The importance of being wrong

May 19th, 2009

I feel it is about time I broached this subject.  With an eye to the last posts, as well as to the response to my Chemex videocast, I feel the need to make something very clear.

The internet is full of information, though it is also full of keyboard heroes, and has something of an issue with its signal to noise ratio.  Identifying who is a useful purveyor of information is tricky and, while there is growing use of indicators in forums, often it is he who shouts loudest that wins.

I started blogging to chart my own learning, and to share what I found out with others.  Sometimes this information was very useful, and sometimes it really wasn’t.  With the videocasts the idea was to share techniques that people could use at home that would be repeatable and help them make better coffee.  It was argued (quite correctly) that my Chemex technique was flawed – that the top of the cone was likely underextracted compared to the coffee at the bottom of the cone.

I was wrong, and this was a good thing – it was useful because I learned and hopefully others reading too.  1

It could be said (and it was) that I shouldn’t abuse my position and ‘release’ techniques that hadn’t been completely tested, because I could (in theory) quickly spread misinformation.  2 While I saw the point I couldn’t help but feel that if I had to reach some sort of perfection then I would never ever get there on any technique.  I don’t think we’ll ever reach close to perfection.  If I am brewing coffee in ten, or even five, years time the same way I am today I have failed as a professional or we have failed as industry.

Good scientific method is about throwing an idea out there to find out what is wrong.  The internet is a great way to communicate ideas, to spread them.  Being wrong is a very important step in learning and needs to happen regularly.  I am sure each and every one of us is appalled by something we used to do differently even a couple of years ago.

If you say you have the perfect technique – I don’t believe you.  If you say you have the perfect espresso blend – you’re going to look stupid very soon.

Distrust those with all the answers.

Test other people’s ideas and techniques.

If you disagree then throw your opinion into the mix.  If you agree then do so too.

Don’t take what I say, or what any other (coffee) blogger says at face value because I/we/they are going to be wrong. Often. And that is ok.  You only look a fool when you are wrong but refuse to accept it.

  1. Because it was aimed at home brewing I had been trying to come up with a technique that could be done without special equipment – I am sure there are more chemex’s in homes than pouring kettles.  I hadn’t meant to direct the method at the industry.  I really don’t want this to sound like an excuse, though it probably does already.  ↩︎
  2. I should be clear in pointing out that selling information does change all this a little  ↩︎

Comment Policy

There are no longer comments on new posts. If you'd like to respond you can find me on twitter.