Questioning the Idiosyncrasies of Coffee Making

October 21, 2011

Coffee brewing and the art of pulling espresso are both marked by curious methods, techniques, and rituals. Lately I've been questioning and revisiting some widely accepted coffee brewing practices that have worked their way into my morning ritual.





First I'll start with a disclaimer: I am not a highly skilled cupper or barista. I don't have the best equipment and my skills are nowhere near professional. I'm sure that some of these practices are justifiable for the others, just not for me. It is just as likely that my observations are a reflection of my own inadequacies, not the practices'. 





Polishing the puck: A perfect example of me doing something without really thinking about it. I've seen lots of people do it, so I figure, why not, there has to be a reason, right? For the past week I've tried abandoning the polish (which was really, really difficult to do, once these things become routine it takes a concerted effort to avoid the polish). I left the rest of my routine unchanged so normal dose, wdt distribution, moderate tamp, and then pull. The result: I didn't notice any difference for better or worse. I have a feeling that the difference might be noticeable on different equipment though. 





Flipping the loaded portafilter:Similar to the above practice. The few loose grounds left on the puck don't seem to make a difference to me.





Stirring vac pot : The Japanese method stresses the importance  of stirring, especially a final "whirlpool stir" in order to achieve a perfect little mound of grounds after the siphon is complete. I found that with my Yama stovetop vac pot, the less stirring, the less bitter the cup. I've settled on a brief stir in the initial stages of brewing in order to wet all the grounds, then leaving the pot alone until removing the heat.





Take this all with a grain of salt. With all of the variables that go into coffee making, I'm sure that plenty of people find these techniques to be beneficial, and rightly so. Has anyone else looked into practices like these? What were your findings?



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