Taking A Closer Look At Ascension's $20,000 Coffee Machine
If I'm writing this blog post too quickly it's because I just got back from Ascension Coffee and I'm a very thorough journalist and I really wanted to capture a short video that demonstrates some of the characteristics of espresso and crema and it took me multiple attempts to get a good take with my dinky iPhone because as we all know I'm the world's worst food photographer.
When Patrick offered to grab me a coffee from the hyped Design District coffee shop, I told him I wanted to go myself to evaluate the espresso from the much lauded Synesso Hydra Hybrid espresso machine as quickly as possible after it had been extracted. It's not that I'm a coffee asshole who only drinks java within strict time and proximity specifications, it's just that Italian espresso is a polyphasic beverage, prepared from roast and ground coffee and water alone constituted by a foam layer of small bubbles with a particular tiger-tail pattern on top of an emulsion of microscopic oil droplets in an aqueous solution of sugars acids protein-like material and caffeine, with dispersed gas bubbles and solids, which is to say if you trust the definition from Andrea Illy's Espresso Coffee: The Chemistry of Coffee,: it's very, very fragile.
That foam layer doesn't travel well, and evaluating the cap is an important part of grading any espresso, so I wanted to try it myself. Multiple times.
So how is the coffee? Yeah, it's pretty good. I tried the single origin Ethiopian version and it managed to hold up an entire packet of sugar for a respectable amount of time. In addition it tasted clean and fresh, was not at all bitter and has a wonderfully viscous mouth-feel I'm still craving but think I should probably avoid till at least tomorrow.
Of course all of this science is why many coffee shops shell out thousands of dollars for machines that give them the ability to adjust water temperature, pressure, coffee saturation, and other variables. The Synesso model you keep hearing about uses an automated four-stage pressure-ramping process to extract perfect shots every time. A monkey with a tamper could make perfect coffee with this thing -- provided the primate isn't over-caffeinated.