Sink Shots Contest - winner is "Cafe Pamplona"

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

Pick your favorite Sink Shots

Poll ended at June 11th, 2005, 10:37 pm

Hospital Shot
Cafe Pamplona
Sour Silvia
Hillbilly Cappuccino
Total votes: 16

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#1: Post by HB »

Share Your Story, Win Swag

If you have a true worse-drink story to share, reply to this thread. Later I'll set up a vote to select the winner of this snazzy Intelligentsia Coffee Black Cat demitasse:


The judges will be the moderators plus selected existing members. I'll post my own story here and another longer one in Overextracted, if you need inspiration.

Contest Rules

To participate in the above (the "Contest"), you must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. resident of the 48 lower states (due to shipping costs). ("HB") moderators, sponsors, judges, and members of their immediate families are not eligible to enter. Void where prohibited. With regard to an entry ("written work") you submit as part of the Contest, you grant HB a worldwide, perpetual, fully paid-up, non-exclusive license to publish, redistribute, create derivative works, or sell the written work, including any images or photographs. The entry must be an original work by the entrant. Entries containing any plagiarized text will be void and ineligible. Any images or photos must be the entrant's own creation; any copyrighted materials included in an entry will render it void and ineligible. Prize winners will be determined by a panel of judges. If you are selected as a contest winner, you agree that HB may publicize your name and the written work you did to win the contest. Apart from the prizes associated with being selected as a winner, HB shall not be obligated to compensate you in any way for such publicity. Each entrant shall indemnify, defend, and hold HB harmless from any third party claims arising from or related to that entrant's participation in the Contest. In no event shall HB be liable to an entrant for acts or omissions arising out of or related to the Contest or that entrant's participation in the Contest. Odds of winning depend on the number and quality of entries received. There must be a minimum of five entries before judging begins. No prize substitution is permitted. Winner(s) may be required to verify their entry.
Dan Kehn

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#2: Post by shadowfax »

I generally fail to go for any of these contests for one big reason: I don't want to waste my money on crap coffee, and it's my impression that all the places around where I have been living are genuinely bottom of the bucket. But, I was in downtown Santa Fe, NM yesterday afternoon, and I was wanting to find out if there were anything good to be had.

Cafe Allegro, Hand-Crafted Espresso

Enter Cafe Allegro, Hand-Crafted espresso. I noticed a curious old-school looking machine as I walked by, and wended my head and my feet (and, needless to say, the rest of me) into the store. Over on display near the counter was a Faema lever commercial machine (already forgot the name), unconnected but beautiful and encouraging. Could it be? I wondered. Have I found a real espresso cafe?

Their main use machine was nothing I had ever seen. It was red along the sides and back, and said "SM" on the back. After looking around the internet for awhile, I found it: The La San Marco 85 Leva 3 group. Remember, though, at the time I had no idea what this was.

There was a group of Indian tourists in front of me, all ordering americanos and mochas and cappuccinos. Great, I thought. I get to watch her (the "barista") work and see how she does. As it turns out, this wasn't exactly the best thing for me.

I watched as she poured milk into a 44 oz. pitcher for the 5 drinks that had just been ordered. She put it up to the wand, without blowing out the condensed water before starting, and began to steam. I couldn't see the milk from where I stood, so I just listened. Tcchh-ch-cch. Silence. Tccch-ch-cchh. Silence. Then she stopped, and dispensed something into the milk.... vanilla? OK. Then she steamed some more. Then she set the milk aside and began to produce her shots. Dose, don't distribute, tamp (super light). She's using a plastic tamper... Lock the portafilter in. Pull the lever hold for 3 seconds, and then walk away as it slowly trickles out in a stream that was anemic and watery. Oh no... Definitely ordering a latte, save me from that at least a little bit...

For her cappuccinos, she poured the shots into paper cups and then, holding the foam back with a spoon, poured milk (that had now been sitting for a good while) into the "cappuccino." When she tipped the pitcher, I saw now that her foam was dry as bath bubbles, and even had some that were surprisingly big.

