Written by 4:14 am Audiophile

How Much Trouble Do You Want To Go Through (for coffee or audio)?

StevenStone gets schooled about high-end coffee-making…

This morning I posted links to Brent Butterworth’s essay, “What Coffee Taught Me About High-End Audio” to several Facebook audio enthusiast groups. Read the article (it will only take you max 2 minutes) and then follow along on this thread where I get schooled about what it’s like to be as passionate about coffee as I am about high-performance audio.

AR-coffee3.jpgPoster A: I’m really into coffee but the Bonavita gets you only Bose level coffee. You need to go the espresso machine route.

Poster B: I disagree. I really like espresso, but I love drip. I think it’s analogous to tubes/solid state or vinyl/digital. Both are valid, and obviously there will be passionate arguments from both sides, but in the end, it’s a matter of taste.

Poster A : …and for the record, the Bonita makes a very fine cup, but I give the nod to my trusty Techivorm Moccamaster brewer.

Steven Stone: Some times an expresso is NOT what I want. In fact I often brew drip half and half – half decaf beans and half regular.

Poster B:‪ I do the same with drip – half caff/half decaf. I love sipping coffee all day long, but can only take so much caffeine.

Poster A: ‪ Espresso is the only high-end way to extract the coffee. (You can look at the high-end coffee forums.) What you do with it later is a separate step. You can dilute it. You can add milk at various levels. But you need to extract the flavor from the beans correctly. And there is only one way to do it – using pressure. Pour over or french press etc. works with poorer quality beans. But espresso only works well with very high quality beans. These are all simply facts. If you were really into coffee, you’d know. This is the way to extract flavor from coffee beans. You don’t need an expensive machine. You do need the training and the skills. And you do need to practice constantly.

AR-coffee1.jpgSteven Stone: Yes, coffee is sure like reproduced sound. Sometimes ANY coffee, regardless of “quality” is manna from heaven; just as sometimes any sound is better than listening to the neighbor’s kids screaming. But when it comes to ultimate performance it becomes a connoisseur’s game.

Poster A: Yes, it’s just like audio. I used to be ignorant about the proper way to extract flavor from coffee. I had a grinder. I had a french press etc. I even had a cheap espresso machine. I bought what I thought were decent beans. I even thought I knew how to use the machine. That’s like someone who buys the audio equipment but doesn’t know how to set it up properly. Then out-of-the-blue, one day someone, who is a US international coffee competition judge, casually asked me – do you want to learn how to make coffee? He made me some coffee. And I was truly astonished. It’s just like being exposed to high-end audio for the first time. It blows your mind about what is truly possible from a coffee bean. I’m not necessarily here to convince any of you to follow my path, but I’m just telling you there exists a level far above what’s possible with the Bonita. As I told you, I’m really into coffee.

Poster A: Then there is the constant hunt for decent beans. I leave that to others. And I piggyback off the true expert’s order. They order beans from everywhere. And the taste of each batch varies. Who is good today might not be good next month. And for some, it’s at the level of is it even possible to buy decent coffee beans in the United States right now? Serious question.

AR-coffee2.jpgPoster B: …and just like in audio, apparently, there are those who say ridiculous things like “_______ is the only high-end way” when in the end, it is something enjoyed to one’s taste. If there’s only one way you can enjoy something, fine, enjoy it that way to your heart’s content. But don’t pretend that others experiences are not valid just because you don’t like something.

Poster A: ‪ You are just not getting the flavor from your beans. It’s just simple logic. If you’re happy with that, fine. It’s certainly possible to enjoy that. But it’s possible to do way better. And if one day you experience that, you might hanker after the real thing. After all, I have a Nespresso machine in my office for others and myself to enjoy. Lots of people that visit me are happy with the results. But I don’t pretend it’s the real thing I make at home.

Poster B: Glad you’ve found something your passionate about.

Poster A: Anyway, I shut up now about coffee. It’s just that Steven Stone pointed to that article about coffee and high-end audio. And if I was a coffee person reading that article, I’d think if the guy was that ignorant about coffee, doesn’t that undermines his expertise, would I trust him in high-end audio? But clearly, the guy seems to be an expert in high-end audio…

Poster B:‪ I’m not 100% sure you understood my point. Liking drip coffee does not make him ignorant about coffee, just like liking the sound of a solid-state amplifier doesn’t make one ignorant about audio, even though there are people who passionately argue that…

AR-coffee4.jpgSo, what’s your take? I know that I learned that the world of high-end coffee is as perfectionistic as high-end audio. I also learned that if you follow anything to it’s logical extreme, you will become an extremist, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you tell about it…

I’m sure that if I went to the trouble to make my own espresso it would be better than my standard drip fare, but do I have the desire? Making espresso requires more monetary resources and time than making drip. And unlike music, where I am willing to go the extra distance for maximum performance, when it comes to coffee there is a point where, for me, good enough, is good enough, especially after I add cream and sugar.

But, I am tempted…just as the owner of a perfectly good Sonos system might be tempted by a PC-based computer audio system for its better sound, but de-enthused by the additional work required to keep it up and running.

So coffee and audio do, indeed, have a lot in common…

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