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weinoo

Coffee Renaissance in New York City

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This past Sunday's NY Times ran a big article about New York's coffee "renaissance," which is all well and good, but I have a concern and wondered how everyone else felt about this.

Southside is about one thing and one thing only: well-made, well-prepared coffee. It is also among a number of coffee shops that have opened across the city recently, most of them in the past two years.

Add to the list Cafe Grumpy; Think; Oslo; Verb; Mud; Ninth Street Espresso; Gimme! Coffee; Jack’s Stir Brew; Joe, the Art of Coffee; Abraço Espresso; Everyman Espresso — and that’s not all. These coffee shops come in many guises: big with lots of tables; small with barely enough counter space to lean on; some serving food and even liquor, others offering only a few pastries; and a growing number of them selling beans from some of the world’s best roasters.

My problem is that I can't seem to get a properly (to me, at least) drawn espresso or doppio at the cafes that I've been to. The shots are too short, not hot enough, and they're friggin' bitter, but not in a good espresso way. Some of these cafes are pulling ristrettos (triples even - seriously, who drinks a triple ristretto, 20 or more grams of coffee to make 1 ounce of "liquid?"), which I wouldn't mind if they were good ristrettos. The other day I was in one of the cafes mentioned in the article, and I asked for a double drawn a little long - I was told that it couldn't be done that way (so they've never heard of a lungo, a double drawn to about 2.5 ounces) , but the barista said he could pour two ristrettos into a cup...he did, it sucked. Last week my wife and I were at a fancy cafe, where I went to watch the barista make our doppios - everything was at the ready (the $15,000 espresso machine, the scale for tamping, the great beans, etc.); the barista actually pulled a shot or two first to get into the groove of pulling an espresso, then drew our two doppios - they sucked.

My set-up at home is a PIDd Silvia/Rocky combo. I pull mainly Black Cat or Kid-O, both from Intellegentsia. My coffee hits the cup at around 172 degrees. I pull a 1.5 - 1. 75 ounce shot in 25 - 30 seconds, using 15 - 18 grams of coffee - depending on which basket I happen to have in my portafilter. The shots are delicious - the equal we've had anywhere in Italy on a number of trips (my point of reference).

So, what's going on in all these fantastic cafes? Do the baristas really know what an espresso should taste like and how hot it should be,or are they pulling all their shots based on how they'll be in milk based drinks (my guess), when the temperature of the shot doesn't really matter. How can I get a decently pulled shot when I go to one of these cafes participating in the renaissance? That's what I want for my $3 - a true espresso, served hot; not something that's meant to be diluted with 5 ounces of steamed milk...it's also why I bought the Silvia and rarely have espresso outside of my kitchen.

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Keep looking Mitch...and when you find one that meets your standards, let me know. No place I've been to has been able to match the cheap, anywhere you go shots that I experienced in Portugal. Why is it so difficult?

I'm no expert, but I know what I like...and it's pretty easy to i.d. a bad pull.

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weinoo -- I read the article on Sunday, and read your response with interest. Espresso is still very new to me, and in truth at this stage I wouldn't know a good from a bad pull if it hit me in the head. But I sure as hell would know hot from not hot, and even to this novice that sounds unacceptable.

Have you contacted coffee shop managers/owners with your feedback? I think maybe they are cashing in on most people's ignorance? (IOW, am I about to become a sucker?!)

Do you think the problem has anything to do with the coffee that is being used? Or is it the method?

Intelligentisa Coffee (which is where I order my coffee, although I use a French press) has weekly (free) cuppings in NY, and I am going to one tomorrow morning. (Call in advance for an appointment.) I am half-tempted to bring your comments with me! I like to know what I should be looking for in a good espresso -- hopefully I'll learn a lot tomorrow.

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weinoo -- I read the article on Sunday, and read your response with interest. Espresso is still very new to me, and in truth at this stage I wouldn't know a good from a bad pull if it hit me in the head. But I sure as hell would know hot from not hot, and even to this novice that sounds unacceptable.

Have you contacted coffee shop managers/owners with your feedback? I think maybe they are cashing in on most people's ignorance? (IOW, am I about to become a sucker?!)

Do you think the problem has anything to do with the coffee that is being used? Or is it the method?

