Espresso vs. Coffee in Coffee & Tea Posted February 11, 2004 Java-Joe's questions are spot on.In response to some of the other questions...Yes, a too-light roast will result in sour (astringent) espresso. If you get sour espresso, however, the most likely culprit is not the roast, but rather either the temperature or the extraction time.Yes, Italians traditionally never tamped hard, used pre-ground coffee (and rarely if ever cleaned their machines). Just because the Italians invented espresso, however, does not mean their methods are optimal. Even some of the leading lights of Italian coffee are beginning to accept that the "scientific" approach in the US has resulted in improvements. If you talk to professional baristi the world over, you're going to find very few top ones who are not Italian who don't follow the magic rules regarding tamping, fresh coffee (and cleaning their machines).The way a good barista can tell the pressure he or she tamps at is by practicing on a scale. Seriously. Along with weighing dosed, leveled coffee and checking levelness of tamp with levels, this is part of training.There are probably more coffee shops that roast their own and serve good espresso, but don't assume that roasting in-house is a guarantee of good espresso (or that not roasting in-house means you'll get crap). It's far more worthwhile to check out the things noted above (portafilters in the group, freshly ground coffee, a real tamper - used professionally, clean portafilters, extraction time within the range, good crema).I'd add a couple more... look at cup size. If the shop doesn't have any small cups, it's not a good sign. If a shop preheats the cup, it's a good sign. If a "small" cappuccino is 12oz, it's a bad sign.But, at the end of the day, the test is in the taste. If you like it, it's good.It makes me sad to think of all the people out there drinking Vente Vanilla Lattes, thinking they don't like espresso 'cause it's too strong. If only they could taste the real thing.