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Coffee Report @ Bouchon


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Great story and so sadly true. I recognize the wroter Onocoffee (aka Jay of Timonium MD) from some of the coffee forums that I haunt. It was an entertaining read and really truly struck home. especially because I just returned from France a few short days ago after experiencing a week of the best food I've ever eaten and the worst coffee and espresso I've ever experienced.

No offense intended but, as we'd say here in NY, the French don't know from espresso. Anyone who looks to the French as a source for equipment or technique regarding espresso has IMHO really missed the point.

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Great story and so sadly true.  I recognize the wroter Onocoffee (aka Jay of Timonium MD) from some of the coffee forums that I haunt. It was an entertaining read and really truly struck home. especially because I just returned from France a few short days ago after experiencing a week of the best food I've ever eaten and the worst coffee and espresso I've ever experienced.

No offense intended but, as we'd say here in NY, the French don't know from espresso.  Anyone who looks to the French as a source for equipment or technique regarding espresso has IMHO really missed the point.

Sounds like you had a great trip, I noticed your post earlier today - congratulations on your engagement. The Danton Cafe description, well, what can I say - I went several early mornings, and perhaps they had just ground the coffee. On the other hand I've not had a lot of experience with really high end coffee here in the wilds of Worcester, MA.

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The Danton Cafe description, well, what can I say - I went several early mornings, and perhaps they had just ground the coffee.

That's very likely the case. I rarely had coffee before 9 AM on this trip (actually usually never had it before 10 or 11 AM). We visited Cafe Danton at about 5 or 6 PM and they were probably using coffee that had been ground a few hours before. Even world class coffee that has been ground for espresso and left to sit in the doser for a few hours will become flat and a bit lacking in character with that length of exposure to oxygen. By the way... I did nose around back by the bar and the espresso machine on my way to the bathroom but could not discern what brand they were using - no cans or bags were visible. Based on the flavor profile I suspect that it was Illy.

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Funny thing--the new Food Arts came today, and the first thing in it is an ad for Illy coffee featuring Thomas Keller, holding Francis!Francis! espresso machine. The ad quotes him as saying he "only serves Illy." Does not say "in pods." :laugh:

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I saw that one too. I guess that explains why he uses Illy, he's getting paid to use Illy.

In Illy's defense, it's not bad coffee, but I would expect Keller to use local sources if quality was the uppermost consideration.

I think that it's actually more indicative of the status that coffee holds in most restaurants rather than a knock on Keller himself.

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I saw that one too.  I guess that explains why he uses Illy, he's getting paid to use Illy.

In Illy's defense, it's not bad coffee, but I would expect Keller to use local sources if quality was the uppermost consideration.

I think that it's actually more indicative of the status that coffee holds in most restaurants rather than a knock on Keller himself.

I doubt that is the case – the endorsement likely comes from the fact that he has been using Illy coffee for years and likes it. When the Bouchon bakery first opened there was much fuss about all the effort required to import the espresso machine from france. This was long before any endorsement of Illy products.

I suspect the reason for the Illy pods is that they taste better than most of what is available commercially here. Consistency is far more important in a commercial setting than it is at home. Every shot is the same and there is no mess – both are important I suspect. Microroasters have excellent products, but the blends change often enough that they don't taste the same from year to year.

My home roasted coffee tastes significantly better than Illy pods most of the time, but when it doesn't it really sucks. Most of the time that is because of humidity changes, a soft tamp, tamping too hard, etc. I can remake my drink after I take the first sip - I'd be royally pissed if someone served me some of the crap I've made for myself. I’ve also ceded a significant section of the kitchen counter space to the mess made by the espresso equipment.

I think in any commercial environment unless I were running a coffee shop I would go with pods – the only viable alternative is to use an LM setup with a swift grinder and Linea/FB70; then you’ve got some of the consistency issues resolved but still a mess from the grinds that end up everywhere.

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[Consistency is far more important in a commercial setting than it is at home. 

