foreign experts: not wrong, just different

December 8, 2005 – 12:46 am

ah, great. just when i was feeling confident enough to blog-brag about scandinavian-style underdosing as a fix for a finicky grinder and a better way to get the most out of the sulawesi, the australian guru instaurator reopens that tripe-fest between the aussies and unilateralists on the issue of overdosing. if instaurator (real name) weren’t so the man with all the egregious laudings of the “third wave” echo chamber, then you could just ignore him. instead, he proffers actual compelling arguments that, to non-olive-oil expert persons, seems hard to ignore:

… olive oil only comes out when the olives are pressed and so it is to a large degree with espresso coffee oils. But for espresso coffee grounds to be “pressed” they must fill the porta-filter insert so full that after having been properly tamped they almost and sometimes do touch the dispersion screen in the machine.


this is where this blog wants to hum loudly and walk away. the argument continues, however, in the totally scintillating speak of a down-under uni-moniker with a strange penchant for misplaced hyphens:

As we know, when water comes into contact with ground coffee – it expands. If there is no room for the coffee to expand in the porta-filter, it gets squeezed or ‘pressed’ between the dispersion screen at the top and the filter basket/insert at the bottom. It is this pressure that presses the extra delicious, precious oils out of the ground coffee. The difference in taste is like chalk and cheese. (emphasis added)


well. this blog is greatly humbled to admit that, upon further review, the weekend’s euphoric notes on the sulawesi’s spicy sweetness were actually a confused reference to nutmeg chalk. this blog sincerely apologizes for its inadequate cupping terminology. still, there’s more. instaurator is now going to mash oily olives through a hydraulic grouphead for the purpose of extra virgin ristretto. or something like that:

The principle of hydraulics states that pressure applied to a liquid will exert even pressure at all other points. This is critical in ensuring that espresso coffee is evenly extracted. If there is a gap between the top of the ground espresso coffee and the dispersion screen, the water will have to fill the entire gap before it will start exerting downward pressure on the coffee. This is bad. (emphasis added)


that is just what this blog was thinking.

What happens is the very top layer of coffee has water swirling around on it, over-extracting and ‘burning’ the coffee while the water is filling the gap. If the gap is too big, there will never be any ‘pressing’ either. The resultant taste is like an ashy mask over the top of what could otherwise be a great espresso coffee. (emphasis added)


on the other hand, ashy masks can be great for the complexion.

seriously. the concept makes so much sense it’s demoralizing. the tastes in my cup — currently — are vastly preferable when the underdosed portafilter produces a more spare, delicate but legible taste profile. thin body? yes, sometimes. but then, i have a thin body and my wife thinks i’m hot. astringent and watery? not in my experience. but then, if it weren’t for such counterintuitive brewing theorems, there would shortly be little to discover and scant chance of quality breakthroughs. which means i need an extra couple pounds of beans this weekend for a wild, break-the-mindset experimenting session.

got it.