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Coffee shops: is it really that difficult to make good coffee?


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Since getting my espresso machine, my focus on cafe bought beverages has become laser sharp.

Some casual observations:

*Most hipster coffee shops are shite.

*The harder a cafe tries, the worse they are

*Starbucks :classic_laugh:

*I have yet to see what appears to be a proper barrista in a cafe. It's mostly bored graduates mashing away at the machines.

*Expensive does not equal good.

 

But a shout out to the best coffee I have had in a good while. 

Marks and Spencer!

They had a Nice La-M machine, A pair of mazzer jollys and not much else. Beans were MS house blend.

The not-hipster woman doing the coffee was efficient but careful and appeared to use her tools well.

The coffee was fantastic. Balanced and satisfying. Markedly so much better than anything else I've had of late.

Not a bottle of Monin in sight.

 

Is good coffee really so difficult?

 

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2 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

 

Some casual observations:

*Most hipster coffee shops are shite.

Actually I'd say most coffee shops are shite, which is a shame.  You seem to have an odd thing against hipsters.

Most recently we went on a road trip, stayed in 7 locations in the UK.  B&B and hotel coffee is invariably shite, so every morning over 16 days we went for a walk looking for a decent coffee.  We found passable coffee in about 4 locations  terrible in 2, and excellent in one.  We tried multiple outlets, mostly independent.

 

In the one which was good, the barista (and she clearly was), opened a fresh packet of beans (id asked for the special Colombia they had), and she spent sometime dialling in the grind and tasting all the while.  She said she wouldn't be happy giving the espresso to a customer until she was happy with it. I was impressed and pleased.  Unfortunately not all the staff in this place were similarly concerned as the next day another member produced merely passable coffee.

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14 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

Some casual observations:

*Most hipster coffee shops are shite. : Many, many coffee shops produce (almost) undrinkable carp under the label "coffee". Some of them are actually pretty good at "other things". Unfortunately (Hipster) Coffee Shops that "specialise" in coffee often don't!! Specialise in coffee - they "specialise" in a poncy (hipster) stereotyped image. 

*The harder a cafe tries, the worse they are: Don't quite agree - But (as per above) very often they "try to hard" on image rather than actually good coffee.

*Starbucks :classic_laugh:: No comment.... no seriously I consider the worst of the worst of the mega-chains.

*I have yet to see what appears to be a proper barrista in a cafe. It's mostly bored graduates mashing away at the machines.: Keep looking - they are out there!

*Expensive does not equal good.: 100%

But a shout out to the best coffee I have had in a good while. 

Marks and Spencer!: Oh dear god NO!!!! After a few attempts at various M&S coffee - I will not even try now.... If I go to an M&S I'll drink anything else... 

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Isn't it just that the more time and money we spend on a beverage/hobby, the more critical we are of paying for what could be something we could possibly make better at home? 

I've got a couple of shops that I love near me and I avoid the others. Sometimes I have incredible coffee from these, sometimes it's excellent but it's always very drinkable and when it's not (caveat is I generally avoid milk drinks...) I can openly talk to the staff there about what I didn't like so it becomes a conversation rather than something to sulk about. 

I avoid the big chains and always start a conversation at the bar. What's good? What's new? What method? I'm a pretentious fool when it comes to coffee so I may as well enjoy it. This would go down like a lead balloon in Costa et al but leads to some good times/drinks in some great independent places. 

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Had a really good espresso from Greggs a while back. I must have caught them when they'd just cleaned the machine and opened a new bag because I tried it a second time and it was the worst thing I've ever tasted. Sometimes cheap blends, especially quite dark roasted, can be perfectly simple and satisfying (and especially in a milk drink). It doesn't have to be expensive and people don't necessarily have to know what they're doing, the stars just need to align and god needs to look down on you the moment you place your order. I've been to a couple of hipster places and was served crap too, but I've also been served really good coffee by hipsters.

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33 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

*The harder a cafe tries, the worse they are

Don't think that's the case. Have you seen that James Hoffman video 'notable new London coffee shops'? They are trying extremely hard. I think any outlet, to be good, has to try hard to achieve that consistent quality.

