The Great Distribution Tool Debate

August 04, 2017

Two months ago I was embroiled in a twitter battle for the following three tweets:

Note I didn't say they don't work. I just wanted (and still want) empirical evidence that they do. Please also note I'm not attacking any singular product; I was asking for evidence for *any* of the available distribution tools. The goal here is truth, not winning a debate.

Most of the ensuing... conversation... was a load of logical fallacies and unfalsifiable nonsense from distribution tool apologists. Logical fallacies are common when one doesn't have a solid argument or they're bad at debate. This isn't a big problem, but it is frustrating. The truly disturbing aspect was the unfalsifiability of almost all pro-distribution tool arguments.

If subjective (taste) analysis is too inaccurate and measuring extraction is meaningless, then we're left with a tool that's supposed to do something but there's no way to figure out if it does it. The only other claim made is that they reduce channeling, and I'm yet to see data on that too.

Making unfalsifiable claims is a way to leave the realm of rational discourse, departing from science without even a tip of the hat. Here's a definition of unfalsifiability:

Confidently asserting that a theory or hypothesis is true or false even though the theory or hypothesis cannot possibly be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of any physical experiment, usually without strong evidence or good reasons.

Essentially: "it works and there's no way you can prove otherwise, so just believe me".

Coffee is hard. It's really complex. I get it. But that doesn't mean we need to revert to mythological reasoning or burying our head in the sand. These tools (and many others) need to be tested. Properly. And here's how I'm proposing we should do it.

Barista Hustle has never hosted ads because I wanted to remain free to pursue any line of dialogue and experimentation for the benefit of our audience. For example, if we took payment for ads from a manufacturer of distribution tools, this article wouldn't exist, and truth would be farther from reach. Instead I decided to create products that are relevant to the Barista Hustle audience and community. This way our "ads" are perfectly relevant to the audience (you!) and we're still free to deliver value in any other ways we see fit. The most optimal form of value I can see right now is good old fashioned science.

Science is hard. It's expensive. It's time consuming. We would love to spend all our time at BH just doing science and publishing the results but we don't make enough money to throw it around like that.

I know there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there that would love to know if espresso distribution tools are actually effective. Many of them have probably already spent hundreds on a tool to figure it out for themselves. If each of those people chipped in a small sum of money to the cause, we'd be able to devote time to:

- deciding what an espresso distribution tool should do
- designing experiments to test the tools based on these goals
- publishing results
- designing and testing new solutions (if necessary), potentially manufacturing them, and also giving the design back to the industry under a Creative Commons licence so anyone can make or sell it.

I propose that anyone funding the experiment gets the following:

- a big pat on the back from Science
- access to a subsection of the BH forum to collaborate on goals and experiment design (read-only for non-contributors, though experienced science-humans are very welcome!)
- a massive discount on any eventual product that is created

A lot of this is built on trust. I hope we've done an OK job over these 2 and a half years of holding true to promises, and delivering value to y'all. There's certainly a kernel of rich opportunity in this little project, and I hope that it's successful enough to spur future science in other areas!

So how about it? Any level of support is greatly appreciated, and will help us all move forward!

To contribute, head here and choose your level of support.

Please also consider sharing this post with your colleagues! The more the merrier.

We promise to spend every cent from you on the project and to deliver results that are as scientifically valid as possible with the resources available. We will not directly profit from the donations, but we may indirectly profit from the website traffic generated, and eventual products sold. We'll do our best to make revenue and spending as transparent as possible throughout.

I'm also shouting out to any manufacturers or retailers of the various tools out there to submit a unit for testing (email for details). Any costs we don't incur purchasing tools will be used for man-hours, and any major tools that aren't provided to us will be purchased, tested, and published regardless. So it’s definitely in their best interest to sling one our way. Any help making these manufacturers/retailers aware of this is greatly appreciated!

To contribute, head here and choose your level of support.

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