Beans, Machines, and Human Beings

There is a big difference in Espresso drinks from one shop to the next (or from one house to the next).  I am generalizing that there are 3 variables:

  1. Beans (source, blend, roast)
  2. Machines (not just the espresso machine, but also the grinder)
  3. Human Beings (timing, settings on the grind, tamp, pull, the pour, temperature, ….)

On a trip out to Vancouver (visiting a Brother-in-Law and his lovely wife) we visited a lot of independent coffee shops (between 2 and 4 a day;-).   After one spectacular cappuccino, we bought some beans so I could try that at home. Later that morning, we were in another coffee shop where the cappuccino was rather bland and mediocre.  The shocker was that the bland coffee-house was the bean roaster/supplier to the spectacular coffee shop.

The difference: the bland shop was mostly about image.  The spectacular shop was all about the product.  They were asking specifics about how we wanted our drinks done, and followed up asking what we liked about it.  It may have helped that I was noticing the very high-end machines they had.

Note that I have been into shops with the same machines, and had mediocre cups as well.  I believe the Human Beans are the most important link in making a great cappuccino.

Could I make a cup as good as the better shop? No, but I did make cappuccino (and straight espresso) as good as my best home-brewed cups with these beans as with my other preferred beans.

hmmm…. the people are most important.  The beans are extremely important.  The machines are key.  I guess I better go do some more research.  Care to join me for an espresso, cappuccino or latte?

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