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.