May 31, 2012

Curious Lightning on Coffee

I think that if "This American Life" did a long-form story about coffee, it would sound something like this.

You can find more stories at Curious Lightning.

May 29, 2012

Coffee and Stories

This is going to be an explanatory post, of sorts, but will take a while to get to anything like a point. Mostly, it's about how working in coffee is pretty great.

As my tendency towards verbosity probably suggests, I like words. I like mine enough, but I like others' better. They take me places I'll never go and teach me things I'd never hear about otherwise. So yes, maybe those trips to the library in grade school worked, maybe Reading Rainbow influenced me that substantially. Or maybe there is something enduring about books - or more accurately, about stories.

The truth is, I'm not sure the medium matters too much. Though I read a lot, the majority of my consumption is via the internet, an endless bounty of words written about anything, and yes, everything. There are coffee blogs and running blogs, and it comes as no surprise that I like both. But there are others as well, and I like those too. These are blogs that deal with books - quite the mind-bender. It is writing about writing, and it's good. It helps me hone whatever skill I have, and more importantly, makes me aware of things with which to occupy my time.

That's because, for all the free words the internet offers, I still buy books - a lot of them. I enjoy books about things - anything, really. I'll read about climbing deaths on K2 and Wave Theory, and yes, I'll read about coffee and running. But as often, I like books that aren't about anything - except entertainment, or perhaps escapism.

This is not new to me. My earliest memories concern Batman action figures, Hobbits, and Han Solo. In that, I suppose I'm not unique. But that didn't change much, which maybe is slightly outside the norm. As I grew up, in some ways, I didn't. I still read Star Wars novels, and found other venues for "speculative fiction". (This is, if you've not heard, the PC name for nerdy things people make up. Apparently sci-fi and fantasy weren't cutting it.) I watched Cowoy Bebop until I could recite every episode title, in order, and was that kid, crouched down by the shelf, reading a pile of manga.

But again, I got older, and you're supposed to forget about these things, maybe, or at least hide it a little bit. Instead, I majored in English, and kept reading books about epic quests and orcs, kept wearing my Cowboy Bebop shirt to class. I made the requisite room for the authors you're supposed to read, but not too much, and certainly not enough to take Joe Abercrombie out of my life. Not enough, even, to keep me out of conventions filled with fat people with odd hair colors and cat ears.

Of course, nerdy things are somewhat chic, at the moment. The Avengers movie just made a billion dollars, and there's a new Batman movie on the horizon, which will probably do the same. But those people who spent Saturday night watching superheroes probably didn't watch 8-year-old episodes of Teen Titans, and then follow that up with Jupiter Jazz, part 1 and 2, my favorite Cowboy Bebop episode. (If, of course, I'm allowed to count a two-parter as one episode. I'm deciding to allow it.)

So, though I'm older now than I've ever been (funny how that always seems to be the case), nothing seems to have changed much. I like words, and I like stories.

And here we are, finally, at something like a point. Working behind a bar gives you an endless supply of both words and stories, people living out their lives, one day at a time, right across the counter. You know their drinks, and frequently, their life stories. But it's not even quite that simple. As often as the profound things stick with you, so do the absurd. And more often even than that, it's the mundane. We are social creatures, humans, and our shared identity is woven with these threads of interpersonal communication, of that one time your dog got out, or how you really liked a certain breakfast cereal. And yes, sometimes it is more obvious than that. Sometimes the conversations turn to physics, fiction, or the intersection of the two.

But there are stories, and there are people, making up my own dramatis personae. And there is espresso, without which I'd not have a cast half as dynamic. This isn't exactly the same as all of those books - it might even be better. Because this isn't escapism, and it doesn't end after 30 minutes with one final saxophone whine and a "See you, space cowboy".