For her americanos, she filled a paper cup with hot water and poured a shot into it. The crema disappeared as soon as she poured it onto the water.

Smiling, I was panicking. What do I order? There's no way I am dropping $3 for a latte like that. It wouldn't save me from the espresso, only make it even worse! I Looked at the menu frantically for something else. Nothing seemed worth it, even the Chai.

The Indian man placing the orders for the rest of his family looked at me and said, "You got here at just the wrong time, didn't you?"

"Oh? How do you mean?" I replied.

"Well, we just put in all these orders..."

"Ah, that's no problem. Coffee takes time," I half-smiled.

When she finished their order, the "barista" came back to me and looked at me. "Hmm," I said. "Where do you guys get your coffee?"

"A place called Cafe Allegro, we have our own roaster," she answered.

"Ah... So, is it roasted here in Santa Fe?"

"No, it's roasted somewhere in Colorado."

"Oh, so you guys have it shipped down here weekly?"

"Oh yes, it's very fresh. It's excellent coffee."

DANG IT! I just want to leave! LET ME OUT! I smiled. "I think I'll have a single."

"For here or to go?"

Are you kidding? "Definitely for here, I don't do that paper cup thing."

"Oh, are you a coffee connoisseur?"

I bet you can't even spell that. "I suppose so..."

"Well, you'll really like this."

She went over to the grinder, doser full of grinds, and flicked it twice into her portafilter. It wasn't very much coffee, though it seemed adequate for a single. But... she was using a double basket... Again she didn't bother with any distribution, and tamped with little or no force. When she pulled the lever down and held it for a few seconds, I watched as another anemic trickle emanated from the single spout, black as oil and thin as alcohol.

She handed it to me, and I saw, thank goodness, there actually was some crema there. there was a big blond spot in the middle, but the other crema was actually reasonably dark. "Enjoy," she said.

I sat down and began to force myself to drink it. after my first small sip, all the crema dissipated. It was hot, black, and bitter. I was reminded of something my mentor at the lab told me the other day about his take on coffee:

"I can't stand coffee. It always leaves me this aftertaste like I just smoked a cigarette. If I'm going to have to put up with that, I'd really just as soon smoke a cigarette."

That's exactly how I felt, drinking this shot. and the aftertaste stuck for a good while, though not as long as a cigarette, thank goodness.

I returned the cup to her, and she asked how it was. I wanted to demand my money back. I wanted to enumerate to her all the things she did wrong. I wanted to tell her how pathetic it is to charge $1.50 for month-and-more-old coffee brewed by someone with as much knowledge of brewing espresso as someone from McDonald's.

"It was fine," I said, and left.

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#3: Post by cappadoc »

OK, I'll have a go.

Hospital Shot

The hospital in town got a 3 group La San Marco about 3 years ago. Two months ago, I ran out of the house for an emergency call. Three hours later, after the adrenaline wore off, I NEEDED coffee. Sick of the brewed charbucks, I decided to give the "cafe" a try. The server (I REFUSE to use the term barista) put two plastic teaspoons of coffee into a double basket for my double ristretto. She used the back of the spoon to "tamp" the coffee. I mean a generic white plastic teaspoon and NO pressure. She pulled 3 ounces of this dreck into a paper cup. I took a sip.

To this day I still don't know why I even bothered to taste it. I would imagine warm camel urine tastes more like espresso (no, I have no first hand knowledge of this, but her version of espresso has more similarities to this process than to actual espresso making). I am a very down-to-earth guy without the God complex shared by some of my medical colleagues, but I actually reached around the counter and dumped the rest down the drain in front of her. It was THAT bad.

Simply disposing of the drink would not have conveyed my thoughts about it, so I was obvious in my displeasure. I thank goodness that the hospital is huge, so it's unlikely she'll remember my face. Now I know why so many people don't like coffee.

