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What's the big deal about espresso? - Page 2

Postby Ben Z. on Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:20 am

BarryR wrote:Actually, when I've had espresso, I've liked it (straight). I have a very high tolerance/liking for bitter tastes. I just didn't like it better than regular brewed coffee and given the bother and expense didn't persue it further.
So, I'm guessing, done right, I'm probably a set-up for loving espresso.

I'll try some in some good places and see.
Unfortunately, I live 90 miles West of Boston. Unless Northampton has good espresso, I'm not sure I can find anything nearby.


Northampton coffee is pretty good - they use barington gold (pretty boring), but often have something else available as well. All the other cafes in Northampton have sucked.

I've only visited Esselon on Rt 9 once, but the espresso I had was excellent - one of the best I've ever had away from home.

While Scott Rao wrote a very well received book on espresso, my one visit (about 5 years ago) to his shop in Amherst resulted in me being served a terrible shot. Maybe I should have given them another chance...
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Postby yakster on Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:35 pm

Everything you've posted indicates that you'd like a good espresso, from the penchant for dark, strong flavors, to the use of a french press.

For me, espresso is about texture and taste, the creamy, thick emulsified drink gives it an added dimension. A good espresso has more body and strength than brewed coffee but it's not dirty, muddled, or gritty. It's also somewhat of a magnifying glass for coffee, where you may get hints of blackcurrant or peanut brittle or orange blossom in a good coffee, you'll really taste it in espresso. In fact, sometimes I'll fail to pick up something in my brewed coffee until I try it as espresso, and then once I've had it pulled I'll notice it, but more subtly in the brew.

Unfortunately, bad espresso can be very bad, and going into a random coffee shop and drinking a straight espresso is often very disappointing, probably due to the fact that most of the espresso drinks served are drown in milk which balances out the bitterness of their shot where a nice straight espresso can be pulled so that it tastes balanced without milk or sugar. You have to find a shop that's pulling shots for the ~5% who enjoy and order straight espresso.

Be sure to observe the signpost that warns of the depth of the rabbit hole that you'll go down in pursuit of the espresso godshot in terms of time, money, and increasing inability to be satisfied with readily available coffee. I just roasted three great coffees this weekend (Rwanda COE #29, Brazil Rainha Plup Natural, and Kenya Mutwewathi and was hoping to enjoy some of this coffee and try an espresso shot of last week's Panama Elida Natural roast but discovered that I left all my coffee and my portable espresso machine at home so I'm stuck making do with the single cup of the Kenya I had on the commute into work today until I get home.

BTW, I've heard good things about Peregrine Espresso in DC.

p.s. Yes, I agree with Mario regarding the long, lingering aftertaste of a good espresso.
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Postby mariobarba on Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:57 pm

For me, I love the mouthfeel. The way the espresso coats your tongue like a warm blanket on a cold winter's day.
Then there is the aftertaste. My wife still doesn't get my espresso habit, claiming that it's over so fast I don't have time to enjoy it. However the lingering aftertaste of a good espresso stays with me for a good 30 minutes after I've had the last sip.
There is also the challenge. Some may get frustrated with the elusiveness of the so called godshot, but when you find it, it was worth the time and effort.
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Postby ex trahere on Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:33 pm

Ben Z. wrote:Northampton coffee is pretty good - they use barington gold (pretty boring), but often have something else available as well. All the other cafes in Northampton have sucked.

I've only visited Esselon on Rt 9 once, but the espresso I had was excellent - one of the best I've ever had away from home.

While Scott Rao wrote a very well received book on espresso, my one visit (about 5 years ago) to his shop in Amherst resulted in me being served a terrible shot. Maybe I should have given them another chance...


Haha :lol: That is too funny. I teasingly refer to it as Borington Gold. It definitely helped opened the door to espresso for me, but I never pull it at home, as I generally prefer less comfort-food shots. I have to say, I am always pleasantly surprised by a really tasty shot of Gold. When everything lines up in a perfect way it can produce a shot that is quite palatable.

Northampton Coffee (also found as the original Amherst Coffee or more recently acquired location, Greenfield Coffee) by far the best place to go for espresso in the Valley--top notch equipment, well trained baristas, etc. You just won't find rotational roasters or really bright fruit-forward espresso (Not that this is a bad thing, just a fact).