May 24, 2012

Runner's High Coffee Mini-Review, And Me Being an Idiot

So I made coffee yesterday, and I have to admit, it wasn't very good. The result was sort of a hot liquid, and dark brown, and it really even smelled a little like coffee. But it wasn't quite there. This was particularly disappointing, because I had spent a pretty penny on a pound of coffee, which I basically never do anymore. (This is, perhaps, the greatest perk this blog has given me. People send me coffee in the mail now, which is indescribably great.)
Only I see this at my local coop grocer, and I can't not buy it. Sure, it was expensive (everything at tiny health food grocers is), but just look at it. It's like their marketing department (or just the dude who designs the bags) interviewed me. It's coffee, with running shoes on it, and an LSD joke for good measure. And oh, it's a blend that prominently features East African beans, my perfect poison. (As an aside, shouldn't it just be Kenyan and Ethiopian? We haven't had any great Latin American marathoners in over a decade.)

And so I'm going to go running yesterday, and since I just woke up, I need to have a cup. I do the things I normally do, and everything seems fine. (But perhaps it isn't... This is a tease to keep reading. Please do.) Only the result, to be blunt, tastes like my Grandma's Folgers. Well, let's pull that back. It's wasn't quite that bad. There was a hint of something that maybe, sort of, was something that had an inkling of what coffee could be, in another life, or something like that.

I ran my six miles anyway, crawling up and down the lovely hills of Lawrence, KS, at a steady clip. It went well, or at least as well as ancillary mileage done on a sidewalk can. But I couldn't shake the coffee. Or rather, I couldn't shake the lack of coffee. This was supposed to be good, I thought. I had already imagined a nice glowing write-up, or at least, a fun little mention.

But I didn't get that, and instead, I wondered if I'd be left writing a post about not liking a coffee, something that almost never happens.

But as it turns out, I do like this coffee. In fact, I pretty much love it. Another preparation today, and it was glorious, full of all sorts of fun flavor notes and juicy hints of acid-laced trail mix. Furthermore, I ran a 10K PR today, after drinking this very coffee. Coincidence? Well, maybe. And also, I guess I should say I'd never actually run a timed 10K, so whatever I managed was going to be my PR, by default. But still, the coffee kicked ass, and I ran 38:45 for 10K, which was about what I had hoped for. (And yes, if you're a top level Latin American marathoner, you're clearly much faster than me. Sorry about that earlier jab.)

This is the part where I explain why, and also, why I shouldn't be trusted with heavy machinery. This morning, as I went back for round 2, I noticed that my grinder was off. Not just off, but way off, lingering over in french press territory, when I needed a fine grind for my pour over preparation. (It had been set thusly so I could make cold press.) I nudged the setting back, and to the left, and proceeded as normal.

Now I know what you're thinking. Well, I don't know for sure. Maybe you have serious things to think about in your life, more heady things than coffee. But I don't, and you are reading this, so things can't be too hectic. Anyway, I'm going to presume to know something like what you're thinking: Isn't that kind of a huge mistake? How did you not notice that the grounds were the size of rock salt, rather than table sugar? Aren't you supposed to be an expert or something? Doesn't someone pay you to make coffee? To hell with it, I'm gonna go read Peter's blog instead.

Well, you should read Peter's blog, since he has a cat named after a smart Roman guy, and also, while you're there, he has an interview with me. And you do have every right to ask those questions. But, this being my blog and all, I don't have to answer them. Cheers.

May 21, 2012

Breaking: Coffee Fails to Prevent Death

Sometimes I link to things, because reading in a vacuum is hard. It's probably really dark in there, first of all, and the dust and everything else makes it quite gross. So sometimes I link to things, and not always James Hoffmann articles.

This will not be one of those times, however. I simply don't feel the need, in this case, since you've no doubt heard the news. In fact, people have probably been telling you by the dozen. Noting your frequent coffee toting, they take it upon themselves to deliver unto you this glorious news. That, of course, is that coffee drinkers tend to die older, and are less likely to contract all the bad stuff you want to avoid.

