My last personal blog post was titled Depresso. It described how I was getting back into the hobby of home espresso, and concluded:
I’m excited. This has not been without its frustrations, but it’s been fun. I’m excited for it, and I’m excited to be excited about anything, honestly.
I’m still excited. It’s been a long time since I’ve been enthused and I’m taking full advantage of it. Since the pandemic started, I’ve felt like I’m drifting through life. Maybe even earlier than the pandemic.
Part of what makes it exciting to be back into a hobby is forming connections to my existing interests.
The Spacedock YouTube channel has an ongoing series on realistic sci-fi weapons and I enjoyed their most recent video on macrons.
In the video, they mention the square-cube law, which describes how the mass of an object increases at a much faster rate than its surface area. This relationship between size and surface area matters a lot when it comes to “dialing in” a coffee grinder to the right size coffee grind particle. The square-cube law situated itself effortlessly into my mental model of espresso.
Side note: coffee grinds that are fine enough for espresso are around the order of magnitude of macros. I’m tickled by the idea of accelerating espresso grind towards an enemy spacecraft. Since macrons need to be statically charged to be accelerated, I wouldn’t recommend RDT.
Something that’s uniquely fun about getting back into a hobby is seeing how it’s changed in the meantime.
I started paying attention to espresso again about four years ago, originally by watching YouTubers. At the time, I couldn’t afford space for an espresso machine in my New York apartment but I enjoyed listening to weird coffee people talk about expresso.
The commonly-accepted “theory of espresso” was very different when I got into espresso originally around 2009. That theory of espresso was very… vibes-based. A lot of luck, a lot of inconsistency, a lot of things you do “because that’s just how it’s done.”
Back then, you pulled a shot until the colour changed just right. Today, you pull a shot onto a set of scales and aim for a predetermined ratio between dry coffee grinds and extracted liquid.
Some of the original resources I read back in the day are still online. Older resources contrast with newer resources in a few ways. The new approach feel more rigorous, like how it weighs espresso yield by weight instead of by volume. New resources are also more accessible – or at least, there are more resources now so finding one on your wavelength is easier.
I really like the new approach! It’s fun to have a routine that produces consistent results. I like being fussy but I need to understand why the fussiness matters. The problem is –or rather, the problem in 2009 was – that I don’t want to approach espresso as a scientist.
The evolution of the theory of espresso has been driven by hobbyists modding their machines, building their own thermocouples, and experimenting with every variable. Tools have evolved to unlock new discoveries. Refractometers used to measure coffee extraction are common, along with espresso machines with computerized control over temperature and pressure.
While I’m happy for espresso hobbyists who enjoy totally geeking out, I don’t want to be on that frontier. Honestly, I think it’s part of why I fell out of the hobby originally. (The other part was moving overseas.)
All that said, I still get to benefit from the work done by those who want to push the envelope. The community discussions are fun to follow and someone will eventually summarize everything into a neat YouTube video.
I’ve been playing with flow profiling and it’s been so fun! I would have been too intimidated to try this last time, but now I have their experience at my back. And similar to how I came to enjoy film photography over digital, I prefer a manual paddle over computerized control for profiling flow.
I’m thrilled to be here. I’m still excited to be excited. This is a fun hobby, and as someone who works from home, I get to dip my toes in throughout my day.
Espresso isn’t the only thing I’m excited for. My life has been tumultuous for a long time, and it’s affected me. I’m finally overcoming that challenge. I’m back. I’m feeling like myself again. It’s an ongoing process but I’m getting there.