Truly Good Espresso

elusive espresso... theorize, philosophize!

Truly Good Espresso

Postby Stephen Morrissey on Sat Sep 08, 2007 7:59 am

I'm curious what the results for this will be;

How many truly perfect, wholly satisfying, and exciting espressos have you ever had?

I would hope an amazing shot would fall under those three categories, but for me personally, I've only ever had around 8 that were just super tasty. Am I unfortunate? Have some of you lost count?

I don't mind if people only answer with a number.
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Postby xristrettox on Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:30 am

8?

Wow. Your standards must be higher than mine, when it comes to a truly satisfying shot.

When the blend is spot on, we can get such killer espresso, that I couldn't think of a way to make it better.

At the same time, I wouldn't call these espressos memorable, as there have been so many.

The most memorable espressos, however, seem to be the result from the unexpected. A blend that I've never had or haven't had in a while. That's one of the great things about getting out of Portland and to other shops in the states, you get to see what everyone else is cookin'.
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Postby Jim Saborio on Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:54 am

In my 15 years of using, I've probably had less than eight (maybe I've pulled two of those). They are so few and far between that I often loose the mindset that I can enjoy the beverage.

Stephen you're depressing me with what you're getting at.

For drip coffee on the other hand, my response would be as cheery as Billy's.
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Postby Alistair Durie on Sat Sep 08, 2007 12:58 pm

a bakers dozen

espresso is over rated
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Postby James Hoffmann on Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:08 pm

I've had about 8 or 9 truly exceptional ones.

The odd thing is, I suppose, that the mental espresso to which we compare what we are tasting at this or that moment wasn't one of those exceptional shots - it, well certainly for me, is a composite of certain very desirable attributes. And I guess like those composite faces you see made from differnt celebrities "perfect" featurs, if you actually had them all in the cup it'd be a weird little espresso freakshow.

(On a lighter note Stephen, I am still proud that I got to pull a couple of your good shots)
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Postby Stephen Morrissey on Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:28 pm

2 James.

But yeah, I think back on the shots that made the impression, and wonder whether I would feel the same if I had the exact same presented to me right now would I still rate them as high.

As in, where those early shots, just so much better than what I was tasting at the time?
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Postby Jim Schulman on Sat Sep 08, 2007 1:56 pm

You may be talking about two different things. Truly good espresso, that is, tasty and satisfying shots, are to be had quite readily whenever the blend is good, and the equipment and barista are right.

Truly memorable espresso, in the way most top coffees are unique and memorable, is a far rarer experience.
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Postby Stephen Morrissey on Sat Sep 08, 2007 2:01 pm

I'm referring to shots I enjoy completely. Nearly always I find something unpleasant in espresso, whether I make it myself or by others.

I can think of many filter brews I've enjoyed completely, sadly, just a lot fewer espresso.
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Postby Ryan Willbur on Sat Sep 08, 2007 2:06 pm

Hold up kids... How high on our coffee snobbery are we willing to go! Let's take it easy before this becomes the "I have higher standards than you" thread...

Stephen... We discussed the lack of truly great espresso blends while you were here... and I agree... This world could definitely use something else. But how many espresssos can you think back on that were truly memorable...

This goes beyond the surface. It's like the Mark Prince story. The one of how his best cup of coffee was the one camping with his mother (tell the real story if I'm way off Mark)... It's not always about the pursuit of perfection, but what hits you just right in that moment of your life...

And to that, I can say there's probably been about thirty...
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Postby James Hoffmann on Sat Sep 08, 2007 2:47 pm

I don't think it is about coffee snobbery (though I am sure my number would be higher if I hadn't spend such a lot of my time in the last few years having to work with some less than specialty stuff.

Equally I think a lot of finding flaws comes with knowing that they can be there and that they can be your fault. Perhaps the paranoia of wondering if you did make a mistake means that you look all the harder.

I find it easier to enjoy espressos I didn't make.
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Postby Instaurator on Sat Sep 08, 2007 2:51 pm

Truly great espresso is elusive at best. I think I could honestly say I have had only a handful of truly great espresso experiences. It can be depressing trying to repeat those great shots, but that is what gets you hooked, actually trying to repeat the experience. To me it's maybe a bit like Thomas Edison seeing a light turned on for the very first time and then struggling to get it back on and trying to figure out the myriad of factors that enabled it to happen.(I'm sorry I can't think of a better analogy at the moment!)
espresso is over rated
I actually think a truly great shot of espresso is not over-rated it is what we put up with in between those shots that is over-rated. I remember having one espresso and thinking I wanted to keep on drinking it forever and I was upset that a shot is so small.
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Postby ypoedza on Sat Sep 08, 2007 3:20 pm

yesterday i was just thinking about how long it had been since experiencing a truly spectacular shot of espresso. the espresso in new york is very dirty tasting...its a little depressing.

all in all there really haven't been to many "feeling the earth move" moments. 5!?!? im probably forgetting some but the ones i remember are as clear as day.

