How to recognize good espresso? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by RyanP »

RioCruz wrote:
Of course, espresso is an acquired taste, so maybe you'll get to like the sour taste of 3rd Wave coffee if you keep at it. Not my cup 'o...café, but others seem to love it. Different strokes...etc...
I will argue that good third wave coffee isn't sour. Bright and fruit forward does not mean sour and mouth puckering, although there is a fair amount of crappy third wave out there reinforcing that stereotype. You may not have a taste for good espresso from a proper light roast, but to just put a blanket label of sour lemon juice over the whole lot isn't really fair, either. I, too, don't like sour acidic espresso, but I do love good fruit forward lightly roasted espresso and drink it often. I only bring it up because I believe if I had never tried it myself and only stuck to comfort blends then I think my espresso journey would be a lot more dull of an experience. I agree, though, a light roasted single origin may not be the best place to start out when trying to learn to enjoy espresso. Not easy to pull well in the beginning and it seems even harder to find a cafe with a barista that can do the job well.

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Italyhound

#12: Post by Italyhound »

baristeer wrote:
Then he made me a double shot very quickly. It had a nice rich crema, but had a dominating sour taste, not bitter at all. I tried a few sips, and decided to add milk so I could finish drinking it.

Is that supposed to be a good espresso shot?
In my humble opinion, you went to a steak house and ordered the chicken.

I can't speak to your visit in particular, but you represented what is probably 1% of the customer base who asked for a shot of espresso. Most shots are pulled with milky drinks in mind. What you may choose to drink straight may very well be different from what you choose to add milk to.

I've been to many reputable places and I just havent ordered a straight shot in years. It's not that many places are not capable, but I think they aren't geared for what you asked for. Plus poorly extracted coffee has nowhere to hide in a shot, but can find guiltless immunity under the shelter of a Rosetta.

Your shot could have been well roasted light coffee, poorly roasted coffee, underextracted or a combination thereof.

I agree your best bet is to find a local HB friend. There are many in LA. I bet you'll be surprised to try a well extracted shot - finally. You may not like the actual flavors of the coffee - but it won't make you make the sour face or bitter face.

Leave that to the professionals. :twisted:
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baristeer (original poster)

#13: Post by baristeer (original poster) »

I went to Intelligentsia today. They have 2 types of espresso right now, the Black Cat Classic($3) and the Summer Solstice Blend ($5.6). According to the barista, the summer solstice blend would be more fruity and tart. So I got the Black Cat. They served it with a small glass of sparkling water. It was definitely more balanced than what I had yesterday at Copa Vida. The bitterness was more pronounced, and the tartness was not as strong. It had a sweet aftertaste, but not when I was drinking. Not perfect, but better than yesterday for sure.

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bluesman

#14: Post by bluesman »

baristeer wrote:Was it just me who doesn't know how to appreciate it? I thought a good shot was gonna be better balanced and have smooth mouthfeel. If I'm buying a good machine but will only be able to pull shots like this, I don't know if it's worth it.
Unfortunately, espresso (like many other exotic pleasures) is an acquired taste for most people. Like scotch, cigars, and many other such things, the descriptive adjectives thrown around in its honor simply cannot be taken literally - those who expect a Rollo in their demitasse are doomed to disappointment. "Sour", "bitter" etc are not objective and each of us perceives them differently. Brightness to me might be lemon juice to you. This is why Evan's observation is so true:
Italyhound wrote:you represented what is probably 1% of the customer base who asked for a shot of espresso.
You may never reach the point at which you love a ristretto or two to start your day or end your evening meal, as very few do. Even many of the young Italians I know shun shots. Your experience at good shops suggests that you're trying harder to like it than may be necessary or appropriate for you.
baristeer wrote:I went to Intelligentsia today. They have 2 types of espresso right now, the Black Cat Classic($3) and the Summer Solstice Blend ($5.6). According to the barista, the summer solstice blend would be more fruity and tart. So I got the Black Cat. They served it with a small glass of sparkling water. It was definitely more balanced than what I had yesterday at Copa Vida. The bitterness was more pronounced, and the tartness was not as strong. It had a sweet aftertaste, but not when I was drinking. Not perfect, but better than yesterday for sure.
If you love espresso based milk drinks, get a good machine and grinder so you can make what you love. Play around with shots at your leisure and you may find a bean / grind / brew recipe you absolutely love. But your experiences to date are typical of most others', and there's no reason to suffer through endless shots if you love it with milk. Best of all, your teeth will stay whiter longer :D Just enjoy yourself!