Intelligentisa Coffee (which is where I order my coffee, although I use a French press) has weekly (free) cuppings in NY, and I am going to one tomorrow morning. (Call in advance for an appointment.) I am half-tempted to bring your comments with me! I like to know what I should be looking for in a good espresso -- hopefully I'll learn a lot tomorrow.

Actually, at the cupping tomorrow morning, you're probably not going to learn much about espresso, but more about the coffee itself...which is also a good thing.

As far as contacting the shop owners/managers, I think that in this 3rd wave of cafes, some of the baristas are probably the owners and/or managers, or the baristas are being trained by the owners/managers. But there's no doubt in my mind that a shot meant for a milk drink may be pulled much differently than one for a straight espresso. Notice what Carlo says about espressos in Portugal - that's been my experience in Italy as well.

And I don't think it's the coffee - I've had the same experience whether they're pulling Stumptown, Counter Culture, Gimme, or whatever.

Feel free to bring my comments in - I'd like to hear what the Intellegentsia have to say.

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And I don't think it's the coffee - I've had the same experience whether they're pulling Stumptown, Counter Culture, Gimme, or whatever.

Feel free to bring my comments in - I'd like to hear what the Intellegentsia have to say.

You can get Stumptown in NY?

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And I don't think it's the coffee - I've had the same experience whether they're pulling Stumptown, Counter Culture, Gimme, or whatever.

Feel free to bring my comments in - I'd like to hear what the Intellegentsia have to say.

You can get Stumptown in NY?

I'm pretty sure it's what they've been pulling at 9th St. espresso.

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heh. I didn't know that they had opened up a roaster in NY.

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heh. I didn't know that they had opened up a roaster in NY.

They haven't yet but they're going to soon, according to the barrista at 9th st. (yes, they use stumptown and sell the beans, too).

I've had great espresso at 9th st. (the 10th st. location), and Joe (the grand central location). I've heard nothing but great things about Abraco, but they close early and I never get there in time. I trust they know more about coffee than about coffee shop hours.

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My problem is that I can't seem to get a properly (to me, at least) drawn espresso or doppio at the cafes that I've been to. The shots are too short, not hot enough, and they're friggin' bitter, but not in a good espresso way. Some of these cafes are pulling ristrettos (triples even - seriously, who drinks a triple ristretto, 20 or more grams of coffee to make 1 ounce of "liquid?"), which I wouldn't mind if they were good ristrettos. The other day I was in one of the cafes mentioned in the article, and I asked for a double drawn a little long - I was told that it couldn't be done that way (so they've never heard of a lungo, a double drawn to about 2.5 ounces) , but the barista said he could pour two ristrettos into a cup...he did, it sucked. Last week my wife and I were at a fancy cafe, where I went to watch the barista make our doppios - everything was at the ready (the $15,000 espresso machine, the scale for tamping, the great beans, etc.); the barista actually pulled a shot or two first to get into the groove of pulling an espresso, then drew our two doppios - they sucked.

My set-up at home is a PIDd Silvia/Rocky combo. I pull mainly Black Cat or Kid-O, both from Intellegentsia. My coffee hits the cup at around 172 degrees. I pull a 1.5 - 1. 75 ounce shot in 25 - 30 seconds, using 15 - 18 grams of coffee - depending on which basket I happen to have in my portafilter. The shots are delicious - the equal we've had anywhere in Italy on a number of trips (my point of reference).

I'm bumping this thread from over 3 years ago because I just stumbled across this article from last week. In the article, Oliver Strand reports on one Mike White, a a barista who is documenting the so-called fall of the New York shot. Who knew that what I complained about those many years ago had a name:

White is also documenting the decline and fall of the so-called New York shot, a dense, syrupy style of espresso that took hold a few years ago. It’s what you get when you updose (by packing the filter basket with enough coffee for two to three shots) and pull the espresso short (by using a fine grind and stopping the water before one full ounce drips into the cup).

Now it seems...

It turns out that was a phase. Today, espressos are still updosed (although not as much), but usually pulled longer; the extra time and additional water give the flavors room to develop and unfold so that the shots have more sweetness, more cream, more fruit. There’s more clarity.

A phase?! Who are you kidding? The coffee sucked. So what you really mean is the coffee's better now. About fucking time.

And yes, I'm a 5%-er. That's evidently the percentage of people who go into coffee shops and order an espresso.

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