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Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
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Everman
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Posted Mon Dec 12, 2005, 7:23pm
Subject: Re: Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
 

A good article, I agree that "coffee perfection" is always an evolving thing. There is always what is great in that point in time, but never a definitive greatness for all time.

I think machines still have a long ways to go, although they seem pretty awsome now with things like the GS3. I think roasting also has a lot of progress ahead of it as well, along with growing and blending.

It has similarities to wine. There are so many different varieties of coffee, each with unique characteristics. Then there are infinite blending options, and varying roast degrees. It all promises to be intereting for many years to come.
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fookoonetwork
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Posted Mon Dec 12, 2005, 10:00pm
Subject: Re: Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
 

Mark wrote:

And the third thing - you, the Barista. Do you know that Paul Bassett, a former WBC champion, pulled a better shot for me on a $750 consumer machine and a $150 grinder than I was able to ever pull, in my life, on a La Marzocco GS3 and a Mazzer Super Jolly grinder? It's skill folks. A truly gifted Barista can make equipment, water, and beans sing.

Now this is pretty disturbing because the immediate implication is why spend $4500 on the GS3 when a professional can do better than you, and you aren't exactly an ordinary amateur, on a dramatically less expensive espresso machine and $150 grinder?  I guess the question than becomes, what can the professional do on a GS3?   It sounds like we amateurs need lessons from the professionals more so than buying expensive hardware.
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andyandrews35
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Posted Tue Dec 13, 2005, 8:25pm
Subject: Re: Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
 

elliott Said:

i second all the comments above. this article and CG have definitely gotten me pumped and excited about coffee. but one thing that i find odd, is that this article assumes espresso is the future. is it true that espresso surpases a french press? I love both equally. i worked as a barista, but always kept a press at home. are there any people trying to perfect other brewing methods? are there new methods being created? what is beyond espresso?

i dont have the answers to any of these questions, i am only 23 and have been in love with coffee for a very short time, and yet I want to contribute, I just dont know how...

Posted December 9, 2005 link

I think it is just very much easier to make good coffee using steam.  The press is from France and espresso is from Italy - both great food countries!  The other thing I have noticed: at the same shop, the same coffee, the same equipment - but some hands just produce better coffee. So there is the artistry.
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Enkerli
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Posted Mon Dec 26, 2005, 8:04pm
Subject: Coffee Aesthetics and Science
 

Taking "aesthetics" to mean "philosophy of art"...
This article is more philosophical than most. Might have been induced by a coffee buzz, even though Mark doesn't believe in the buzz... ;-)
Mark addresses issues similar to what we do in aesthetics. Not just which criteria do we use to evaluate the product but is there such a thing as an absolute set of criteria for the evaluation? Isn't the whole point of reaching nirvana about the journey? That type of thing. This article is already provoking fascinating responses which, IMHO, bring us much further in thinking coffee than the usual how-to article and forum discussions.
Who says espresso is the ultimate coffee drink? Die-hard espresso-heads might think it is, but espresso is just the tip of the iceberg in the history of coffee. It might be the port of the coffee world, but it's only one version of what coffee can be. After all, an espresso isn't always the most appropriate coffee drink. And a flawed espresso can be much less pleasurable than a well-made press pot or even drip.
This is where we can think about art. Is there really one painting or one piece of music which can end it all? Is there one aesthetic experience making any subsequent experience superfluous? Some people seem to think so but the very thought of that can be depressing to us as artists. Then again, a pleasurable experience may not be repeatable but the memory of such a pleasurable experience may help us appreciate other sensations. This is especially true with aromas as memory is so linked to olfaction. After tasting an extroardinary cup, an ordinary cup might serve as a reminder of that extraordinary by virtue of some similarity (say, a blackcurrant aroma or a thick mouthfeel). Being an artist is also a matter of being attuned to these things.
Then there's the whole science part. Thanks Mark for bringing up the subject of water. In beer brewing, it's quite an important dimension. Water profiles help a (beer) brewer achieve specific results, for instance a rounded rather than harsh bitterness with Plzen-like soft water as opposed to Burton-like hard water. The same must be true with coffee brewing. Of course, chemical reactions in coffee brewing are quite different from those occuring in beer brewing. But there's room for experimentation and research.
Roasting is also quite significant. In roasting, the goal is not to simply achieve a specific result. It's to play with the broadest range of aromas and flavours. Maybe the rebirth of homeroasting will pave the way to the next revolution in coffee.

Having said all that. Isn't the best coffee drink ever the one you enjoyed in the best circumstances? Your spouse waking you up with a cup of coffee at exactly the right time after the most restful night. Just the right type of sunshine lighting up the room. Just the right kind of music playing, fitting the mood perfectly. The right type of food to accompany your coffee. Ideal coffee temperature for the weather. And just the nicest thoughts in your head as you sip this cup.

 
Alex
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Kristi
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Posted Mon Dec 26, 2005, 9:16pm
Subject: Re: Coffee Aesthetics and Science
 

Great article, Mark!

