
If we're talking about grinders, in specifics, for espresso, we've come along way relatively recently. The Robur E mod (or any E mod, for that matter), more efficient motors/burr sets, little mods you can do to almost any grinder to help eliminate waste, etc. The second shop recently got a Robur E, and I must say, it certainly has it's benefits, but I would have to do some more experimentation to see if I would buy one, personally.
Yes, it eliminates waste to an almost comical degree, but that's only really a plus if you have messy, wasteful baristas to begin with. When it's busy, it's wonderful to be able to hop on and help pull shots, knowing that they will taste at least similarly, if not the same, as the barista currently working. And yes, it does save time. But these are all things that proper training and quality control can accomplish.

If you're talking about our industry in general... well, I'm not awake enough yet to delve into that : )
I know you prove a good point, but do all discussions really have to come back to your concrete points about coffee culture?
Kayakman said:
Although you do mention vac pots and manual pour over, for the most part your post presupposes that SO espresso is the evolution of coffee brewing. You also seem to think that better technology equals progress.
Why is this the case? Low technology solutions and brewing methods can also produce incredible flavor extraction from SO beans, yet you only mention these in passing. Your post also seems to be limited to only the art of making coffee and not the holistic art of building coffeehouse culture.

Maybe the future is actually in a low tech holistic approach to doing coffeehouse, rather than improving the SO espresso shot.

Kayakman... I don't know how many times I have to stand on my soapbox and attempt to get into your head that I don't think that SO espresso brewing is the height of the coffee experience, but here is one more time of me doing exactly that. Ugh...

Also, the nature of the post was talking about technological advancements, specifically in grinders, so obviously the emphasis was on.... naaaa.... technological advancements. Coffee culture will always evolve, and low brewing devices will always be present. That's why decades after the French press was invented it is still so wonderfully loved by so many.

Either way, I'm not trying to attack you, I'm just saying that it seems you read my blog with the intention of coming back at me with answers that in no way referenced what I was asking. I was seeking answers as to how we were going to advance technologically in the grinding aspect of preparing coffee and you came back with "you seem to presuppose that SO espresso is the evolution of coffee brewing." This answers nothing. It only puts words in my mouth and states your opinion that SO espresso is not the evolution of coffee brewing.

Technological advancements are extremely important to coffee brewing. Without them we would not have paper filters, we wouldn't have espresso (SO or not) brewing as a possibility and we would all be grinding coffee slowly on manual hand grinders. We wouldn't have climate controlled warehouses, we wouldn't have the advancements in roasting technology that we have. We wouldn't have the plastic storage devices that we can use, the packaging that we can use or the vacuum sealing that we can use. We wouldn't be able to quickly way out beans for a customer before bagging them for the customer and sending them on home to prepare the coffee in their own residence. We wouldn't be able to use that same scale to weigh out our doses before brewing our coffee. Hell, we wouldn't even have on demand hot water when we need it... the list obviously goes on and on.

Regardless, this is probably sounding far more negative than I want it to. It's not that I don't care about your response, it's just a response that is way off in left field compared to the kind of answer I was seeking. I appreciate your input and opinion, it's just not the specific kind of input I was looking for, and because of that it seems extraordinarily out of place.

Getting back on track, and finally referencing Benza's reply, what I was referring to in my blog is advancements in grinding technology. In a conversation with someone at the cafe this morning I realized that I didn't really drive that home enough. I guess "there" is the end all, be all of coffee grinding. How do burr sets advance (how long have conical grinders been around... that was one thing I tried to find but couldn't, even in manual applications?) from this point? How do we incorporate cooling technology into grinding in ways other than slower RPMs?

Your point about the advancements we have made on grinders almost being negated by proper training and quality control is pretty much what I was getting at. The progress we have made in this aspect of coffee preparation is negligible in the broad picture of things. When do we start making advancements that can't be equaled to proper training? When does a grinder feature improve the finished product and not just control waste? Do we really understand how much of the coffee's flavor we are burning off by friction heating the burrs to the degree it currently does? Why don't we find ways to cool these burrs so that we can know? If we can develop burrs to produce "two peaks" one of larger particles, one of fines, why can't we develop these burr sets in a way that some will produce a large peak of fines, some a smaller peak? Why do all grinders only have one burr set? In reference to blends, why don't we have grinders with an absurd number of hoppers on them, with each blend ingredient in each hopper, a programming capability to enter the data of which ingredient should be at what percentage in the blend and the outcome be a grinder that weighs each component of the blend for you individually, then mixes them together itself? This way each dose is exactly the same as the previous one, eliminating the possibility of one shot tasting different than the next due simply to improper mixing of the blend components.

These seem like things that are attainable, whether or not they are practical or necessary, so why haven't they seen any light? Why aren't we as baristas and coffee professionals standing up and demanding that advancements like this be made? If we are, why isn't the voice of this opinion louder?

