Am I too old and cranky for third wave coffee? - Page 2

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

Postby freewheelingvagabond » Mar 19, 2019, 12:39 pm

cunim wrote:I like espresso. I like it to taste like coffee but I am happy to expand my horizons. In that spirit, I have been trying out many local roasts in the Toronto area. Most of these coffees are from craft shops that roast medium or lighter and that list flavors like "berry" on the label. What I find is that a happy balance is achievable with some coffees (especially medium espresso roasts), but I have only gotten rich coffee taste from half a dozen shots. Worse, I drink decaf later in the day, and the only decafs that are not downright tart are Sumatran blends that go too far into the dark and roasty end of things.

I think my equipment and technique are adequate. My coffee is at least as good as I get in cafes (to my taste). I get great naked PF pours, things are clean, temps, water, timings, frothing are well controlled. I am learning to tease out the flavors of berry, chocolate, etc. I would seem to be progressing but, still, so few really good shots - especially with decaf.

Perhaps I am trying too hard. Perhaps I just need to recognize that my tastes are pretty much set, stick with traditional beans and techniques and avoid third wave. The alternative seems to be preinfusion, profiling, more sophisticated machine, etc. - complex and expensive. Would all this new stuff provide real new experiences, or would I just be using a bunch of gimcrackery to make third wave coffee taste more traditional? In that case, I should just make traditional coffee.

Note, I am not asking how to do it. I am asking if doing it allowed you to love new tastes provided by the third wave, or if it just ended up in making difficult coffee taste less..... well.... difficult.

As a consumer, this is the source of your issues (and mine).

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Postby » replying to freewheelingvagabond » Mar 19, 2019, 2:01 pm

I don't think that Toronto is unique in that not all "craft shops" are great all the time. Toronto has come a very long way since I started really getting into espresso in 2010. A VERY long way.

There are a ton of shops now and it's not surprising that most are either just fine or not very good for espresso. Sometimes it's because their prep is lax and it's a poser shop and most times it's because I just don't like what they're offering. The consistency from visit-to-visit for most GOOD shops has gotten much, much better.

I prefer espresso blends and old skool style shots/flavours. I like to try bleeding edge roasts, but never go out of my way for the experience.

Shops I frequent/like.

  • Manic Coffee - Fairly consistent and tasty Old Skool style espresso specifically blended and roasted for the shop. Plus they sell Social Coffee and Tea and Intelly coffee beans.
  • Sorry Coffee Co - Fairly consistent. Their house blend is fruity/chocolatey delicious and their SO offerings are only nice as Americano.
  • Pilot Coffee - Fairly consistent and you can get a Heritage shot pulled deliciously. Great shops and fantastic roast offerings.
  • Dark Horse Spadina - Fairly consistent. The 20 Grand and Northern Dancer blends are deliciously old skool.
  • Propellor Espresso - Fairly consistent. Outbound and Turbo are nice blends. The Ace is acid-acid-acid.
  • Crema / Stereo espresso - Fairly consistent. The Analog blend is nice.

A few shops I tried and don't really like:

  • Boxcar Social - Consistent up to about a year ago (I stopped going). As a Single Origin focused multi-roaster it means everything is an adventure and I'm not that adventurous.
  • Lit Espresso - Their Steel Wheel blend isn't easy to get right and the shops rarely do anymore. It's funny to me that the baristas have never said anything good about the Steel Wheel when I ask how it compares to the other rotating offering. The focus is single origin and too light for my tastes.

To the OP - you can get really delicious stuff from all of the shops I frequent, especially the Pilot offerings and the Dark Horse coffees, since they sound like they'll be in your wheel house. It seems like you might need to refine your espresso prep if you're not liking a high frequency of your shots.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.


Postby Mrboots2u » Mar 19, 2019, 2:11 pm

Im my experience you can make good light roasted espresso without pressure profiling , you do need a good grinder but this is true for making any kind of espresso . All the Gimmerkcky the OP suggest will not make third wave espresso (whatever that is) taste like traditional espresso. The two are different things.
I think most people who enjoy a lighter roast, love a balance of sweetness and acidity, I know I do. There is alot of coffee out there , in the Uk too, that is just too hard to get a great shot from , it's not developed enough and no amount of equipment will tame it.

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Postby » replying to Mrboots2u » Mar 19, 2019, 2:18 pm

Regardless of this great advice, however, is that you have to LIKE espresso from fairly light roasted coffees. Like it enough to really find the best way to get what you want out of the coffee, too.

Coffee in Toronto is not the issue. If the OP is getting "so few really good shots" then I think the process needs to be reviewed. I buy many different coffees throughout the year in Toronto from many different roasters. I wouldn't say that I get few really good shots.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.


Postby Mrboots2u » Mar 19, 2019, 2:21 pm

Agree, I nearly added, " don't force yourself to like something ". But decided not too.


Postby baldheadracing » Mar 19, 2019, 3:47 pm

freewheelingvagabond wrote:As a consumer, this is the source of your issues (and mine).

As someone who visits the GTA twenty times a year, I would say that the source of your issues is the water!
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann

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Postby Radio.YYZ » Mar 26, 2019, 10:42 pm

I almost exclusively drink flat whites or cortados. I prefer "third wave" light and medium coffees that are not drinkable just as plain espresso. With the addition of some milk the coffee's become very enjoyable.

For espresso that would be consumed neat, i do prefer the peaberry variety from brazil!

I do agree that toronto water is terrible for espresso.
Good Coffee: Technique/Knowledge > Grinder > Beans > Water > Machine


Postby cunim » Mar 29, 2019, 10:24 am

Thanks for the comments. I decided to make a short road trip to visit a few local roasters. In this way I would not only taste third wave from the roaster who provides it. I would form a better understanding of the people involved.

To summarize, it was a very enjoyable experience and I now have flavor memories (both good and bad) of some third wave coffees. Let's me place my own shots in context. I came home with a few bags that vary from medium roast comfort coffee (including a decaf, yay) to medium roast third wave. The light roasts were not for me, not yet.

As much as I am enjoying playing with the variety of coffees, the real star of this little adventure was the opportunity to meet some delightful and passionate people. I am now of the opinion that knowing who your coffee comes from is as important as knowing the varietal. If I like the people, it will predispose me to like the coffee - up to a point. Perhaps I really am starting to understand third wave.


Postby Ian-G » Apr 12, 2019, 6:41 am

Your experience is similar to my own. Up until quite recently I didn't really care much about preparation and did everything by eye. I only drank cappuccinos and didn't see the point, as long as they tasted alright. But then I started to wonder about espressos and of course what I read by really knowledgeable people on this site and others persuaded me to get a lot more focused on prep. Like you I used the Eureka Mignon grinder and after getting every detail as tight as I could I found my espresso's were balanced, but bland, frankly. I read about people making certain flavours really "pop" but I wasn't getting that. I just didn't think that 3rd wave coffee was much to write home about.

Anyway, long story short, I got a grinder with much bigger flat burrs and it has made a significant improvement. My example of this is a coffee that I made that had a peach flavour as clear as you would get from a peach yogurt, but without the chemically overtones. It was a real ffs moment. I had never in 8 years of making my own coffee gotten anything near it. I haven't as yet replicated it, but that's mainly because I've been trying coffees from a lot of different roasters in a kind of shotgun approach, instead of focusing in on a few coffees and really working hard on them.

So I'd give a bigger grinder a try. I bought a secondhand, non electronic, Eureka Olympus 75 HS.