Lists are great. There should be more lists. Here’s one with a negative tone:
1. The silent dishonesty of working in coffee. It is hard (and not very smart) to be publicly critical of friends, clients, business partners etc. There is certainly a void in the world of progressive coffee for criticism. It is all over the wine world for example. Bad vintages happen all the time. Bad coffee crops, or below expectation coffee crops are never publicly acknowledged (not to mention poor roasts or brews). It is not an infrequent occurrence for a coffee to arrive at a roastery past its best, or for it to quickly diminish and remain in circulation for some time. It would be of benefit to the coffee industry for a one or (preferably) more independent, authoritative, honest critics to emerge. That way, great coffee which is still in the minority is recognised and is not lost in the sea of “everything is great, hooray for coffee” which seems to prevail. The same goes for the equipment end of the industry (although that seems to be more readily criticised).
2. Sumatra – I did not have any interesting coffee from Asia in 2011. I have low expectations for 2012. If I was a roaster I wouldn’t bother (hint: you don’t need to have a Sumatran on your books).
3. Manual brewing. To order, single cup brewing is a good thing in a retail setting. I fully accept that. The way it is commonly done is not (if you value a consistently near-optimal brew).
4. Filtration. Paper filters are still the best, despite still requiring a bucket of rinse water and still only delivering an acceptable but sub-optimal cup. My kingdom for a cloth filter that didn’t get stinky! (related: props to Coava for their efforts on this front – certainly in the direction of where we need to be in the future).
5. Grinders. Shit on a stick for a multitude of reasons, too many to enumerate. They will probably not have improved in a year’s time. The best innovation I saw in grinders this year was Mahlkonig’s RFID tag credit system, but purely for commercial reasons.
6. SCAE. It’s going to be a long haul if it is to turn around. It offers next to nothing to members. If it didn’t have rights of access to the WBC it would die. I will wait to see if the new education curriculum redresses some of the shortcomings. Here’s hoping for a new SCAE in 2012.
7. Quality vs Quantity of extraction. Both are important, it’s not one or the other. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water. Get a mojo, read Scott Rao’s book, use your own brain etc.
Is 7 enough?
Happy New Year.