There has recently been some arguments on twitter and coffeed about the validity, relevance, importance and execution of weighing espresso shots. This arguing about accuracy and information has me wondering why there is so much resistance to measurement and why we as an industry are playing unnecessarily with variables?
There is an obvious reluctance to stray from the “craft” tag in favour of the “science” but I really believe the two are more intertwined than we realise.
Cheese making is undoubtadly recognised as a craft but question them on acidity levels, temperatures, yield weights, water contents and bacterial content and they’ll bore you to tears. Craft beers embrace a lot of the same refractometre technologies that the coffee industry is battling with today. So why the resistance?
The world showcase for baristas (The WBC) fror example presents us with a scenario where baristas have to use their “skill” to time their own shots.
We are led to believe that bad baristas can’t accurately time their own shots and great baristas have an inner clock that will help them nail each one. By this logic should a great barista know what a 20g dose feels like? Should we take timers from dosers? Perhaps great baristas should stick their fingers under the groups until they feel that unmistakeable 93.5c that all great baristas know.
The truth is that timers, scales, thermometres and any other piece of diagnostic equipment you can get your hands on will help you make great coffee. I know plenty of baristas who can count to 25 in their head but still make awful coffee.
Back in my banking days I used to joke that my job was to become so efficient that my job would become redundant. I said this firmly tongue in cheek because I knew that whenever my daily tasks became automated through progress, I would move onto another more valued task with greater impact on my chosen profession.
Worst case scenario; all this mojoing and weighing, this tds reading and timing, this temperature stability and pressure profiling, this absolute brew recipe emailing collective will end us up in a place where the craft of the barista is forgotten.
The barista would have so many definitives in place that he would have no personal input into how the coffee tastes. He (or she!) would become nothing more than a conduit that would apply the necessary science to make the final cup as perfect as it could possibly be.
In this hellish future, someone will come into my shop and ask me to recommend a coffee. I’ll talk them through my personal favourite that day and tell them a little bit about the terroir, processing and all the other realms of information I have to hand.
I’ll grind this coffee to its optimum grind specifically chosen for the brewer it will pass through. The brewing process will be specifically tailored for this coffees varietals, density, roast profile and process. It will take all these factors into account and combine it with the requisite brewing time, temperature, yield, extraction, tds and water recipe. The final cup will be an amazingly pleasurable beverage that is a perfect representation of that individual coffee.
In this hellish future I will have researched my coffee and applied the best technologies and accuracy to my delivering the coffee. I won’t have made any guesses in the making of it and there will be enough definitives in place to write a hefty essay on that one cup.
In this hellish future I will be more of a professional than I am today and the customers and my peers will recognise that.
In this hellish future, I won’t be the star, the coffee will be. Is that such a scary thought?