Coffee Data Science

Overcoming Fear to Write a Coffee Book

A data driven approach to improving espresso

Robert McKeon Aloe
6 min readNov 27, 2021

When I started university, nearly 20 years ago, I started writing regularly. I wrote about my life and philosophy, and writing morphed into a cathartic process to help process the world mentally, emotionally, philosophically, and spiritually. I ended up composing five philosophy books during my junior year, but I didn’t publish any of them. I didn’t publish a piece or even an excerpt online or anywhere else. I rarely shared them with anyone.

It’s time to publish a book.

I poured myself into those books, and I was so afraid that anyone’s critique or that rejection of the material was a direct rejection of me. So full fear, I didn’t want to share my stories in any form, but the advantage was that I was able to write for me and me alone. It proved to be one of the biggest tools to process emotions and grief, and my character was tremendously impacted by writing.

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Four years ago, I posted on LinkedIn about a patent I was awarded for work I had done on the Apple Watch. The response was larger than I had anticipated. Timidly, I decided to start writing on LinkIn about some work related stories that I verbally had told people. I fell in love with the process, and my pace of writing picked up.

A few months later, I decided to use Medium because it wasn’t connected with purely work stories. Additionally, LinkedIn articles seemed to die after the first week or so. I opened two Medium accounts: a public one and an anonymous one.

I didn’t want to be rejected; I preferred anonymity.

I could feel free to be myself on the anonymous one, but I couldn’t write about anything that could be connected back to me. At first that was fine, and I wrote a few things that I thought were interesting or comical without a fear of rejection because how could you reject me without knowing who I was?

It didn’t take long before this became an unreasonable restriction, and I had to go forth with the possibility of rejection. I had to write in the clear. I didn’t want to hide from anyone.

Espresso Writing

At first, I didn’t write about espresso or coffee. I didn’t think I had much to say, but I found some data or computer vision bits of espresso machines that hadn’t been explored.

This trickle turned into a flood after I discovered the staccato espresso shot. The layered shot method, as well as the backlash, made me think maybe the espresso community could use more data. Over the course of a year, I was publishing one coffee article a week, and I developed the conviction that I would challenge everything in espresso that I found interesting.

I compiled all the data publicly available on espresso and coffee, and I went to work. Soon enough, I was publishing two articles a week on espresso, and my process for experimentation streamlined.

A Book Idea

So after writing and studying espresso with data and experimentation for three years, I decided to extract the best parts on how to make the best espresso.

I don’t know if I make the best espresso, but I have a feeling I do. That feeling comes from data. When I started collecting data in espresso, I already had a good ritual, and I thought my espresso was pretty good. I could imagine it a little better here or there but couldn’t imagine what would knock my socks off. Upon discovering staccato espresso, I found I was in unknown territory.

I was on the frontier of espresso, completely unexplored. I started to wonder what a 10 on my taste scale would be. With the first version of staccato, I was at a 7. I soon enough found out what a 10 was and beyond.

So now I took over 1,200 pages written about espresso and coffee through the lens of data science, and I extracted the best techniques to improve each variable in the process. I wrote this book as a tiered approach for each variable so that you could improve your espresso incrementally.

The ideas for improvement are backed by data. Most of the data was generated by me through different experiments and paired tests. Some data has been published by others.

The field of espresso has not quite entered the world of data in the same way that other fields have, and my experience is that data has helped pushed my espresso shots beyond the boundary of previous methods.

The Cost of a Book

Books are expensive, and not everyone likes hardbacks these days. The cost of a graphic designer, an editor, and a printer means that self-funding a book could be a terrible decision if you misread the market demand. I could design my own book and try to be my own editor, but I know that’s not the best reader experience. I’m not a professional at those things, and I want to provide the best user experience possible.

Instead, I could use a Kickstarter where anyone interested could essentially pre-order the book. This could tell me if the demand is close to breaking even or not, which informs my desire to go the extra effort. If I write a hardback book, I want it to be a quality book, and I will do that if it is worth it to the people who would potentially buy it.

If it isn’t worth the effort to create a physical copy, then I could make an online version instead by myself.

My primary goal is not money or fame; my primary objective is to help people improve their espresso so they can have the best espresso of their lives. If that leads to enough interest for a physical book, then I’ll make that book happen. Otherwise, I don’t run the risk of a bad financial gamble.

The sincerity of my goal can be seen in my articles themselves. I don’t put my espresso articles behind a paywall (this article is about how my coffee articles aren’t behind a paywall, which ironically enough is behind a paywall). I’m not interested in writing or coffee to try to make it my primary source of income. I get paid well in my profession, and I enjoy how I can impact the world in that way. I genuinely want to help others.

For the people interested in supporting this book, much of the material has been published in some form or another in my many articles on espresso over the years. So it is not a question of material but rather, whether or not I should have professionals help turn that material into something more beautiful to read and experience at as you turn the page.

Additionally, if you aren’t a fan of paying for this work, you can find it on Medium for free.



Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.