Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hallmarks of quality?

I would tend to think that most people would favourably regard a shop that: 1) grinds and tamps each shot individually; 2) uses espresso within 10 days of roasting; 3) rotates through a few different espresso blends and bases this to some degree on the crop calendar, 4) can differentiate between short and normal/long pulls, and; 5) brews drip coffee every 30 minutes.

So why is it that so many people dislike Peet's? While I will agree that they certainly aren't what I would call top-tier, I do think that they're of an acceptable level of quality. Give me your thoughts on this.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Coffee Roaster

Location: 536 Davis St., San Francisco

Reviewed: October 19, 2006

Espresso: My requested single was served full in a tall ceramic cup of ~3.5oz. in volume. The cup was grey and had a gold & blue pinstripe; the otherwise matching saucer lacked this pinstripe. The pale crema was thin, yet persistent. The barista brewed directly into the cup, but did not grind or tamp, nor did she preheat the cup. The shot was thin-bodied, and sour; it left an astringent aftertaste.

Atmosphere: The Coffee Roaster is a very small shop inside a mixed-use building. There are but two tables inside the location, with the bulk of the seating being outdoors on the ample (and covered) sidewalk. Of note, the chairs here have a wicker seating area, though they are metal-framed. They are not very comfortable.

Verdict: How they manage to get away with the name is beyond me, since they don't roast coffee here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Printers Cafe

Location: 320 S. California Ave., Palo Alto

Reviewed: October 18, 2006

Espresso: My requested single was served in a nearly full cup ~3oz. in size. The barista did not grind or tamp and poured initially into a shot pitcher. The thin crema was nearly white and was in a high state of dissipation by the time it got to a table. The shot was fairly heavy-bodied and tasted somewhat muddy.

Atmosphere: Printers is a large shop that also serves lunch fare. There is a substantial patio area in front.

Verdict: Pass on this one.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Spike's Coffee & Tea

Location: 4117 19th St., San Francisco

Reviewed: October 8, 2006

Espresso: My request was for a single, and it yielded what was probably a ~1.5-2oz. shot in a wide-brimmed cup (with matching saucer) of ~3.5-4oz. total volume. The crema was a medium brown color and even in tone except for a smallish lighter colored dot in the center; it was of moderate thickness and persisted well throughout the cup. The taste was primarily smoky and chocolatey. Although I couldn't quite tell if the barista ground my shot specially to order, he did run the grinder during the process, and so at least a portion of the coffee was freshly ground. He also spent a good deal of time tamping, and it seemed like he was using a lot of force to hit the portafilter to prevent clumping of grounds. He also preheated the cup, and although I couldn't tell if he brewed directly into it, I suspect (based on the relative thickness of the crema, among other things) that he did.

Atmosphere: Spike's is a long and narrow shop with the ordering and serving counter at the far end. There are three or four small tables inside and a patio seating area out front. Hardwood flooring is present. Crowded with dogs and their owners.

Verdict: I wouldn't call it top-tier, but it's not at all bad for a trendy neighbourhood with lots of disposable income.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co.

Location: 1330 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz

Reviewed: October 4, 2006

Espresso: There is no option for a single or double; presumably all shots are then doubles. Mine was served at around 2oz. in a yellow ceramic cup (without saucer) of 3.5-4oz. capacity. The crema was pale and white. The shot was full-bodied and predominantly bitter. The layout of the counter and the machine makes it virtually impossible to view the baristi at work; however, I highly suspect that the shot was not ground to order, although it may have actually been tamped.

Atmosphere: SCCR is a long and narrow layout with the counter running along one side for most of the length of the shop. Most of the seating is in those areas on either side of the long counter, making it almost two shops in one. Up front, there is a piano which is occasionally used for musical performances. There is also a patio area. What is strange about the seating is that many of the tables are booth-style (fortunately, they are wood instead of plastic). This makes it feel almost fastfoodish inside.

Verdict: Coffee isn't that great and neither is the place itself. Still a better option than across the street.