Jeff Johnson

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#4: Post by reeeneeee »

I'll be living pretty far off-campus next year, so on my last day in cambridge, I decided to make the rounds of all the harvard square cafes to see what would be worth trekking back for next year. At the 5 or so places I visited, each individual shot was enough to convince me never to come back again, but I found the experience funny enough to keep going.

Cafe Pamplona

My last stop was a place called Cafe Pamplona. After running into some financial trouble a few years ago, it just re-opened last month. And you could tell. The place was run by two harried teenage boys, obviously very well-intentioned but also utterly clueless. After waiting 10 minutes at the counter for them to take care of all the sit-down customers, I placed my order: small cappuccino.

boy: "Umm...that'll take a long time. Can you wait until I'm done with the other customers?"

me: "I've already been waiting for a while. How about an americano instead?"

boy nods, takes a styrofoam cup, turns around to a *carafe*, pours out my americano.

me: " americano is espresso and hot water, no?"

boy takes out his cheat sheet, shows it to me. Well, at least he was following directions...
That carafe must have been filled the day before or something, because the drink was not only cold, but it had separated into layers. The top was almost all bitter, soapy-tasting water, and the bottom...well I never reached the bottom.

Actually, I probably got off easy. While I was waiting for my order, I saw the boys grabbing an unrefrigerated flower vase (!) of nasty brown liquid and using some of it as the espresso base for an iced drink.

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#5: Post by MarkJ »

[aside: wow that's a bummer about Pamplona! I remember it from my student days (now actual decades in the past) as a great place]

OK so I just introduced myself on the 'lurkers talk and win swag' thread, so here's the worst coffee I ever tasted and I made it myself:


So I've just about got the hang of my new Pavoni Europiccola lever machine and I put a cup under the spout to warm the grouphead for my first shot of the day. What usually happens is that as soon as the lever is up water flows out but this time nothing happened! I'm just standing there trying to figure out what is going on--the machine is on and heated up, the boiler is full, the lever is all the way up. Then it slowly dawns on me that I must have forgotten to clean the portafilter of spent coffee from the morning before!

You can't just take the pf off when it's pressurized since it will spurt hot steam right on that tender skin inside your wrist (don't ask me how I know this) so there was nothing to do but pull a shot.

Yes of course I tried it! It had no crema but it did have some nice spots of rancid-looking oil on top. I couldn't help thinking that if only I'd put 20oz of milk and 2 hazelnut syrup shots in it I could have gotten 4.95 for it at, er, a well-known national chain.

I forgot to take a picture, though, which I regret.

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#6: Post by Compass Coffee »

This "contest" thread is a hoot! :lol: I especially enjoyed Chris's "Americano" post. (Fortunately though I could almost mentally taste the foul dreck it was countered by the linger of a recent excellent sweet shot of Pearlman's Estate Kona) Most of the other threads I find myself somewhat intimidated and simply soaking in continuing layers of knowledge. I'm not a full fledged espresso hound yet, merely a pup. :wink:

I guess I've been a coffee snob for too long and extremely seldom order coffee of any form out so I'll fake it :arrow:

Sour Silvia

I did have a terrible shot today though... been playing with shots at various temps. (Just PID'd Silvia last week, took three years to finally get tired enough of surfing! Yeah, some are slower than others. :oops: ) Trying various beans at different shot temps. (mostly SO, plus a couple blends, all home roasted) This evening I went to pull a shot of Sumatra Gayo Mountain (roasted just to the barest edge of 2nd 12:30, now at 6&1/2days rest kept vac sealed after 1st day rest) Been making excellent Vac pots and Americanos with it (Americano shots at 231°f boiler temp). Decided to try it as a ristretto. For some reason decided to pull it with lower starting shot temp, 229°f. Filled LM double basket with Rocky +3 to grind to slightly heaping, finger distributed with slight pressure as best I understand, lightly tapped PF, light straight down tamp, lightly tap PF, NWSE full force tamp, mucho full force vertical tamp and polish. Lock and load. Almost exactly 25sec later looking at this about 1oz beautiful ristretto shot with 'bout 80% initial reddish brown crema (pulled into lead crystal demitasse). Took a sip and almost gagged! :shock: The worst shot Ive had in months! :oops: First I've dumped in days. Not bitter or astringent, but man was it sour. And to think, I could have paid for something that bad and not had to do all the work. :roll:
Mike McGinness

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#7: Post by richard_bone »

Ok, I should preface this story with one thing: I knew better, but couldn't resist temptation.

