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Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

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  • Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

    I just had a coffee from a cafe I respect, and 80% of the time I get really good coffee, but I still get some not so good ones.  This keeps bringing me back to the thought that with so many variables involved in making espresso, surely the logical thing would be to take Man out of the equation as much as possible.  I know this would kill the romance of espresso making etc but really, this is the age of technology advancements and I think espresso making is in the cross-hairs for some significant changes. Im not talking about fully automatic machines (booooring), but perhaps some kind of hybrid.  Something that a barista can still have complete control over but without all the variances... any thoughts?

    Surely the dosing and tamping are good cadidates to be mechanised. And Ill even suggest that Man (really meaning Man and Woman of course) be stopped from introducing variances in milk frothing as well.  Its a shame when the milk sweetness is killed by a few degrees.

    Is this the direction we are going in? Will espresso taste better and be more consistent in 20 years time?  Will we be making jokes about "how we used to make coffee" ??

  • #2
    Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

    Nope.

    You can automate a lot of things and they will work, but they are hardly ever better when relating to food or drink.

    Look at pizza, baked goods, beer and a host of other things.
    All of these have a mass produced, consistent version that you can buy, or you can get it from an artisan who takes care and usually is much more hands on, or you can do it yourself.

    True that some people without taste buds think that super-autos can do an equal job to other methods, but hopefully that is a genetic abnormality that we can evolve out of the human race!

    If it was as simple as automtaion, super-autos would be the only thing selling.

    Its not that simple, and I doubt that it will ever get to that point. It certainly wont for me.

    Brett.

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    • #3
      Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

      I think if we were working with a stable product that didnt change with time, then that would be fine. But unless you can get exactly the same bean roasted exactly the same length and stored in exactly the same conditions for exactly the same length of time, there is going to be some degree of adjustment needed to get a good brew. I cant even get a consistent roast from a 2.5kg bag of beans, let alone over 100kg!

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      • #4
        Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

        Originally posted by 29312338393E3C31243936500 link=1291162125/0#0 date=1291162125
        to take Man out of the equation as much as possible.  
        Far better you have the person on the sticks better trained and motivated to provide a more consistent product in the cup.

        There are several mechanical tampers out there and electronic dosing grinders are not to bad. Distribution is also a factor and thats before you get to the grind over the day or life of a bag.

        Manual all the way for me. Oh and Levers Rule

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        • #5
          Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

          Originally posted by 3D25372C2D2A2825302D22440 link=1291162125/0#0 date=1291162125
          Surely the dosing and tamping are good cadidates to be mechanised
          like they have been with the La Marzocco Swift grinder?

          http://www.lamarzocco.com/swift.php

          I think this is not a bad intermediate step between manual and some kind of auto. But I dont think you can replace the mano in the espresso process so easily.

          Precisely because there is so many variables to control, so many of which rely on the 5 senses we have access to that I doubt any machine, algorithm or otherwise can replace the hands of the barista.

          Maybe, with developments in AI, sensors and other technology it might be possible in the future. But right now the task is far too complex and requires interpretation of so many types of data input that its way beyond the capability of any currently available piece of technology.

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          • #6
            Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

            I wonder how the LM grinder has been performing. I cant see how it couldnt be efficient and consistent. The barista would of course still need to adjust grind and dose but take distribution, tamp and dosing variances out and youre on the track to a good system. I guess you could say that in theory an automatic machine does these things but I think the auto machines are marketed to such a broad market that they couldnt possible produce good coffee. I say that because I suspect autos are designed to get the best out of stale coffee so couldnt possible get the best out of fresh coffee.

            At home give me the romance of grind dose distribution and tamp though. Im also one of those that have an HX machine that doesnt steam while brewing. Nice to watch that coffee pour

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            • #7
              Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

              Originally posted by 767164727F694F21292929100 link=1291162125/1#1 date=1291163950
              You can automate a lot of things and they will work, but they are hardly ever better when relating to food or drink.
              Definatlely agree.

              Originally posted by 767164727F694F21292929100 link=1291162125/1#1 date=1291163950
              If it was as simple as automtaion, super-autos would be the only thing selling.
              Was not talking about a fully automated machine, just a setup where MORE of the variables are contained using technology.

              Originally posted by 727D7167757272100 link=1291162125/2#2 date=1291164119
              I think if we were working with a stable product that didnt change with time, then that would be fine. But unless you can get exactly the same bean roasted exactly the same length and stored in exactly the same conditions for exactly the same length of time, there is going to be some degree of adjustment needed to get a good brew. I cant even get a consistent roast from a 2.5kg bag of beans, let alone over 100kg!
              Again, great point, but Im not suggesting a machine make these adjustments for us, just allow us to make the adjustments with accuracy and continue wth the new settings consistently.  Because really, from what I understand (and I am no expert). You want consistent dose and tamp (and pressure/temp etc) and then all you really need to do it adjust the grind and what part of the pour you take in the cup. So all the adjustments that a good barista currently does to manage the coffee quality should still be available with a high-tech system. The only difference is youll be getting more consistent results.  Its still up to the barista to tune the system to get delicious coffee, but it will minimise all those not so good coffees due to human error and inconsistency.

