top of page

Middleford Coffee: Balance

Updated: Jan 18, 2019

You dose out your espresso and try to disperse it evenly in the portafilter, forming a level shot of ground coffee before tamping and putting it into the group-head. You made sure to weigh your coffee input and remember the number as you start the shot and watch the timer. Watching the espresso trickle out from the open-basket portafilter you observe how the stream comes out, where in the espresso puck it flows more and what the colors are that you see. The seconds role by and a few streams come together into one beautiful arch of golden goodness. You watch your demitasse espresso cup filling up and observe the mass reading on the scale it sits upon. You're doing your best to extract an espresso that has delicious solubles, even extraction and follows the scientific basis for properly made espresso. The espresso stops and immediately you check the shot timer to see if it reads within the range you're shooting for and you look to the scale, to begin your calculations for assessing the ratio of your yield of extraction to your input of coffee. Finally, you taste, always taste - even the bad ones, 'cause you want to know the difference between proper and improper. You feel the espresso in your mouth and activate your salivary glands to help your brain register what is happening in this extremely complex liquid. The espresso rolls through your mouth and you begin a process of analyzation and enjoyment; asking yourself: Is there any zing or sharpness on the front of your tongue, any stand out flavors you can identify as it moves through your mouth, and if there's a dry, spicy, carbonic feeling in the back of your throat, signifying burnt or over extracted espresso?

As you remove the cup from your lips, setting it down on the counter, you begin to engage in a process that includes a dose of science, a heap of creativity, a healthy base of knowledge and experience - pulling from what you have tried before, you work to identify how to make a well balanced espresso.

Balance, is the key to the game in coffee, but it also translates to life. From the barista, to the manager, to the guest drinking coffee, to friends and family, living in balance is important for us all. Properly extracted espresso is a perfect metaphor for what we do in life. We gather all the different tools, experiences, lessons we've learned and put together a way of living that helps us enjoy life - just like we want to enjoy the taste of our espresso. We wake up each day and choose what our morning will be, how much of it will satisfy what we need and how much of it will it be helping someone else - this is the moment as a barista, where you take care to dose out your espresso evenly, weighing it and distributing it as smoothly as you can before tamping it level and with the right amount of pressure. We know when are mornings are off, we say things like "I woke up on the wrong side of the bed." What we our explaining is how we're not balanced - our espresso shot is bursting out on one side of our portafilter, while trickling out on the other and the taste of it is bright and savory making us pucker our lips and cringe. No one wants to live this way all the time and no one wants to drink this kind of espresso (even if it is different and kind of intriguing - "Am I actually enjoying this, it's kind of l