It’s been a while since I’ve been a professional barista. Being mostly on the other side (read: roasting), I have the luxury of plodding around slowly, carefully, methodically in the lab when it comes to dialing in espresso shots. But I don’t think I’ve fallen off the bike when it comes to having the muscle memory and what it takes to pull out what a coffee needs in the demitasse.
One habit I see that mystifies me everytime is the insistence of practicing baristas to always want to adjust the grinder burrs first when a shot is not behaving as hoped. What I should say maybe is that I am mystified by the reluctance of many a good barista to adjust one’s tamp pressure before taking on the relatively difficult and time consuming task of adjusting the grind collar, especially in the middle of a rush. What’s even funnier (confounding funny, not ha ha funny) is the reticence of so many of these baristas to even acknowledge the adjustment of hand pressure as a legitimate first line of defense when searching for the shots’ sweet spot. Maintaining one’s wrist pressure at a constant (insert your prefered weight here) pressure seems sacrosanct, as though the human body were not merely another machine in need of occasional adjustment in the search for the Godshot. I’ve found myself having to defend that thought to a vehemently opinionated barista or two who insisted at no small decibal level that this (tamp pressure) is the one variable that should not be varied. This argument is usually advanced in conjunction with the corollary that a good barista will always know when the dosed coffee is even one gram off in either direction–which may be true, but which also strikes me as odd to toss in there as necessarily akin to the tamp pressure discussion, as though both peas surely belonged inseparably in the same pod.
Aren’t there supposed to be four M’s? I can never remember all the Italian words for it, but “hand” is definitely in there, si? Right along with machine, er macchina, or whatever. I believe a solid barista should always be willing to keep as many arrows in one’s quiver to be able to adjust to and roll with the punches under a wide range of possibilities. To limit oneself because of an apparant badge of honor just seems like a maxim from the past, the way people used to reflexively say that if the espresso did not come from Italy what use was it?
There are many sillyisms like that floating around. Canards.
Am I the only one who has encountered this? What other sacred cows have you experienced (or do you hold to) that have no self-evident truth to them?