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CoolingFlush

Any love for "traditional" Italian beans?

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Hi, 

I'm just reaching out to see whether anybody has any love for old school, made in Italy, traditional espresso beans. I'm not talking about Rave Italian Job, or Union Revelation, but the likes of Kimbo, Mokarabia, Hausbrandt, even - dare I say - Illy/Segafredo/Lavazza?!? 😱

Yes, my usual beans will be Rocko Mountain, or Honduran, or some 'modern' espresso blend, but I do like the occasional guilty pleasure of some dark, industrial, crema-heavy beans. A cafe near me (Ginevra) actually sells a 100% Robusta from Sicily, which I like to partake in occasionally.

I imagine people might say "no roast date" and "robusta is evil", but is this coffee fundamentally beneath us, as coffee nerds, is it genuinely unpleasant, or can we dabble? I'd love to hear a recommendation for a particular Italian bean, from someone who also drinks 'modern' coffee.

Cheers 

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I'm still new in the world of espresso really so I'm still trying things. I have had Lavazza from the supermarket, the Oro ones, they are drinkable but I don't enjoy them like I do other fresh beans.

I think from my experience so far I prefer lighter roasts, I had some LSOL beans that were amazing, really need to get on another LSOL list actually.

I would be tempted to try some Illy beans, but they are more expensive than Lavazza, priced closer to fresh beans that are also likely to be much better.

You mentioned Union Revelation, I've had these a couple of times, last time I found them too dark.

Is it just me or do lighter roasts seem to be more popular now?


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I am light roast person as well. I shy away from anything dark.

Saying that, I was in Italy earlier this year and didn’t take any coffee gear. I had an espresso or two there and they were surprisingly enjoyable. Would I drink it everyday? Hell no.

I also do enjoy an occasional natural Brazilian bean that’s still light(ish) as it’s quite nice in milk.

It’s like whisky - I might be into peaty stuff, but give me a nice Speyside dram and I won’t turn away from it.

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I'm not too sure what a traditional Italian bean is but I'm pretty certain it would suit me. I'm a coffee heathen, dark roasts all the way. My tastebuds aren't what they used to be and notes of this, that and the other are lost on me. I do however drink milk based coffees, never an espresso.

Edited by DDoe
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2 hours ago, PPapa said:


It’s like whisky - I might be into peaty stuff, but give me a nice Speyside dram and I won’t turn away from it.

This is a good point - I normally drink decent beer (Trappists, strong American IPA's etc.), but now and again only an ice cold cooking lager will do!

I think it can be the same with coffee, it's good to be able to enjoy simple, robust beans as well as complex, distinctive ones. I like the concept of The Comfort Espresso, something reliable which requires little thought.

Perhaps I am talking-down Italian style espresso though...

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This is a good point - I normally drink decent beer (Trappists, strong American IPA's etc.), but now and again only an ice cold cooking lager will do!
I think it can be the same with coffee, it's good to be able to enjoy simple, robust beans as well as complex, distinctive ones. I like the concept of The Comfort Espresso, something reliable which requires little thought.
Perhaps I am talking-down Italian style espresso though...

It’s more of a “well made drink can still be good, just not to ones tastes”.

I don’t subscribe to comfort espresso at home, that’s not why I have an espresso machine at home. I could get mediocre espresso at half a dozen shops nearby.

Sounds snobbish, but I guess that’s where we are at.

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I suspect “comfort espresso” means very different things to each person, perhaps? “Comfort” doesn’t have to mean poor quality, mediocre, over-roasted, or a low-end coffee grade, does it? 🤔 I have not tasted Lavazza or Illy beans, nor the Kimbo beans, so I cannot speak to those & whether they offer comfort or dismay. However, my local roaster makes a lovely espresso blend —medium roast, and far from “dark”— that I would describe as very “comforting” (deep down, right into my boots, comforting!), but never mediocre, dull or uninteresting.

I won’t judge any espresso until I taste the cup.🙃

Edited by Slowpress
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My next purchase is going to be a kilo of Square Mile Red Brick, but after that I think I'll take a punt on Kimbo Superior, and report back on whether or not they're awful!

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2 hours ago, CoolingFlush said:

My next purchase is going to be a kilo of Square Mile Red Brick, but after that I think I'll take a punt on Kimbo Superior, and report back on whether or not they're awful!

Taking a hit for the team! Good on ya! Be sure to let us know how it tasted.

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Whether you like it or not is the important thing.