Does it really all just boil down to the glory present in playing with machine bells and whistles not equal the glory in playing with grinder bells and whistles? Would the glory (that's the only word I can think of) start to even out if the features I mentioned earlier became a reality? Is it because these features would be hidden inside of a grinder, only noticeable by the palette and the features that some espresso machines have are visible to the eye and the palette? If this is the case, can't we just go back to the argument that it's what in the cup that counts, not how the cup looks?

Obviously this is me just ranting and raving about an aspect of the coffee preparation process that I clearly do not know enough about, but I'm still curious to know what other people have stored up in their heads.

I certainly should receive some sort of award for having the longest, rambly-est, comments on this site... haha.

I cant seriously believe I just read that.

Kayakman said:

Better grinders are not needs for non-espresso brewing. .
And furthermore, when responding to someone that says "I'm not trying to attack you" with all caps, bold print, and stating that someone should use "logic" is fairly childish, and leaves the impression that you're view points and knowledge isn't in the right place.
Yes, I agree, there is a point that can (and has) been reached with certain technology, where the point of diminishing returns outweighs the advantage. That being said, I think we have a misunderstanding, and I hope that you have a kickass grinder for non-espresso. If you don't, then I think that explains quite a bit about your understanding of coffee, and the quality of such (even though I doubt that's the true point).
I'm not going to touch the middle part of this point, because it's unapplicable towards me and my kin.
As far as that last statement, you should really see what Temple has done for coffee, and community, in Sacramento. That's all I'm going to say because I'm really tired of talking in circles.

Kayakman said:
Its true.. I do not believe that improving the grinders we have now, will improve non-espresso brewing methods. There is such a things as OVERKILL in terms of tech advancement.

Could better grinders improve espresso and SO espresso shots, YES!

Never the less, its flawed logic that better tech improves everything and the low tech is not as good as hi tech. thats part of a flawed modern mindset that places all of its trust in tech to save us... PLEASE IMPROVE THE TECH TO HELP SAVE THE COFFEE INDUSTRY. thats a weak cry and sad that people actually still think that way about coffee of life.

Try thinking more holistically about the coffee industry and maybe your coffeehouse would actually be bring added value to the community around you.

Benza Lance said:
I cant seriously believe I just read that.
Kayakman said:

Better grinders are not needs for non-espresso brewing. .
Brian, I for one love your post and question! Barista training and the artistic aspect of the job/calling of being a barista are huge. They solve a lot of the issues involved with properly preparing a coffee beverage. But advancements in grinding technology can only help all of us in our jobs. Without good coffee (and therefore a way for us to stay open) we can't even begin to help our communities improve the "coffee culture" that Kayakman beats to death. Kayakman, do you ever stop posting? Will you ever start making coherent and useful posts?

That said, I have been wondering myself about what improvements need to be made in grinding technology. It seems obvious to me that technological advances in grinders will be a way that all of us, in every shop can improve our coffee. That is not to say that we are depending on technology to save us, that is just a statement that the industry is always growing, always changing. Grinding technology seems to be one area of the process that all of us deal with, and there is the biggest need for advancement in that aspect of the production.

At the end of the day, the reason we do what we do is to pay respect to the coffee, to our customers, and perhaps most importantly TO THE FARMERS and everyone else who has touched the coffee before we get our hands on it. The barista has the set of hands that is the last of a long line of people before us to touch the coffee before it goes into the customer's body. We owe it to all who have come before us to prepare the coffee to the best of our abilities. Technological improvements in grinding technology only increase our ability to provide a better cup for the customer, thereby paying more respect to the farmers whose lives depend on their production. We focus on quality because lots of people are pouring their lives into coffee production. At the end of the day, if we improve our ability to make good coffee, we pay more respect to them. And improving grinding technology is an "easy" way to do that.

That's how I see it. So, asking the question, "How can we improve" should never be met by derision. I appreciate this post, Brian, and many of your (quite frequent :) posts. Keep pushing the envelope and looking for ways to improve!
I think if we're ever "there" we need a kick in the ass. In coffee, in service, in life, we are pursuing excellence and dare I say perfection. These goals are only achievable in fleeing moments, isolated experiences. We are engaged in the pursuit of a moving target. As the industry and technology evolves, so does our definition of excellence, of perfection. I think the most important part of technological advances is education. If you are using a Synesso, do you use it to its full potential? If you are using a Nino or a Robur, do you understand why it produces a superior grind to that of a Super Jolly? I think we can get carried away with technology as a panacea, but as always, it is the application of technology that furthers our pursuit. Any moron can buy fancy stuff, whether an espresso machine or a Porche, but if we can learn how to drive effectively, that's how we move forward.