 
#--> I recommend Eric Svendson's adapter and thermometer for E61s (also Silvia) : easy surfing!
# My photo albums have moved to     http://picasaweb.google.com/krislema2
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fookoonetwork
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Posted Tue Dec 27, 2005, 10:17am
Subject: Re: Coffee Aesthetics and Science
 

Enkerli Said:

Isn't the whole point of reaching nirvana about the journey? That type of thing. This article is already provoking fascinating responses which, IMHO, bring us much further in thinking coffee than the usual how-to article and forum discussions.

Who says espresso is the ultimate coffee drink? Die-hard espresso-heads might think it is, but espresso is just the tip of the iceberg in the history of coffee. It might be the port of the coffee world, but it's only one version of what coffee can be. After all, an espresso isn't always the most appropriate coffee drink. And a flawed espresso can be much less pleasurable than a well-made press pot or even drip.

Posted December 26, 2005 link

This is a somewhat minor quibble but the espresso journey is not all that pleasant unless one has come close to the end of the journey.  Perfection in espresso just does seem to be possible for me shot after shot.   Assuming non-professionals, anyone who can attain something akin to espresso nirvana from shot to shot - well I salute you and I should look you up and take lessons.  

This is probably heresy, but I prefer my vacuum pot coffee to my own espresso.  The two are very different kinds of animals.   It is like comparing apples and oranges, so for those who prefer espresso there is no argument from me.   Espresso is highly technique sensitive and to a very great degree dependent upon one's hardware; although the best hardware does not guarantee superior espresso unless in the hands of someone who is highly skilled and has taken the journey.  Vacuum pot coffee is amazing because it will change in seconds as it sits in the cup.  For me, it has never been the best when it is hottest.  There are volatile aromas that quickly blow off, some pleasant and some otherwise.  Fine coffee that has been roasted at home is capable of standing the rigors of evaluation that one would apply to a fine glass of wine, but at a small fraction of the cost.  The best depiction of these changes are shown in analog clock form on the Sweet Maria's website by Tom Owens.   This clock is not absolute as one may or may not be able to detect what Tom has picked up.  Sometimes, the coffee is amazingly complex and Tom's graphical description doesn't even fit.  Then it is a matter of how well one is willing to trust one's own nose and palate.
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Kristi
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Posted Tue Dec 27, 2005, 12:14pm
Subject: Re: Coffee Aesthetics and Science
 

I can see where some folks experience that, but I am so lazy and impatient that if I don't get good shots fairly regularly along the way, I go elsewhere.  That's how Silvia happened, then Rocky, then the boiler PID, then the brewscreen tc, then Stockfleth's, then the brewhead-rope-heater PID.  I had a lot of yummy shots through there, but not consistancy.  Things became more consistant with each change.

I tend to make very few sink shots - I drink what I make - not necessarily because I'm good - more likely because I am lazy and I cheat - If something tastes off, I latte it and then it tastes pretty good.

My worst times were when I was overheating Silvia with the PID, and using not-good coffee.  Caffe Fresco's Ambrosia and Datura has/have given me a lot of good play time - tastes great and so I can fine tune.

Mark did open a nasty pandora's box for me - water.  I've been using just Cambridge, MA tap water. - good results!  EDIT WORDING: But what would be a better water and what would a better water give me.

Fun!!!!!!!

Just my rambling thoughts.  I can forget about the grinder for the moment.

 
#--> I recommend Eric Svendson's adapter and thermometer for E61s (also Silvia) : easy surfing!
# My photo albums have moved to     http://picasaweb.google.com/krislema2
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AlsingCoffee
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Posted Wed Dec 28, 2005, 9:24am
Subject: Re: Coffee Aesthetics and Science
 

Even though I'm fully aware that this has little to do with the artical in it self, I can't help but ask.

Where  did you find the very interresting and beautifull "espresso glas" that is in the first picture of the artical ?

I also noticed that a senior member ("Gobs") had the same glas in his profile picture... If you know the manufacture of this glas, or where is can be bought please tell me :)

Thanks in advance.
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Dec 28, 2005, 4:01pm
Subject: Re: Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
 

It's Bodum's double walled "Pavina" glass. Very purty! Keeps espresso very hot as well. Almost too hot.

Mark

 
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chrisfires
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Posted Wed Jan 18, 2006, 2:36pm
Subject: Re: Reaching Espresso Nirvana by Mark Prince
 

Great article, insightful and thought provoking, as are the replies.

I particularly enjoyed elliot's questions about the future of coffee...

are there new methods being created? what is beyond espresso?

Interesting questions, and exciting to ponder what is ahead, especially when we consider the changes in coffee preferences, equipment and the advances in technology & communications in the 23 years that elliot has been on the planet. Seems like Mr. Coffee was the way of the future back then (and it was an improvement from the perc/instant mind set for sure) so I am certain it's just going to continue to get better and better.

Also thought provoking and personally worrisome to me was the water issue.
Say it ain't so, Mark.
Is this why - even though my equipment, beans and skills have improved enormously since I lived in Vancouver 10 years ago - and no matter what filtration or special water I use - my espresso just never tastes quite as delicious as what I made there? And if so - why didn't I ever think of this? :: SIGH :: most likely because I thought it was just another one of those romantic, locale based memories of espresso drinks I've had around the world. But it makes complete sense, especially when I think of how differently the water in Van performed with things like, say, shampoo, laundry deterg, etc. - and oh yeah - the water there does simply taste better than most.

D'oh.

Christina G
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