November 9, 2011

Keep it Simple, Stupid

I received a useful bit of advice from a local roaster recently, although I didn't write about it at the time, nor have a done much to take it to heart. But it occurred to me this morning, as I attempted yet another in an endless succession of tweaks to my pour over brewing method. The result, as usual, was usual. Which is not to say that it wasn't good - very good, even - so much as it was the same kind of good it typically is. (Tense shifting and passive voice in the same sentence? Looks that way.)

I was at a tasting, and his coffee was being provided. He talked us through the affair, noting the differences between different washes, origins, roasts, etc. To the attending group, all of these things seemed revelatory. Their knowledge, previously limited to what the bag told them, was expanding rapidly, and they probed further. The questions were charming and heartening, showing a genuine interest in knowing more, in brewing right, and ultimately, in drinking better coffee.

These are interests I share, and as such, I had questions as well. They were specific, and not surprisingly, concerned with matters which might be called minutia. He looked aside, twisted his mouth, and without the implied "you" said that "A lot of people make things too complicated. I think, basically, drink what you like."

If this statement strikes you as completely obvious, congratulations, you're less neurotic than I. Too often, I'm driven by a desire to do things right, merely for its own sake. The enjoyment gleaned from the product is secondary, seated behind the satisfaction from a job - if not well done - done properly. So it is with my pour over technique, always changing, and not based on the extend to which I enjoy the product. The same is true for my espresso prep, milk steaming, and milk pouring.

Probably, there is some extent to which this is needed. If one is to do something for a living, one might be inclined to devote a fair bit of thought to doing it optimally. If the unexamined life is not worth living, then the unexamined job is not worth doing. But there is a line there, somewhere. Things can be analyzed until they are scarcely things anymore, reduced to parts of components parts.

Thus it's useful to remember, coffee is actually rather simple. And while I tend to make things too complicated, that truth is not sufficient justification for its own perpetuation. Fresh ground quality beans, mixed reasonably with hot water, will yield an enjoyable product. And it's that product, and the enjoyment of it, which ought to be the focus.

No comments:

Post a Comment