Awareness in Espresso: The Barefoot Journey Continues

Hey everyone! This is Kyle Abbott, back with the blessing from James to provide more insight as I take my first steps into the high pressure (9 bars, to be exact) world of espresso! Hey, hey. Don’t “Awww…” me. This will be much shorter than the last article.

So I spent two days thinking, “What am I gonna write, what am I gonna write??” Realizing that I don’t go to many coffee shops (being able to make espresso self-imprisons myself in the kitchen), and am not a barista (well, not a paid barista), I feared I’d have little to write about. Then the moment happened when all ideas emerge – I stopped thinking.

That morning, I was making myself a shot of espresso with the last of my bag of Lulu beans. Grind, tamp, and locked it in. As the holy nectar started to ooze out, I could feel that it would be an excellent shot.

For one, a recent observation is that the extraction of a too-fine grind will drip into the cup, and will pour if it’s a too coarse. However, extraction from a perfect grind and tamping will *plop* into the cup. (my cheap portafilter has two holes) This extraction plopped.

Also, when I put my nose right up to the portafilter (which is a really bad idea to do on my cheap machine, which is known to spew scalding water from the grouphead if defective) the smell of the extraction was very rich, and I could already smell different notes and flavors. In making a lot of bad shots, it’s occurred to me that if the grind/tamping is too fine *or* coarse, the smell won’t be as strong and clear as it is when prepared just right.

Because of these two things, I could just feel that this would be a good shot. A God Shot?

Who knows. Unfortunately, I will never know because I was making that shot for Papa, who likes it pulled extra long so he has more to drink. (Whatever makes people happy, I say) In hindsight, I should have stopped the shot to the right level for myself and made the next one for him. But unfortunately, I hadn’t had an espresso yet, so wasn’t thinking quite right. Anyway, I pulled the *next* shot for myself. Perhaps my tamping wasn’t as good, but my extraction wasn’t ploppin’, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, so those are two “signs” I’ve become aware of while making shots. Are they an actual guide to making a good shot? Who knows. The moral of this story is that even if you aren’t trained in making a good espresso, or any other art, you can advance quickly if you are conscious and present in the moment(I.e, not just “cruising on autopilot”) to notice signs and changes. Perhaps you’ll discover subtle signs of a good shot even without relying on the “25 second guide.”

Case in point: My great-grandmother knew the perfect oil temperature for frying by putting on a piece of bread and listening for the right sizzling sound, using no thermometer or specific “rules.”

Find the bread for your shots. 😉

That’s all for now. Bye!

(Maybe we will have to make a special section for Kyle)


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