The original article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of my absolute favorites, if you want to look it up. But I did just spoil the ending for you, so maybe you can skip it. Personally, I would, since I think the story really lacked a love interest and dragons. Stories are always better with love interests and dragons.

In any case, the authors surmise that frequent coffee drinkers seem to enjoy a myriad of health benefits, most notably, a decreased risk of death. Well, not exactly. You're still 100% likely to die, sorry to say, as is everyone else. Voltaire supposedly drank something like 50 cups of coffee a day, and yes, he's quite dead. Also, he was really smart, so if there were a loophole in this whole death thing, you'd think he may have found it. But no, he didn't, and neither will any of us.

But that all sounds like a bit of a downer, doesn't it? Well, fret not, since you do get all those other benefits you've heard about before, and that this article extends upon. Probably, coffee helps stave off diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, and dragons.
See? This guy is sated by his morning joe, and thus doesn't want to eat Joe. It all works out.

But really, drink coffee because it's awesome. Drink it for all of the reasons I've spent thousands of words grasping for, for the taste, the culture, the people, the experience. If you want health advice, eat a goddamn vegetable.

May 17, 2012


So I wrote this one year ago, and it's a bit of a trip to go back and read it. It's odd, because I know that guy, and he even sounds a lot like me. But there is an undercurrent there, a suggestion that maybe, he is trying to convince someone of something. Maybe, he doesn't quite believe in what he's doing, so he needs to sell it. And that isn't me, not now.

This, then, is what it feels like to be 24. It's an age that's strikingly present. In the past, I worried about what I might become; in the future, perhaps I'll think back on what was. But for now? Well, now is all there is. 24 feels like the age were you go about being who you want to be, rather than becoming that person.

But I don't know. That implies a sense of false permanence, and probably, a lack of perspective. I'm not done growing, becoming, etc. Certainly, I hope I'm not. But there is a lack of anxiety about things, these days, a lack of the neurosis that filled my post from a year ago.

I am doing the things I want, better now than ever before. My latte art has improved to the point where Roast Magazine has tweeted a pic of my "bird in the cup", which flattered the hell out of me. Business is good, and I'd like to think that I've helped that become the case, since becoming "manager". (Which still sounds absurd to call myself. "Barista+paperwork" is a better title, I think.) And I'm wiping off counters much better, which pretty much accounts for my coffee bar related goals for my 23rd year on Earth.

There's also the running thing, of course, which has taken on an increasingly large role in this blog. At one point, I tried to resist that, but have since given up. It's gone from something I enjoy doing to something I have to do, a part of myself I can't imagine being without. In that regard, it's like my being a barista. Both are hats I can't fathom not wearing. Anyway, this has been a good year for running. I've won some short stuff, finished two ultras and one marathon. This year is going to be about improving, and hopefully, competing. I want to look back at this post in one year, and know that this goal was stated, and then met.

Of course, that's all well and good, but doesn't make for very compelling reading. In fact, I'm realizing that this is a pretty awful post, on the whole. But I'm going to publish it anyway. Sorry about that. So yes, I'm older, yes, who really gives a shit?

I'm going to finish my cold press, go do some marathon pace work, eat a potato, then pull some shots. And it's going be great. Those are the metrics by which I measure my life, moreso than years.

May 14, 2012

Coffee at the End of The World

This is a hard thing to write about, both in the way you're thinking about, and in that other way too. It's hard because it's abstract, and the words are difficult to grasp. And it's hard because it involves feelings and stuff, and well, I'm a 23 year old guy, and we don't talk about feelings and stuff. What we do is smile, joke, and say things that shockingly undersell whatever emotional significance a given moment might have.

We say "Good luck with life," and we mean it, but more than that. A lot more.

Let me back up a second, or a few months, or a year, in some cases. The bar I manage is not on campus, technically, but only technically. It's across the street from the KU art museum, and I could throw a rock to class buildings, if I didn't throw like an 8 year old. But I do, so no, a rock isn't getting there, but a lot of students do manage to make the journey. The majority of our business isn't these kids, but a lot of it is. Enough that it's pretty significant financially, but also in other ways, which is were we get to the hard part, the stupid sappy part.

