Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Italy - finally a great coffee?

So after 2 weeks of miserable coffee in France and Spain we couldn't wait for that first good coffee in Italy.

We stopped at a few roadhouses and I was tempted to indulge but decided to wait until we reached Florence for that first coffee, expectations were high but I was sure i'd satisfy my cravings.

Mary Diamond of La Marzocco gave us a list of cafes using their machinery close to our hotel and off we set.
Our first stop was at Bar Chiaro Scuro were they had their house blend and then about 7 domestic grinders each with a different origin.
I watched some shots and saw they were all a bit faster than i'm used to.
I ordered my ristretto (at the bar, much cheaper) to be on the safe side as I still hadn't gotten over the French 60ml+ shots.

The coffee wasn't great but it ended up being the best of the day, the domestic grinders were a bit of a surprise, they were similar to an Isomac Granmacinino, the entry level grinder I recommend for a domestic situation - maybe i'm spoilt with my Robur and Ditting at home.

So far the highlight of the trip was visiting the La Marzocco headquarters.

That's me with my sunburnt head playing with the "Single Origin" prototype due out in late 2010 or early 2011.
It features 4 boilers, one for each group and one for the steam aswell as programmable pressure profiling.

I could've spent all day there just poking my head around, must thank Mary for the good coffee she made us (the best we had in Italy in fact) and the goodies bag she gave us.
And I was lucky enough to buy a teflon coated group handle/portafilter.
If anyone else goes spend some time reading the guestbook, we missed Gwilym Davies by about a week.

After Florence we headed to Rome and again we were bitterly disappointed with under extracted shots in most places.
Yes we did go to a few touristy places but we also followed the locals and did some research but it was the same everywhere.

One place I had high hopes for due to online recommendations from a credible forum was Tazza D'Oro near the Pantheon.

I was surprised to see they also offered Jamaica Blue Mountain and at only 1€80 thought it was worth shot even though I think it's over-rated.
Their house blend was only 80cents so I had a shot of each.
The house blend poured very slow and then after 15ml started gushing, the JBM had quite a fast pour.
Couldn't finish the house blend, dark, dirty, ashy.
The JBM was sour, in Melbourne i'd have left it but when in Rome...

Something most places in Italy had in common:

The coffee was preground in the doser, they never grind on demand.
Under-extracted shots, I can live with 20secs but most were under 15secs.
It was rare to spot a clean steam wand, unless it was on the side they dont use.
The machines run too hot especially considering how dark roasted the coffee is, if I hadn't been careful I would've burnt my tongue on several occasions.
I was surprised to see Mazzer Roburs in alot of cafes, restaurants and even roadhouses.

Overall the coffee I experienced in Italy was a great disappointment, I guess my expectations were high due to many people telling me how good the coffee was going to be but I now wonder if those same people have ever drunk espresso in Italy.
Or if they just assumed so or have this romantic notion that the home of espresso can actually make a good coffee.
I hope we were just unlucky and couldn't find a decent shot but we tried hard and obviously failed.

Watch the live stream of the comps

Cologne is 8 hours behind AEST and comps start at 10am each day I believe.
Latte art - Friday
Coffee in Good Spirits - Saturday
Cup Tasting - Sunday

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Paris coffee part 2

After reading BeanScene magazine I had to visit Alto Cafe, a coffee cart located outside Galleries La Fayette (department store) that has an Australian link, the barista's were trained by Jeremy Hulsdunk from Perth.
It was on my last morning in Paris that I visited and i'd only had one shot of cofee since my last coffee at the Maling Room in Melbourne.
I'll be honest and say the coffee was average, about as good as that from an average cafe in Melbourne but in comparision to what Paris has to offer it's probably one of the best.

They did everything well, purge, wipe, grind on demand, tamp, timed shots (although a but quick at 22 sec), measured shots, fresh milk, good equipment but the coffee used could probably be improved.

If you're in need a a caffeine hit go for it, it's alot better than anything else and you'll have an aussie connection.

I've now left France and probably wont have a coffee until I reach Italy in a week.
I didn't witness the so called arrogance of the french at all and apart from one bus driver that got up on the wrong side of the bed the French were very friendly, helpful and accommodating people.