No matter the technology, it is ultimately the human element that delivers the product. I've seen an enormous variance in the ability of a barista to prepare coffee, whether it's a french press, a siphon, a pot of drip or an espresso based drink. A lot of the best espresso I've tasted has come from old heat-exchange machines, and I've had some truly awful shots from Synesso's and GB5's. As baristi, we must constantly be pushing ourselves and each other to know more, if the technology exceeds our level of education, and we cannot use it to its full potential, what's the point? So we're not there, and we should never be there, and if there's nothing left to learn, I don't want to be part of this industry anymore!
i always looked at espresso like i looked at guitar - i want equipment that gives me no excuse if the result sucks. so i bought an american fender and a mesa boogie amp, and if it sounds bad - it's my fault.

with the shop i'm opening, i have a gb/5 and am gonna get a compak k-10. i think with those two pieces of equipment, and good beans, if it tastes bad, it's my fault.

with grinders, they've been the hard drives of espresso development. all the other parts have been finely tuned and in place, and the grinder has held things up. we're getting to the point now when people are finally moving away (in a lot of serious shops) from stuff like super jollys and into roburs or k-10s or mahlkonigs or whatever. just like the computer industry is transitioning from platter hdd's to solid state drives and people are seeing 6 second boot times with PC's.

i want the equipment to give me no excuse, and my tongue and nose to tell the rest, as far as espresso goes. but of course even my old boss rob forsyth (WBC rules committee chairman) told me that espresso machines mostly ruin the flavor of the bean. hard to dispute that on a lot of levels, but we'll get better in the years to come.
I'm only going to say that me going back to 1970 was in no way me trying to describe the history of coffee, I would have guessed that was obvious, but I guess it wasn't obvious enough (to a select audience).

Also, in reference to the confusion of what my post was about, I think the statement,
"I know for the years that I have been deeply involved in coffee, baristas have been kicking, screaming and begging for advancements in grinding technology, and that’s really what this post is about- sorry for the insanely long intro" pretty well explained my point, but again, a certain select audience apparently didn't catch that.

My main reason for replying again (other than a shameless plug to keep this post in the active column, haha) is to re-post a comment made by a fellow bx'er, Ron The Country Guy.

From comments on the blog:
"We may (or may not) be there yet, but it’s getting to be a very lonely trip.

IMHO, the number of people who care about (and appreciate) the micronuances (I think I just made up a word) that specialty coffees are capable of (with the ultimate technology helping the grinding and extraction) is a very, very small percentage of those who enjoy a quality beverage.

As an analogy, relatively few people care about the latest technology used to tweak the last fractional HP from a Formula 1 race car engine, but we all (almost all) benefit from the trickle down technology that has brought us better personal transportation (HP, turbo-charged engines, fuel economy, light weight components… etc.).

The advances in coffee technology (as well as growing the initial product) will trickle down and ultimately improve the coffee experience for the majority of consumers. Not every shop will be able to justify the expense of buying the latest and greatest equipment (the shops with 10+ grinders for various blends and SO coffees come to mind). How often does a shop “upgrade” their espresso machine(s) and/or grinder(s)? How do they justify the expense?

You have raised an interesting question and I look forward to other responses.

Ron, the Country Guy"

My reply to this was:

"I think I see what you are saying, but I’m not totally sure I agree.

I think that it is correct to say that there is a small number of people who realize they are appreciating one cup of coffee over another because of those “micronuances,” but I think the number of people who do appreciate this are far greater than you may realize. I know I don’t care about the latest technology that squeezes out the last fractional HP in Formula 1 engines, but I certainly appreciate the trickle down. Just because I don’t closely follow the starting source of the trickle down does not mean that I don’t appreciate the end result.

Likewise, just because the vast majority of consumers are not having coffee served to them off of a Slayer espresso machine, with their Direct Trade SO beans being ground on a Mazzer Robur-E, or WBC Compak doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the trickle down of those shops selling off their old grinders and machines to other shops. A shop gets a GB5, they sell their Linea to a shop that had a HX and the customer gets their world opened to more stable temperature brewing. The customer might not understand that their coffee tastes better because inside the Linea are two boilers instead of one, preheated brewing water and saturated brew groups, the barista may not even know all of this, but they can both appreciate the end product tasting superior.

Regardless… do I have your permission to post this comment to bX? I like what you are saying (hopefully that comes across… I’m not meaning to sound harsh in my reply) and I started a discussion on there about this blog post.


And now I have re-posted the comments. So there you have it. That's pretty much my up to date thoughts on the issue.
I'll have to remember to run all of my ideas and thoughts past you from now on before I make them public, just in case...

Your post is SOOOOOOOOOO correct about everything. 100% accurate. It's why we love your responses so much, they are always so spot on.


Reply to Discussion


Barista Exchange Partners

Barista Exchange Friends

Keep Barista Exchange Free

Are you enjoying Barista Exchange? Is it helping you promote your business and helping you network in this great industry? Donate today to keep it free to all members. Supporters can join the "Supporters Group" with a donation. Thanks!

Clicky Web Analytics

© 2023   Created by Matt Milletto.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service