I saw quite a few of those kids at least 100 times, which isn't that much, maybe, in the grand scheme, but what grand scheme is that anyway? I've talked to them a lot, about life and things, and hopefully made that better with coffee. I've poured pretty milk designs, and they've tipped me, bought my food and boosted my ego. It's been a pretty great relationship, both parties benefitting, which is why I like this job in the first place. People like you when you make them their coffee, so long as you're not a total dick about it.

But this is May, which means a lot of those kids are done now, and they're supposed to go not be kids anymore. It's a weird thing, that period of time, and I'm living in it right now. I'm 23, basically 24, trying to become a pretty good regional trail runner, while living out my barista dreams. It's all pretty damn cool, precisely because I still feel like a kid every day. I make coffee and run up hills, which, to be clear, is pretty fucking sweet.

Maybe they've got that to look forward to, or something like it. I don't know, and I won't, but I do know that I won't see many of them ever again. I would know this no matter what, but cognitive dissonance is a pretty powerful thing, and while I would know that fact, I would never really feel it, never really care. But when they come to say goodbye? Then you know. Then you feel it, because they're right there, making you feel it. They're twisting that dagger in your chest, smiling, telling you how you helped them this year, how you were like a friend or something, and damn, it's all pretty hard to stand and listen to. You want to diffuse it all, to say that you're some sort of coffee mercenary, and get the hell out kid, I always hated you because you put too much sugar in your coffee, go get a real job and let me deal with the next person in line. You want to say that because it would be easier, it would be easier than saying that they were pretty cool too, and that the street runs both ways. You don't want to tell them that baristas need their interaction a lot more than their money, you can't say that, I can't, because it's all too damn hard.

May 10, 2012

Why?, Why

A caffeine addled mind will go places, strange places, twisting and turning down treacherous intellectual switchbacks. And we like that, as a people. We like that, we always have, and probably, we always will. That is, after all, a large part of the coffee shop identity. We picture people asking the big questions, and straining to try and answer them, from Voltaire to that guy who really, really ought to consider bathing soon.

How? Why? What if?

I talked today with a long time customer, and a recent physics graduate. He is smart, as you might guess, but not just in that he knows things. Anyone can recite answers others have found; intelligence is finding them, and in knowing how to use them. He is quite skilled in the latter, and thus presented a rather articulate defense, when questioned by another customer, of gravity, and how we can really know it exists.

Principally, the query was driven by particles, and how we can only understand gravity as it relates to them. However, gravity is supposed to have existed since existence, whereas particles came later. So, how then can we claim that this same gravity existed, when our only frame of reference for its existence hadn't yet come about?

He's not here now, and I'm not going to track him down or ask that he repeat his answer. But he had one, and it sounded good, at least to the extent that I understood it. I should say, probably, that I've never taken a physics class, and very nearly failed the only astronomy course I did take. I was an English major, after all, and sometimes stereotypes ring true.

But his answer isn't really important anyway; that the conversation happened is. His big questions are not my big questions, and neither of ours are likely to be yours. My questions are found in a bronze layer of crema, and the answers too. I want to know how fast I can run up that hill (any hill, really), and how many rosettas I can fit in one cup (3, as of now).

But this isn't about my questions either. This is about the venue that allows those questions to be asked, entertained, debated, and generally passed around until the edges are tattered and yellow. This is about coffee, and coffee shops, and the sort of thing you can't make at home, no matter how good your beans, grinder, or brewer. This is about people, conversation, and how coffee makes them come together beautifully. This is about the answer to a pretty big question everyone asks: Why do I do what I do?

How To Tamp, and How Not To

So I know I've railed against overly prescriptivist training in the past, swore that there's not a right way, and that we need only apply principles in ways that work for us. Well, this is a nice ideal, and I mostly stand by it. But just because there's not a right way to do a thing, doesn't exclude the possibility that there can be very wrong ways. I've seen too many of those recently, so I'm going to lay out my how-to-tamp guide.

