Coffee Cult Rituals

In most cases, making coffee is a fairly simple and generally forgiving relationship of ratios and recipes. 

And sticking to just those things can still easily result in great coffee.  Which, I think, is why the meticulous and elaborate lengths that some "coffee people" go to in their brewing seem so foreign and unnecessary to less detail-oriented coffee drinkers. 

The gains are marginal, after all, and the increases in bother and time invested are not.  But the quest is not necessarily for "better" coffee in all cases, nor is that reliable or predictable even with "perfect" technique.  Instead, the goal is consistency and control. 

Certain variables in coffee brewing can produce specific, distinctive, and predictable results.  Too many coffee grounds, and your brew too strong, too few and your coffee will be weak.  Take too long in the brewing, you can get over-strong coffee, but you can also over-extract and cause bitterness and sharpness.  Too short and the coffee will instead taste sharp and sour.  All from the same starting bean. 

Being able or even inclined to taste a cup of coffee and think "I'd like this stronger" or weaker, sharper or gentler ... is less useful to you the less is known about how you got the cup you have.  If you want stronger, the solution is immediately fairly obvious: add more coffee.  But how much is "more" enough, and how much was your starting point?  If one is measuring by scoops of ground coffee, for instance, how accurately can the possible compression of the coffee grounds be accounted for?  On my "Scoop" at home, you can scoop a vastly different weight of coffee depending on how finely ground it's been, and the variance gets bigger as you start navigating whether or not it's been packed in or loosely heaped ... etc.  When I checked, a half scoop of my morning grind size was actually 1/4 the coffee, by weight, of a full scoop. 

The more precise, meticulous, and ridiculous a given coffee ritual ... is not proportional to the exact gains in the cup it will produce on any single run.  Instead, though, the power and the appeal is the ability to iterate each run, often making relatively small changes each time, and still be making gains and improvements in tailoring the brewing to absolutely suit your tastes and standards.  Even the most discerning coffee snob has a "good enough" point, and in all folks' cases, the capacity to know how to get there and do so quickly and easily simply translates into getting to sit down and enjoy the sipping sooner.  

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