43 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

proper barrista in a cafe

I think it's about levels and expense of the outlet. Anyone in a pub can mix a drink. Go to a proper bar or expensive restaurant and they'll have someone properly trained in mixing drinks. Same with coffee outlets. Nero will have university students and exchange program people working there. Higher end places will have actual baristas.

35 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

Most hipster coffee shops are shite.

What is a 'hipster coffee shop' and where are they all? I am born and raised in London and so am less preoccupied with railing against these labels, but I'm interested to know what these outlets that offend so many people are. How does the way someone dresses inform the product they are serving? James Hoffman has hipsterish qualities, I'm sure he'd be serving me decent coffee.

52 minutes ago, Blue_Cafe said:

Marks and Spencer!

I used to like the Waitrose free coffee, I'll be probably be going back to that if we ever get back to normal.

I had to look up Monin. You're right that in what you imply, what horrible stuff!

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Like anything once it becomes trendy people jump on the bandwagon. Loads of "Specialty" coffee shops have opened in London and a lot of them are shite but there are also some very good ones. I learnt how to spot the ones I would get a crap espresso in. If they have a LM Linea and crucially they are using Square Mile's Red Brick then 9 out of 10 times the espresso won't be drinkable and now when I see that set up I just turn around and go somewhere else. 

I actually find it easier to get good coffee outside of London. There are far fewer specialty coffee shops so you have to hunt them down but they are usually run by people who love coffee and care about the product. 

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1 hour ago, Stanic said:

People who would care and have the knowledge are probably not easy to keep, with the lowish wages or other potential issues. 

Here are some of my observations 

Agree with this. Very much like the waiter profession. See the difference in waiting service abroad compared to here. Pay peanuts, often get monkeys. 

I wouldn't tar everyone with the same brush though. A friend of mine I imagine would fit into the 'hipster mould as a young barista but here's very passionate and diligent about his profession. 

 

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Pretty much anyone drinking non mass-market coffee could be accused of being a hipster. There are some places that feel very 'try-hard' at being cool, where the coffee isn't amazing but it's 'hipsters' making the most interesting/best coffee I've had.

I think it's quite hard for a lot of places to offer something that has mass appeal (my parents claim to love good coffee but only really want super-dark roasted stuff) which is also interesting enough for connoisseurs. It would be good if more places could offer a choice of different beans but you can see how that's logistically tricky in some smaller venues.

It is surprising how good you can make coffee at home though, even with my basic little Dedica and a decent grinder I can make coffee at least as good as lots of cafes.

Edited by grumble
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Unpopular opinion but I've yet to drink a coffee from a hipster coffeeshop that's not at least decent. Pretentious interior - yes, baristas with portafilter tattoos - yes, £4 muffins - yes yes. But never had bad beverage really. Had sub par service, but that's different. Maybe because I'm always super careful where I have it and Best Coffee app is on my "speed dial" and I don't risk it for a biscuit.

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2 hours ago, Zeak said:

Unpopular opinion but I've yet to drink a coffee from a hipster coffeeshop that's not at least decent. Pretentious interior - yes, baristas with portafilter tattoos - yes, £4 muffins - yes yes. But never had bad beverage really. Had sub par service, but that's different. Maybe because I'm always super careful where I have it and Best Coffee app is on my "speed dial" and I don't risk it for a biscuit.

That's my feeling too. I think I know what sort of places people are getting at, but in London there's a lot of completion, things are expensive but they're often good quality in these sort of places. A sandwich might be £7 in these places but it is good. That £4.50 muffin is good. Same with the coffee. As more self aware people have admitted and I have been/am guilty of myself, once you become 'into' something you maybe become a bit pretentious and elitist about it.

Edited by CocoLoco
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There's one coffee shop near me that might meet the definition of hipster (in that they appear to be selling a lifestyle rather than coffee: they are also an art gallery and sell luxury items (linen tea towels!) to tourists). 

