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How often are you disappointed with espresso at good cafes?

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Not sure if it's simply the case of bright roasts still dominating most cafes, but after another face twisting shot at a Richmond cafe I thought I'd ask here. How often are you happy with the shots you get served at good reputable cafes? Honestly I can't remember the last time I had a shot and thought to myself, wow that was good.

 

T.

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I find it very rare I sit down in a cafe and enjoy a decent cup of coffee.

I used to work very near Monmouth in Covent Garden, that was OK, but it did get very busy which I’m not a fan of.  

A few years ago before I really got into coffee I did used to enjoy sitting in Hussars coffee shop in Hampton Wick, I seem to recall the coffee in there was good, I’d stop in there every morning on my way to the office.


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I rarely go to a coffee shop to be impressed. It usually ends up as a disappointment otherwise.

I was talking to a colleague with whom we go for lunch every now and then and we sometimes hit a coffee shop that does amazing sandwiches and good coffee. He challenged me why are we going there if “coffee is just alright”. They do good sandwiches and coffee is more than drinkable in milk... shop that produces better coffee has meh customer service and poor sandwiches (IMHO), so it’s a win/win for both of us. I don’t have to bin coffee and food is ace.

I had good shots and on my recent trip to Netherlands. I did have some very tasty coffees (at Scandinavian Embassy and Ohoj out of ~6 I visited). I did research a lot for some obscure reason.

I also got hyped about a 2 group slayer, an EK, Mythos, etc. in a shop nearby. Finally, a great shop in my neighbourhood! It must be, if they have that gear?! They’re pulling 1:2 shots on EK and it was good, but I was so disappointed. It just felt like wasted potential, but then that’s just my preference anyway.

So 50/50? If you do good enough research, go to selected places that match your preferences and get lucky, then you’re good.

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I'm in London for the weekend visiting some friends and family and today we were in East London. So I did my usual, search on Google for some local coffee shops and then carefully inspect pictures and their websites. Chose a place Doppio, drove there and as soon as I walked in there were a few things that put me off. The biggest of which their bags of beans were just sitting open, no lid on the hopper of the grinder and when chatting to the guy he said their beans are 30% robusta. I chose not to buy a coffee there, one of my friends did and he wasn't too impressed. 

While walking around the area I found another place called nude espresso(which didn't even show on Google maps) and at that point was more than overdue my caffiene fix so I just said screw it and went in. Was pleasantly surprised to see some good kit in there, peeked over the counter and they had scales behind the bar and the coffee was great! 

Moral of the story, sometimes you can't solely rely on Google :)

 

to reply to the topic at hand though. I feel like I am disappointed quite often but there are still many great cafes out there. As Papa said, some research and you've got a 50/50 chance

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11 hours ago, PPapa said:

and Ohoj 

I'm curious how you ended up there? It's pretty out of the way of most things!

Not managed to make it to Ohoj yet but really want to, was in the city for a long weekend a couple of weeks (its where my mum is from) ago but had a lot to do so only managed to make it to The Village and Koffie Leute. If you are back then check out Dagger Coffee - the owner always does very well in competitions and standards are very high. It's a bit out of the way again but if you can make it to ohoj you can make it there.   


Londinium I, Mahlkönig Vario, Hario Skerton, Chemex 1-3 Cup.

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In answer to the question not that often, but I tend to do my research heavily beforehand and stick to known good coffee shops if possible.

I find London and UK roasters very disappointing these days. 

I'm only interested in lighter roasts not burnt commodity coffee. 

 


Londinium I, Mahlkönig Vario, Hario Skerton, Chemex 1-3 Cup.

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, aaronb said:

I'm curious how you ended up there? It's pretty out of the way of most things!

Not managed to make it to Ohoj yet but really want to, was in the city for a long weekend a couple of weeks (its where my mum is from) ago but had a lot to do so only managed to make it to The Village and Koffie Leute. If you are back then check out Dagger Coffee - the owner always does very well in competitions and standards are very high. It's a bit out of the way again but if you can make it to ohoj you can make it there.   