Yes, this is going to be a little inside baseball for some. But at least I'm sticking somewhat to my profession, and not tangenting on my hobby (though there will be more racing posts in the future). So ok, tamping. Tamping is that thing were you press the espresso in to a puck, so that the water can extract the juicy goodness from it.

First, let's talk principals. You want the whole thing to be uniform, since water will cheat if it's not. For that same reason, you would really like the puck to be level. But that's not really so complicated. We need a flat puck with no holes in it. Pretty simple. But for something simple, the act itself often ends up mess, sloppy, and worse, fails to achieve the perfect puck.

I think this is caused, not by too little effort, but by too much. People get hung up on hitting some poundage with their tamp, and so they mash the whole thing, pressing down so hard that they lose feel for how the puck is compressing. Which really, is the opposite of what you want, keeping the principles in mind. You want a flat, uniform puck, and so you press down evenly, just hard enough to get that. Once it's solid, you can stop. Focus, not on mashing, but on pressing evenly and just hard enough.

Some people stop here. I think that's fine, but we're going to continue, because most people do. This is the part were to tap the edge of the portafilter, dislodging lose grounds. Again, it helps to keep the goal in mind. We want to knock the lose grounds away from the edge, not dislodge the entire puck. So tap just hard enough to do the former, and not the latter.

Of course, even a soft tap will move things around a bit, and remember, we want a uniform puck. So, we're tamping again. Some insist that this should be lighter than the first tamp, some say stronger. I say not to worry about it, and again, to press just hard enough. If that sounds too vague, it isn't. "Too hard" is something you have to feel for yourself, and if you're taking the time to feel what you're doing, you'll usually avoid it anyway.

Next, we polish. Or rather, some do. Ideally, this is supposed to smooth out the surface of the puck. However, if the tamps were solid, this probably isn't necessary. Still, if we're going to do it, let's do it right. And that means, as in the other steps, that we won't do it too violently. It's called a polish, after all, not a mash, and not a grind. Don't press down with your full body weight and twist the tamper back and forth, ruining the perfect puck you just made. Do, if you do anything at all, twist lightly, quickly, and not too much.

The last step is difficult to screw up, but too often skipped altogether. No matter how perfectly you did the other things, there will be lose grounds on the edge of the portafilter. We don't want those, so flick the portafilter, and run your finger around the edge. Failure to do so won't ruin this shot, but it will gum up your group head, which is gross, and can hurt the quality of future shots. Finally, before locking the filter in to the head, flush. This cleans out whatever mess you may have there, and optimizes the temperature.

That, basically, is it. We want a level puck, with nowhere for water to cheat around the grounds, and to not beat shit up in acquiring it. We want the process to be neat, controlled, and clean. Do that, and you get what we really want: Sweet espresso.

May 7, 2012

Bad Coffee, Bad Race

So I was running a race, as I do, meandering along a trail at what we might call 5K pace, since it was a 5K, but I was probably not going quite that fast, honestly. There was dirt and mud and rocks, which you expect, and I had worn bulkier, treadier shoes, so those things were not a problem. The mud flicked back and the rocks were neutered, and I ran, kind of flipping my feet forward and grasping towards that next rock, that next swath of earth.

This happened, and I smiled at the right parts, enjoying myself when people were taking pictures, and griping inside my head that this wasn't faster, and wasn't easier. There was a lack of pop in my legs, and a lack of romance to the whole endeavor. I wasn't loving it, and it was hot. I felt like I was running in a sweat suit, and was dripping as if I had been, and moving with the same ambling lack of grace.

I was following three guys, two of whom I usually beat, one of whom I always beat. There was a guy in the front, springing along, who should have been further ahead, and would have been, if not for the rocks. There were a lot of rocks, and so we were hopping then, which was fun, and I was close, ready to make a move, if only I could summon the leg drive to do so.

