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Imported Italian Espresso?

Postby duke-one on Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:03 pm

Hello: What is known about the imported beans from Italy? 1st Line sells several and I want to try some but thought I'd ask here first. I have been using Black Cat for quite a while and think it is fine but want to experiment.
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Postby portamento on Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:43 pm

There are so many fantastic options domestically, that I haven't really tried the imported blends, other than Illy.

I and most people here have a bias towards fresh-roasted coffee (which the imported blends are not once they get to you).

There is a roaster in your part of California that makes elegant Northern Italian-style espresso blends -- check out Ecco Caffe.

Another blend I enjoy in the Northern Italian style is Caffe Fresco's Daterra Reserve.
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Postby weasel on Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:51 am

You can find Illy at Sur La Table on 4th st. I wouldn't be surprised to find Illy at the Marketplace on College Ave. or maybe even the Berkeley Bowl.

Try the medium roast whole beans (red cap). If you are wondering about the non-Illy blends, sorry I haven't tried them. I second the nod for trying Ecco as well.
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Postby timo888 on Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:27 am

duke-one wrote:Hello: What is known about the imported beans from Italy? 1st Line sells several and I want to try some but thought I'd ask here first. I have been using Black Cat for quite a while and think it is fine but want to experiment.
KDM


Coffee beans sitting in a can for months are like canned mushrooms: a poor substitute for the fresh item. You buy the canned item when the fresh item is unavailable.

So I would recommend that you experiment by ordering mailorder from artisan roasters around the country (quite a few are sponsors here); they typically roast the coffee the day it ships or perhaps the day before. You may even have a local artisan roaster. Berkeley isn't a backwater. :wink:

The roast depth of espresso is very often indicated in terms of Italy's regions, the lightest roasts coming from the north, the darkest from the south. Why not order a northern roast, a southern roast, and a central-roast and see what you like best?
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Postby michaelbenis on Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:05 pm

There's no doubt that fresh is best. I certainly get all my SO beans from UK gourmet roasters.

HOWEVER.... :shock:

I have no experience of the many renowned US gourmet/artisan roasters, but there are very very few English gourmet roasters (I'm being polite here) who can put a blend together in the same way as the best Italians. Unfortunately very few of the Italians are geared to exporting or internet sales.

A couple of peculiar exceptions worth trying are Marosticana (http://www.marosticanacaffe.com), who sell through coffeeitalia.co.uk and italiankitchenaids.com. I have a soft spot for their wood-roasted four bean arabica (blue packet). Their stuff won't be as fresh as a US artisan roaster but keeps shockingly well in its sealed (no valve) foil packs. It is a very smooth and forgiving classic bittersweet northern Italian blend.

Also worth trying are one of Olympia's coffee partners (or whatever they call them) La Semeuse in Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland - a roasting institution in Switzerland that dates back to the turn of the last century. Their "Il Piacere" blend is a good recreation of a Northern Italian blend with similar characteristics to the Marosticana blue and is available from their online shop here.

Cheers

Mike
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Postby zin1953 on Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:36 pm

duke-one wrote:Hello: What is known about the imported beans from Italy? 1st Line sells several and I want to try some but thought I'd ask here first.

Why?

Seriously, why?

OK, you can buy Illy, Lavazza and a number of other Italian coffees at Andronico's (Shattuck, Solano, Telegraph), as well as Sur La Table on 4th St., Market Hall, and probably a dozen other places in Berkeley. (Yeah, I know -- Market Hall is in Oakland, but still.) They are old, stale, and generally not very interesting.

Take a look at "Battle North America vs. Italy - The Results", as one example, and the companion discussion, "Peet's, Baskets & Italian vs. N. American Blends by Mark Prince". There's lots more discussions both here on HB and over at Coffee Geek -- the search engine will help you find them.

Keep in mind that so-called "Italian Roast" isn't really anything like what Italy roasts, as a nation, any more than things in the US are only done a single way. Southern Italy -- notably from roasters based in Sicily and Naples -- traditionally roasts their coffees darker than is traditional in, say, Rome, Tuscany, or in the Italian Alps (and the Swiss canton of Ticino).

You may want to take a look at the List of our favorite Roasters -- all of these are recommended, quality roasters that roast-to-order and ship immediately. In particular, my three favorite "go to" roasters (from that list) are:
  • Espresso Vivace Roasteria, Seattle, WA -- they only offer three coffees, all blends; I regularly use their Dolce and Decaf, and they arrive 2-3 days after roasting.
  • Caffè Fresco, Port Griffith, PA -- they offer a wide variety of blends and single origin beans; my favorites (so far) are the Ambrosia and the Luna Nova decaf, and they, too, arrive 2-3 days after roasting.
  • Metropolis Coffee, Chicago, IL -- they offer a wide variety of blends and single origin beans; I really like their Redline Espresso and Redline Decaf, but these take 4-5 days to arrive.

Within California, certainly Ritual Coffee Roasters and Four Barrel Coffee -- both in San Francisco -- are excellent (you can get Ritual coffees at Remedy, a café on Telegraph & 42nd in Oakland). You can get Bluebottle Coffee at the Saturday Berkeley Farmer's Market and the Sunday Temescal Farmer's Market at the DMV on Claremont in Oakland. And you should not overlook Ecco Caffè in Sonoma County -- they ship UPS to the Bay Area and the beans usually arrive 3-4 days after the order.

Let me say that I like Black Cat, but I prefer to get it at Intelligentsia. I personally prefer the coffees I get from the above roasters.

Cheers,
Jason
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Postby uscfroadie on Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:38 pm

portamento wrote:There are so many fantastic options domestically, that I haven't really tried the imported blends, other than Illy.

I and most people here have a bias towards fresh-roasted coffee (which the imported blends are not once they get to you).

There is a roaster in your part of California that makes supremely elegant, Northern Italian-style espresso blends -- check out Ecco Caffe.

Another blend I enjoy in the Northern Italian style is Caffe Fresco's Daterra Reserve.


In addition to Illy, I've tried a few Lavazza blends as well as a few from Segafredo, all while I was in Germany. While much fresher there, all paled in comparison to the fresh beans I mail ordered from Intelligentsia, PT's Coffee, and Caffe Fresco.

Never had any Ecco's but have had Caffe Fresco's Daterra Reserve - very smooth chocolate bomb. If you like Illy's medium roast, I think you will love the Daterra Reserve or PT's La Bella Vita, which is very similar. Closer to you is Barefoot Coffee, who has a blend you must try - The Boss; heavy slightly darker chocolate that is great as a shot and absolutely remarkable in a macchiato or cappuccino.

Best of luck with your search.
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Postby michaelbenis on Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:04 pm

FWIW: I honestly don't think there's any point in comparing Italy's big industrial roasters with the small specialist shops in the US.

Are there no Italian family roasters in the US roasting fresh Italian-style blends that have been refined over the generations? Surely, if you can get cannoli Siciliani in NYC..... :D

Cheers

Michael
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Postby malachi on Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:12 pm

michaelbenis wrote:I have no experience of the many renowned US gourmet/artisan roasters, but there are very very few English gourmet roasters (I'm being polite here) who can put a blend together in the same way as the best Italians.


So you haven't been impressed by the Square Mile blends?
I'm a bit surprised.
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Postby duke-one on Sun Jan 10, 2010 1:34 pm

Thanks all for so many ideas. I'll pick one or two and do what I need to to dial it in, one of the reasons I like to stick with what has worked well. To those of you who switch back and forth between favorites how do you keep up with shot weights/grinds/packing? Do you compleatly clean out the grinder between them?
KDM
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