Who is to blame?

February 24th, 2010

You drink a nice brewed cup of coffee from a hypothetical farm in El Salvador.  It is incredibly delicious.  The cup is light and juicy, but still very sweet.  There are notes of cherry and caramel and acidity is reminiscent of a crisp apple.  We celebrate this coffee, perhaps we bid a lot money for it at an auction, and are excited to roast it and retail it.

We then brew the same coffee in an espresso machine.  It doesn’t taste good.  People say it lacks body, isn’t complex enough, has too much acidity.  People say it is one dimensional.  We roast it darker than before, though hopefully not a lot.  We mute and soften the acidity, try and keep the sweetness.  We burn away some of what we loved in the hope that it will be a better espresso. Even now we don’t enjoy the coffee as much.  People still complain that it isn’t complex enough, isn’t complete enough.

“This coffee isn’t good enough to be a single origin espresso.”

We blame the same coffee that we once celebrated.  This doesn’t make sense.  If the job of a brewer is to translate what is great in the coffee down into the cup why aren’t we pointing our fingers at the espresso machine?  If the job of the barista is to use tools to translate what is great in the coffee down into the cup why aren’t we ashamed of our failings?

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