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Thread: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

  1. #1
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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

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    So I'm in a cafe last night (Penny Farthing in Northcote, a fairly good cafe) and I order a double espresso. When the barista brought it out he said "here's your short black".

    Having lived in Australia for 8 years now I'm of course used to an espresso being called a short black, but for some reason last night it struck me that it's a shocking name! Why? Well here are some reasons:

    Short black sounds too much like short mac, so much so that whenever I order a short mac I find myself exaggerating the pronunciation of the m, so it's more like a short mmmac. If we called it espresso then there'd be no confusion.

    Espresso just sounds better, a little exotic, sexy even.

    When it's served it's not even black to start with.

    Just saying...

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    Senior Member speleomike's Avatar
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    Hiya

    I always ask for an espresso. They must be educated by example :-)

    Mike

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    Member danzx6r's Avatar
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    Was she looking at your crutch when she said it? I had a laugh

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    Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    So, what do they call a ristretto? A really short black?

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    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    So, what do they call a ristretto? A really short black?
    They call it a "Gary Coleman"

    Apologies in advance to any who happen to take offence... none meant!

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    Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    I wasn't thinking that at all...

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    Coffee Nut fg1972's Avatar
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    Not exactly sure where short black came from but I suspect it is an Americanized thing.
    The real name for it is "caffè espresso" pronounced /kafˈfɛ/ not cafe which translates to espresso coffee or just "espresso".
    Most areas in Italy you can ask for it using either of the above or even simply just say "caffè" which translates to coffee and you will be served an espresso by default.
    Personally I can't stand it when a barista calls it short black, it's a very ugly description for a such an elegant beverage (when made correctly).
    I guess if you are served either watery, bitter, under/over extracted black mess, then its very appropriate to call it short black.
    Just my 2 cracks worth.

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    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fg1972 View Post
    Not exactly sure where short black came from but I suspect it is an Americanized thing.
    Nope... not even close to being true. Before moving to Australia I had never heard of a short black, long black or flat white... and the first time I saw chocolate on top of a cap I was thinking WTF!!! These are all very unique Aussie aberations.

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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Thanks guys, I'm glad it's not just me who hates it being called a short black.

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    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    The term 'short black' is said to have come from this being used by American soldiers in Italy during WWII. Same for 'long black' which the Italians referred to as an Americano.

    There are photos from Italy dating back to 1930 referring to a 'Viennese' - a coffee topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with either cinnamon and chocolate. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to adapt this to our modern version of a cappuccino.

    I don't think Australia can claim credit for the terms. According to New Zealanders they own the term 'flat white'. I understand this had nothing to do with coffee but came about when they couldn't bake a pavlova any higher than a pizza.

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    The term is definitely an antipodean one. The first time I came across the term short black was when I moved from the UK to the North of NZ in 02, I asked for an espresso and was pointedly told it was a short black - later came to realise "foreign terms" are considered snooty and this was essentially a tall poppies issue. I subsequently also realised that calling it a short black meant the café could serve whatever the hell they wished, and often this would not be a standard espresso, certainly not an enjoyable black coffee. It was after this I gave up and started ordering flat whites, and became very particular about who I'd order an espresso from - if you can hear the banjos duelling, don't ask for an espresso...

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    Tried both but I mostly ask for a double espresso and hold my breath. Sometimes I get what I ask for, sometimes a long black and other times it seems like leftovers from the previous shot. Hard to get a good coffee some times. Some places I want to ask them if I can make my own coffee and show them how to use their coffee machine.

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Typically I'll order a "double espresso" and have found myself showing the person behind the counter the expected depth with thumb and forefinger in an attempt to head off the standard question "do you mean a short black?"... but it makes no difference, they will mostly still ask.

    Picture below of one I got last week...
    The menu shows small and large espresso, small and large long macchiato but for some reason you can only get large iced coffee and iced chocolate and (rightly so) only a small short macchiato.

    I ordered "Double Espresso", this is how it arrived at the table in a 220ml cup.

    20130117_183031.jpg

    200ml of over extracted and over roasted coffee. Nasty.

    ...at least they have excellent baklava (which was the real reason that I stopped there)
    (well that and I needed to clean the mess off my visor after the twisty roads at bug o'clock)

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    I could imagine that wasn't half filled with water either. Just pressed the large cup on a single handle and the cycle would have started.

    -Espresso 25ml - 35ml,
    -Watery espresso 35ml - 80ml,
    -Wet beans 80ml - 120ml,
    -Used dish water 120ml - 180ml,
    -Cold bath tub water after a sweaty gym work out 180ml - 220ml

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    Andy and habahabanero like this.