That's true, but it's also true with any kind of ingredient, and in a place where the customers are willing to pay top dollar to get the best ingredients and also for whatever amount of work is necessary to extract the best from it, you'd think it wouldn't be necessary to cut corners where a neighborhood cafe wouldn't.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I think in any commercial environment unless I were running a coffee shop I would go with pods – the only viable alternative is to use an LM setup with a swift grinder and Linea/FB70; then you’ve got some of the consistency issues resolved but still a mess from the grinds that end up everywhere.

I tend to agree although I can attest that, apart from needing a knockbox/bucket in which to dispose of the pucks or spent grounds, there is almost no mess when the Swift grinder is used. There are small bist of loose grounds around the outer edge of the portafilter but simply tipping it over the knockbox allows these to fall out.

I really do wish that more restaurants would use good quality pod coffee. Those who use individually wrapped/sealed pods and ensure that they get fresh stock can deliver a satsifying shot of espresso.

I just returned from a vacation where I drank a fair amount of Illy as it was the brand most likely to be "okay" of those that I saw available. In every cafe I visted (Paris) the drinks were being dosed from a doser full of grounds that had obviously been ground earlier in the day. The coffee was not offensive but was consistently flat and lacked crema (not to mention that no one was tamping). Freshly opened pods would have made a far better cup.

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In every cafe I visted (Paris) the drinks were being dosed from a  doser full of grounds that had obviously been ground earlier in the day.  The coffee was not offensive but was consistently flat and lacked crema (not to mention that no one was tamping).

That almost exactly describes the espresso I had the other day at Dean & Deluca's. The doser was completely full, and the dosing and tamping were sloppy and cursory. But I guess we're just used to that sort of thing here in NY.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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With the exception of The Mud Truck by Union Square, Klatch on Maiden Lane and Gimme Coffee in Brooklyn, I think that is more or less the rule in NY. I'm sure there are other exceptions but I more or less gave up trying to find good espresso in NYC. I either drink drip coffee or go to the dreaded Starbucks and get a short cappa when I'm visiting.

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With the exception of The Mud Truck by Union Square, Klatch on Maiden Lane and Gimme Coffee in Brooklyn,  I think that is more or less the rule in NY.  I'm sure there are other exceptions but I more or less gave up trying to find good espresso in NYC. I either drink drip coffee or go to the dreaded Starbucks and get a short cappa when I'm visiting.

i had a decent double espresso, with an ample head of crema, at Monkey Royale a few weeks ago while briefly stranded in NYC. and second the Mud truck (though i find their storefront is focused less on espresso drinks and more on mugs).

on balance, though, i agree with the NYC problem. a stark reminder of how good i've got it in SEA.

call it snobby, but i find an espresso without proper crema to be inexcusable. the crema should be a key signal of proper grinding and a quality pull. i seem to be in the minority view on this, though.

have never really enjoyed the results from Illy pods. but then, i'm used to watching the beans being ground before my eyes.

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on balance, though, i agree with the NYC problem. a stark reminder of how good i've got it in SEA.

At the risk of veering slightly off topic, I had decided to sample all of the espressos available in the immediate vicinity of my office. None were very good, though a couple were not bad. Some were very bad--one of the worst was at Ferrara Cafe on Mulberry St. A 15-second shot out of a Cimbali superauto. Almost as bad a Starbuck's.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Consistency is far more important in a commercial setting than it is at home.

Not when it is consistantly Bad.

Microroasters have excellent products, but the blends change often enough that they don't taste the same from year to year.

Thats right, coffee is a fruit. A huge part of being a great Chef is finding great ingredients, and it never stops because produce is always changing. You have to QC every day. For those who want 'consistancy' theres hothouse. Just like those who want the same bland shot every time there's Illy and superautomatic espresso. No one would use 'bland' and Keller together and so there lies the anomaly.

I think in any commercial environment unless I were running a coffee shop I would go with pods – the only viable alternative is to use an LM setup with a swift grinder and Linea/FB70; then you’ve got some of the consistency issues resolved but still a mess from the grinds that end up everywhere.

I disagree. The viablility is in the passion and the will to deliver it.