Having said that, I don't buy into this "Robusta can be good" argument at all. Yes, I know that there are ok Robustas out there, but 99.99% is rubbish. It seriously has to be one of the finest examples anywhere in the world to be any good. Even then, it has all the disadvantages of the cheaper stuff, like massively too high a caffeine content and isn't any cheaper than an average Arabica which would probably taste better. The ordinary Robustas are only used as a cheap filler in what is usually an over roasted blend. In Italy, it's often in there to try and coax a crema from stale beans. Don't forget, in Italy people are used to paying less than a euro for espresso so it needs to be cheap and ( hopefully ) cheerful. The average Italian would scoff at the very concept of third wave roasting and the prices charged, just like your average Brit is so used to drinking crap builders tea, they never actually buy the real stuff, just dust in a bag.

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In reality, significantly higher prices here compared to Italy do not produce a better coffee - on the contrary. 

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1 hour ago, Nikko said:

In reality, significantly higher prices here compared to Italy do not produce a better coffee - on the contrary. 

In reality, it does. 

In Italy you can get a passable espresso almost anywhere, but you'll really struggle to get a good one as the quality of the beans are so poor. Most places are loaned their machines and then tied in to using the beans of the company that supplies it. This is always cheep commodity coffee. Do you think that stale, cheap, commodity beans with plenty of low grade Robusta will make an interesting v60 or even espresso?  There's a reason why just about every other developed nation is willing to buy a better grade of beans.

That's talking about the home enthusiasts market, if you were referring to there being no consistency in the skills of baristas in the UK, I'd agree. It's so ingrained in Italian culture, you'd struggle to get a piss poor espresso.

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9 hours ago, CoolingFlush said:

My next purchase is going to be a kilo of Square Mile Red Brick, but after that I think I'll take a punt on Kimbo Superior, and report back on whether or not they're awful!

They’ll be shite, but if you like ‘em, you like ‘em!

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This is going to be a high-stakes tasting, whenever I get around to it. I so want it to be good, and I don't even know why! (Probably because of my memories of coffee in Italy, and with getting into coffee around the millennium, "Italian" was still held in the highest regard). I do fear that it'll be bad!

Interesting debate, "Is Italian coffee actually horrible?"😆

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31 minutes ago, CoolingFlush said:

This is going to be a high-stakes tasting, whenever I get around to it. I so want it to be good, and I don't even know why! (Probably because of my memories of coffee in Italy, and with getting into coffee around the millennium, "Italian" was still held in the highest regard). I do fear that it'll be bad!

Interesting debate, "Is Italian coffee actually horrible?"😆

You may like it, but people on this forum aren't going to be interested in it because there isn't anything to be of interest. The world owes a lot to Italy and it's coffee culture but they've hit on a recipe and kept it that way for over half a century. The rest of the world has now caught up and largely passed them by. There are roughly the same number of people in Italy as Britain and they are much more likely to drink espresso, yet there's literally hundreds of speciality roasters in the UK, but very few in Italy. The cheap commodity roasters like Lavazza rule the roost there and the amazing speciality roasters like Gardelli do a lot of their business outside of Italy.

Why not order some Kimbo off Amazon and at the same time buy some beans direct from Gardelli and see which you prefer?

Edited by cold war kid

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9 hours ago, cold war kid said:

Why not order some Kimbo off Amazon and at the same time buy some beans direct from Gardelli and see which you prefer?

Goes to Gardelli website. Sees Gesha Village Microlot for €100. Cancels Italian roaster challenge.😂

 

9 hours ago, cold war kid said:

The world owes a lot to Italy and it's coffee culture but they've hit on a recipe and kept it that way for over half a century. The rest of the world has now caught up and largely passed them by.

You make a great point, I think you are probably right👌. To borrow a concept from beer, though, the Germans and Czechs have contributed enormously to the culture of quality beer over the centuries, and still have some of the highest "per head" beer consumptions in Europe, with beer ingrained in society's as a commodity and a national duty, much like the Italian espresso in Italy. Beer too has moved on, and you may not get the latest habanero and peanut butter Imperial stout from breweries like Hacker-Pschorr or Ùnêtické, but few beer boffins would deny the brilliance of the simple, bold traditional drinks the old breweries still produce (and they continue to score highly on the ratings platforms). They are seen as classics, but in contrast it seems that "old" coffee does not receive this sort of reverence, in the world of espresso.😢

