How to recognize good espresso?

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
baristeer
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Postby baristeer » Sep 12, 2017, 6:35 pm

I almost never drink espresso straight. I ordered an espresso shot from Starbucks years ago, and all I can remember is that I did not like the taste at all. Because I did not have a good grinder or a good espresso machine, I usually just drank latte at home for the past few years.

Now I'm considering buying a decent espresso machine, so I want to try a good espresso and see if I would like it without milk. I went to Copa Vida in Pasadena (which is supposed to be a good coffee shop). I saw that they used a Mazzer (Robur?) grinder, and a huge commercial espresso machine ( couldn't see the brand nor model name) to pull my shot. I asked about the type of beans they use, and the 1st guy at the register wasn't sure, so he asked the other guy, and he told me they use a blend from Costa Rica and Guatemala. 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? 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.

I enjoy the latte I make with my cheap setup at home better than this pro espresso. I've tried several blends from Stumptown and the black cat blend from Intellegentsia. I like the DTLA blend from Stumptown best. It tastes sweeter and more pleasant than the others, although I was never able to distinguish different notes in any of these blends.

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RioCruz
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Postby RioCruz » Sep 12, 2017, 8:04 pm

baristeer wrote:Is that supposed to be a good espresso shot?

Welcome to 3rd wave coffee! If you don't like the taste of lemon juice in your espresso, better stick with something with a more traditional taste like chocolate, nuts and caramel.

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...

As a side note, I travel a lot and always look for interesting coffee houses to try their wares. The best commercial espresso shot I've ever had was made by a particular barista at the Peet's Coffee and Tea in San Luis Obispo pulling their house blend called Espresso Forte. Go figure. This fact offends my tender...albeit...snobby sensibilities, but there ya have it. I've tried other Peet's locations with disastrous results, so the barista made all the difference. I've never had any commercial espresso anyplace that I liked better than my own. I've acquired a taste for the home-pulled shot. :mrgreen:
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thusband
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Postby thusband » Sep 12, 2017, 9:41 pm

Yeah, I've been chasing that first espresso I had at Verve in Santa Cruz. That opened my eyes to what's possible. Memory can embellish but I swear I've never had a more sweet and chocolaty espresso. I've come close here at home but haven't quite got there yet. It sure is fun trying.

baristeer
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Postby baristeer » Sep 12, 2017, 11:08 pm

That was my guess too. It was the barista. I'm sure they use quality beans, and have top-of-the-line commercial grinders and espresso machines. The only thing left is the barista's skills. And it's hard to tell before you purchase.

Well, I can always practice my own skills at home. Maybe one day I'll be able to pull an excellent shot that I love:)

RockyIII
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Postby RockyIII » Sep 12, 2017, 11:36 pm

Rebecca,

I suggest you try another coffee shop or two for comparison. I've had poor tasting shots at supposedly good cafés.

Rocky

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dominico
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Postby dominico » Sep 12, 2017, 11:53 pm

If their blend is a mix of Costa and Guat, then I'm guessing it was rather on the acidic side. Acidic coffee shots can be quite good if they are well balanced and have a lot of natural sweetness in them, but often they are either served underextracted (sour) or the roast was underdeveloped in the first place, leaving you with something that tastes rather astringent and mouth puckering.

On the opposite extreme you have the stuff that Starbucks served you years ago, which was probably roasted beyond recognition and then possibly overextracted, leaving you with an intense cup of bitterness, needing milk to mellow it out.

Good espresso often found in the middle of these two extremes. Drinking espresso is meant to be pleasurable, not a challenge of fortitude. You will know good espresso when you taste it: it will be rich, intense, possibly complex, but most of all it will make you want another.

Try a few different cafes, ask them about their coffee, try their shots. I'm not sure what the Home Barista meetup scene looks like by where you live, but making it to a meetup is a fantastically fun and educational experience, both for veteran hobbyists and especially for those just getting into it.

There are also a lot of good threads on the Coffees forum here when determining what to try at home. A bit of reading and forum participation can help you determine what sorts of coffees to look for to suite your tastes when working on your barista skills at home. Good luck and have fun!
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Chert
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Postby Chert » Sep 13, 2017, 12:26 am

baristeer wrote:I almost never drink espresso straight....


And I almost only have mine straight.

My suggestion is to make your way to Portola and try the espresso straight and with milk. Really any spot that can give you well made espresso and a milk drink with the same coffee. That can help you determine if the milk drinks you like merit really good coffee and equipment. I think you will find the answer is 'yes.' And this could answer your question too about whether you might like intentional espresso.

baristeer
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Postby baristeer » Sep 13, 2017, 12:54 pm

Chert wrote:And I almost only have mine straight.

My suggestion is to make your way to Portola


Thank you. None of their shops are that close to me, but I will definitely try it next time I'm in the area.

baristeer
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Postby baristeer » Sep 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

RockyIII wrote:Rebecca,

I suggest you try another coffee shop or two for comparison. I've had poor tasting shots at supposedly good cafés.

Rocky


There is an Intelligentsia near by. I plan to try one there for comparison. I ordered brewed coffee there last time and wasn't impressed.

baristeer
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Joined: Sep 09, 2017, 5:45 pm

Postby baristeer » Sep 13, 2017, 1:06 pm

dominico wrote:I'm not sure what the Home Barista meetup scene looks like by where you live, but making it to a meetup is a fantastically fun and educational experience, both for veteran hobbyists and especially for those just getting into it.


This is a great idea. I'll see if I can find one in my area. thank you!

 
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