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    Member danzx6r's Avatar
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    Hahaha! I love that description brendogs. The sadReality is that so many people are
    Just thrown in front of a machine. Shown how things "work" and that's it. There is no real interest in whether or not it tastes ok. At the end of the day your talking about people who most likely only drink instant coffee and think that crap is the ducks guts so any old espresso based coffee is ok based on zero knowledge of what it should taste like. Which leads to cramp beans, burnt milk and poorly done shots. Nothing like burnt milk and a latte you can't even hold let alone put your mouth near. Then you have places like Gloria Jeans who's coffee the last time I tasted it should be poured down the sink before the cup is handed to the customer to save their taste buds from wanting to vacate the premises.

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    I generally ask for a "Doppio" or even a " Triplo". Asking for an Espresso generally gets me a single half the time...

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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Quote Originally Posted by Plestor View Post
    I generally ask for a "Doppio" or even a " Triplo". Asking for an Espresso generally gets me a single half the time...
    Yep I always ask for a double espresso rather than just an espresso. Maybe I'll ask for a doppio next time, right now I'm sitting outside Padre at Queen Vic so should get a safe doppio there.

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    I find if I ask for a Piccolo based on a single or double ristretto, i have a good strike rate of getting something decent.

    This is only if the person serving understands what that is to start with, like i have found that in some places where the till is operated by someone who is uneducated, if they go and get the barista they generally no straight up what i want.

    I have a memorable experience in a country town once where i asked for a Piccolo and the young girl could not understand the word. I explained what i wanted, but she did not know what button to push to get this. She then went and got the owner from out back, who looked my way then disappeared.
    Came back 5mins later with a piece of paper, looked like she had printed something out of the net and trying to show the young girl what a Piccolo was. She then disappeared again, must have had more important things to to tend to rather than making sure the coffee turned out OK.

    Anyway another 10 mins later! I received my coffee, watery, bitter and burnt.

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    My first post...

    My daughter hated coffee, and potentially all CS as a result.

    Working in a franchise chain, she would froth milk and press buttons like everyone was ever shown

    12 months of servicing brown cups of dishwater, they finally sent her on formal training, including taste, texture, smell etc. she suddenly learnt that you can't add cold mild to burnt milk, a double isn't just more, cleaning can't wait to the end of the day, grinders, equipment, temperature, time all need adjustment, not just for the next cup, but sometimes for the customer too.. (Not all snobs are the same, although their language might be. One mans "extra hot" might be the next mans law suit!)


    Crayons to perfume, cask to bottle, short black to espresso? Education is about being able to recognise gaps in knowledge and wanting to have the capacity to close the gap.


    Sudden awareness of the difference between what she was making, and what she could make came with an epiphany. She left her job, and now works in a call centre where she can happily pay real CS barristers to serve her.

    Praise The Lord of coffee.

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    Great post, and sorry to be spelling police but it's 'barista' not 'barrister'.

    There was a time too when I used to drink franchise takeaway coffee, thinking that's what it was supposed to taste like.

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    Coffee Nut fg1972's Avatar
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    In addition to "short black", the following inappropriate words also get on my nerves,
    "shorty"
    "expresso".

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    I'm at a cafe andy recommended. The blackboard says "risty".

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    Short black, long black and flat white are AU/NZ terms, nothing to do with American soliders in Italy, though the idea of adding extra hot water to an espresso (what we call a long black) to emulate the drip coffee they were used to was invented by them.

    With the rise of trendy cafes over the last decade, I think the terms are facing extinction and now just indicate that a cafe doesn't know what they are doing.

    Also, calling an Espresso and Latte a Caffe Espresso and Caffe Latte is redundant in English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post
    Picture below of one I got last week...
    The menu shows small and large espresso, small and large long macchiato but for some reason you can only get large iced coffee and iced chocolate and (rightly so) only a small short macchiato.
    20130117_183031.jpg
    Wow, that menu is wronger than wrong :s

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    I rarely ever order an Espresso in a cafe - I save those for home where the quality is a known factor.
    I do however occasionally weaken and order a Macchiato and I am always asked "Short or long?" to which I invariably reply "There is no such thing as a long Macchiato - I would like a traditional Macchiato, please". If they want to argue the point with me I am happy to do so. My goal in life in my retirement is to eliminate the term 'long Macchiato' from the coffee language.
    Just another grumpy old man.

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    Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    From Long Machiatto I essentially expect a double shot traditional Machiatto - I tend to ask for them 3/4 topped up (which is about 1/3 - 1/2 milk in a tulip) because it's the easiest way to get what I want. Doesn't always work out that way unfortunately.

    I just wish people would stop serving them in glass!

