Articles From Whole Latte Love

Confessions of an Espresso Novice: Striking Gold

Posted: 07/23/04

You know you’re in the middle of a miscommunication when the person you’re talking to responds with "Jesus taught the espresso noviceapostles about coffee?" This odd question came about when I was having a conversation with my roommate about "the golden rule." She was talking about espresso, but after years of Catholic school, I automatically assumed she was referencing the old adage "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I launched into a story about Sister Agnes at St. Patrick’s school of the Gifted that left my roommate imagining an overly caffeinated geriatric nun who would wax poetic on espresso culture. When I mentioned the Sister’s emphasis on Jesus teaching the apostles the same concept, my roommate, who had no religious background whatsoever, uttered the words that I mentioned above. This was my introduction to the golden rule of espresso.

After we indulged in a moment of hysterical laughter, my roommate went back to teaching me the golden rule. "The golden rule states that a double shot is approximately 2 to 2.5 ounces of water pulled through 14 grams of coffee in 20 to 25 seconds." Now I may be new to this whole espresso thing, and I’ve definitely had my share of mishaps thus far, but giving me a simple equation to work with put me at ease. I pulled out my 2 ounce shot glass, got the second hand on my watch ready to go, and started to feel like I was actually prepared for this impending process.

My roommate instructed me to grab the portafilter, fill it with grinds, and compact them with a tamper at about 30 pounds of pressure. I took the tamper, leaned into the grounds, and stopped; what the heck does 30 pounds of pressure feel like? "We can measure it using a bathroom scale," she said. Toasting the golden rule"Don’t you have one?" Ha! I think I threw that out around 10 years ago, and believe me folks, it ain’t comin’ back. So, truth be told, we guesstimated.

I have to admit I was pretty excited when I attached the portafilter to the machine and hit the brew button. I stepped back to watch the results, and it looked fantastic. I had done it! I had fused art and science! I raised the drink to my lips for the victory toast, and it was perfect…ly horrible.

Removing my rose-colored glasses, I inspected the damage. Apparently, I had been so excited about brewing that the idea of timing the shot had completely escaped me; my roommate knew right away that the shot had pulled too fast. So, it was back to the drawing board.

It got me to thinking though; does the punk kid in the coffee shop know what a good shot really looks like? If he doesn’t, is everyone in town drinking something similar to the battery acid I just got from my machine? I think I should go down there and expose their façade of coffee expertise! Preach to the masses about what espresso really is and educate the world on the golden rule! Okay, okay, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I should probably pull a good shot before I proclaim myself the coffee police. Here we go again…

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 (You are here.)
D. Part IV: Emily Post & Inspector Gadget
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.