Post By Rocky
Post By TC
How to survive north America's awful coffee
I think it's a pretty good article, clearly a bit more thought gone into it than some of the garbage the media write about coffee.
Originally Posted by Budgiesmuggler
The coffee culture in Australia is brilliant.
The coffee served in most cafes in Australia is complete crap.
I suspect USA isn't much different, apart from their coffee-based Wendy's franchise.
I drank and enjoyed American drip coffee for 20 until I moved here. I'm so spoiled now that when I go back it's like a month in the desert, even where they have espresso it tastes like burnt rubber or watered down burnt rubber. I can get a decent flat white almost anywhere in Aus but I didn't find a single good cuppa anything last trip. This time I'm doing more research, even in Nashville there's a roaster/coffee shop I want to try. I'm also packing coffee beans, a grinder and an Aeropress.
Now 5 months on the road in the US, I can say the aeropress and grinder is a great idea. You can buy them over here, most of the roasters sell them. Good fresh roasts are still hard to find. My home roasted lasted me the first month, then it was time to explore. Around SF a lot of coffee seemed either over-roasted or under-roasted for my taste. I did have success with Verve in Santa Cruz, Ritual and Sight Glass in SF, and Bird Rock in San Diego. Verve in particular seems to do central Americans for the Aeropress just right. You can get them posted anywhere in the US. For some reason I was not crazy about Blue Bottle (seemed hit and miss to me) and four barrel (under roasted, tart espresso) which are the big names in Ca.
Going out for coffee is tough. My wife loves a latte, and the above places all seemed OK. We are off to NY and she will make a straght line for Stumptown once there. We are staying nearby to save on daily transport costs (last time she blew the budget on cabs there)!
Most of the paces we have been that serve Stumptown coffee were OK. Thinking Cup in Boston comes to mind.
Anyone who has a refined taste for coffee should stay away from those nasty thermos black water dispenser things. The burnt rubber taste lingers for hours.
Another tip for espresso lovers in the USA - its time to embrace the pour-over! When we finally get her a latte I usually get one.
And......long live the Aeropress!
I just love that you've picked your accommodation based on local cafés!
Originally Posted by beabeabeaner
It's really hard to get your head around how so many cafes can bugger it up so badly.
You'd think a half-decent bean + a reasonable commercial machine + some vague adherence to some sort of technique would result in something drinkable.
I tend to think a lot of the bean used commercially must be pretty ordinary which prejudices the coffee right from the start.
Poor servicing/maintenance on machines? Poor temp. control?
and I guess the "Barista" who doesn't care about coffee is the last nail in the coffin.
(on my Barista course there were several students who happily confessed they didn't like coffee)(I was sure to find out where they worked)
All of the above Rocky...In my experience, the bad cafes:
Originally Posted by Rocky
- choose beans based solely on price and what they can get for "free"
- rarely if ever backflush
- rarely if ever clean grinders
- have no idea how to set a grinder
- are not prepared to pay for service or maintenance on their machines and are hugely inconvenienced when it's required
- don't do any training and don't train their staff either
- employ button pushers who don't drink coffee
Realistically, they have no hope of making good coffee- nor profits for that matter.
These people and the companies who sell them coffee but allow them to produce rubbish give the industry a bad name...
I used to wonder how hard it was to produce decent coffee in a cafe, then I went to a barista class at one of the better Melbourne cafes.
On that half day class, after a little tuition they dialled out their grinders by a long way and left us on our own to dial them back in.
Now admittedly their Robur-E and Slayer combo is top drawer and they roast in house so the coffee was fresh, but I was stunned at how easy it was to dial in the grinders to produce great coffee.
I came away with even less respect for all those cafes who produce rubbish. To summarise Chris's points above, they simply don't care about how good their coffee tastes.
I'd add one point.....despite Australia's solid coffee culture, there is still a sizeable proportion of the population who 'like what they've had before' / 'don't really care too much what it tastes like' / 'very used to blends with lots of cheap robusta' / 'want their milk boiled' / or are for whatever reason not particularly fussy. We see them as both customers and employees. Just an observation rather than a criticism of those people.
Originally Posted by Jonathon
The hard thing about producing decent coffee in any cafe is to be able to do it at 30, 40, 60/hour -day in, day out... When you're staring at 50 orders or a 100m queue (and believe me it happens), that's where many here would fail- and that's fine. We don't have to do huge volumes at home.
Be it North America or lowly Melbourne the good stuff can be found. You just need to know where to go...
You can solve a lot of problems however, if, as a Barista, you love your coffee and just want to do the best possible with what you have.
It's such a shame to see people in jobs to which they are totally indifferent.
I've had a few crap jobs in my life and the only way I could front up each day was to try to do a really good job.
Just producing swill, cup after cup, that would be totally soul-destroying. Even I could get depressed doing that.
Originally Posted by beabeabeaner
I couldn't agree more... Starbucks style seems like a plague over there.
If you are in the neighborhood, the only decent West Coast (ish) coffee's and roasts I found were Victors @ Redmond WA and (forgot name) local one in Montrose CO.
Both times it was mid winter & snowing. Both had queues over a block long standing forlornly awaiting their fix. Both were worth queuing for. Oh, and both were Irish born roasters (probably a fluke).
If you can find a few more, feel free to post them on CS, as I am likely to do another trip there soon. Probably take a kilo with me... (legal drug called coffee, not the other stuff).
You do know our very own Toby's Estate has a roastery / cafe over the bridge in Brooklyn !
..With Aussie trained Barista's.
I had a laugh. reminds me of a part time job I had in my student days pulling beers at the local RSL.
Originally Posted by Rocky
One time a pompous guy came up to the bar, talking like Niles Crane, and asked to see our "wine list".
I pointed to two of the beer taps and said Riesling or Moselle on tap.
Should have seen his face.
I'm pretty sure they were both connected to the same keg too.
If he really had been Niles Crane he probably would have pointed out that Moselle is a Riesling
Is Niles that bloke on the Nanny From From Hell?
He's Frasier Crane's (Kelsey Grammer) brother on "Frasier"
Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon
Niles and Frasier
Is it coincidence that you bring in the 'Cranes" to this thread ?
Originally Posted by herzog
They have probably done more to promote espresso / cafe culture in the USA than any one else.
..and be the USA's top "Coffee Snobs" too !
I'm sure there are some golden places in North America. Just don't go there with a crap attitude expecting to find nothing and rule everything out. The interwebs and apps are a great place to start by using websites/apps such as BeanHunter. Open your mind (and tongue) to new things I say and you might find something mindblowingly brilliant!....(which probably would be owned by an Australian )
Brings to mind an experience I had on my last trip to the US.
Originally Posted by mwcalder05
I agree the espresso scene over there is pretty hit and miss, however there are unexpected surprises.
Was staying with friends near Cupertino and decided to go for a walk to the local shopping centre, got a bit bushed and finished up at another place quite a distance from my intended location, the first thing that caught my eye was a cafe with a sign proclaiming they served good espresso, went in and ordered a shot, what a surprise! very good brew, just to prove it wasn't a happy mistake I had a couple more which were in the same class.
As I was the only customer got chatting with Miss Barista and discovered that the cafe was was set up, owned and operated by an Aussie from Melbourne, the best coffee I've had in the US, however have had other good coffee over there, I don't obsess to the point of hunting em down, however if I pass an establishment advertising espresso and I have time I feel its my duty to check em out, you find a lot of duds, but, you also get some very pleasant surprises.
Espresso in the US has come a long way in the past 20 years and continues to improve.