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Moduspocus
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 3:42am
Subject: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

I've been to three very nice restaurants in the past month (as part of my job) and in each case the post meal espresso was horrible.  Overextracted, bitter, etc etc etc.

Why don't these places put the same care into their coffee as they do in their salads, steak, and desserts?

Allen

Edit:
Moderator moved to the more appropriate Forum
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frcn
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frcn
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 6:51am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

Because few restaurant operators know the difference and few people in the US order straight espresso in a restaurant.. .   .  ?

 
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TheMadTamper
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 7:48am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

frcn Said:

Because few restaurant operators know the difference and few people in the US order straight espresso in a restaurant.. .   .  ?

Posted June 30, 2011 link

+1

I think that's a lot of it, I think it's also a matter of "customer's don't know the difference."  But even if we're talking the VERY high end in restaurants (the $100-$200 a plate type), I suspect you won't find the shots all that much better.  As we all know here, espresso is a full-time specialty unto its own.  Knowing the equipment, operating it, keeping your beans at proper age, properly dialed in, etc.  What restaurant has the resources, physical space, and staff available to have dedicated people and floor space just for the espresso portion, which few will even purchase.

I'd be amazed if, even in Italy, restaurant shots were on par with dedicated cafe shots.  I doubt it's "a US thing" at all.  Most restaurants offer espresso "as a service" pulled on a super-automatic.  A GOOD cafe gets great shots both by great equipment (read: large equipment that needs a small kitchen of its own), highly trained individuals pulling the shots, good bean inventory management, and constantly adjusting grind, maybe temp (or flush times on an HX during low turnover periods), cleaned equipment, etc. based on results during the day.  Even if we were to assume a restaurant had the space, cash, and demand to install a full espresso bar, and hire a full-time trained barista, do you suspect they'd have the high volume sales to maintain bean inventory and have continuously dialed and fine-tuned settings, and non-stale grinds in the grinder chute?
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jbviau
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 10:38am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

For a huge exception to the general rule, check out Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen. Their coffee program is amazing and got a nice write-up in Barista Magazine recently (click here; then go to p. 56).
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pilot808
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 11:48am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

I have always attributed bad espresso in restaurants to beans being kept too long. They don't have the inventory turnover a coffee shop has, but can't bear to throw away the product they think has a long shelf life.

And as said before, training. You really need a full time barista, that knows what good is, to get good espresso.
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takeshi
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Posted Thu Jun 30, 2011, 12:56pm
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

frcn Said:

Because few restaurant operators know the difference and few people in the US order straight espresso in a restaurant.. .   .  ?

Posted June 30, 2011 link

+1  I'm sure it's a bit of a catch 22 as well.  The people who do care about quality espresso know better than to order in most restaurants.
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JasonBrandtLewis
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Posted Fri Jul 1, 2011, 7:30am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

Why don't restaurants in the US make good espresso?  How much time have you got for the answer?

In random order:
-- Lack of any training whatsoever, save perhaps 30 minutes from the service tech who installed the machine; and NO training for new staff.
-- Stale beans.
-- The bartender is too busy making cocktails to focus on the espresso machine.
-- The waitress is too busy running salads/entrées to their other tables to focus on the espresso machine.
-- The owner/GM of the restaurant only looks at the "terrific markup" (or BGP, beginning gross profit) and sees only $$$$$ -- not a quality product.
-- No one who works there actually drinks and/or cares about espresso . . . it's too bitter and yucky!
-- Everyone who works there thinks their espresso is great, and they haven't a clue!

And the list goes on and on and on and on . . .

Why is this surprising, when so many cafés and coffee houses in the United States -- places whose task/goal is (one would think) to serve excellent espresso and coffee in all its various forms -- serve crap for espresso?  

The only thing that isn't a surprise is why these restaurants get away with service $#!+ for espresso:  one need to look no further than charbucks to realize that most Americans think that crap is great!