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    I'm at a cafe andy recommended. The blackboard says "risty".
    Hmmm.... which one?
    Go on, name and shame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    Great post, and sorry to be spelling police but it's 'barista' not 'barrister'.
    Dunno - remember the Stella Awards for outrageous litigation claims? The award was named after a woman who reportedly sued Maccas after she "ordered a cup of McDonald's coffee at a drive thru, put it in between her knees while sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson's car, and attempted to remove the lid in order to add cream and sugar. The coffee spilled from the cup, causing third degree burns".

    So perhaps coffee outlets are hiring barristers instead of baristas??

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    Quote Originally Posted by taco View Post
    Short black, long black and flat white are AU/NZ terms, nothing to do with American soliders in Italy, though the idea of adding extra hot water to an espresso (what we call a long black) to emulate the drip coffee they were used to was invented by them.

    With the rise of trendy cafes over the last decade, I think the terms are facing extinction and now just indicate that a cafe doesn't know what they are doing.

    Also, calling an Espresso and Latte a Caffe Espresso and Caffe Latte is redundant in English.
    Said with authority.

    May I ask which authority you are relying on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis View Post
    Said with authority.

    May I ask which authority you are relying on?
    Sorry, I was unaware that the standard of posting on this thread required citations.
    I'll preface my previous comments with "As I understand it, " as I have no interest in seriously defending what I believe to be the etymology of the phrases.
    My knowledge of the subject comes from wikipedia surfing and anecdotal tales on forums such as this of people never hearing the phrases before coming down under.

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    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    Really no need to become defensive about it taco. You may have noticed my earlier comment included, "is said to have come from" because I'm not sure whether the information is true or not. It would seem you aren't either.

    I just thought you might have found some reliable source and I would be interested in learning more about that.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by taco View Post
    Also, calling an Espresso and Latte a Caffe Espresso and Caffe Latte is redundant in English.
    In what sense is Caffe (Cafe) Latte redundant in English? Caffe (cafe) by itself doesn't imply anything about the addition of milk....

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    I'm at a cafe andy recommended. The blackboard says "risty".
    Nah, the 't' is actually a 'k'. If you order one you probably get a coffee made with milk that's been left out in the sun for 3 days.

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    Re: Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    In what sense is Caffe (Cafe) Latte redundant in English? Caffe (cafe) by itself doesn't imply anything about the addition of milk....
    Perhaps in the sense that in English usage Latte and Espresso have been adopted only in reference to the drinks i.e. they have taken on eqivalent meanings to the italian Caffe Latte and Caffe Espresso.
    There is no risk of someone thinking you are ordering milk, if you just say Latte, so Caffe could be said to be redundant in this sense; which is not to say it's usage would be incorrect (just not typical).

    Just a guess. Language is a weirdly flexible thing.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    Perhaps in the sense that in English usage Latte and Espresso have been adopted only in reference to the drinks i.e. they have taken on eqivalent meanings to the italian Caffe Latte and Caffe Espresso.
    There is no risk of someone thinking you are ordering milk, if you just say Latte, so Caffe could be said to be redundant in this sense; which is not to say it's usage would be incorrect (just not typical).

    Just a guess. Language is a weirdly flexible thing.
    You're probably right....I thought he was saying that it was redundant in the English language...as opposed to being redundant in some English-speaking countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis View Post
    Really no need to become defensive about it taco. You may have noticed my earlier comment included, "is said to have come from" because I'm not sure whether the information is true or not. It would seem you aren't either.

    I just thought you might have found some reliable source and I would be interested in learning more about that.
    Unfortunately I don't have a reliable source, and I've committed the internet sin of reading the tone of your post as being passive aggressive when it was inquisitive.
    I apologise for the terseness of my response.
    Dennis likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    You're probably right....I thought he was saying that it was redundant in the English language...as opposed to being redundant in some English-speaking countries.
    That is correct.
    I meant it is redundant in Australian English where the term caffè is translated to coffee, but espresso and latte are loanwords which have no other meaning.
    I was responding to the earlier poster who said the proper name for for an espresso is "caffè espresso" which would then lead to Australian English speakers calling it a "caffè espresso coffee" or "caffè latte coffee"
    In both of the above, the words caffè and coffee are not needed because it is unambiguous what espresso and latte mean.

    Obviously it isn't redundant in the native Italy or other English speaking countries that have not adopted the terms espresso and latte to be purely coffee terms.

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    All the cool kids just call it "Spro"

    Urban Dictionary: Spro

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    Quote Originally Posted by muppet_man67 View Post
    All the cool kids just call it "Spro"

    Urban Dictionary: Spro
    Tragic indeed.

