Making Coffee and Web Apps

I drink a lot of coffee. I write a lot of JavaScript.  This is about my journey from drip to my perfect cup.

I probably started drinking coffee sometime in high school and have been addicted to caffeine ever since.  Until recently I have always made coffee using a drip coffee maker and enjoyed the occasional coffee shop brew from time to time.  This usually entailed pre-ground commodity coffee from the grocery store.  Then three years ago I started working at Stuzo and they had one of those fancy K-cup makers.  This coffee tasted even worse than drip but it was fresh and quick.  One of my coworkers (Josh) brought in an AeroPress and would brew me the occasional cup.  This was amazing coffee.  He was also nice enough to let me use it when I wanted and I bought a bag of pre-ground coffee from a local coffee shop.  I remember my jaw dropping at the price of the coffee.  Why did this coffee cost three times as much as the store bought?  My other recollection was that it took me a very long time to go through the coffee because as time went on I found myself returning to the K-cups because of time constraints.  Every time I did use the AeroPress I would get upset with myself that I did not take the time on every cup because the end product was so vastly superior.  Two years ago a friend (Ben) gave me an amazing Christmas gift.  He came over to my house with a Chemex and a box of filters.  I proceeded to pull out my pre-ground coffee from the freezer and make coffee.  The Chemex yields much more than one cup which was a amazing in comparison to the AeroPress.  The coffee tasted amazing! I was hooked.  I took the Chemex to work and made a batch every afternoon sharing with my coworkers who thought I was a full on urban hipster. I used the Chemex fairly regularly for a couple months but then found that my usage fell and was opting for the office coffee which was quite possibly the most disgusting caffeine conveyance method I have ever used. That is saying a lot since I have made coffee using a clean but used sock in China. This last year things changed as my wife and I were expecting our first child.  We both knew that soon time would be at a minimum and caffeine would be a necessity. We purchased a French Press, a Coffee Grinder (Both Bodum), and a scale for the home to replace our drip coffee maker.  This was to get the best possible combination to get the best quality product in the least amount of time.  We now purchase our coffee in five pound bags from a local roaster, Greenstreet Coffee Roasters, because of the quality and the great price.  I grind the coffee each morning and make 700 oz of coffee with 60 oz  of grounds and fill a our thermoses.  I head off to work and my wife’s is waiting for her when she is ready.  I still use the Chemex at the office if I need an afternoon coffee.

What does coffee have to do with web apps other than keeping me nice and sharp?  Well, I think there is a decent analogy that can be made.  Both are pretty easy to make but if you want a truly unique and tasty cup it requires some additional steps that can get quite complex.

2016 was the year of JavaScript Fatigue posts and I never really understood the complaint.  You can still make a mighty fine website using plain html, css, and a little JS to make things a little fancier but if you want an app with more complexity the tools and process for doing so will be more complex.  I think the whole idea of fatigue is just silly.  Maybe I come from a privileged position of being paid to learn these things on the job because I came of age during the age of increasing front end app complexity.  The complexity that exists today within JavaScript apps is to me quite simple when compared with developing and deploying backend systems.  The complexity required for a web app is commensurate with the apps we build today.

We should use the right tools for the job.  If you need a cup of coffee stat to get you through the rest of the day a cup of drip coffee using store bought grounds or a kcup will do the job.  If you want something more complex only freshly ground, correctly measured, using a proper press or Chemex will do.  We shouldn’t complain about our tools and complexity, we should work towards making our tools better and providing better documentation for those tools.  When I first got the french press and grinder I watched many YouTube videos on their use.  Likewise, when I joined Automattic in April and started using React I watched all the videos about React/Redux on and read all the documentation before I attempted to write any code.  I then proceed in building out my first React app.  I then went back and watched the videos and read all the docs again to ensure that I had a full understanding.  While I do not proclaim myself to be an expert, I feel that I am proficient.

I am not saying that todays tooling in the JavaScript world is easy but I think it is compensate with the complexity of the output.  Just like the coffee world, there is not one solution to any problem and if you are uncomfortable with the tooling required to create a cup of coffee make yourself a kcup.  If you aren’t satisfied with the result revisit your tools.  Add complexity as necessary.

One last note: Just because there are new tools available doesn’t mean you have to use them.  The Chemex has been around since 1941 and it makes an amazing cup of coffee. WordPress has been around since 2003 and creates amazing websites.  Find tools that work for you, learn them deeply and make something awesome.

Thank you to all the very smart folks that make all the tools I use on a daily basis!

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