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

Clark Barclay pedestriancoffee at gmail.com
Wed Feb 24 19:11:28 CST 2016

LOL. Everything about this article is incorrect. In fact, it pisses me off that someone would write with such ignorance. 

I especially like the part about how old machines work better, sure, maybe the old technology is superior to many modern espresso machines' technology, but the build up of coffee grime etc. is irrelevant. So a classic car that's never been serviced performs better?

You got to give it up to Italy for they're rich coffee and espresso history and culture, but times have changed. I agree that your average espresso shot in Italy is better than your average espresso shot in the US- i'm factoring in diners, restaurants, cafés of all types, etc.- but the reasons he states aren't accurate. And comparing to third wave is so wrong . We're all drinking the same stuff, blended Brazilian beans (mainly) when it comes to run-of-the-mill coffee- that's loaded with defects in other nasty stuff thats best we don't know about. I love it when I meet people from other countries that tell me they have the best coffee. and then I asked him where it comes from and they have no idea. People think their coffee grows in their country, haha. Trade routes and proximity to coffee growing regions was once a thing but now commodity coffee is commodity coffee, were all drinking the same stuff- unless of course you're buying specialty grade like us here on Sweet Maria's. Globalization people.

As a barista at a 3rd wave cafe, I've had many European customers complain about the amount of time an espresso takes, but that's because we are making it with a lot of attention. There are two main reasons why espresso is faster in Europe: One, the coffee menu is much smaller so baristas are often just blindly pulling shots during rushes, so you get your espresso right as you order it. Third wave coffee shops, hopefully, make your espresso to order. Secondly the barista in Italy, or your average cafe in the US is not weighing, timing, weighing again, tasting, dialing, adjusting, etc., your espresso. Sure, I can pull a shot in 30 seconds, but chances are it won't taste amazing. No two shots are the same- the grind setting, dosing, output etc. must be manually monitored and adjusted throughout the day if you want consistent and good shots. Then again many people will put milk and or sugar in their espresso so the quality of the shot doesn't really matter anyway. I'm certain that those European customers who complain would be happier with a shot that I carelessly pulled in 30 seconds then with one that I meticulously pulled in two minutes that tastes amazing. I completely respect people's desire for quick coffee, but sometimes I just want to tell them: when in Rome.

Also, I'd like to comment about the regional differences in espresso. From my short career as a barista it all has to do with the café/companies specs that they make all their baristas follow. For example, A particular espresso blend at bluebottle could have a speck of 18 g in, 40 g out. That spec will be used at all of their cafés and result in an ideally consistent tasting and feeling shot.  There are essentially two types of espresso specs, thick and sweet/sour or thin and sweet. Despite what the article says finer grinds do not mean better espresso. Grind is just one of the many variables, and the setting has a lot to do with the dosing and output, not to mention personal preference.

I also love the part where he mentions third wave cafés are not exposing the true taste of coffee. Third wave cafés often focus on lighter roasting. The more you roast coffee the more naturally occurring acids burn off. He's got it totally flipped. acids=flavor complexity. Heat = carbon and lactic acid, I can agree with the argument that carbon and lactic acid taste better with milk and sugar. You don't need to like light roasts, most ppl don't, but you can't say longer roast exposes more of the "true taste" of coffee.

Finally, the water comment is ridiculous. It has everything to do with what treatment grid you're on. You can't make that generalization about entire countries with cities on thousands of different grids and different treatment methods.

Ok, I'm done.

Thanks for sharing

- Clark

> On Feb 23, 2016, at 6:40 PM, Michael Rasmussen <michael at michaelsnet.us> wrote:
> This Rome native transplanted to San Francisco critiques and analyzes US coffee.
> https://medium.com/@sinzone/why-is-espresso-in-america-so-bad-b0606d8ddeb5#.ubzk6ojd0
> -- 
>    Michael Rasmussen, Portland Oregon  
>  Be Appropriate && Follow Your Curiosity
> The universe is a program. You're just a subroutine.
>  ~ Zach Weiner
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