I just happened to be in Utrecht for a concert and had few spare days to explore Amsterdam/Utrecht. I don't mind a bit of walking - I was averaging 30K+ steps that week ;). 


Did I say I was doing a bit of research?! Ohoj came up on the list and so I went. I had a good chat with the roaster/owner. I bought a bag of beans and was told the anaerobic fermentation Brazilian special he had was on him! It's certainly worth visiting and the atmosphere is brilliant. To be frank, 30ml, 't Koffieboontje or The Village didn't really impress me. 

I really liked the set-up of Ohoj as well. You just sit right in the front of the bar with no artificial barrier between you, barista and the sexy gear:

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Photos were stolen borrowed copied from https://www.exploreutrecht.nl/en/coffee-at-ohoj-on-the-rijnlaan/ and http://coffee-terminus.com/speciality-coffee-map-of-utrecht/ . 

Edited by PPapa

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Ooooo Ohoj! A customer of theirs paid me to make them a couple of towels as a gift from him a few weeks ago!

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Given coffee shops that view themselves as 3rd wave and use high end kit  the point of which is, once dialled in, is replicability, you would think shot consistency was guaranteed. Wrong.

Once went into a coffee shop boasting a Black Eagle/Clima Pro set up. The coffee was rank so complained. Was told it was the roaster’s fault. Moral: doesn’t matter how good/expensive the kit is, if the person pulling the shot is useless and/or doesn’t give a ......the coffee is likely to disappoint. 

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Re the topic and disappointment at supposedly good coffee shops, I would say it is rare we are served a really nice cup these days. Thinking over the last years' visits to cafes I can only recall Foundry, North Star, and Roost..... there are probably a couple of others but I am struggling to remember them. There are a couple I won’t mention that have a big following, they are The Place To Be Seen and all that, the food is pretentious and the coffee awful!

A4745FD2-E702-4B42-AEBB-FA23E89D68B1.jpeg

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2019 L-R with hand turned Thuya burr handles and toggles / 1998 La Pavoni / Monolith Titan Flat & Conical, MAX Flat on order  / HG-1 / Kalita wave / Stag kettle / OCD / Joey Skateboard Handle Pullman Big Step & matching stirrer / Wenge Handle Lev Tamp / Push Tamper / Puqpress / 15g & 18g vst / IMS 35μM / LDT / Barista Gear Titanium 12oz pitchers / LW Bean Cellars & Caddy / Decent thermometer / Acme Evo 150ml cups / Espazzola / Hottop / embroidered by me bar towels / in the cellars: Steampunk, North Star, Foundry, The Barn, HasBean, Coffee Compass / 6 gorgeous guineas / a dog / a very lovely husband 

 

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There’s a one man tiny coffee shop in St Ives - Mount Zion - seats about six at a push. The guy is a legend. Dropped by couple of month’s back. The espresso was sublime. He weighs and checks each dose talking off any excess grinds with a spoon. Spotted a refractometer on the bench. How often have you seen that? He is incredibly knowledgable and passionate about what he does. Came away smiling and reflecting on a comment he made about one bean having too much mallic acid for his tastes. 

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As noted above, high end kit is supposed to produce replicable shots meaning, once dialled in, a numpty should be able to pull decent shots. If you want to know how good/seriously a shop takes its coffee, ask for a pour over. This will test the skill/training of the barista. Most of the coffee I’ve so ordered have been epic fails. 

One standout has been Cartwheel in Nottingham. Produced two V60s bang on the tasting notes. 


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Milk cures all evils and guessing  meat espresso is less than 5 percent of any cafes volume of drinks. 

Plus the reality Is  of cafes even percieved high end ones will pay not much, have staff turnover and will not be employing geeks for the love of making coffee, coz we won't work there for 8 quid an hour. 

Plus its all about prefence, if I went round 10 forums members Houses, how many of them would make an espresso I would enjoy... 


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1 hour ago, MildredM said:

Re the topic and disappointment at supposedly good coffee shops, I would say it is rare we are served a really nice cup these days. Thinking over the last years' visits to cafes I can only recall Foundry, North Star, and Roost..... there are probably a couple of others but I am struggling to remember them. There are a couple I won’t mention that have a big following, they are The Place To Be Seen and all that, the food is pretentious and the coffee awful!