To really be wowed by a commercially prepared espresso, you have to get out of Western Mass. Whether it is Cambridge/Boston area, D.C. or NYC, you should really just make a day of it and try out 3 or 4 different shops and really engage with the barista at each location, ask questions or just watch his/her technique.

There are threads about DC and New York, but I will mention a couple Boston/Cambridge spots--

Simon's in Cambridge pulls delicious shots of barismo blends and S.O.'s (not sure if they rotate)

You could also stop in at barismo's roastery in Arlington, although it will not be a "cafe" type experience. By this I mean you will not find any chairs or food. What you will find is exceptional hand pour, vac-pot, and espresso.

Thinking Cup is right by the Common, and they use Stumptown, most likely pulling hairbender exclusively.

A place called Pavement in Cambridge uses Counter Culture--have heard good things but have never personally been.

HTH
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Postby JohnB. on Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:50 pm

Has anyone been to George Howell's new cafe in Newtonville? http://www.tastecoffeehouse.com/
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Postby TrlstanC on Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:36 pm

George Howell's cafe in Newton is called 'Taste', and while it doesn't look anything like most top-tier cafe's (it's dominated by sandwiches and pastries, looks more like a lunch place) the espresso was very good when I was there.

My #1 recommendation would be Simon's in Cambridge, they're consistently good, and have a variety of espressos from week to week. Plus most of the baristas are friendly, especially Simon if he's there pulling shots.

Barismo has a small cafe setup at their roaster in Arlington, and they're consistently good as well. There's also a full cafe opening in Cambridge this weekend, http://www.dwelltimecambridge.com that's not technically a 'Barismo' cafe, but is related/partnered with them, and I have high expectations for them.

There's probably a dozen other places in the Boston/Cambridge where I've gotten OK to good espresso, but the problem is that most of them aren't very consistent. Even cafes that focus on espresso can be hit or miss. And I think that's part of the enjoyment of making espresso at home. With a little knowledge, a lot of experience and some good beans it's possible to make espresso at home that's consistently good to great (maybe even exceptional).
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Postby BarryR on Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:44 pm

Thanks everyone for all this great info:

1) I realize this can be a rabbithole. The one saving grace is that I tend not to be a gear-head nor a complete perfectionist. So, if I do decide to cough up $600-$1000 for a set up, there's a good chance I'll stick with it and not feel the need for better and better stuff. If I get consistently delicious espresso, I'd be content.

2) Great to learn there's decent Espresso nearby. I'll check out Esselon and Northampton Coffee.

3) When I do go to the Boston area, I mostly go to Cambridge -- looks like I have great options there.
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Postby Richard on Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:57 pm

TrlstanC wrote:George Howell's cafe in Newton is called 'Taste', and while it doesn't look anything like most top-tier cafe's (it's dominated by sandwiches and pastries, looks more like a lunch place) . . .

While I have yet to go over and check the place out, it has been remodeled, relaunched, and reopened as George Howell Coffee Company. Here is a press release with a photo or two.
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Postby ex trahere on Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:52 pm

TrlstanC wrote:Barismo has a small cafe setup at their roaster in Arlington, and they're consistently good as well. There's also a full cafe opening in Cambridge this weekend, http://www.dwelltimecambridge.com that's not technically a 'Barismo' cafe, but is related/partnered with them, and I have high expectations for them.
.


Pretty stoked for this myself. Was gonna mention it but was under the impression it was months away. They have a 3 group Strada EP and I believe their drip coffee will be prepared exclusively using LB-1's (http://luminairecoffee.com/)

Checked their page out after you linked it and was pleasantly surprised by a twitter update:


dwelltime is DONE -- our doors will be open next weekend. See you Saturday.

:D
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Postby fac10 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:16 pm

Note sure about NoHo but I've had pretty good shots at Amherst Coffee in Amherst on the few occasions I've been there. And if you're ever in the Boston area, Barismo in Arlington is the place to be. Not only do they pull incredible shots of their own beans (or single cup drip, or syphon, if you prefer), but they're true coffee fanatics and will talk coffee with you all day long if you want.
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