I can't wait to read the comments about this link.

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My opinion on the article is that I really enjoyed it. The author seems to know his stuff, as someone who has been raised in the coffee industry should. It may be harsh but I see a lot of truth in it. I don't agree that us Americans do not know how to produce "Proper" espresso. Sure there are coffee shops and companies that really cannot produce a delicious shot of espresso, but there are plenty that pride themselves on that pursuit.

Good Read, thanks for posting it
It's interesting that from his description of his experiences in America, he visited the usual "third wave" suspects. He's not talking about all the bad coffee that you can get in America from chain stores or mom & pop shops, he's talking about Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Ecco, Etc.

Also interesting that "roasted bread, chocolate, red fruit, orange, and jasmine flowers" are flavors that i regularly get from my 20 gram espresso's.

To Italy; You may have it in your heart, and you may have it in your blood, but in america we have it in our brains. We're not stuck on some rhetorical traditional way of doing things. We're not afraid to experiment and see what happens. To quote educatedguest's comment on the article, when is the last time that an Italian won the World Barista Championship?

No offence to Italians, seriously. This was only a response to the article.

Oh yeah, "preserved using pressurization"... HAH!
Thank you for sharing this, Banks. It was an interesting perspective, and exactly what I think most of us should expect a traditionally-minded Italian espresso guy to say.

I do hope we all know and understand how what we're doing differs from the Italian tradition. This article is a good window into that.

If you compare what's being done at the shops that many of us would consider the best to a more traditional approach, you'll see the difference immediately. Triple baskets yielding a scant 1.5oz of espresso is a far different experience from a 2oz normale from a double basket. Intentionally. The description the guy gave was spot-on - syrupy body, replace the negative "sour" with a more positive "bright acidity" and you're there.

On the flipside, how many times have you seen stories from Americans returning from Italy complaining about the espresso? I've seen a few...

I would never say that this American espresso wasn't great. In fact, I love it and think it is very American. I'll also not criticize American baristas either. Not to be a prick, but anyone wanna put money on this Italian dude beating Mike Phillips at WBC? Not that WBC is the be-all-end-all... just sayin'. :)

Again, thanks for a good read, Banks. Hope you aren't disappointed if this doesn't turn into a flame war :).
i feel like there was a point in my barista experience where i relied so heavily on numbers and precision that it got in the way - kind of like concentrating too heavily on music theory and forgetting to just play. theory is helpful, but if you don't adjust and adapt within the moment, you're not going to be completely successful. anytime someone tries to talk about "REAL espresso," i feel like they're stuck in that place i merely passed through.

formulas are great, but if you don't use them as flexible boundaries to be tested according to the situation, you are bound to miss some great sensory opportunities. only considering the guidelines the author gave really neuters the barista's ability to adapt to the different coffee used. the fact that there is no discussion given to origins, bean sourcing, blending, etc. tells me that the author is not considering the whole picture, merely adhering to dogma.
Counter Culture doesn't have retail shops.


Ricky Sutton said:
It's interesting that from his description of his experiences in America, he visited the usual "third wave" suspects. He's not talking about all the bad coffee that you can get in America from chain stores or mom & pop shops, he's talking about Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Ecco, Etc.

Also interesting that "roasted bread, chocolate, red fruit, orange, and jasmine flowers" are flavors that i regularly get from my 20 gram espresso's.

To Italy; You may have it in your heart, and you may have it in your blood, but in america we have it in our brains. We're not stuck on some rhetorical traditional way of doing things. We're not afraid to experiment and see what happens. To quote educatedguest's comment on the article, when is the last time that an Italian won the World Barista Championship?

No offence to Italians, seriously. This was only a response to the article.

Oh yeah, "preserved using pressurization"... HAH!
I think that the WBC (and it's spin-off competitions) measure a very specific definition of espresso and competitors' ability to fit themselves inside of it. And when was the last time an American won the WBC? I'm not saying that it's not a fitting measuring stick for skill and professionalism, but surely none of you would say that it's the only standard by which we measure quality.

All serious baristas are passionate about their espresso and we all rely on a certain dogma and fairly narrow definition of what "espresso" is. If my community teaches me that the definition of a square is "a long, two-dimensional box," this is what I will happily grow up to believe and it will only cause a problem when I converse with someone who rejects my belief and tells me that it should be called a rectangle. Regardless of what we call it and who likes it, the fact is that American espresso has diverged significantly from the traditional Italian ways and we like our way better.

My point is that it seems silly to try to pigeon-hole the definition of "espresso" to anything so specific when, even if American shops starting calling it "American espresso," or "progressive espresso," it would sell just the same. That's also the beauty of having so many types of coffee in so many shops within reach. If you don't like the way someone's making their coffee, just go somewhere else.

For my money, I'd rather be sipping on "coffee concentrate" from Stumptown that any expertly pulled "espresso" from Illy. But that's neither here nor there.
To an extent I agree with the author. Too often shots are pulled taking the easy way out, updosed super short ristrettos. Sometimes 21g or more to yield as little as 0.5oz. That type of shot of a lighter roasted SO is much easier to pull than say 14-16g 1.5 to 2.5oz, barely normale to normale. And quite often a more traditional normale pull can if done properly yield a much more dynamic shot flavor with much greater taste definition and clarity than becoming somewhat common place super short syrupy ultra-ristrettos, sweet but muddled.
I was just having a conversation with a friend about the American ristretto trend. I agree that much is often lost when everything you pull is ristretto and, to an extent, all ristretto shots tend to taste alike. I disagree with the author, however, about the strict rigidity to which he recommends espresso be pulled. Every coffee is different and requires special treatment.

When all is said and done, though, I believe and we all have a lot to learn and that every nation has a way of doing things that they appreciate.
Of course it must be understood the author is an accomplished Italian barista. His recommendations are not just recommendations in Italy, they are actual Law. So there's no way he'd be accustomed to free wheeling widely varying styles as seen in the US.
Yeah, well, my Mother thinks everything is better in Scotland. Whatever. If you don't like it here there are flights leaving every hour.

I'm not a fan of big North American lattes and 600 ml. caps, but as for espresso...sorry, but we are making it as good as or better than the way it's done in the old country.

I have, not just one or two, but truly dozens of regular clients who travel the world on business. When the first stop they make after arriving at Pearson International Airport is for espresso, I know we're doing it right. Then when they tell us that our espresso is better than anything they got in their homeland I become even more motivated to do a good job.

Illy may be great coffee, in Italy...but here, it's just OK coffee at best.
There is espresso and there is Italian espresso. They are similar, but they aren't the same thing. Just as I was mystified at the fries I got in Holland, and they were mystified by my request for ketchup, and I was further mystified by what they called ketchup, they do things differently there.
Imagine that. A whole 'nuther country with a whole 'nuther culture and things aren't the same as the country of origin.
We don't make a lot of traditional Italian espresso. The Italians don't make a whole lot of traditional American Burgers.
'Kay.

Is one better than the other? I think I'd just giggle and smirk behind my hand at anyone that suggested that he knew the answer to that. Like two kids arguing whether green is better than orange.

And this dude is advertising Illy Coffees. And not much more, really.
Different tastes, different countries. Ask for a bica in Lisbon and you'll get a long sweet shot meant for shooting in one gulp. Some people hate it, some people love it.

I have to say though, the super ristretto trend can be a little irritating at times. I don't want my espresso experience to be like sipping a shot of whiskey-in other words, some of the shots I've had have been so concentrated my mouth gets the same shock as it does from firewater. That's not a good thing in my opinion. Savor not shock. Yes, super ristrettos can highlight certain flavor characteristics of the bean but how does the overall experience rate?

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