Keller did it brilliantly with everything else. I believe he missed with the coffee due to lack of research. All of the things he did would be the last things in the world any coffee professional would advise (other than Illy).

Tell Keller you have a new space age way of canning scallops and you're certain they will be the same after 6 months as if they came right out of the sea. Just like Illy's preservation, its a foolery.

Alistair Durie

Elysian Coffee

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I'll have to c heck out Monkey Royale - it's in the same neighborhood as Higher Grounds - another place I've been meaning to visit that is rumored to often deliver great shots.

It's not being snobbish to look for and expect great crema on an espresso shot - the cream is where it's at... where the intensity of flavor gets delivered. I agree thatI don't relish the thought of getting coffee from Illy pods but it's often a damn sight better than stale coffee that was ground hours and hours before.

If you reach for a predictable common denominator there is such a thing as a predictable blend, even for espresso. I know because the folks I work for have a house espresso blend that is very simple and comes from beans that are extremely predictable from lot to lot and year to year.

But there's a problem with that. Such an espresso is always "decent" but never stellar. It works great in milk drinks (which is literally 99% of our espresso business) but as a straight shot it lacks both the subtlties and WOW notes of many other blends I've tried.

I'd rather shoot for greatness and accept the changes that come from season to season and crop to crop. Getting open-minded about coffee includes accepting the fact that the varietal you loved so much this season when a particular crop was available may not be at its best next yer.

This is where good local and regional micro-roasters enter the picture. They constantly cup , sample and assess new offerings to ensure that they have the best of any given varietal. Those that offer espresso blends will also tweak their blends to deliver the best possible results and as much consistency as can be provided. You just can't get that kind of attention to detail from the major suppliers - such an approach works contrary to the mass market business model.

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Hopkin, I think you hit the nail right one the head, there. Keller obviously has a passion for what he does, which is evident in his food, but why shouldn't it translate into the espresso as well? And as far as there being no decent coffee in Northern California, well, I am glad to say I disagree. San Francisco, after all, was the "other" west coast city in the Specialty Coffee revolution. And even the smallest of Roasteries usually will ship next-day air.

:cool:

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(Insert chef's name here) obviously has a passion for what he does, which is evident in his food, but why shouldn't it translate into the espresso as well?

That's the question that I always ask myself. Restaurants, regardless of their level, just don't seem to hold espresso (or coffee in general) in very high regard.

It's not that hard to properly prepare espresso, but it does take training and a certain amount of care. Contrary to what some say, I don't believe that pods will deliver anything more than mediocre espresso... certainly not anything that you would wish to drink without adding milk. How hard is it to find a decent roaster, train your staff, and maintain equipment? It can be done, and it isn't difficult. I do it at home and I've done it in a commercial setting.

But you have to care.

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i don't want to be a pain in the ass, but... with all due respect...

I suspect the reason for the Illy pods is that they taste better than most of what is available commercially here.  Consistency is far more important in a commercial setting than it is at home.  Every shot is the same and there is no mess – both are important I suspect.  Microroasters have excellent products, but the blends change often enough that they don't taste the same from year to year.

OK. let's substitute another ingredient in here why don't we.

by this logic, Keller should use processed American cheese in his dishes - I mean, artisan cheeses (especially from small providers) change from season to season and year to year and are often just unavailable.

And, after all, consistency is what matters - right?

there is no point sourcing one of the excellent locally roasted coffees, right? i mean, it's not like Ecco Caffe (for example) is convenient or anything - it's what? half an hour away?

I think in any commercial environment unless I were running a coffee shop I would go with pods – the only viable alternative is to use an LM setup with a swift grinder and Linea/FB70; then you’ve got some of the consistency issues resolved but still a mess from the grinds that end up everywhere.

Again... let's try this with another type of food...

the trouble with those pesky gas ranges is that they're so inconsistent and messy which is why Keller should be going with pre-prepared food in pouches and then heating them with a microwave.

there is no defense.

he sacrifices quality in no other area, no matter what the cost or difficulty. he is uncompromising in this --- except when it comes to coffee where he's willing to serve average to sub-average coffee as (let's be honest) an after-thought.

fanatic...

