CafeIQ Debut: Every New Beginning is Some Other Beginning’s End


Don’t get stuff at the supermarket. Who knows how many months (years?) ago that stuff was roasted. And, almost all of it is killed. I don’t care that it got eaten by a monkey and pooped out before they put it in the bag. I like chocolate-y flavors, and eventually found Unicorn Blood from Dark Matter Coffee. However, the roasting scene is starting to make craft beer look small in comparison. Good roasters are everywhere, but bad ones are, too. So take your time to go through a few to find something you like. It will only take a few months, and you get a lot of espresso shots out of a $15 bag of beans.

Grinder adjustment will come shortly, but, before we get to the espresso machine, we have to think about water.


That’s right. Water is probably a more important ingredient even than the coffee.

Think about what you’re doing when you make espresso. You take hot water and push it through ground coffee under pressure. So, you only really have two “ingredients” — water and coffee.

But the coffee doesn’t magically all instantly dissolve and end up in the cup. No, there is quite a bit of fancy water chemistry going on. You wouldn’t tune an engine without learning about thermodynamics, air/fuel ratios, flame fronts, and combustion chemistry, right? So don’t go making coffee without understanding water chemistry.


Here is your reference manual. I’ll wait while you read it.

Dust off your high school (ok maybe college organic) chemistry ladies and gentlemen, because you are going to make your own water. No, you’re not combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms. However, you are going to test what comes out of your tap to find out its chemical makeup, possibly filter it via reverse osmosis (or not if your water is very soft), and then add specific amounts of chemical concentrates to create the proper water for coffee. See what I did there?

Seriously, though, you are going to mix magnesium chloride (Epsom salt), calcium chloride (used for beer making) and baking soda into concentrates and then add them to carefully measured water to fill your coffee machine. That’s even if you are making filter coffee.

This is starting to sound complicated. And it is. And it requires precision.


Which is why you need a precise and accurate scale.

This is a relatively inexpensive American Weigh Scales 2kg unit from Amazon. It’s not waterproof, so you have to be a little careful with it. You can see that mine is well worn. There are some waterproof coffee-specific scales out there. Some even have bluetooth connectivity and apps. You probably want one of these. Acaia and Decent Espresso come to mind.

You want something that can measure single grams with at least tenth-gram precision. It's all SI units for you now.


You’ll also want to get a jam funnel.

I’m pretty sure this is called a jam funnel because it’s used when you make jam. It also happens to perfectly fit into the espresso portafilter and makes holdswirl easy. Hold the porta what? OK, now it’s finally time for an espresso machine.


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