I was in the grocery store yesterday morning heading for the dairy aisle when I stopped dead in my tracks at Aisle 14. It was not the sight of something but rather the sound that got my attention. It was the sound of New Order’s Blue Monday over the store sound system. Why was this odd? Mostly because back in high school (I know I just dated myself there) most of the kids who listened to the likes of New Order wore black trenchcoats and heavy black boots, drawing in their notebooks eyes that cried teardrops of fire onto a candlestick and such and rode scooters with bumper stickers that read, “Meat Is Murder.”
How the times have changed. While men with blacked out eyeliner eyes and Robert Smith hair is by no means a societal norm in this part of the world, I did find it amusingly peculiar that the everyday San Antonians shopping for groceries at 7:45am this fine morning were being fed a slightly-subliminal, mostly banal muzak stream that at one time occupied a fringe corner of the cultural mainstream.
This is how these things go, I know. But aside from the secret irony I enjoyed as I shopped for milk it got me to thinking about analogs into the coffee world. Not too long ago espresso machine temperature stability was a fad that had burst onto the scene, causing no small amount of debate and discussion about its merits and/or its ridiculousness. And nowadays when I tell people I’m pulling shots here at the cafe on a non-PID’ed espresso machine I get the quick flash of the eyes from people that I must be some sort of Luddite rube with his head in the sand.
I was in New York last week for a new client’s grand opening and there were not a few coffee people from around New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and so forth who had come into the city to get a look and taste off of the Slayer espresso machine that is the East Coast’s first. All coffee people “in the know” (think New Order fans in the ’80’s?) were keen to see the machine in action and to discuss the merits or ridiculousness of manual pressure profiling.
My suspicion is that whether or not manual pressure profiling becomes the next gold standard is espresso preparation the gentlemen at Slayer have clearly planted a flag in new territory and are challenging the world to either prove or disprove their theories over the coming months and years. And this suspicion is in line with my firm belief that we are living in a very good time for quality coffee. I will refrain from calling it a golden age; but it is something approaching that in my opinion and I am heartened by the early adopters willing the rest of us forward.
And who knows but that one day every airport coffee shop in the world might have a pressure profiling system integrated into their superautomonkeymachines. That would also make me stop dead in my tracks.