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Alinea - Coffee and espresso


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I presume this question is best asked here rather than on the Food Lab thread? As an espresso enthusiast, life-long coffee drinker and lover of all things related to the humble bean, I've been consistently disappointed in the coffee and espresso/cappuccino offerings proffered in most restaurants. Although my high end dining experience is extremely limited, feedback from fellow coffee lovers who've dined far and wide at all levels of the culinary spectrum seems to concur: it's tough to find an exemplary cup of coffee in restaurants and nearly impossible to get truly good espresso (kudos to Gramercy Tavern in NYC for the Yauco Selecto coffee I had when dining there - best cup I've ever had in a restaurant).

Does the Alinea team have specific plans to ensure consistency and excellence on this small but crucial detail of the dining experience? This of course includes not only the choice of roaster/bean supplier, the type of beans or blends... brewing equipment used... grinding gear... process control.

Please share with us all the great news about how good your coffee and especially espresso will be and why so I can begin making my Chicago travel plans :wink::biggrin:

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I too feel that in many high-end restaurants, especially in America, the coffee service is considered an afterthought rather than a seemless part of the meal.

Alinea has been speaking with 2 coffee purveyors about providing an assortment of unique, top-notch artisinal coffees. Service too will be well thought out, will include a choice of brewing methods (to include at least espresso and french press), and will be handled as an integral part of the overall beverage service.

Chef Achatz and our Sommelier / GM Joe Catterson have been actively working on this aspect of Alinea for a few months. In addition, Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail has prototyped several service pieces for the coffee service. As the serviceware, purveyors and methods are settled on we will provide more details.

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Alinea has been speaking with 2 coffee purveyors about providing an assortment of unique, top-notch artisinal coffees.  Service too will be well thought out, will include a choice of brewing methods (to include at least espresso and french press), and will be handled as an integral part of the overall beverage service.

Quality product is great. With French Press coffee, it pretty much gets you there. The only big variables left to work with being grind and water which are easy to "solve." Storage is a lesser concern.

Espresso and espresso based drinks, however, are another story. Technique and equipment are far more crucial. How do you "solve" these in a dining environment where the turnover is very low in comparison to a cafe. Foaming milk to a perfect velvet consistency takes a lot of practice and pretty high turnover as does pulling perfect shots. Are you considering having a true barrista or at least someone with real training?

I feel like this is something that many diners, even very "sophisticated" diners, do not have much experience with - perfect espresso. It could be a mind/palette opening taste phenomena on par with the cuisine.

Ciao,

rien

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Espresso and espresso based drinks, however, are another story. Technique and equipment are far more crucial. How do you "solve" these in a dining environment where the turnover is very low in comparison to a cafe. Foaming milk to a perfect velvet consistency takes a lot of practice and pretty high turnover as does pulling perfect shots. Are you considering having a true barrista or at least someone with real training?

I feel like this is something that many diners, even very "sophisticated" diners, do not have much experience with - perfect espresso. It could be a mind/palette opening taste phenomena on par with the cuisine.

All points extremely well taken. Fresh beans, proper machine cleaning and maintenance, accurate grind and tamp... these are but a few of the starting points as the skill of the barista is the determining factor. Just as the highest quality foodstuffs and kitchen equipment cannot yield a work of true culinary art, so goes the art of espresso production. Although it's produced by a relatively new company and a limited number of these machines are out in the field at present, I suggest that the Synesso Cyncra should be included on your list of candidates for house machine.

The fragility of straight espresso shots and the short-lived nature of the precious crema present huge challenges for presenting the beverage in its finest state in the restaurant environment. Milk based drinks- far easier.

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