Sink Shots Grudge Match

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.

Pick your favorite Sink Shots

Bean Traders
No votes
Is there a Barista in the House?
Caffeine Headache, Please
Coffee at the In-Laws
Total votes: 25

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#1: Post by HB »

Of course I'm not eligible to win the Sink Shots Contest, so here's my entry for the bragging rights from a review I wrote awhile back...

Bean Traders
December 2003

Today I did some holiday shopping at the Streets of SouthPoint mall. Just around the corner is Bean Traders, a cafe that another local mentioned might be worth a visit. It seemed encouraging since they have a big roaster operating in the store. The two employees had a very friendly, cheery attitude. The first warning bell sounded when I asked for a ristretto ("Is that a long shot?"). I got a blank stare when I suggested they would have to move their grinder setting just a tad finer to shoot for a ~1.5 ounce double. Undaunted, I suggested instead adding a few extra grounds and tamping harder. That was accepted as a reasonable request.

The next warning bell was when I looked at their aluminum tamper. It was 53mm and looked like it had been tossed out the window of a speeding truck at least a half-dozen times. Another blank stare when I mentioned that the tamp might be better if they acquired a 58mm tamper. The good news is that the patient barista timed the shot and proudly announced it was right on ("Hey, not bad for my first ristretto!"). Indeed, the timing and volume were correct. The taste? Good by what passes for cafe standards in the Triangle, in fact better than the majority I've tried. The body was medium, crema was light to carmel colored and maybe 1/8" deep. The flavor wasn't particularly remarkable, but wasn't bitter or harsh either. I suspect channeling along the untamped edges accounts for much of the shortcomings. I don't think they were interested in hearing any critiques of their product, despite their friendliness and evidently ample free time.

I hung around for 5-10 minutes as two other customers came and went. A holiday cappuccino they prepared was topped with fresh whipped cream, a nicely drawn chocolate syrup design and red/green sprinkles. Not my thing, but very festive looking. That's when the third and final warning bell sounded: Recycled milk and seafoam bubbles. Little hope of finding any microfoam there. The next customer after the holiday cappuccino lady was served a regular cappuccino (latte? hard to say at those dimensions) with a 1/4" crown of dishsoap-sized bubbles. Given the weak finish of my (pseudo) ristretto, I wouldn't expect their milk-based drinks to stand out. I'd be willing to try, but only if they allowed me to do the steaming. I imagine that idea would be met with raised eyebrows and perhaps reluctant acceptance. I didn't push my luck on this visit.
Dan Kehn

Abe Carmeli
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#2: Post by Abe Carmeli »

Is there a Barista in the House?

New York is probably near the bottom of the coffee totem poll among large cities. The good thing about it is its consistency. I have gotten used to the abuse, and I refuse to be denied the insult. So how does one choose among horrendous shots? I think in my case it is what preceded the shot that made the difference.

On one rainy day in February, to escape the freezing cold, I ran into a newly opened Italian restaurant. Il Conti. As I waited to be seated, I heard the waiters chatting in Italian. Oh yeah, I said to myself. These guys are fresh off the boat; I can drink real espresso here. Lunch was good, and I eagerly nodded to the waiter. He came over, and this is how it went:

I: Do you serve espresso here?
Waiter: (In heavy Italian accent) Of course we do, this is an Italian Restaurant.
I: Wonderful, who is your barista?
Waiter: Barista? Oh, I am sorry, we don't have a bar here, I thought you wanted espresso. (Barista is barkeep in Italian).
I: Okay. If I order espresso, who is going to make it?
Waiter: I make it for you sir. Very good espresso!!
I: How old are your beans?
Waiter: ?
I: When were they roasted?
Waiter: I don't know sir, they come in a bag.
I: OK, I will have a double ristretto
Waiter: Right away sir.

After 15 minutes of wrangling, twisting and fast movements behind the machine, I see him come back with a smile on his face. He landed on my table a cappuccino cup, filled to the top with a dark brew and thin white foam.

I looked at him puzzled: "I ordered a double ristretto".
Waiter: Yes sir, I gave you a big Double Ristretto since you waited so long.
I took a sip, as I knew this one will make it to my personal record book as the most stupid thing I've done in a restaurant. Yep, the worst espresso ever.
Abe Carmeli

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#3: Post by malachi »

Caffeine Headache, Please

In Seattle... of all places.
Early one morning, left the hotel, staggering through downtown.
Surely I can get a decent espresso... I mean, this is Seattle!!

See a cart by a tall office building.
"Thank god... espresso!!"

Feeling that tingle in the neck that hints at the caffeine headache to come.

Whew... looks like a Faema machine.
Yup... there's a tamper.
Big line waiting.

I join the line.
Actually... the line is moving quite quickly.

Get to the front of the line.
Nice woman barista smiling at me.
Figure I'll play it safe and ask for an Americano.
"Double short Americano please."
"No problem sir."

She pulls a container out of the fridge (hunh?).
It contains some brown liquid (what?).
The brown fluid goes into a pitcher (oh my) and it's topped off with water.
And steamed. And into the cup.

Yes... the brown liquid was espresso.
And yes... it was served to me.
And oh yes... I drank it.

It was horrid. Astringent and biting and yet bitter and astringent.
Sugar... no help.
Half and half... no help.
Like hot diluted roofing tar.

But the headache stayed at bay.
What's in the cup is what matters.

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#4: Post by bobroseman »

I have some vivid memories of past disasters:

Here is one I call:

About a year ago I was in LA, looking for a decent espresso when I happened to pass a sign that annouced "Cafe Latte Coffee Roaster?" I could not pass up the opportunity so I pulled into the shop. Upon entering the restaurant / coffee bar / roaster I was greeted by bags, tubs and buckets of green and roasted beans. Next came the Dietrich Roaster of indeterminate age and model. Then I was "in".

This impressed me. "They roast it", I thought. "So they must love it."

My hopes were high.

The place was a little run down and care worn. The ambience was second hand shabby. Nothing wrong with that. I rather have the finest espresso in the world in a dump than a so-so espresso with Cameron Diaz at Urth. (But, of course, I lie.)

I talked to the barista and asked for a short espresso. I don't know what that means to others but I figure that you are generally better off with a half ounce shot than with a 5 ounce shot so I tend to say this in places I've never been. The barista reached for the cardboard cup.

"Do you have china?" I asked. He got down a china cup. He dosed and pulled the shot. Eight seconds for a single. "Whoa!" I said. "That was a seriously fast shot, partner. Look, here, no crema. You know crema is that ....."

"I know." He interrupted.

"This is going to taste bad", I told him. I tasted it. It was undrinkable.

"Do you want me to try again?. he asked.

"Let's just skip the espresso.......", I said.

Then there was that place in Long Beach, but don't get me started!


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#5: Post by srobinson »

Out of sheer embarrassment for being called out by Dan, I must share my bad coffee story. Now as Dan said, I have traveled quite a bit and have suffered through strange capsule machines in Paris, cold Suntory Boss Black cans in Tokyo and some challenging beverages in Delhi, but these are not the drinks that haunt my memory.

Coffee at the In-Laws

To this day, I will still wake up in a cold sweat having terrible nightmares of coffee at my mother-in-law's house. Now as with most southern families, coffee was bought in large cans with the letter JFG or A&P etched on the side. When the in-laws decided to cut back on caffeine, I found myself reduced to a junkie having to skip company to get my morning fix. Being the ever caring mother-in-law, I was simply astonished when I was told that not only did she have fully leaded in the house, but she would fix me a cappuccino. The planets were aligning until I was presented with this:


Oh, the humanity.
Steve Robinson

LMWDP #001