OK, you guys have ruined me

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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Postby AlexKilpatrick » Jan 29, 2013, 1:53 pm

I was perfectly happy with my $1000 ($400 refurbished) Saeco Incanto Deluxe superautomatic. It made lattes that were much better, night and day, than Starbucks, even though I was using Starbucks beans. It is convenient, and fairly mess free. I tried a shot with it, and it was vile, but that's ok. Only crazies drink espresso straight.

So I read on here that beans were important. So I bought some beans freshly roasted from a local place. Wow! The coffee is much better, with no bitterness. I tried a shot, and it was decent. Not anything I would want to drink, but not vile either.

I read people here talking about how you need to find a really good coffee shop to compare to, to know what a great shot tastes like. I looked up one of the highest rated places in Austin (Houndstooth Coffee). They really seem dedicated, and I figured it would be a good place to test my hypothesis. I was pretty convinced that it was just a matter of good beans and "reasonable" equipment. I mean, it is just hot water and ground coffee? How complicated is that? Hypothesis: "Beans are significant, but equipment/barista is not" Experiment: "Order a shot from the best equipment/barista in town and see if it is different"

So I ordered a shot from Houndstooth. I watched the barista. She threw away the first show - she said it was too fast. She adjusted the grinder a tiny amount and then ground two shots worth to throw away to clear it out. Then she gave me my shot.

I took a tentative sip. Oh. My. God. I couldn't believe the explosion of flavor. It felt like there were eight different things all trying to compete for attention from my tastebuds. Like I was drinking a totally different drink from what I had been used to drinking. I was with a colleague who said coffee only varies "Gross, OK, or Good" and even she said it was amazingly rich.

So, hypothesis is in jeopardy. New hypothesis: "These are just really amazing beans" Experiment: "Order a shot with different beans" (they always have two varieties) I didn't like this one as much, but it was equally complex in flavor, and more importantly, it was radically different from the first one.

So, both of my hypotheses were rejected, and I blame you guys. I was perfectly happy with what I had and you led me down the path of questioning whether there might be something better. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Now I have a probably unobtainable goal to shoot for. :D

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Postby BTD1986 » Jan 29, 2013, 2:12 pm

I was right where you are, 12 months and $3,000 ago. Consider yourself enlightened.

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Postby hudsterboy » Jan 29, 2013, 3:55 pm

That pretty much sums up my experience, too. I would drink any coffee, pretty much. My favorite though was a moka pot americano with milk and sugar. A friend at work started bringing in home roasts and scolding me for adding milk. After a while I started noticing the differences in the beans he was roasting and even having favorites.

Around a year into this, I was at some art opening thing on the other side of town, and was really tired but didn't want to drink a whole cup of coffee. I decided to walk down the street and suffer a shot from the local roaster. OMFG! An effervescent explosion of swirling fleeting flavors! What just happened?? WTF was that???

So for a while I thought that my palate had matured from all of that black home roasted coffee I'd been drinking. I was pretty excited that I'd discovered this about myself. The next day I ordered a shot at Starbucks. You know that scene from Mullholland Drive with the espresso? I was that guy.

After that I would actively seek out amazing coffee. I tried CT & B, small mom & pop coffee shops, etc. They pretty much all sucked in comparison. The drip I was getting from my friend was still excellent though. Finally they opened Intelligentsia in Silverlake, and I bought a La Pavoni, and then went down that dark path.


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Postby Eastsideloco » Jan 29, 2013, 4:12 pm

Next time you go to Houndstooth order the "twofer," which is one shot each of their daily espresso selections. Often you get to sample things that are pretty far apart on the espresso spectrum. And it's all good, just different.

[Edit: Sorry I misread. Sounds like that's exactly what you did. Pretty fun, huh?]

Great description of the barista's process w/ your shot. I've watched them make similar adjustments and been equally impressed. They are not afraid to toss some consumables to make sure that you get a great shot.

(It's really hard to get a good shot if the barista doesn't give a whoop. More and more places have great equipment, great coffee and eminently forgettable espresso.)