Hillbilly Cappuccino

My wife and I were staying in a cabin near the Smoky mountains a few years ago and we'd driven out to Gatlinburg, TN to grab a bite to eat and experience the tourist trap in all its glory. While we were milling about, I noticed a storefront that proudly advertised espresso and cappuccino. Knowing that there was no chance in hell of getting a decent cappa didn't discourage me in the least. I had to take the chance, if only for the caffeine.

When I first approached the window, an older woman was there to take my order. I noticed a commercial Rancilio machine in the background and for a brief moment, was optimistic that it wouldn't be that bad. Alas, what followed proved to me that it was hopeless....

My experience was similar to some of the earlier posts... Plastic tamper, coffee already ground in the doser, waiting for me, and a total lack of attention paid to the actual extraction. The most horrifying part of it all was the frothing. BABs the likes of which God has never seen were under the plastic lid of the paper cup she served me with. The caffeine was enough to quicken my pulse, and I did manage to finish it, but I can't recall one redeeming quality of my hillbilly cappa...

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#8: Post by HB (original poster) »

Cafe Pamplona is the winner by popular vote! reeeneeee, please contact me via private message with your shipping information so I can send you your prize.

PS: The Sink Shots Grudge Match continues...
Dan Kehn

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#9: Post by reeeneeee »

my new cup & saucer :D


...thanks Dan, Intelly, and Cafe Pamplona!

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#10: Post by tweeek »

I know that the competition is over but I had to share this story, worst ever coffee I've ever encountered......If I said I expected a drinkable shot, I would be lying, but I was 5 days into my stay in California and all I'd had so far was the folgers they serve in the holiday inn for breakfast and the bunn of unknown origin that I was getting at the school.
And the sign outside the primo rib did say espresso... There aren't too many options in Mojave when it comes to lunch and as previously mentioned, the sign did say espresso...

There you go hon, enjoy

It was the first time I've ever seen the crowd in a 'restaurant' actually stop and stare when we walked in, it's much more effective than it looks in the movies.
While ordering I noticed a two group Faema in the kitchen, I also noticed the portafilters soaking in a tub in front of the machine. No sign of a tamper but the machine looked pretty clean and well laid out. Ever the optimist, 'great, they're cleaning the handles' this could turn out ok..
So after my burger treat, I headed back up to the counter to order my shot. To my horror, the handle went straight from the tub to the grinder, not dried and definitely not rinsed. Couple of flicks of the handle, god knows how long the grinds had been in the doser, longer than I'd been in California I expect. Anyway, couple of flicks of the handle, no tamp, not even on the grinder 'tamper' and into the group. Down comes a Styrofoam 12 oz cup and under the group for my single shot.....
By this stage I was over the impulse to shout out 'don't worry about it' and a strong sense of curiosity had settled in. I really wanted to see how bad this was going to be, luckily, I didn't have to wait long, the pour was over in about 8 secs.
'There you go hon, enjoy'
Oh I will, I walked back to the table before I opened the lid. There was crema, I've never seen it that white before though, is that speckling? Or just the most liberal addition of grinds I've ever seen. Understanding finally, how curiosity got the better of the cat, I took a sip and chewed through the grinds. Hard to describe the flavours, but none of them were pleasant. Bitter, metallic, cold, oily, just plain horrible. And I have never seen so many grinds in a cup, I'm actually very curious as to how they got there, they were big so that partly explained the pour. I poured the cup out and they covered the bottom about 2 mm deep.
So there it is, hands down the worst I've ever had, made me yearn for the holiday inn folgers... and left me counting the days until I'm home