[Homeroast] Why is espresso in America so bad? Italian perspective

Jim Foote jimmfoote at gmail.com
Fri Apr 15 17:32:31 CDT 2016

Vince, I just got back from Italy and have similar observations.  Espresso
(i.e. caffe) everywhere, always a very short single shot. This was
surprising to me since I only pull double shots and find that is the case
with most espresso shops here in British Columbia. I never saw an Italian
order a caffe and not add sugar.  Some very good, most good and a few not
so good but many list participants likely more discerning than me.  Don't
remember seeing a roastery + coffee bar, always a known commercial coffee
was used.  I found one store in Rome that ground coffee to spec but didn't
roast its own.  Seemed to be a lot fewer home roasters and even home
grinders than I sense is the case in Canada and USA.  Most stores where we
shopped for groceries only handled ground coffee.

We AirBnB'd it for 2 months, almost always had the standard Italian coffee
maker that I came to accept rather than get up and hit the streets for an
espresso (until later).  Gelato, another obsession, is almost as common as
caffe, but that is another matter.

Spent most of our time in Sicily with stays in Rome, Naples, Florence and
Amalfi Coast. I didn't see much difference in the coffee culture, maybe a
bit pricier in Rome and Florence but that is a general expectation as well.

Experiences were limited but seem to be confirmed by other travellers.


On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 1:03 PM, Captain CowPie <Coffee at vpx.com> wrote:

> We got back from Italy a few days ago, and as promised here are a few
> quick thoughts on my Italian coffee experience.
> When asked on the tour what you really wanted to experience while in
> Italy, I was the only one of 48 on the bus to say Italian Espresso. In the
> end I probably had over 100 espresso drinks. Mostly espresso, some
> macchiatos, some cappuccinos.
> The espresso is pretty good almost everywhere, but nothing was great. A
> few were not good.
> I really tried to search out the smaller establishments away from the
> tourist areas when possible
> Some places had better espresso than others, especially Verona, Lake Como
> and one place in Milan. The Milan establishment was some sort of Illy
> certified restaurant.
> Another place in Milan had grinders full of beans but actually poured
> ground Kimbo coffee into the doser as I watched in horror. They never
> ground any coffee!!!
> Even McDonalds had an espresso machine. It wasn't awful.
> Most machines were 3-4 group semi-automatics
> The majority of grinders were Mazzer types
> Most espresso machines were La Cimbali
> Very few tampers. Most used the plastic tamper attached to the grinder or
> did no tamping at all.
> A few served sparkling water to cleanse the palette prior to espresso
> Some served a small piece of chocolate with the espresso
> Some of the better pours I had came from Asian-owned establishments
> Most of the places never wiped their milk spout! At all!
> Almost all of the drinks were dosed by pulling once on the dosing arm
> Prices ranged from €.80 to €2.10 for espresso. The average was around €1.00
> Cappuccinos were usually double the price or more
> Every truck stop, gas station and restaurant had nice espresso machines
> You usually get your drink within 1-2 minutes of ordering, and are on your
> way in 2-3 minutes or less
> Now my 22 oz shots seem excessive compared to what I got in Italy. I was
> thinking of trying the single shot approach to see how it goes.
> The saddest part was when I arrived at the Richmond Airport and looked
> around in vain for a true espresso machine. None to be found anywhere. It
> really highlighted the differences between Italian and American coffee
> ideologies. Now I wonder if I would trade some of the better espressos I
> get here to have the ability to get pretty good espresso almost anywhere in
> a minute or two. There is something to be said about that experience.
> Vince
> > On Feb 25, 2016, at 7:07 AM, Captain CowPie <Coffee at vpx.com> wrote:
> >
> > Glad to see the list active once again.
> >
> > I am going to Italy in a few weeks and will definitely put his analysis
> to the test. Even if I must suffer and drink more espresso than normal.
> >
> > Vince
> >
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jimmfoote at gmail.com

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