Articles From Whole Latte Love

Confessions of an Espresso Novice: Emily Post & Inspector Gadget.

Posted: 08/26/04
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My roommate bought me a bathroom scale. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s the same thing that I was thinking when she gave it to me: that’s pretty freakin’ rude. I would think it’s probably high on Emily Post’s list of gifts to never give, but in hindsight, I think Ms. Post would have instructed me to accept the gift thankfully, rather than responding to my roommate with a death stare and scaring the willies out of her. The scale, she explained, was not a comment on my weight, but a fuel for my passion! I had divulged to her previously that a passion has begun to burn inside of me, consuming my every thought and causing my taste buds to ache in anticipation! It is a passion for the "God Shot," and she was merely trying to help me on my way to finding it. Hehe, whoops.espresso novice

To explain how I ended up here, let’s take a little trip back in time about 6 hours. Immediately after trying to pull my first shot, I was addicted. Sure, it tasted horrible, but as I watched the beauty that flowed from the portafilter I knew that this was my calling. I was driven to keep trying until my technique was perfected! So I stood there in my kitchen trying again and again to match the requirements of the Golden Rule. I followed the standard procedure: grind, tamp, attach the portafilter to the machine, and press the button.

Too fast.

"Make your grind setting finer," said my roommate. "But you need to keep the grinder running while you do it or you might get beans caught in the burrs while you adjust it." That seemed to make sense, so I set out to do just that with my trusty Rocky Doserless.

I love my grinder and will defend it to the end, but today I discovered its one weakness: it’s nearly impossible to make the grind setting finer while the machine is running unless you have foot-long fingers or the super-powers similar to those of Stretch Armstrong. See, you have to hold this one button down to continue grinding, but to change the grind setting, you need to hold down another button while you turn the bean hopper. If these two buttons were anywhere near each other it could have been feasible, but nooo, Rancilio put them on opposite sides of the machine. So here I am in my kitchen, holding my left pinky down on one button and trying to reach the other with my thumb to keep my right hand free so I can turn the hopper. Shouting "go, go gadget thumb" was my last resort, and even that didn’t work. Luckily, my roommate saved the day by turning the hopper for me while I held the buttons. But I digress.

Grind, tamp, attach the portafilter to the machine, and press the button.

Too slow.

After a few more attempts with this method, I threw my hands up in defeat. There had to be something I was missing, but what? My roommate had to take off (I think my homage to Inspector Gadget freaked her out) and without someone to guide me, I had no one but myself with which to contemplate the reasons for failure. I sat there, dejected, and my roommate reappeared with a bathroom scale, driving me further into my downward spiral of depression. My roommate simply accused me of being a drama queen and left the room once again.

Then I remembered something she’d said earlier. "You should only alter one variable at a time." Without keeping my tamping consistent, I had no real idea of how I was achieving these results! My frustration faded, my passion was renewed, and I ran to my new scale as if it were the Holy Grail. I began the ritual with renewed fervor, grinding, tamping (to exactly 30 lbs of pressure, I might add), attaching the portafilter to the machine, and pressing the button with confidence and might.

Too fast.

No problem, just need to make the grind setting a little finer… Go, go gadget thumb!

Read All Installments - Confessions of an Espresso Novice
A. Part I: In the Beginning
B. Part II: Finding the Grind
C. Part III: Striking Gold
D. Part IV: Emily Post & Inspector Gadget (You are here.)
E. Part V: Work it! The milk, that is.
F. Part VI: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
G. Part VII: Give Me A Cup Cake Prison.
H. Part VIII: To The Espresso Machine I Loved Before.