The big premise behind many of our brew guides and videos is that it is helpful to think of coffee making as a just-add-water scenario. All the contraptions and fussiness that comprise the many machines and methods of preparation are essentially just different ways of combining ground coffee with hot water and separating out the resulting brew. Brewing coffee isn’t hard and shouldn’t feel intimidating.
And for the most part, this is true. Coffee-to-water ratios, the relationship between grind size and dwell time, and the considerations of filtering are not hard to wrap your head around once you start looking past the surface differences of the various methods and see what’s really happening to the coffee grounds.
But espresso is a bit of a different beast.
Seth and I both loved Tonx, and wish them all the best in their partnership with Blue Bottle. The Tonx-inspiration filtering into Blue Bottle is already noticeable. This article typifies Tony’s love for coffee and his campaign to bring good coffee into the common kitchen. It’s also exemplary of his good writing and passion for demythologizing all things coffee.
It’s time to pour one out for the Tonx folks (an espresso, of course).
The little details matter in espresso. Very small changes in inputs result in dramatic changes in outcomes. A gram of coffee more or less, a minuscule drop in water temperature, an imperceptible drift in the size and uniformity of the grind – many things can thwart getting a great cup. Even using the most state-of-the-art commercial gear, it can still feel like tightrope walking on dental floss. Maybe there’s a good reason why professional baristas take themselves so seriously!
And it is because of espresso’s notorious stubbornness, complexity, and its requirement for serious and expensive gear that the Tonx message of brewing made simple is often met with skepticism from some self-confessed coffee snobs. Espresso lovers know how rare a truly great cup of this elixir is and will often travel far to be served by the serious practitioners. The cult of the barista has a small but fanatical following. Our propaganda that you can easily have great coffee in your kitchen comes with unstated “except for espresso” fine print.