              Im not saying that the technology will make better coffee, but that it will allow a good barista to make good coffee more often, and more importantly will allow not so good basistas to produce decent coffee when the system is being monitored by someone with know how.  Actually Ill even go one step further and say I do think such a system will allow good basitas to improve their coffee.

              Originally posted by 6168736A616C64090 link=1291162125/4#4 date=1291170995
              like they have been with the La Marzocco Swift grinder?
              Wow, nice!    
              I believe this path is inevitable, and if it means that one day I can walk into an everyday food outlet and not shudder at the thought of ordering a coffee from the barely trained staff using their dormant coffee machine then Ill be happy.

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              • #8
                Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                On the self tamping Grinders it is available on the brand new K10E as an option. Not seen here in Oz yet but there is pics in the grinders section.

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                • #9
                  Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                  all i can think of when I read this thread is;

                  "I am....and stop calling me Shirley"

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                  • #10
                    Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                    Originally posted by 353031313A2D2C5F0 link=1291162125/8#8 date=1291177062
                    "I am....and stop calling me Shirley"
                    Vale Mr N....

                    Hmm... Take the art out of coffee and it loses a whole heap of its allure as far as I am concerned.

                    Interesting that the Swift didnt do all that well in the real world. Shot for shot against a Robur, I personally liked the Robur better...

                    The important thing is to have the right (hu)man at the machine and grinder to provide that perfect balance of art meets science

                    Just tell your barista if s/he misses the mark. Any good barista will want to have another go at getting it right. If you walk, nobody will ever know why.  :-?

                    Chris

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                    • #11
                      Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                      Of course you could mechanise everything. I;m sure with my mechanical engineering degree I would be able to make something that would take the man out of the equation. Nothing can beat intuition though.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                        If the "art of espresso" is really that, an art and you start to introduce more and more mechanics to reduce variables or at least to smooth them out, then its being produced by robots (essentially) and would that still be considered "art"? To me, art comes from the soul and if you havent got a soul, like a robot, can it still be called art?

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                        • #13
                          Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                          You cant quantify the unquantifiable. :-?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                            Originally posted by 67525F586C705C55555656330 link=1291162125/9#9 date=1291178850
                            Hmm... Take the art out of coffee and it loses a whole heap of its allure as far as I am concerned.
                            Great point, and thanks for understanding what Im on about (again, let me re-iterate, Im not saying to replace human intuition with a machine ).
                            When you talk about coffee making being an art then it all makes sense. The more manual craft involved the better! And I do agree, thats where most of the allure is - thats what got me hooked!  In fact I love the process of making a coffee as much as drinking it. I dare say that if I had an automated machine I wouldnt drink as much coffee.  I still dont like being served bad coffee though....Too bad I guess.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Surely we need to take Man out of the equation...

                              Originally posted by 6E697C6A67715739313131080 link=1291162125/1#1 date=1291163950
                              Look at pizza, baked goods, beer and a host of other things.
                              All of these have a mass produced, consistent version that you can buy, or you can get it from an artisan who takes care and usually is much more hands on, or you can do it yourself.
                              Well said.
                              In a former life I used to work for a large pizza chain.
                              Every topping was measured, weighed or counted and you were even told where to place the slices of pepperoni.

                              Consistent?
                              Yes.
                              The best you could do?
                              No.

                              The idea was for consistency and to avoid waste from over-topping.
                              I made a "super supreme" once with less topping that tasted better.

                              On another occasion I was out delivering when the bosss wife called to say they were having surprise visitors for lunch and asked him to ask me to make some pizzas that he could bring home when he finished his morning shift.

                              He told her I was out and offered to make them himself.
                              She emphatically told him to bugger off as as she wanted me to make them.
                              Remember, he was the store manager and I was but a lowly driver.
                              But she knew who (with the same ingredients) made the better pizza.

                              P.S. I hate the taste of supermarket pizza. So....sterile, cardboardy.

                              Originally posted by 71697B60616664697C616E080 link=1291162125/6#6 date=1291175719
                              I believe this path is inevitable, and if it means that one day I can walk into an everyday food outlet and not shudder at the thought of ordering a coffee from the barely trained staff using their dormant coffee machine then Ill be happy.
                              Dream on sunshine!
                              Everyday food outlets dont give a fig.

                              Originally posted by 7B6B67677C69576F6964080 link=1291162125/11#11 date=1291243755
                              If the "art of espresso" is really that, an art
                              I agree.

                              Let me give a different example using another art I know something about.
                              My martial art - karate.

                              Who thinks they could learn karate from a book?
                              Im quite prepared to challenge any book learned karateka in the ring to see if their "by the book" process can win over hands on learnin.

                              (Use the force Luke)



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