Cheers,
Jason

P.S. I've given up ordering espresso in restaurants . . . I don't do it.  Every once in a while I fall for it -- a place has a new Nuova Simonelli Appia, I see an Elektra "Sixties" T3 2-group, or a place has a beautifully restored, original 1961 Faema 2-group Legend -- and so you hope.  Most of the time, you're still disappointed.  But every once in a while . . . like, once every 1,000 times . . . you are surprised, and you find a restaurant that actually DOES make good espresso.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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BillZ
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Posted Fri Jul 1, 2011, 7:55am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

My recent restaurant-espresso experience--I order a double expresso, waitress removes portafilter and dumps spent puck (which must have been sitting in the machine for a minimum of 90 minutes), thwacks an unknown anount of previously ground espresso into the basket and 'tamps' and pulls shot without flushing.  A 6-oz cappa-sized cup arrives at my table with about 4 ounces of black, bitter tasting liquid.  I'm not sure why I even bothered to order an espresso in the first place.
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TheMadTamper
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Posted Fri Jul 1, 2011, 8:37am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

JasonBrandtLewis Said:

one need to look no further than charbucks to realize that most Americans think that crap is great!

Posted July 1, 2011 link

This is true, to a point, but I think the more true axiom would be "Americans think that anything that isn't hyper-convenient isn't great."   MP3 = lower sound quality than CDs, but it's more convenient (even when it was the same price before CD sales plummeted) so people like it more.  Supermarket baked goods don't even smell, taste, feel, or look like real baked goods, yet bakeries are impossible to find, and everyone stocks up on their local supermarket danish-flavored cardboard.  Supermarket meat has generally been frozen and thawed, it cooks awfully, with a bad texture.  But people buy it, and butchers/meat markets are hard to find.  Supermarket produce consists mostly of import goods that have been sitting in warehouses for ages is devoid of all nutrition and flavor, but that's what people buy (*Note, this issue largely excludes California).  Whole grain bread, wheat whatever generally isn't. But people buy it.  For that matter, what most people consider "bread" basically isn't but that's what they buy.  And we won't get into frozen foods and your wine experiences :)

I don't think it mostly that people think that the pathetic excuse for product is actually great, I think they think it's "good enough" for the convenience (and in some cases) price point.   It's a chronic illness throughout all Western culture (heck, even the Italians go lazy on the espresso half the time...it's just consistently decent due to the tradition and turnover that they don't have to try anymore :) )  Wall-mart syndrome "I saved 14 cents, this is great!"  factors in for some products too.

Coffee may be the one exception since most people in the US, specifically, haven't really experienced good coffee, so it's hard to gauge what the demand and acceptance of poor quality would be for people who have only compared the A-B test with an available sample of A, and not B.  Since, compared to charbucks there's little difference in convenience, and possibly an advantage in price, the same rules may not play out if real coffee were widely available.  It's a battle against brand recognition, not against price or convenience (for a given population near a real cafe) so it's a different set of rules.  I'm not saying that even a majority would care, but how many people just on this small forum have come in saying that they were never interested in espresso but had a shot during a trip to Italy, or a visit to such-and-such cafe, and then became forum members and were interested in a home setup?  Many people that would pay attention to quality just don't know they're interested yet.

Though restaurants have a whole different set of priorities, so that part of the comparison is cafe-centric.
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TheMadTamper
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Posted Fri Jul 1, 2011, 8:44am
Subject: Re: Restaurant Espresso Experience
 

BillZ Said:

My recent restaurant-espresso experience--I order a double expresso, waitress removes portafilter and dumps spent puck (which must have been sitting in the machine for a minimum of 90 minutes), thwacks an unknown anount of previously ground espresso into the basket and 'tamps' and pulls shot without flushing.  A 6-oz cappa-sized cup arrives at my table with about 4 ounces of black, bitter tasting liquid.  I'm not sure why I even bothered to order an espresso in the first place.

Posted July 1, 2011 link

Yeah, that's common enough, sadly.   And that's why super-autos became popular....at LEAST the situation is more controlled than THAT! :)  But I hardly begrudge them.  Every restauraunt has their specialties, and their things that they have on the menu because customers want it, not because they know much about preparing it.  Espresso is one such thing that commonly happens to.  And most customers are ordering cappuccinos, not espressos (as takeshi said, it's a vicious circle. )
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