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Espresso - can it be that hard?
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fancy_pilot
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Oct 2007
Posts: 81
Location: Iowa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Saeco Classico
Grinder: Gaggia MDF
Posted Wed Oct 17, 2007, 5:25pm
Subject: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

I need some advice on how to suggest improvements in the espresso and cappucino of my usual coffee house.   I am no expert, as I have never made an espresso or cappucino for myself (aside from using my parents el-cheapo pressure unit a few years back), but have been reading these forums and have been drinking espresso and cappucinos from 4-5 different places regularly for the past couple of months.  The problem is that one place is MUCH more convient for me to go to, but has some of the lowest quality.  

The part that doesn't make sense to me is that the best cappucinos and espressos come from the place where there ALWAYS seems to be a new high school or college kid working, but it doesn't seem to matter.  I can order and it always seems to come out the same - espresso flavor good, a decent crema (on straights), and smooth creamy microfoam on the cappucino.  How can they keep getting it right, when the my regular place with a 50+ year old owner/barista has inconsistent shots and gigantic foam.

Is there no hope?  Is this actaully an equipment issue?  Is this more due to the low expectations of an owner/barista who doesn't know any better, and so isn't?  I really wouldn't mid telling a know-nothing high school kid to make some improvements, but telling a 50 year old who has been doing this way (potentially wrong, and definitely not what I like) for 2+ years.  I don't know what she is doing differently, none-the-less know how to fix the problem.

The sad part is, without coffee geek, I probably wouldn't know any better myself.
Andy
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CoffeeRoastersClub
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CoffeeRoastersClub
Joined: 6 Jul 2005
Posts: 4,473
Location: Connecticut
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vintage La Pavoni Lever...
Grinder: Breville Smartgrind,...
Vac Pot: Vintage Silex, Nicro...
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Posted Wed Oct 17, 2007, 5:39pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

fancy_pilot Said:

I need some advice on how to suggest improvements in the espresso and cappucino of my usual coffee house.   I am no expert, as I have never made an espresso or cappucino for myself (aside from using my parents el-cheapo pressure unit a few years back), but have been reading these forums and have been drinking espresso and cappucinos from 4-5 different places regularly for the past couple of months.  The problem is that one place is MUCH more convient for me to go to, but has some of the lowest quality.  
...snip...
The sad part is, without coffee geek, I probably wouldn't know any better myself.
Andy

Posted October 17, 2007 link

Start small, perfect your techique with the equipment you currently have, and when you feel you cannot do any better with it, think about  moving up to a better machine; repeat process.  Before you know it you will be better than the "pros".

Len
CoffeeRoastersClub.com

 
"Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

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Woody
Senior Member
Woody
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 603
Location: Hood River, OR
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Vivaldi I
Grinder: Mazzer Major
Vac Pot: Hoover
Drip: yuck
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 8:18am
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

Andy-  I think Len misunderstood your question.  I gather you are trying to make suggestions to the coffeehouse you frequent.  My guess is they may not be aware of the quality difference, and unless you are acquainted with the owner or operator, they may not be too receptive to suggestions.  You may be fighting an uphill battle.  Good luck, I hope you can make some improvements, but too often I see shops whose main item isn't coffee buy the equipment just to get in on what they consider the latest bandwagon.

Jon
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the_coffee_nazi
Senior Member
the_coffee_nazi
Joined: 18 Jul 2007
Posts: 67
Location: Visalia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Vivaldi II
Grinder: Macap M4, Barazta Virtuoso
Drip: Chemex
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 11:45am
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

The thing that gets to me the most is the coffee houses that have really good equipment and crappy espresso.  I see this alot. Before I started reading here and at HB, I wouldn't have known the difference, but now I look more closely, and 90% of the places I go there is something askew - whether it's bad tamping, bad beans, re-steamed milk, unwashed steam pithcer, improper frothing, etc.

 
No Coffee for you!
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Caffreenated
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Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 45
Location: New York
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Solis SL-90
Grinder: Macap M4 Stepped
Roaster: Freshroast Plus 8
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 12:19pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

I don't know what your budget is, and if you are interested in acquiring your own espresso equipment, but your answer may have been provided by LEN afterall - even though he may have mistunderstood your initial question...

Let's put it into perspective.  Would you be asking the same question about restaurants?

I really like the food at Joe's Eats, but Chez Maurice is much closer.  What do I say to Maurice to get him to have better food like over at Joe's?