A4745FD2-E702-4B42-AEBB-FA23E89D68B1.jpeg

Plus they don't have tea towels? 

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It might boil down to personal preference in some cases, which is also the reason I asked. For me 90% of bright spro simply tastes salty and harsh, that is all I taste regardless of the taste profile for whatever bean is used.

T.

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Espresso: Londinium L1, ZR-71 grinder

Photography: Flickr

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Posted (edited)

It's a similar situation in the US (outside of Washington State at least. They are pretty decent if you look around), especially in Rhode Island. After moving back from Italy I am extremely paranoid of trying any 'expresso' offered by the few cafes near me. The unfortunate truth is just about everybody in New England goes to Dunkin' Donuts for their caffeine hit. The two cafes I visited with my family resulted in mediocre and sour underextracted light roasts. I saw the baristas tamping my stuff and let's just say something was not level with their work and worth the $2-3 for a SINGLE shot...

We've been having workers come over for various things like painting, fixing the dryer, new carpeting, etc and I have given them shots of my espresso that I personally pull and all of them were shocked at the difference in taste compared to Dunkin', saying it is wicked good in the Boston-esque accent. I may have a cult following developed towards this mythical espresso if this keeps up.

Seriously though, there is only one place that serves even decent espresso, and it is an Italian food import store that just opened recently called Bottega Bocconi. The owner is from Bologna and married an American. He is the one man I would trust to make me a shot within fifty miles of where I live, no joke.

This leads me to conclude that only I can satisfy what I want, that being towards the darker roast side, and can totally justify all of my espresso purchases. 😉

Edited by IamOiman
clarification in roast preference
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I'd say it's about 50/50, bit depends on how selective you are with cafes.

Last week I went into Yay Coffee in Scarborough, whilst visiting, and was blown away by the quality of the shots I was served. They were using some HasBean coffee, a big La Marzocco, scales etc and taking great care with every step. I have had some great pour over in Pink Lane Coffee in Newcastle too. Nothing fancy, just Kalita wave, timer scales, huge grinder and some care.

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2 hours ago, PPapa said:

I just happened to be in Utrecht for a concert and had few spare days to explore Amsterdam/Utrecht. I don't mind a bit of walking - I was averaging 30K+ steps that week ;). 


Did I say I was doing a bit of research?! Ohoj came up on the list and so I went. I had a good chat with the roaster/owner. I bought a bag of beans and was told the anaerobic fermentation Brazilian special he had was on him! It's certainly worth visiting and the atmosphere is brilliant. To be frank, 30ml, 't Koffieboontje or The Village didn't really impress me. 

I really liked the set-up of Ohoj as well. You just sit right in the front of the bar with no artificial barrier between you, barista and the sexy gear:

spacer.png

spacer.png

Photos were stolen borrowed copied from https://www.exploreutrecht.nl/en/coffee-at-ohoj-on-the-rijnlaan/ and http://coffee-terminus.com/speciality-coffee-map-of-utrecht/ . 

30ml are awful.

 

t'koffieboontje use Bocca who do roast some excellent coffee's but not been impressed at t'koffieboontje itself. Bocca's flagship in cafe in Amsterdam is stunning and they run some interesting coffee's, had one from Cape Verde that was insane.  

 

Koffie Leute are good for filters as they have a dedicated filter bar.

 

Dagger Coffee is best for espresso.

 

Will def go to Ohoj next time, hadn't been in a while so had a lot of family catching up to do. Utrecht's a great city but so much busier and more touristy than 15 years ago, but then where isn't I guess. 

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1 hour ago, Mrboots2u said:

 

Plus its all about prefence, if I went round 10 forums members Houses, how many of them would make an espresso I would enjoy... 