-the first shot i got from billy at the albina press

-a shot from random guy at downtown stumptown

-single orgin shot of yirg i pulled myself at albina

-single orgin shot of el salv i pulled myself

-shot at the new ace hotel location from random dude

thats it. a lot of it is situational and tasting something unexpected. it definitely gets harder to be wowed the more i learn about coffee.
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Postby jmc on Sat Sep 08, 2007 4:48 pm

eight
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Postby Deferio on Sat Sep 08, 2007 5:36 pm

5 or 6 come to mind.
one so good I did'nt know how to properly respond to it!
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Postby tonx on Sat Sep 08, 2007 6:55 pm

less than 10, more than 5.
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Postby Logan on Sat Sep 08, 2007 7:59 pm

About 4 that are a clear memory
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Postby Jaime van Schyndel on Sat Sep 08, 2007 8:56 pm

ypoedza wrote:the espresso in new york is very dirty tasting...its a little depressing.

I thoroughly agree.


2 absolutely WOW. A shot of Crescendo pulled by Chris Owens takes the cake so far.

That low number is a statement about the commercial offerings out there, not the potential for espresso. My eyes have been opened to the fact that too many people in this community worry about what espresso should be instead of exploring what it can be.

Alistair Durie wrote:espresso is over rated

You sound vaguely like Mark deriding SoE.
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Postby xristrettox on Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:08 pm

everybody needs to drink more hairbender.
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Postby Alistair Durie on Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:43 pm

When i use the term over rated its to sum up my feelings that that espresso gets far too much undeserved attention from professionals and consumers alike.

Although I do love espresso (sometimes!)... it is the spoiled brat of coffee that is always throwing a tantrum no matter how nicely it continues to be treated. Or the moody bitch, the elusive femme fatale who no matter how much you love her will always be screwing around on you.

But hey, i'm just really into single origin brewed coffee. simple, honest, naked coffee, where every time i'm at the cupping table I am taken on an amazing flavour adventure. its kind of like what espresso promises to be.

Espresso is coffee transformed.
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Postby onocoffee on Sat Sep 08, 2007 10:35 pm

Two coffee experiences stand out in my mind, both within days of each other.

The first was during NASCORE 2003 at the Zoka booth when Kyle Larson made a macchiato for me whose flavor lasted for that proverbial 45 minutes.

The second was my first visit to Stumptown 3rd/Ash with Des Rock during that same NASCORE. I had a cup of French-pressed Ethiopian Harrar at it was the most exciting coffee flavor experience I ever had.


On a lesser note, I still have very fond memories of chocolate and nuts during those early, 6:30am mornings hanging out at Hines drinking a double shot, 5z Americano with a little Sugar In The Raw and a little half & half cream while listening to Dr. Dre's The Chronic.
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Postby Ryan Willbur on Sun Sep 09, 2007 12:19 am

Three moments stick out most in my mind.

- One being the first taste I ever had of hairbender... That would have been pulled by Billy at Lava Java...

- Two being the last double of Hairbender. Right before I moved to Minneapolis. A friend was in town and we hit many shops before the drive. It was pulled by Billy on the Albina Linea, and none other could touch it...

-Third, and most recently, was Christmas last year. I stopped by the OG Stumptown on Division, where Ms. Lizzy Hudson was pulling shots. Maybe it was Christmas, maybe it was the espresso... but it was perfect.
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Postby John Gozbekian on Sun Sep 09, 2007 7:45 am

Hello Folks,

My first post on Coffeed. Hello to you all.

I have been reading this thread and thinking about my memorable coffees in general. Great memorable espressos were few and as Chris said, less than 10 more than 5.

One that has stood out as the most memorable goes to Monica Hill at Barefoot Coffee. I was making my way back from SF and the SCAA committee meetings on an early Sunday. I heard about Barefoot for so long that I made my way over. Monica steered me to the Sweetness or Kneebuckler, one that had washed Yigs. It was so incredibly sweet and syrupy that I was sure she had snuck sugar into it. I wanted to lick the cup clean. She saw I enjoyed it so much and that I was a coffee guy she offered one more on the house. I watched her the whole way through to make sure it was only coffee. Sure enough, it was. So those were two very memorable espressos.

It is sad to say I have had more memorable BAD espressos from places that I was expecting to enjoy great coffee.

I am with Alistair in that other brew methods do not get the attention they deserve. I have many fond memories of filter and vacuum brewed coffees. I look forward to taking my time to enjoy the incredible flavors. It is ceremonial for me on quiet weekend mornings. I say bring back the vac pot. I am using a Silex LC-12, circa 1930s, for my Esmeralda this morning.

Cheers,
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Postby ypoedza on Sun Sep 09, 2007 8:21 am

i agree with billy, we should all be drinking more hairbender. lets all go work at the albina press! do you think kevin could open a coffeed shop where everyone on coffeed could work as a barista for say 1 week of the year?[/quote]
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Postby xristrettox on Sun Sep 09, 2007 8:31 am

ypoedza wrote:i agree with billy, we should all be drinking more hairbender. lets all go work at the albina press! do you think kevin could open a coffeed shop where everyone on coffeed could work as a barista for say 1 week of the year?
[/quote]

Or you could just buy some and pull it yourself. :wink:
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Postby Instaurator on Sun Sep 09, 2007 12:23 pm

I find it easier to enjoy espressos I didn't make.
I agree with James.
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