LIke the other poster said - probably an uphill battle - unless you are already a confident of the 50-yr old, which clearly you are not.

If you really want awesome espresso closer to home, make it at home!!!  (sometimes people just need a little push into considering it - trust me - it's the best way to get the best espresso!  Now that I roast my own coffee and have my own espresso equipment, I like my home drinks better than 90% of the stuff I can buy elsewhere!)

In the meantime, patronize your favorite place as much as you can, and hope they don't go out of business.  Then you will really miss them!

Good Luck.
-Caffreenated
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Caffreenated
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 45
Location: New York
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Solis SL-90
Grinder: Macap M4 Stepped
Roaster: Freshroast Plus 8
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 12:28pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

By the way - regarding budget.

Let's say you spend an average of 3 dollars per espresso drink, 5 times a week (probably a conservative estimate, no?).

That comes out to 15 dollars a week.

That's 60 dollars a month.

In the five months you have been doing this, that's 300 dollars.

Already, you could have saved the price of an AWESOME entry level espresso machine or grinder (entry level by Coffeegeek standards).

Food for thought...

-Caffreenated
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Caffreenated
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 45
Location: New York
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Solis SL-90
Grinder: Macap M4 Stepped
Roaster: Freshroast Plus 8
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 12:30pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

Okay - sorry you have been going to 5 DIFFERENT PLACES - not doing this for 5 months...

Even so...


-Caffreenated
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JCunningham
Senior Member
JCunningham
Joined: 7 Dec 2004
Posts: 175
Location: Chicago
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: black cat
Grinder: robur or whatever works
Vac Pot: cory
Drip: yesplease
Roaster: GotHot(s)
Posted Thu Oct 18, 2007, 1:16pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

If you really want to offer the shop some advice, do so tactfully and politely.  I would spend some time getting to know the barista/owner before mentioning that you know a bit about espresso prep and have a few tips that might improve their technique. That is - if you have a tips that could improve their technique. They may or may not want to hear this from you.  You could also ask them point blank, "Does your roaster provide barista training?" which might lead to the conversation you want to have.

My professional opinion is that as a consumer/customer you should not try and manage another person's shop - frequent the shops that you feel do a great job; they deserve your business. (Or get a home machine and begin your own sometimes frustrating, sometimes illuminating espresso odyssey!)
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Breeze
Senior Member
Breeze
Joined: 3 Dec 2006
Posts: 753
Location: St. Croix, V.I.
Expertise: Pro Roaster

Espresso: Pasquini Livia S
Grinder: Mazzer Mini/Rocky
Drip: TechniVorm/Krups MB
Roaster: Toper 1 kilo
Posted Fri Oct 19, 2007, 2:01pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

You could try dropping an "anynomous" message on the shop with the url of coffee geek and a polite suggestion that they do a bit of "research".   If they have good equipment, especially the grinder and an espresso machine that provides the proper temp and pressure, it's probably the beans that are at fault, or an improper grind/tamp or a combination of all three.  

I think this would be a positive contribution, not a sneak attack and who knows...it might hit home for the owner and result in an improved business.

If it falls on deaf ears, vote with your feet.
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CoffeeRoastersClub
Senior Member
CoffeeRoastersClub
Joined: 6 Jul 2005
Posts: 4,473
Location: Connecticut
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vintage La Pavoni Lever...
Grinder: Breville Smartgrind,...
Vac Pot: Vintage Silex, Nicro...
Drip: Technivorm Moccamaster...
Roaster: javaPRO-CRC AIR Fluid Bed...
Posted Fri Oct 19, 2007, 2:03pm
Subject: Re: Espresso - can it be that hard?
 

Woody Said:

Andy-  I think Len misunderstood your question.  I gather you are trying to make suggestions to the coffeehouse you frequent.  My guess is they may not be aware of the quality difference, and unless you are acquainted with the owner or operator, they may not be too receptive to suggestions.  You may be fighting an uphill battle.  Good luck, I hope you can make some improvements, but too often I see shops whose main item isn't coffee buy the equipment just to get in on what they consider the latest bandwagon.

Jon

Posted October 18, 2007 link

I think I was not logged in and tried to post to a different thread.  After I logged in I quoted this thread mistakenly and provided the answer I had intended for the initial thread I wanted to put an answer to.

WHOOPS!

Len
CoffeeRoastersClub.com

 
"Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." ~The Women's Petition Against Coffee, 1674

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