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Legit Coffee

The quest for enlightenment through coffee.

Nathandisagreed with the LA Times Overrated/Underrated blog recently on the matter of pour-over coffee.

The LA Weekly posted this pseudo-explication and criticism of ristretto shots of espresso, and I’m calling them out for it. More specifically, I’m hanging out with the baristas at Espresso Profeta making fun of it.

The major theme of the post seemed to be that ristretto, a way of making espresso where the shot has less volume and therefore a richer, fuller body, is a poorly defined thing and isn’t always the best way to make espresso.

Well, duh.

Anyone who’s spent time thinking about and tasting coffee and espresso knows that there are different ways to prepare it and that these different methods bring out different aspects of the coffee. And anyone who’s spent time thinking about and tasting coffee and espresso knows that they will like different methods more or less and that a different method may be better for a particular bean and roast than other methods. To say that ristretto is a “lame duck,” as the blog post argues, is just silly. It’s the right way to prepare some coffees; it may well be the wrong way to prepare others.

A couple other points. Charles Babinski from the Intelligentsia in Venice describes the difference between standard and ristretto in a bizarre and incorrect way, and he ought to know better. He describes it by saying that a standard espresso that tastes of chocolate, lemongrass, and cherry will come out as chocolatelemongrasscherry in ristretto, which I think is the wrong way to put it. Instead, different flavors will come out in ristretto, and often you’ll get more chocolate and caramel in ristretto. Knowing (and liking) Intelligentsia’s coffee, I suspect Babinski wouldn’t like espresso made that way, but that doesn’t make it a bad way to make it. It makes it a different way to make it.

Second, and credit goes to Choncey Langford from Espresso Profeta for pointing this out, the photo of the espresso in the story has a totally collapsed crema (that’s the foamy part on top of the espresso), which basically means the espresso has gone bad. One has to wonder how long the writer waited to taste the espresso and whether that influenced his beliefs.

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