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You make a great point, I think you are probably right. To borrow a concept from beer, though, the Germans and Czechs have contributed enormously to the culture of quality beer over the centuries, and still have some of the highest "per head" beer consumptions in Europe, with beer ingrained in society's as a commodity and a national duty, much like the Italian espresso in Italy. Beer too has moved on, and you may not get the latest habanero and peanut butter Imperial stout from breweries like Hacker-Pschorr or Ùnêtické, but few beer boffins would deny the brilliance of the simple, bold traditional drinks the old breweries still produce (and they continue to score highly on the ratings platforms). They are seen as classics, but in contrast it seems that "old" coffee does not receive this sort of reverence, in the world of espresso.
There are a hell of alot more German & Czech breweries (some villages even have 2!) than Italian roasters (where a few giants have swallowed the market) so it's not the best comparison.
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Laissez les bons temps rouler

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https://en.bamberg.info/bier/ - 11 breweries in town, 60 in greater area, 400 beers

If done right, there's nothing wrong with Italian espresso served in Italy. Usually, and that's the main difference imho, Italian baristas are passionate about and proud of their work compared to their average counterparts throughout the world. For most people Italian espresso is strongly linked to holiday trips and therefore remembered as something special. You cannot simply recreate that at home by buying Italian beans, I guess.

We have experimented with an Italian-style blend and found that it would suit best for customers coming from supermarket beans. Once they've tried our other blend or a single origin, though, they wouldn't revert to Italian-style. 😇

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8 hours ago, ashcroc said:
9 hours ago, CoolingFlush said:
You make a great point, I think you are probably rightemoji108.png. To borrow a concept from beer, though, the Germans and Czechs have contributed enormously to the culture of quality beer over the centuries, and still have some of the highest "per head" beer consumptions in Europe, with beer ingrained in society's as a commodity and a national duty, much like the Italian espresso in Italy. Beer too has moved on, and you may not get the latest habanero and peanut butter Imperial stout from breweries like Hacker-Pschorr or Ùnêtické, but few beer boffins would deny the brilliance of the simple, bold traditional drinks the old breweries still produce (and they continue to score highly on the ratings platforms). They are seen as classics, but in contrast it seems that "old" coffee does not receive this sort of reverence, in the world of espresso.emoji22.png

There are a hell of alot more German & Czech breweries (some villages even have 2!) than Italian roasters (where a few giants have swallowed the market) so it's not the best comparison.

 

The characterisation of the beer situation in the Czech rep and comparison to coffee in Italy is not accurate. There has been a massive closure of breweries following the acquisition and consolidation by the major international brewery groups in the 1990s with accompanying reduction in quality to up profits. The consequence has been the start up of a large number of micro and small breweries making mainly traditional type beer of good quality and forcing the big boys to up their game. While more types of locally brewed beer are now available , the traditional pilsner type remains by far the most popular. And very importantly, beer from the small breweries is also often cheaper than from the big boys.

in Italy, the masses continue to be satisfied with the available traditional coffee and as far as I know there is little clamour for something costing twice or thrice more, like it does here. If somebody was to make better coffee available at a lower price than now, things may be different.

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50 minutes ago, Nikko said:

 

The characterisation of the beer situation in the Czech rep and comparison to coffee in Italy is not accurate. There has been a massive closure of breweries following the acquisition and consolidation by the major international brewery groups in the 1990s with accompanying reduction in quality to up profits. The consequence has been the start up of a large number of micro and small breweries making mainly traditional type beer of good quality and forcing the big boys to up their game. While more types of locally brewed beer are now available , the traditional pilsner type remains by far the most popular. And very importantly, beer from the small breweries is also often cheaper than from the big boys.

in Italy, the masses continue to be satisfied with the available traditional coffee and as far as I know there is little clamour for something costing twice or thrice more, like it does here. If somebody was to make better coffee available at a lower price than now, things may be different.

You can't make good respectable tasty specialty coffee for the same price as a robusta and commodity blend. 


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On 15/09/2019 at 15:23, cold war kid said:

The average Italian would scoff at the very concept of third wave roasting and the prices charged, just like your average Brit is so used to drinking crap builders tea, they never actually buy the real stuff, just dust in a bag.

A few months back I was in Bergamo and came across a newly opened speciality coffee shop. The only customers seemed to be tourists. The barista was very passionate about his coffee. However, he was selling a very scant V60 ( about 175ml) for 7 EUR. A standard shot is 1 EUR everywhere else.

The V60 was not great (nor terrible). They were importing greens from the UK from the likes of Falcon Speciality as they found it hard to source quality greens from Italy.

It will be interesting to see if it catches on.

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