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aecletec

#15: Post by aecletec »

bluesman wrote:Unfortunately, espresso (like many other exotic pleasures) is an acquired taste for most people. Like scotch, cigars, and many other such things, the descriptive adjectives thrown around in its honor simply cannot be taken literally - those who expect a Rollo in their demitasse are doomed to disappointment. "Sour", "bitter" etc are not objective and each of us perceives them differently. Brightness to me might be lemon juice to you. This is why Evan's observation is so true:
Getting great espresso is hard. Rarely does this seem to occur in most cafes. When it's spot on, it has turned the opinions of my non-coffee friends - so I disagree that it has to be an acquired taste, merely that the majority of coffee isn't prepared well.

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Italyhound

#16: Post by Italyhound »

David speaks truths.

If you are still enthusiastic and inquisitive enough after your two trips to the shop, get your own gear and start with this eye-opening video. You will quickly see the whole shot broken down into parts. You can tailor your own shots to which ends of the extraction you like.

I've done this in the past and it is very educational.

Good luck!
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slipchuck

#17: Post by slipchuck »

I can tell you from going to cafes in Portugal that even with milk a good espresso shot is a world of difference when you have the right equipment. My equipment isn't high end but the shots are definitely better then Starbucks.
For the longest time I couldn't get a good shot if you paid me until I got a better grinder. The first time I nailed a shot the sourness went to fruit flavours. I am still hoping to someday be able to replicate that European taste at home... if only money didn't get in the way.
So to sum it up, like others have said, it's worth the effort to get your own setup for milk drinks alone. Just think of eventually liking espresso an additional bonus :)

Randy
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baristeer (original poster)

#18: Post by baristeer (original poster) »

Thank you all for your input. Great information! I am in the middle of upgrading my home equipment, but want to make sure it's worth the hefty cost. I only drink one double shot every morning before going to work.

My Helor 101 grinder is currently being shipped to me, but I haven't decided on an espresso machine yet. Coming from a Delonghi EC155, I didn't plan to spend a ton on a new machine. But after researching on the perfect entry-level machine, I kept raising my budget: Delonghi Dedica -> Gaggia Classic -> Rancilio Silvia -> Now I'm leaning towards the Quickmill Silvano Evo, as I saw Chris' Coffee has an open box one for $950. They also posted a Quickmill Pippa for $500 today. It doesn't seem to have a thermoblock/boiler for the steam wand, so there will be some down time between pulling the shot and steaming the milk. I couldn't find reviews on it in English, so I don't think many people in the U.S. or Canada have it.

The espresso machine will be an expensive piece of equipment in my kitchen, and I want to think it through before pulling the trigger. But the decision making process is so hard...

RyanJE

#19: Post by RyanJE »

baristeer wrote:Thank you all for your input. Great information! I am in the middle of upgrading my home equipment, but want to make sure it's worth the hefty cost. I only drink one double shot every morning before going to work.

My Helor 101 grinder is currently being shipped to me, but I haven't decided on an espresso machine yet. Coming from a Delonghi EC155, I didn't plan to spend a ton on a new machine. But after researching on the perfect entry-level machine, I kept raising my budget: Delonghi Dedica -> Gaggia Classic -> Rancilio Silvia -> Now I'm leaning towards the Quickmill Silvano Evo, as I saw Chris' Coffee has an open box one for $950. They also posted a Quickmill Pippa for $500 today. It doesn't seem to have a thermoblock/boiler for the steam wand, so there will be some down time between pulling the shot and steaming the milk. I couldn't find reviews on it in English, so I don't think many people in the U.S. or Canada have it.

The espresso machine will be an expensive piece of equipment in my kitchen, and I want to think it through before pulling the trigger. But the decision making process is so hard...
If you're gonna spend 1000 look at the breville dual boiler. It will be 1000 with widely available bed bath beyond coupons.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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bluesman

#20: Post by bluesman »

aecletec wrote:Getting great espresso is hard. Rarely does this seem to occur in most cafes. When it's spot on, it has turned the opinions of my non-coffee friends - so I disagree that it has to be an acquired taste, merely that the majority of coffee isn't prepared well.
If that's true, how could an amateur ever expect to make consistently great espresso at home with consumer machines if (as you believe) most pro shops can't do it with a lot of experience & serious equipment? I've had some excellent shots at many shops around the world, yet most people order milk drinks. Straight espresso is simply not that popular even where it's great.

I do agree that the chains turn out swill, and this makes their customer base less likely to try a shot anywhere else.