I pleaded with them, my legs, not the guys, begged them, and then reasoned with them. Please, I said. It's only another mile or so, and this is a fun trail for you. You love this. No really, you do. What's that? You say you don't love it so much right now? Well, then the sooner we get to the finish, the sooner you can stop. And the top three get a maraca. You love those, right? No? Well then fuck, just run hard enough not to look like a jackass, and at least don't get caught by anyone.

They listened, or something, and there was a little pop there, and I almost jumped off the shoreline, and in to the water. I am not a triathlete, so it was probably better that I stay dry. Or at least, stay only sweaty-wet, which isn't usually all that pleasant, and wasn't then, to be honest, but was probably better than falling in Clinton Lake. Clinton Lake is not the nicest lake, as far as water goes, and I don't really like deep water anyway. Something about sharks, and how they could be there. You laugh, maybe, but you never know. You can't know for sure that sharks aren't in that lake. No one has looked, because they just assume there aren't any. But assumptions make an ass out of me and you, and anyway, I didn't want to lose my ass to a shark bite, so I didn't fall in.

The other guys didn't fall either, even though I kind of wished they would, but only if they were ok, maybe just banged up enough that I could pass them, and then finish without working too hard. But anyway, they didn't fall, but they did slow down a bit. So I was still pretty close, and decided that this was probably the part where I should start running harder, because there wasn't that much trail left to run, and really, I do like running hard on the trail. I also like it when running hard translates to running fast, but this time, it didn't.

And so the other guys disappeared in to the woods, twisting around the bends and through the trees just ahead of me, and just outside of kicking range, fighting mostly for second and third, because the winner was going to win. The winner always wins; that's why he's the winner. Anyway, he was winning, even though he had taken a wrong turn, which I had done as well. I thought about making excuses regarding that, but decided that I shouldn't, because he was still winning, and had done the same. But he's faster than me, I thought. Well yeah, some other part of me said. That's kind of the point though, isn't it? Kind of hard to bitch about that.

There was a flight of stairs near the end, which I took two at a time, but only for two steps. Then I backed that off to one, and flipped my heels back at a 45-degree angle, spinning out to the side like egg beaters whipping the concrete, only it never got fluffy, which was probably ok, since I couldn't have run up it if it was fluffy. I thought about Led Zeppelin singing about the Stairway to Heaven, then about Gollum, that Lord of the Rings character that Zeppelin sings about too, then sort of sprinted across the grass, and across the finish. The three guys who had finished ahead of me clapped, and we went to get some water, bananas, and to bitch about how fucking hot it was, and how rocks are hard, and you know, you really can't run that fast on this course. And maybe the course was long too. I heard they changed it. Definitely long.

We stood there and caught our breath, our excuses, except for the guy who won, who was pretty gracious about the whole thing. He's always gracious, which is nice, because he's always winning. I am too, and I was then, because the guy who didn't quite place needs to be gracious too, and not whine about how the rock plate in his shoe prevented him from really opening up his stride, or how he had skipped breakfast, and only choked down some shitty gas station coffee on the way to the race, because he had nearly overslept. But you know, it was probably the coffee. You really can't be too careful about these things. If you drink shitty coffee, you'll probably miss a turn, and start to run up the wrong hill, and then probably, you'll go run the course again after the race, and then run around the street some, even harder, because you're kind of annoyed at yourself. So, you know, don't drink gas station coffee, and things like this won't happen.

English Major

The internet is a big, scary, wonderful, terrible, disgusting, and beautiful place. And I love it. Sometimes. Of course, I should, being that this manifestation of myself exists only online. It allows me a degree of publishing freedom and an audience that I would never have otherwise. How else would this, a collection of ramblings tied together only in being written by me, a man of no real import, garner any readership at all?

