Current goings-on

Huh, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog entry. So let’s do some catch-up to the present, I guess.

Job stuff

At work we’re finally starting on the project I was hired to do, a bit over a year ago now. It feels good to finally make progress on a thing I want to work on.

Moz continues to be an amazing company even when the work isn’t exactly what I want to be doing; the people and the company culture are the best I’ve ever experienced.

Incidentally, we’re hiring, and my team has a couple of open positions. If you’re interested in C++ and/or data science, let me know and I’ll send you a referral link.


The cats are getting along a lot better now. Fiona still complains when Tyler comes up to her but she doesn’t actively attack him or anything; at worst they’ll sniff at each other and then Fiona does a noncommittal swipe at his face, without her claws out, and not menacing enough to cause Tyler to even run away. They also occasionally groom each other, at least when one’s on my lap and the other’s next to me.

Sometimes they chase each other around the house and I’m not sure if they’re playing or fighting, but there’s never any screaming so I’m guessing they’re playing.

Basically, Fiona’s warming up to Tyler, and Tyler’s becoming less afraid of her, and I think it’s gonna be okay.

Health and chronic pain

I’ve been doing physical therapy again. I am not fond of my current physical therapist, and as usual I’m not finding the exercises or stretches to be useful.

My current doctor, on the other hand, is awesome. I still haven’t met him in person but I’ve had a couple of over-the-phone appointments and he actually listens to me and seems to give a crap about helping me feel better, and also has been incredibly respectful of my gender identity and also emphasizes how important it is that it be respected. And unlike my previous doctor, he understands that my anxiety is a result of my chronic issues, not the cause of them, and hasn’t tried signing me up for endless mindfulness classes or whatever.


I ended up upgrading to a Baratza Sette 270 which is much more consistent than the Encore was, and I’m starting to finally get something approaching okay shots of espresso on my Gaggia Classic Pro, after a lot of annoying missteps on getting things dialed in.

I also grow increasingly annoyed with coffee nerds in general. Folks seem to demand perfection in everything. It’s just coffee, people.

I’ve noticed this tendency in certain communities to be on an endless quest to make everything The Absolute Best It Can Be even when things don’t matter at all. Not just coffee, but like, audiophiles, photography, cooking, and so on. It’s like there’s this disease where people start out just trying to enjoy something but then they find out things could be a little better and then they start chasing every possible lead to seek absolute perfection.

Meanwhile I’m just trying to get stuff to be Good Enough but all of the information out there is based on Absolute Perfection and it’s all so overwhelming and confusing. And it doesn’t help that on some things (such as espresso) the gulf between absolute garbage and pretty okay is really wide.

I hate how much money I’ve actually sunk into this espresso setup and I would have probably been better off getting a full-automatic machine like the Gaggia Brera, but I wanted a bit more control and the ability to experiment with things. But at this point I’ve spent around $2000 getting my setup where it is and a lot of the stuff I’ve bought feels unnecessary, and when I ask questions about trying to get things to a point of being merely adequate, coffee nerds tell me that even the fiddly little bits that shouldn’t matter aren’t good enough.

At the moment, here’s the bits of my setup which I think are worthwhile and how much it would cost to build the same one from scratch:

Item Price
Brewer $500
9-bar OPV mod $18
Grinder $400
Portafilter $40
Tamping station $36
Dosing funnel $18
WDT $14
Basket $25
Tamper $70
Spritzer $7
Knock box $12
Total $1140

This feels like a lot for an espresso setup, but it’s also way less than what most folks on /r/espresso paid for theirs.

Explanations of the above:

  • Brewer: The Gaggia Classic Pro is $450 for brushed stainless, or $500 in “designer” colors. I hate brushed stainless, so I paid the extra $50.

  • OPV mod: Coffee nerds convinced me to modify my Gaggia to have a 9-bar overpressure valve (OPV) instead of the factory 15-bar. So far it hasn’t made a single speck of difference. The mod itself is just a spring which should cost like 50 cents at any given hardware store, but nobody’s sharing specs on the size or weight. So, paying too much it is. Maybe don’t do this.

  • Grinder: The aforementioned Baratza Sette 270. There are probably cheaper grinders that work just as well for espresso; there are definitely much more expensive grinders out there.

  • Portafilter: A bottomless portafilter is a great tool to have because it helps you diagnose problems with espresso shots (especially channeling and problems with your tamp).

    I went with the LIFEART bottomless portafilter for Gaggia from AliExpress because it’s a good price and had a style I liked. If you’d rather not deal with Aliexpress, the closest equivalent I could find on Amazon was this bottomless portafilter for Gaggia for $60.

    The AliExpress one also came with a basket of dubious quality which I haven’t tried and probably never will.

  • Tamping station: This is a bit of a luxury but I went with the Café Gaga two-hole tamping station, again off AliExpress. You can get literally the same one for a few bucks more off Amazon.

  • Dosing funnel: I went with the MATOW 58mm dosing funnel mostly because I like the way it looks and it’s stainless steel. There’s many cheaper options.

  • WDT tool: I first tried making my own out of a piece of cork and some wires that I scavenged from some twist-ties. It was annoying to use. So I upgraded to this one which looks nice and has a little stand, and which coffee nerds insist is garbage. It seems fine. It also might not even be necessary. Anyway this video demonstrates a pretty good WDT and leveling technique.

  • Basket: I bought a 4-basket set from Decent but I only use the 20g basket. Honestly this purchase was probably entirely optional anyway. But it’s a nice basket.

  • Tamper: Since I was paying for shipping from Decent anyway, I went with the Decent calibrated tamper. Specifically I got the V1 with grooved base as a refurb for $70, and even with the discount it still feels overpriced for what’s essentially a weight and a spring. There are plenty of calibrated 58mm tampers on Amazon for under $40, but the Decent one is at least guaranteed to fit with the Decent basket. I really don’t think this matters as much as the coffee snobs will have you think.

  • Spritzer: Giving your beans a little spritz with water before grinding them cuts down on static electricity, which makes dosing them and cleaning up after them a lot easier. Just get a 3-pack of tiny spray bottles. They’re useful for lots of things. You can probably get them even cheaper at your local dollar store.

  • Knock box: I bought one on Amazon before discovering that it was available for much cheaper from literally dozens of AliExpress suppliers. For that matter, the one that I bought on Amazon was drop-shipped from AliExpress, anyway.

    This is probably the least essential part of my setup. Mostly it makes cleanup a bit easier and a lot more satisfying.

There’s definitely some places where the cost can go down somewhat. But the vast majority of the cost is the brewer and the grinder, and those are the two parts that matter the most. (Ostensibly the grinder more than the brewer!)

But on the plus side, with this setup I can have espresso whenever I want, and my overall cost per shot is around $1. So assuming a standard coffee shop price of $3-4/shot (at least here in Seattle) this setup pays for itself in, like, a year. And I definitely enjoy this a lot more than going to a coffee shop, anyway. So, to me it was worth it.


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