One and he lives in Whittley Bay. 😂


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Posted (edited)

I’ve grown very wary of buying espresso at cafes... so rarely get a good one, or even an “interesting” one. I’ll order tea, if the risk of “espresso disappointment” is high—as not-great tea can (sometimes) be better buried in milk, whereas milk can (sometimes) bring out even more awfulness in a bad espresso! (I can tolerate bad tea better than a bad espresso!😂)

And, why don’t good restaurants understand the last coffee/espresso of the night is as important as the meal & the flamboyant dessert? Because too many people don’t cherish good coffee? ... or drink without attention? ... or drown it with milk & flavourings that turn it into a liquid candy bar?? Oh, it drives me crazy! I feel a good owner should be educating his customers to higher levels of appreciation.🤩 Call me an unapologetic espresso/coffee snob.

For example: I had a truly wonderful meal last year at a local restaurant with a very good chef... the sort of meal that gives a glow &  lingers... and cries out for an excellent single shot to wrap up the experience. I knew better, yet couldn’t help myself; wanted that accented closure to a great dinner. I looked over at the dimly lit bar... spotted untended but enviable equipment, so thought “yes, this bodes well”. Oh my, what a disappointment... undrinkable... and the lovely meal went out of my mind, replaced by the decision to never eat there again. Why doesn’t the industry understand this? It’s the last taste that stays with you when you leave the restaurant; that defines whether you return.

I’ve learned to be wary.

Edited by Slowpress
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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, Slowpress said:

I’ve grown very wary of buying espresso at cafes... so rarely get a good one, or even an “interesting” one. I’ll order tea, if the risk of “espresso disappointment” is high—as not-great tea can (sometimes) be better buried in milk, whereas milk can (sometimes) bring out even more awfulness in a bad espresso! (I can tolerate bad tea better than a bad espresso!😂)

And, why don’t good restaurants understand the last coffee/espresso of the night is as important as the meal & the flamboyant dessert? Because too many people don’t cherish good coffee? ... or drink without attention? ... or drown it with milk & flavourings that turn it into a liquid candy bar?? Oh, it drives me crazy! I feel a good owner should be educating his customers to higher levels of appreciation.🤩 Call me an unapologetic espresso/coffee snob.

For example: I had a truly wonderful meal last year at a local restaurant with a very good chef... the sort of meal that gives a glow &  lingers... and cries out for an excellent single shot to wrap up the experience. I knew better, yet couldn’t help myself; wanted that accented closure to a great dinner. I looked over at the dimly lit bar... spotted untended but enviable equipment, so thought “yes, this bodes well”. Oh my, what a disappointment... undrinkable... and the lovely meal went out of my mind, replaced by the decision to never eat there again. Why doesn’t the industry understand this? It’s the last taste that stays with you when you leave the restaurant; that defines whether you return.

I’ve learned to be wary.

The industry doesn't understand ( restaurants ) coz not enough of their customers actually value good coffee, meaning it's not worth the hassle of training , gear and good coffee.

Edited by Mrboots2u
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5 hours ago, Mrboots2u said:

The industry doesn't understand ( restaurants ) coz not enough of their customers actually value good coffee, meaning it's not worth the hassle of training , gear and good coffee.

Yup, and in this case they had great gear, but no one capable of doing it justice. More’s the pity.

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The place I've been to yesterday had all the kit, scales everywhere, the guy pulling the shots was sipping on a spro tasting and making adjustments, the crew was genuinely convinced that the spro served to me was top notch, yet it was uber harsh and salty. What gives then? This is one of the reasons why I mentioned personal preference before, perhaps it's my taste buds which are just not agreeing with bright spros? Similar thing happend a few times before with ek type spros, to me all the ones I had were absolute mouth killers.

T.


Espresso: Londinium L1, ZR-71 grinder

Photography: Flickr

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7 hours ago, dsc said:

The place I've been to yesterday had all the kit, scales everywhere, the guy pulling the shots was sipping on a spro tasting and making adjustments, the crew was genuinely convinced that the spro served to me was top notch, yet it was uber harsh and salty. What gives then? This is one of the reasons why I mentioned personal preference before, perhaps it's my taste buds which are just not agreeing with bright spros? Similar thing happend a few times before with ek type spros, to me all the ones I had were absolute mouth killers.

T.

It's preference, they like, you don't. 

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I drink tea out of home so no disappointment.

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GaggiaEnthusiast

 

Buying expensive equipment won't make you barista!

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