Replicating cafe quality drinks - impossible??

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

#1: Post by lakieguy »

Hi All -

I've moved from a Silvia to an Appartamento to a MaraX, and while I love my MaraX, I feel like no matter what I do I cannot replicate the smoothness of a cappuccino served at a reputable third-wave coffee shop. I'm 3 years into this hobby (part obsession), and while the drinks I make are good, they lack some elusive, distinct quality that the high-end La Marzocco machines are able to produce. I just wanna put it out there - but my technique is solid, my grinder is a $1500 Eureka Atom 75, and my beans are fresh and locally roasted (i've tried many).

Do any of you relate to what I'm saying? Is it true that at the price point of my machine and grinder, my drinks will never be quite as good as the ones that a $10-20,000 dollar machine produces? Looking forward to your thoughts! If anything, maybe this will help me set realistic expectations for myself as a home barista with a prosumer espresso machine priced under 2000.



#2: Post by jasiano »

Up to a certain point, I sort of agree - cheap(er) home espresso machines will lack temperature/flow/pressure consistency of commercial machines, and similarly cheaper home grinders won't give as consistent of a grind as commercial grinders.

But I firmly believe that with good fresh beans, and good quality home machine/grinder that give consistent temp/flow/grind quality, and with good technique, you can get as good if not better than some commercial cafes.
I know I can make better coffee ('better' being subjective I know) than a lot of cafes locally, but maybe not as good as some others. My technique is getting better, and sure I could probably do with a better grinder etc if I want to chase 'perfection' (which I do/will... :) )

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#3: Post by shotwell »

There's absolutely no reason you can't do this, but you'll need to learn how to taste and adjust well. Since you're referencing a capp it's important to try to discern whether the issue is in your shot prep, the ratio of milk to coffee solids, or your milk. IMO milk quality and milk steaming make a tremendous difference for a drink with the strength of a modern cappuccino. Good shops buy very good milk and steam it well.

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#4: Post by happycat »

If you want a quality discussion:

- define the experience you get in a cafe. be specific.
- define what you get at home

Clearly describe the difference

Ask for help in resolving that difference in the forum related to tips and techniques.

You've blown through several espresso machines and grinders... it seems like you think the answer is in the machine rather than the skill and ingredients.
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#5: Post by Jesse.F »

You have listed machines that many people here have and love, and are plenty capable. Many people here regularly make drinks they enjoy more than what they get at the cafe. Might I suggest that the only real variable here is you.

There is a certain joy in having people do things for you. It's possible that for you, the atmosphere, and routine of having someone make you a drink in a café, is what's adding that special something you can't put your finger on with your home drinks.

The whole routine sets you up for enjoyment, where the DIY routine at home is setting you up to be extra critical.

It's also possible doing 50+ drinks a day for years makes them better at it than you doing 3-4 (I'm guessing) drinks a day at home.

lakieguy (original poster)

#6: Post by lakieguy (original poster) »

Thanks everyone for your input. As Jesse mentioned - it is definitely hard to put my finger on it. The cafe drinks always seem to be so smooth, whereas mine have some subtle and lingering bitterness, ashiness or sourness - or the first few sips are good, and the rest of the drink seems lacking in body or depth.

If it's really a matter of practice, which it sounds like it is, then I'm going to stick to one bean, and pay extra attention to all variables until I get it right.

Wish me luck!

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#7: Post by baldheadracing »

Assuming that you are in Toronto, name the shop and the equipment that they use - it isn't like you are saying anything negative about them.

My first guesses besides what has been mentioned above - for cappuccino specifically - are that you are perhaps not using the same water treatment regimen as the shop, and/or perhaps not the same milk supplier and grade of milk.

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#8: Post by MASONMAN »

Maybe it's just your perception? I know I am biased to think that something someone makes for me.....whether it's a sandwich or a steak or a pour over or a shot of espresso....I always tend to think their product tastes better, all things being equal.

That's not to say that someone else's product is always better. Trash is trash. But I give others more shine than I do for my own product (pour over or shot of espresso). Maybe we tend to be more critical of our own product?

Just a thought.


#9: Post by harleyujoe »

I think something as simple as the cup you drink from changes how you taste your cappuccino from commercial shop..

I used thin clear cups for some time and went with thick taper cups and noticed a difference ..

Stayed hotter longer and this could affect what you say after the first sip it changes..

But I myself find those who make cup after cup sure have a advantage in a shop than home user ..

But wonder what those in a shop really think of the espresso / cappuccino they make vs going to another shop ..LOL

Like myself I only drink 3 cappuccinos a week and only in Fall and Winter months and been wanting a ECM Synch or
Crem Profiler but for little use and then purchasing a Niche grinder , I ask is it really worth learning and spending
money and like yourself would be my worst critic and disappointed I am sure...

And like others talk about you can not cheat on material used fresh coffee beans ,And finding beans that meet you taste can be challenging,
the milk used and the water ...So that is a lot to get right not including pre fusion and so on..Yikes .
You have to love what you are doing and it is not cheap do it.
Good Luck ..

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#10: Post by mgrayson »

I took a one-day class. The demonstration of milk steaming and, especially, tasting the difference between well and poorly steamed milk, was FAR the most valuable thing. Experimentation is fine, but having one good starting point saves a ton of frustration. Watch a good barista steam milk and listen for the different stages. Mind you, I'd have loved if the class spent more time on dialing in espresso, as I'm still not very good at that.