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flynnaus View Post
    Dunno - remember the Stella Awards for outrageous litigation claims? The award was named after a woman who reportedly sued Maccas after she "ordered a cup of McDonald's coffee at a drive thru, put it in between her knees while sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson's car, and attempted to remove the lid in order to add cream and sugar. The coffee spilled from the cup, causing third degree burns".
    Off topic (in an already well off topic banter) but...

    I thought the same about that case until I watched Hot Coffee (2011) - IMDb

    That doco changed my mind after seeing the pictures of her burns that required skin grafts. SERIOUSLY NASTY

    Grab the doco sometime and I'm sure you we see just how big a role the media had in playing down the seriousness of it. Of course if I was into conspiracy theories I would say it was the same media that gets paid squillions by McD's for advertising. ;-)

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muppet_man67 View Post
    All the cool kids just call it "Spro"

    Urban Dictionary: Spro
    'Spro' is so 2012. It's just 'S' round here now (pronounced as if one was imitating a snake).

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    It's even cooler to just pucker accompanied by an intense stare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    It's even cooler to just pucker accompanied by an intense stare.
    ...I used the pucker (and a partial grimace today)....

    Tried a local place today. Linea and 7 seeds (I think)...

    First attempt- pale crema, underextracted and lemons....so I offered feedback and politely requested a second attempt...Couldn't drink that one either

    Fortunately the coffee at home is light years better.

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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    ...Fortunately the coffee at home is light years better.
    Fortunate, but kinda sad at the same time?

    It's pretty surprising to me that bad coffee shops are still in the vast majority over good ones. I guess most people just don't care or have never had a great coffee?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fruity View Post
    I guess most people just don't care or have never had a great coffee?
    That's a question that has often perplexed me too. I'm always surprised to see my colleagues from work cross the street to the closest cafe to get their dose of crappy Vittoria coffee rather than walk a couple of minutes down the street to get some really great coffee. Seems they are less discerning than many of us are when it comes to coffee and are happy to drink stale, bitter or burnt coffee.

    Either a) they don't care too much about the flavour - maybe they're just after a caffeine hit.
    b) They haven't had better.
    or
    c) maybe their palette is unable to discern the difference unlike you or me.

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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Quote Originally Posted by eltoro View Post
    Either a) they don't care too much about the flavour - maybe they're just after a caffeine hit.
    b) They haven't had better.
    or
    c) maybe their palette is unable to discern the difference unlike you or me.
    First two for sure, but can't taste the difference?! It's like the difference between milk and sour milk, in my opinion - hard not to notice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinitasse View Post
    Nope... not even close to being true. Before moving to Australia I had never heard of a short black, long black or flat white... and the first time I saw chocolate on top of a cap I was thinking WTF!!! These are all very unique Aussie aberations.
    Not entirely sure why that would be an Australian abberation. I've seen it done overseas also. Just think it's a rather 80's thing and we have since moved on from that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fruity View Post
    Fortunate, but kinda sad at the same time?

    It's pretty surprising to me that bad coffee shops are still in the vast majority over good ones. I guess most people just don't care or have never had a great coffee?
    Dunno....sad thing is that they actually rate highly. Funnily enough the shots that were going into milk looked ok and had good crema- so might have been close...

    I suspect I may have ordered the only espresso of the day? I'm thinking cold single p/f and a Robur-E which hadn't been set for a single- perhaps because it's never used. 2 x espresso exactly the same, so they were consistent(ly shite).

    I'm not a big fan of light roast espresso, but some have been ok. These two missed the dartboard entirely!

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    Do you ask for a short black or an espresso?

    Quote Originally Posted by MSCROONING View Post
    Not entirely sure why that would be an Australian abberation. I've seen it done overseas also. Just think it's a rather 80's thing and we have since moved on from that.
    And thanks to the Aussie coffee invasion of the UK, some of the main chains there now have a flat white on their menu, definitely wasn't there 8 years ago when I left.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Dunno....sad thing is that they actually rate highly. Funnily enough the shots that were going into milk looked ok and had good crema- so might have been close...

    I suspect I may have ordered the only espresso of the day? I'm thinking cold single p/f and a Robur-E which hadn't been set for a single- perhaps because it's never used. 2 x espresso exactly the same, so they were consistent(ly shite).

    I'm not a big fan of light roast espresso, but some have been ok. These two missed the dartboard entirely!
    light roast espresso can be great but I'm starting to think it requires certain equipment to make it nice. The same light roasted coffee we use at work is tasting so much better on the Strada when compared to the Linea. I put it down to having a proper 7-10 second pre-infusion. Coffee that makes good filter seems to be making pleasantly acidic rather than harshly acidic espresso, with suger and even salt notes coming through when before they were masked.



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