Wednesday, February 27, 2008

a wrinkle in the force--did you feel it?

did you take advantage of it?
much has been made of starbuck's three-hour training session last night, but rest assured, it's still starbucks. read the article; you'll notice that they started their training session by tasting shots of espresso. a daunting task, believe me, even if you are a lover of espresso. my advice to travelers wishing to find a good coffee shop has long been this: go in, order a doppio [a double-strength shot of espresso at single-shot volume], and if they know what it is, and can make one, try it. it it's good, then get an espresso-based beverage. if not, get a cup of brewed coffee and leave. it remains very sound advice. but the new york times article quotes the starbucks boss as defending their totally automated espresso machines as saying baristas can manually "change the grind and aerate the milk."
jesus: once the grind is adjusted properly, you NEVER mess with it. certainly not every time you pull a shot. yuck.
more time should be spent learning the proper preparation of the milk: the milk is not an afterthought.
but again, the heart and soul of a shot of espresso, or a latte or cappuccino, is the coffee itself.
so i revert to my initial advice: learn to identify visually, and by smell and taste, the difference between a great shot and a shitty shot of espresso. it begins with fresh beans, properly and VERY recently roasted and ground.
visit your local roasting coffee shop; in des moines, go to zanzibar's coffee adventure, 2723 ingersoll.
consider it ground zero. then go up the street, sample caribou, sample java joe's, sample starbuck's, sample ritual cafe.
give them the doppio test.
you'll see. and you'll be a happier coffee lover.
i've gotta go make some coffee now.


Steve Fuller said...

mmmmm coffee. Grinding beans right now to toss in the french press before I head to work. You left off Mars Cafe, home of Cranksgiving. :)

the mostly reverend said...

they don't roast their own--it comes from alterra in milwaukee--but some of their baristas DO know a doppio.
i hope some of you will try the doppio test: it really IS a great way to test your caffeine outlet.

gpickle said...

Having been a coffee drinker for about 4 years now, which I figure makes me a pre-school level enthusiast, I was stunned to leave the friendly confines of IC and find that there are thousands of places in this country where you can not order an espresso and thousands more where you will wish you couldn't shortly after receiving it.

Thanks, as always, for the advice Kim

Z said...

I'll ever so slightly respectfully disagree with your "once the grind is adjusted properly, you NEVER mess with it" comment. Admittedly, this a very subtle nuance. I find that I do, occasionally, need to tweak the grind depending on the humidity. Generally, it is never more than a "click" either direction on the Mini.

I also have found that depending on what bean that I'm using for espresso, I will also have to tweak it. Most shops don't ever change the particular bean/blend once they have settled on "The One". I have several different coffees that I grind for espresso include the occasional single origin.

the mostly reverend said...

well, z, you and i KNOW that, but can you imagine every little suzie and biff barista at starbuck's screwing with the grind? we had one employee at z-bars who insisted that she knew the grind setting better than everyone else; sadly, she was wrong, and it took me getting all harumph to her. since i left, she still messes with it.
i was speaking in the commercial sense about messing with the grind. leave it to the resident expert, or do it to your own machine. in my mind, that's just ANOTHER reason to STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM STARBUCKS--and other chains.

my thoughts are that if you can't pull a decent shot, or froth the milk correctly, you CERTAINLY have no business messing with the grind.