I've never had a coffee from them but I've heard people wax lyrical about it. 

I'll give it a go someday when it's safer to hop on a bus into town. 

 

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There's absolutely nothing subversive about the aesthetic of "hipster" coffee shops, if the forum's going to rely so heavily on tropes in favour of interesting discussion can we at least get our slurs right.

I think this topic has been done to death. Some coffee shops are good, some are bad. Some aren't even coffee shops, they're just selling coffee. Some good coffee shops have bad days, some bad coffee shops have good staff. Some good staff have bad days, some bad staff have good equipment. Some reputations are justified, some reputations are contrived. Some people like some kinds of coffee, some others like other kinds of coffee. Some people don't even like coffee, they like caramel candied flavoured milk, which is also coffee, except when it isn't.

Get a coffee you don't like? It's unlikely their business model is selling drinks people don't enjoy, or that you happen to be the first one to notice something's wrong. Go up and tell them, they'll almost certainly make it again.

6 hours ago, Nopapercup said:

If they have a LM Linea and crucially they are using Square Mile's Red Brick then 9 out of 10 times the espresso won't be drinkable and now when I see that set up I just turn around and go somewhere else. 

I actually havea Red Brick rule too 😬 I like Square Mile, I even quite like Red Brick, but it's a red flag in my experience if that's the house blend.

Edited by catpuccino
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Thankfully the OP experience is not mine , there is good and bad coffee everywhere same as food. 

its easy to think how it is to make great coffee at home , then try a shift at a busy bar and watch the shot dribble down your trousers as the queue builds. 

its harder to imagine trying to see it your career in minimum wage. 

its easy to knock all coffee shops , but without them the price of the hipster coffee you buy would be astronomical or it just wouldn’t be there , and yes to everyone else in the world that fact you make espresso at home make you a hipster , weirdo.  

 


 

 

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7 hours ago, Blue_Cafe said:

Since getting my espresso machine, my focus on cafe bought beverages has become laser sharp.

Some casual observations:

*Most hipster coffee shops are shite.

*The harder a cafe tries, the worse they are

*Starbucks :classic_laugh:

*I have yet to see what appears to be a proper barrista in a cafe. It's mostly bored graduates mashing away at the machines.

*Expensive does not equal good.

 

But a shout out to the best coffee I have had in a good while. 

Marks and Spencer!

They had a Nice La-M machine, A pair of mazzer jollys and not much else. Beans were MS house blend.

The not-hipster woman doing the coffee was efficient but careful and appeared to use her tools well.

The coffee was fantastic. Balanced and satisfying. Markedly so much better than anything else I've had of late.

Not a bottle of Monin in sight.

 

Is good coffee really so difficult?

 

Same as anywhere else , I’ve been to m and s and seen some horror stories made by bored non hipster people. 

ive had passable cups at Costa , good people are good people no matter where they work or what they work at . 

m and s certainly got taken for several 1000s by some hipster consultant tho as most have mythos and a group for each customer they need to serve .

 

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1 hour ago, catpuccino said:

There's absolutely nothing subservise about the aesthetic of "hipster" coffee shops, if the forum's going to rely so heavily on tropes in favour of interesting discussion can we at least get our slurs right.

I think this topic has been done to death. Some coffee shops are good, some are bad. Some aren't even coffee shops, they're just selling coffee. Some good coffee shops have bad days, some bad coffee shops have good staff. Some good staff have bad days, some bad staff have good equipment. Some reputations are justified, some reputations are contrived. Some people like some kinds of coffee, some others like other kinds of coffee. Some people don't even like coffee, they like caramel candied flavoured milk, which is also coffee, except when it isn't.

Get a coffee you don't like? It's unlikely their business model is selling drinks people don't enjoy, or that you happen to be the first one to notice something's wrong. Go up and tell them, they'll almost certainly make it again.

I actually havea Red Brick rule too 😬 I like Square Mile, I even quite like Red Brick, but it's a red flag in my experience if that's the house blend.

Laynes Leeds for one nail SQM and re brick 

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