That's a great question. And it's one that deserves a great answer. I won't give you that tonight, however. What I will do is share this with you, because it's tremendous.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

May 3, 2012

Love and Money

I probably reference James Hoffmann too much. But if I'm going to link a dead horse, it may as well be one with credibility and quality content. And so here we go again, both with a sentence preceding this one that makes no sense, and another link to Jimseven.

He's not in it for the money, and neither am I. Though it has to be said - and he does so quite well - that, without money, you won't be doing anything for long. That is, love does not pay for groceries, however cheap potatoes and peanut butter may be.

His conclusion, while true, is one that raises more questions, however. Of course it's absurd to charge roughly the same for a premium product as swill. But how do we go about making that change? How do we convince the masses (whose patronage is required) that coffee tasting like coffee is a damn good thing? How aggressive ought we be with our effort to educate them? Should we, rather, simply make the best product we can, and let the cards fall were they may?

I could go on. There are questions here, and many more than I could ever think of. This specialty coffee thing is still rather new, and we're still figuring it out. And that is what we have to do. While the questions are likely universal, the answers won't be. One must consider their base, and the potential markets outside of that. And then you've got to try shit, see what happens, and be willing to fail. Because that is also what it will take.

I hope this doesn't sound like an answer, or like I presume to have even one. What this is is a process, and writing this is a step. This is working out the problems, or at least working out what questions are worth asking. Then? Then we get to tamping, because honestly, we don't want to do anything else.

Speaking of love, here's something I've been enjoying lately. Yes, he sounds a bit like he's doing a Bob Dylan impression. But it's more fun than that.

May 1, 2012

Portafilter in Hand

I can't tell you how many times I've sat here, with my fingers on the keyboard, and stared at a blank screen. There were no words, only sensations; and no way for me to bridge that gap. And so I sat and looked, waiting for some muse to offer up divine inspiration. But it never happened.

And so I wrote other things sometimes, or nothing at all. Sometimes I'd put out several posts in several days, hitting on various topics with... varying levels of quality. And of course, there would be stretches of silence as well, when I simply couldn't muster anything worth saying.

What I wanted to write about all those times was the feeling of a portafilter in my hand, the first tamp, the tap, then the second, and the twist. I want to convey that feeling of technique and artistry, or maybe just the comfort of holding on to a solid piece of metal.

There is something to be said for a tool which can produce cool shit, the sort of toy every little boy would dream of playing with. You can hit it, for one, and it spits out hot water. I'm not sure I'll ever grow out of that being fun, just like I'm not sure running in the mud and the rain will ever stop being scintillating. It is what it is; and so what if it's maybe a little immature?

But there is that technique and artistry too - or at least I said there is. It's the sort of thing a lot of people could fuck around with, but they'd probably break something, and those machines aren't cheap. Even if they didn't, the odds of getting a good drink would be nil. So no, it's not just a toy. It's a tool, one that can break and burn, but that can also produce 2 ounces of heaven at a time. It can extract ambrosia and offer up salvation and deliverance.

But what I want to tell you about isn't the shots it can pull, or anything else about it. I want to tell you about that sensation I get - maybe that you get - when grasping the handle, flicking the portafilter free, and going to work. I don't want to tell you about it; I want to tell you how it is, it's nature. I want to pull a shot of that essence and make a drink out of it, to make tangible what my words can't.

Maybe it's the same sort of thing a carpenter feels when gripping a saw, a guitarist when fingering the strings, or a priest when cracking open a Bible; I don't know. I don't know because to be honest, I don't know much else. I know that the sensation I get when flushing a portafilter - nevermind doing anything truly productive - is just so right that it's not like anything else feels to me. And I know that that's what this blog mostly exist to aspire to, to put in to words what baristas know and to express - maybe even validate, a bit - what we're doing with our lives.

I want to do all of that, but you know, there's a reason the screen was blank all those times before, and maybe, why it still should be. But in any case, there are words here now, and maybe, though they don't reach my heights of aspiration, they don't fall altogether short. So I don't know. Maybe just go grab a portafilter, and see what it's like.