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I'm not condoning or supporting the use of pod coffee - Illy or any other brand. I'm most especially not condoning the uniformly bad espresso and frequently bad coffee that is typical in most restaurants- even the high end ones.

In theory the process of selecting a bean vendor, installing and maintaining the machines and trainign staff is not overly daunting, especially when one considers the level of trainign and attention to detail that goes into almost every other aspect of high end restaurant operation.

Yet it still doesn't happen. We still get crappy espresos and quite often average coffee at best. I'm not in a position to understand why but am curious to know if others have insight.

Do these chefs/restaurateurs just not "get it"? Is it a cost issue? A lack of space? An assumption that not enough diners actually care?

I'm not asking these questions rhetorically - I really am curious and don't know the answers.

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I thought Keller used Equator coffee ? At least that is what I was told at Per Se.

Link below

http://www.equatorcoffees.com/press.htm

I was under the impression that he does so at Per Se and FL but that at Bouchon they use pods for espresso. Have not seen anythign to indicate what they use for drip coffee at Bouchon just as I've heard no feedback on what they do for espresso at FL or Per Se.

Perhaps Melkor can weigh in on the espresso situation at FL as he lives in the area and is damn near a regular there (not.... but he's been there a few times recently if I recall correctly).

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I was under the impression that he does so at Per Se and FL but that at Bouchon they use pods for espresso. Have not seen anythign to indicate what they use for drip coffee at Bouchon just as I've heard no feedback on what they do for espresso at FL or Per Se.

Perhaps Melkor can weigh in on the espresso situation at FL as he lives in the area and is damn near a regular there (not....  but he's been there a few times recently if I recall correctly).

I have no idea what they use for espresso at TFL, I rarely order it there and almost never order it at other restaurants. As much as we the coffee obsessed loathe admitting it, the general public actually does enjoy their starbucks/peets/illy coffee drinks. Clearly we should all chastise any chef who chooses to serve a drink they enjoy because working sixty hours in a good week producing excellent food isn't enough to ask of one person - they should at a minimum also be a good barista. As far as being a regular at TFL goes - I don't think I eat anywhere often enough to be considered a regular. Though I may eat at the French Laundry more frequently than any other restaurant.

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As much as we the coffee obsessed loathe admitting it, the general public actually does enjoy their starbucks/peets/illy coffee drinks. Clearly we should all chastise any chef who chooses to serve a drink they enjoy because working sixty hours in a good week producing excellent food isn't enough to ask of one person - they should at a minimum also be a good barista.

I only wish I could get coffee or espresso drinks in most restaurants that was actually as good as what is often served in a Peet's or Starbucks cafe. I'm not suggesting that chefs, who admittedly already work long hours, should somehow consider it necessary to become baristas. But does Thomas Keller prepare each and every component of the great meals served in his restaurants or do his peers in other establishments do the same? Of course not.

There is a division of labor and delegation based on particular skills. I assume that many chefs do not consider themselves to be expert enough in the intricacies and subtleties of fine wines to do all the sampling, selection and staff training themselves. Do they not rely on hiring an expert sommelier and having a trusted vendor who work with them on such issues?

Why should it be any different with coffee or espresso? If an establishment is operating at a rarified enough level that customers routinely spend $150 and up per person for dinner not including alcohol, tax or tip.... is it unreasonable to ask and expect that a few of these places might actually expend the time and make the investment necessary to offer quality coffee and espresso?

It's also worth considering that many, many people who are intimately familiar with the nuances of haute cuisine and fine dining are relatively clueless about what comprises a really good espresso, cappuccino etc. because they may not have been exposed to it. What better way to spread the message that this can be an integral part of a fine dining experience than to make a committment to quality?

I fail to see how "working sixty hours" can be a justifiable excuse. Any place with a kitchen staff to patron ratio like the FL has should be able to hire a competent barista for far less than what they pay many other food specialists.

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